Europe: Day 13: Paris – Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, Louvre Museum, Boat Ride

We headed out early this morning as we had a busy day ahead of us.  Our plan was to get a 2-day Museum Pass which covers many of the sites and museums, so we (okay, mostly I, Tenille) wanted to make sure we saw all the things it covered that we wanted to see.  We made our way down to the Champ de Mars park right in front of the Eiffel Tower to take in the view and snap some pictures before hopping on the bus that would take us on a bit of a tour around the city and on to where we would begin our Historic Walk of Paris tour from Rick Steves’ travel book.

Unfortunately, we got off the bus a bit early and started where the walk ended, so we basically ended up doing the walk twice.  I had downloaded an audioguide of the tour to my phone, so we listened as we walked.  The tour began with Notre Dame, which is magnificent.  The gothic church is enormous!  We admired the facade with its statues and gargoyles peering down on the crowds of people.  The inside of the church was adorned with stunning stained glass panels and statues of significant people such as Joan of Arc.  The ceilings criss-crossed in the typical gothic manner, and we admired the grandeur of the building.  We moved along quickly following the audioguide, and subsequently completely missed our chance to climb the steps.  I had forgotten that we could ascend the 400 steps to the top to take in the views (which I didn’t remember until we were done with the walk a few hours later), and instead we hurried along the side of the church to view the exterior.  The side of the church showed the many buttresses and green statues of the apostles who are said to guard the church along with the gargoyles.  Some of the gargoyles serve two purposes – guardians and rainwater spouts.  When it rains they spit the water out their mouths.  What a neat sight that would be!

We then moved on to the Deportation Memorial, which happened to be closed.  On our way to the next big sight, which was St. Chapelle church, we ate gyro plates at a Greek restaurant.  The had a huge skewer of lamb roasting from whence they scraped off the meat to be served.  It was so good!  I’ve never been a fan of gyros or Greek food, but this proved to be yet another change in my taste-buds on this trip.  It made Don happy to see that I was enjoying many of the foods that I refused to eat at home, so he’s hoping that I’ll be more open-minded when we get back home.  We’ll see. 

St. Chapelle, a gothic-style church, is the best example we have seen so far of stained glass.  Although Notre Dame had many stained glass panels, it was outdone by St. Chapelle’s immaculate collection of stained glass windows.  The entire chapel was adorned with the colorful glass, and each glass panel told a story related to the bible as well as Christ’s life.  We tried to decipher each of the panels.  At the back of the church we found carved panels of the creation, Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham & Isaac, and many others.  I liked them so much that I took pictures of most, if not all, of them.

After St. Chapelle we moved on to the Conciergerie where many people were held captive and eventually beheaded guillotine-style.  These included King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie-Antoinette basically because they were royalty.  This was during the French Revolution when the middle class rose up and wanted to do away with kings and queens.

We walked through the rest of the Latin Quarter and on to St. Michele, a busy square with a fountain and statue.  We decided at this point to bag the rest of the audio tour and head to the Louvre in order to go on a live guided tour.  We walked quickly to make it there just in time.  The tour lady wouldn’t even wait while I ran to the restrooms to fill up my water bottle.  The 90-minute tour was interesting.  We were lead to the most popular pieces in the museum including, “Winged Victory” and “The Mona Lisa”, which I must admit was a bit of a disappointment since it was much smaller than you would imagine….probably a 16×20 frame size.  We were warned that it would be, so it wasn’t such a big deal.  Don didn’t even fight the crowds to get a closer look.  We saw some beautiful statues as well.  When our tour finished Don and I opted to go see Venus De Milo, which our tour guide said we would skip because there is always too many people, as well as the other  Da Vinci paintings.  We were fine not seeing much of the Louvre Museum as we were pretty tired and felt we had seen enough of the Louvre.

I really wanted to still climb Notre Dame, but we realized that we wouldn’t make it in time, which I was really bummed about.  Instead we decided to get some dinner back in the Latin Quarter.  We found a suitable menu and experienced our first French meal.  For starters I had French Onion Soup, which was good, but on the peppery side while Don had mussels (which he really liked).  We quickly realized that in France many dishes are served with French Fries.  So, I had a pork chop (which was not very good) with French Fries, and Don leg of lamb (which was really good) with French Fries.  We thought it was kind of funny because in the States, you would rarely get French Fries with a nice dinner.  For dessert I had Crème Brule (yum) while Don opted for the cheese plate.

After dinner we decided to take a boat tour from Pont Neuf that made a round-trip from Ile De La Cite, the island upon which Notre Dame stands, down to the Eiffel Tower and back.  Many of the famous sites in Paris are along the River Seine, so we were able to see the different buildings.  A lady pointed out the different sites in English and French, but we could barely understand what she was saying.  We arrived at the Eiffel Tower just in time to see the sparkling show at 11PM that the Eiffel Tower performs every hour for 10 minutes at night.  It is a spectacular sight to see!  We arrived back at Pont Neuf just in time to catch the metro back to our hotel as the metro stops running at 12:30AM.  It was a very busy but very fun day!

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