Tuesday, May 5, 2009
PARIS IN THE SPRINGTIME
Saturday, May 2, 2009 Paris
It was an easy trip in to Paris as traffic was very light on this early Saturday morning. We returned the car at Orly Sud Airport and then took the Orly Bus into Paris. At the bus station we had the option of using the Metro but instead hailed a taxi cab for a quick and inexpensive ride over to the Young & Happy Hostel in the Latin Quarters. Checked in, stored our luggage and headed out the door for our first adventure: The Eiffel Tower. Purchased a carnet of ten metro tickets and had to transfer once before arriving at the nearest metro station. Walked with the increasing crowds towards one of the most toured sites in Paris, The Eiffel Tower; and it was already packed at nine thirty in the morning.
When we left the Hostel the sun was shinning and the weather man had predicted excellent weather. As we waited in the long line to go up to the top of the tower; the clouds began to build and it became colder and colder. Mary had brought her rain poncho with her to sit on if she got tired of standing; instead she put it on to keep warm! Just before we entered they posted a sign that due to weather conditions the top floor observation tower was closed! Shucks, we’ll save a few euros and only go to the second floor which is really quite high up and offers fabulous views of Paris. We definitely were not going to leave and come back later as we’d already been standing in line for over two hours!
By noon we’d gone up the tower, taken lots of photos and stood in line again to come down. But, the good news is that although it was cold it didn’t rain. And, as the afternoon progress it actually got quite warm in the sun. We then walked over to the Rue Cler shopping street and enjoyed a sit down lunch of Ham & Cheese Crepes at Ulysse En Gaule Creperie; one of my favorites in Paris. This area offers a real taste of the Parisian-style living as tourist mingle with the locals as they shop for their fresh foods on a daily basis. Rue Cler is a great place to put together a wonderful and fresh Parisian Picnic.
We walked over to the River Seine, crossed the Pont de L’Ama and stopped to view the memorial to Princess Diana over the road that runs along the Quai and goes underground at that point. She was killed in a car accident on the road under that site. We then hopped back on the metro for our trip over to Notre Dame. The line to view the Cathedral was several blocks long so we decided to take a look inside tomorrow when we come back for Mass in the evening. Walked into the park behind the Cathedral to enjoy the flowers and noticed a brand new play area for children with a soft ground cover. Wow; wouldn’t it be great to walk on something that soft all over Europe!
We then crossed over the bridge behind the Cathedral to the I’le St. Louis; visiting hotels that I’d stayed at on previous trips before we cross over the bridge that lead into the Latin Quarters and our Hostel. It’s been a long afternoon and we’re both ready for some rest and relaxation.
Sunday, May 3, 2009 Sunday in Paris
We woke to an overcast morning; packed our bags as we are changing rooms tonight and put them into storage. A very nice breakfast is included in our room price (not optional) so we enjoyed that before leaving to explore more of Paris. Being Sunday, we dressed in our Easter clothes for our lunch date at 12:30 with Nicolas and Maeliss. I met them on my trip to Australia in 2008 and we’ve kept in contact. They have a month old baby and have invited us to lunch with them at an authentic Parisian Bistro.
We walked through the Latin Quarter where we are staying, enjoying the stroll even though it is much colder today and also sprinkling lightly. We stopped to take photos of the Pantheon and then continued our walk to the edge of Luxembourg Gardens before catching the train from there to the nearest metro station. We were headed towards the La Motte-Picquet-Grenelle Metro stop to find a church for Mass. Leaving the station we asked a woman for directions and she pointed us towards St. Leon’s Church; yes, we conversed all in French! We followed the people heading into the Chapelle and arrived at 10:30; just in time for the children’s Mass. The priest was wonderful with the children; asking them questions and inviting them up at the offertory portion to surround the altar and then he stopped and talked to them for about five minutes before continuing. As Mary said, we’d loved to have been able to understand the language better as at times there was much laughter in the congregation.
After Mass we found out that there was another Mass being said in the large church next door but we’d enjoyed the one we attended that was designed for families with young children. We had an hour to spare so enjoyed window shopping in the area. We learned later from Nicolas that Jolie and Brad Pitt lived in this area prior to moving to the south of France before their twins were born. Needless to say, it’s a very nice area of Paris.
We arrived at the Le Café Du Commerce restaurant about quarter after twelve and Nicolas and Maeliss arrived right at twelve thirty with little Nine! No, it’s not pronounced like the number but without the e as “Nin”. A French name for a beautiful little girl who was born on March 31st and is blessed with two wonderful parents. I’m hoping that they will be able to visit us next year in California as they are tentatively planning at this time. It was lovely and very traditional French Sunday lunch that we thoroughly enjoyed for nearly two hours. They had driven into the city to meet us as they live in the suburbs. They are both attorneys and work in Paris; Maeliss is on maternity leave for now but plans to return to work. Nicolas drove us in their car to our next stop which saved us some walking from the metro that we would have taken.
We visited the Musee Marmottan; a small boutique museum in a private home located on the edge of Paris near the Porte de Passy. Most of the museum is devoted to the works of Claude Monet, the leading light of the Impressionist movement that changed the world of painting in the 1870’s. We enjoyed his home in Giverny several weeks ago and still plan to visit the Orangerie Museum on Tuesday to view his impressive “water lily” paintings.
After touring the museum we headed out for our walk to the metro station; stopping along the way for directions from a couple who turned out to be from California and are now living in Paris. It was a long metro trip with a transfer in the middle. At one point two conductors came on the car and everyone had to produce valid tickets. First time I’ve actually seen them do this on the French Metro; I did see them stop people in one of the tunnels in 2006 to verify tickets. Yes, we each had a valid ticket!
Home again we stopped for some food for dinner at the grocery store and got our new room assignment when we arrived at the Hostel. We are in a private room with bunk beds for the next three nights. We’ve decided to pay for Internet time here at the Hostel and forget about finding a MacDonalds for now. We’re hoping for better weather tomorrow.
Monday, May 04, 2009 Paris
We were out the door about half past eight and headed towards Notre Dame Cathedral. We walked from our Hostel and arrived about nine. No lines outside and there was a Mass that started while we were in the church. The sounds were a great background to our tour of the twelfth century cathedral. Mary found the statue of St. Theresa and lit a candle for our safe journey home on Thursday.
Leaving Notre Dame we walked over to the old palace and Sainte Chapelle that is built in the middle of what was a palace and now is the Hall of Justice. The police outside not only had their guns as always but also were wearing body armor. We had to go through the metal detectors before entering the chapel that was built in the thirteenth century to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. The most famous of these relics was the Crown of Thorns, acquired in 1239 for a sum that greatly exceeded the cost of building the Chapel itself. No mention was made of where the relics are today. The most astonishing thing about the chapel is the magnificent stained glass windows that create the walls in the upper chapel. You can hear the gasp of people as they enter the room from the narrow twisting staircase that leads upstairs from the rather plain lower chapel on the first floor. The windows tell the stories of the bible from creation to the last judgment.
We continued our walk by crossing the bridge of the Seine River to the right bank and began our stroll down Rue de Rivoli towards the Louvre. We were also looking for the Hotel Le Meurice; the headquarters for the SS in Paris during the German occupation in WW II. We found the Louvre first and after taking photos of the famous glass pyramid outside we walked back to Rue de Rivoli and found the entrance to the shopping mall that also has an entrance to the Louvre. There we found the inverted bottom of the pyramid that almost but not quite touches a marble pyramid is that referenced in the David Brown movie “Da Vinci Code”.
Continuing our walk down Rue de Rivoli we finally found the Hotel Le Meurice. We were definitely not dressed to enter but did take a few photos as we strolled back and forth in front of the main doors. Just as we were arriving the police stopped all the traffic in both directions in front of the hotel as some black limousines pulled away from the front of the hotel. Looked like VIP’s to us. By this time it was after eleven thirty in the morning and we’d been walking for over three hours.
As we entered the Tuileries Gardens we had to stop for a tour of Segways; they really looked like they were having fun. The sun was out by now and we’d taken off our heavy jackets and put on our windbreakers. People were sitting out enjoying rays of sunshine on the chairs that are sitting all over the park. We took some photos of the gold capped
Obelisque in the center of the Place de la Concorde before heading over to our final destination for this morning’s walk: L’Orangerie Musee. This Museum houses the paintings by Claude Monet of his water lilies along with a second floor of paintings by other impressionistic artists. This was a small but very good Museum that we both enjoyed; especially the water lilies after having seen the gardens in Giverny several weeks ago where he painted these, some of his most famous paintings.
By now it was after one o’clock and we picked up the Metro outside of the Museum for our ride over to the area known as Montmartre. There we rode the Funiculaire up after purchasing a Croque Monsieur to eat at the top. It’s always fun to visit this church as there are always people sitting on the steps in front with street musicians performing to entertain the crowds and earn a few euros. The church was beautiful inside as always; missing were the nuns that are usually attempting to get people to donate money as you tour the church.
We walked over to the Montmartre Square to see all the artists painting and selling their wares to the tourists. A great place to have your portrait done if you’ve time; we didn’t and soon found ourselves down the Funiculaire and back on the Metro heading for our Hostel. We arrived back about four in the afternoon; just in time for the lock out to be over…we’re not allowed in the rooms from eleven to four. We do have access to the common areas; just not the rooms. We were tired after all our walking, but we had a very good day in Paris.