Europe 2016

5 – Paris, the rest of Downtown

On our final day in Paris, we did what we promised ourselves we would not do… we ran a 12-hour sight-seeing marathon to cram in 5 major visits… and I’m so glad we did.

First up, we caught the subway to Isle de Cite to see two iconic cathedrals, Notre Dame and Saint Chappelle. Both exquisite (of course) and both historically important. The South Rose window in Notre Dame is like nothing I’ve ever seen before… massive, brilliant and intoxicating. Not to mention the countless other relics and priceless art objects throughout the cathedral. We also visited the crypts under the cathedral for a glimpse into 2nd century Roman life in Paris. We didn’t climb the bell tower since we had already seen elevated views of Paris from Sacre Coeur and the Eiffel Tower. Nevertheless, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit (no admission fee to the cathedral).

Next and just around the corner from Notre Dame is THE most spectacular stained glass experience of my life so far… Saint Chappelle Cathedral, on the grounds of the former Royal Palace of Louis IX. Oh my goodness… Monica had to hold me up when we walked in. It is beyond description for me. A small church compared to Notre-Dame but bright and ringed by fifteen windows over 30 feet tall depicting biblical and royal history in every color, blues being the most prominent. With the visitor’s window map in hand, Ryan was my guide as I snapped many photos of this stunning spectacle.

After the cathedrals we chose a complete change of pace and visited Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the north end to find the grave sites of several famous people such as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde’s and Chopin. This serenely beautiful place is a labyrinth of roads and pathways among the ornate tombs, many of them decorated with statuary, stained glass, and even living gardens. As it costs nothing to go, it is truly worth a visit.

Leaving there we hopped the subway to the Paris Opera House to ohh and ahh at the grandiose marble and crystal opulence. What a gem in the heart of the city. And as we wandered around, Lloyd-Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” was softly playing in the background. Spooky and magical.

Finally, it was time for our 5:00 ticket reservations for the Louvre. Formally the royal palace of several King Louis’, it is way beyond sensible decorating taste and well into the obscene. But as a museum, it is incredible. We did a rapid tour of 3 hours and hit most of the sections even if only for a quick walk-through. Unfortunately, the section for our favorite period, the Dutch painters (Van Gogh and Vermeer), was closed this day (sad face).

Tired and hungry, we found a delightful restaurant called NordSud in Montmartre just a block from our apartment and had a fantastic last meal. Best tuna steak ever! What a blockbuster day. What a tourist-friendly city. What a great experience so far. Tomorrow morning we catch the train for Geneva Switzerland. Au revoir, Paris… je t’aime.

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