Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day Four: Lundi en Paris

Monday, May 20th

We woke up ready to tackle the city.....in the rain. Good thing I packed two umbrellas. We picked up some pain au chocolat (basically croissants with chocolate melted inside) and began the 3 mile trek to Notre Dame. Upon arrival, we discovered an incredibly long line to get in. 

I need to back up and tell you about the Paris Museum Passes. If you plan on going to several museums/monuments/attractions (including Versailles) that accept the Museum Pass, it is well worth the price. There are more than 60 places included. Not only do you not have to pay all the entrance fees separately thereby encountering what is likely a 3% foreign transaction fee if you use credit, but, you get to skip the ticket line! This will save you a lot of time and you will be the envy of all those suckers who didn't buy their Museum Passes. The security line is not passable with the Pass but that moves pretty quickly.

You have the option of a 2, 4 or 6 day pass. They are sold at all of the museums/locations they are accepted as well as the airport (I think) and some train stations. You write your name and the date you want the pass to begin on the back of it and then it's good for the amount of days you purchased. We chose the 4 day which was 54 euro, or about $70 USD. Now remember, we used up our British pounds buying one pass so we only needed one more. I confidently headed up to the booth at Notre Dame and said, "Je voudrais acheter un passe de musee." "Combien jour?" I was asked. "Quatre," I replied feeling pretty big in my French speaking britches. "Je n'ais pas quatre jour. Allez au Ste Chapelle." Well, merde. The line was really long at Notre Dame anyway but we had just arrived and I didn't really want to go down to Sainte Chapelle to buy my pass. Oh well!

Luckily, Sainte Chapelle and subsequently Le Conciergerie were a short work down Ile de la Cite. Pass purchased there and in we go!

You walk up several steps to get to the upper chapel at Sainte Chapelle but boy are you rewarded for your efforts!

The stained glass windows surrounded the entire chapel and they were absolutely breathtaking.

Sainte Chapelle was commissioned to be built by King Louis IX and was consecrated in 1248. 
So, pretty old.Sainte Chapelle is under the control of the gendarmerie who also oversee La Conciergerie, the prison.Nice prison, eh? You wouldn't know a lot of people met their demise here.

Guillotine blade, no big deal. Marie Antoinette was also imprisoned here. Her cell is still intact for viewing.

Both interesting locations and worth visiting if your schedule permits. We decided to save Notre Dame for another day. Besides, by now we were hungry! We strolled back in the direction of the Latin Quarter until we found a restaurant called Le Gentilhommerie. It looked good enough so we headed in. I had coq au vin and John had boeuf bourguignon. We also split some of the most amazing creme brulee I've ever had.

Creme brulee not being enough to sate the sweetest of teeth, we stumbled upon Maison du Georges chocolate. 

Tres Bien!

We weren't planning on going here at all but this happened to be the late night for le Centre Pompidou. When traveling, be flexible. If you can't sit outside and enjoy Paris, you might as well do so in a museum, right?

Lots of interesting artwork and installations here. Lots of modern but classics as well. Sorry to sum it up so quickly. I'm glad we were able to fit it in and we got more use out of our passes too.

Wandering some more and through the rain and we happened upon a wine shop. Oh yeah, half the stores were closed today for a bank holiday we were unaware of. May is lousy with federal holidays in France. This was one of the lesser known but no lesser observed ones. Anyway, the wine shop was open so we purchased a bottle to enjoy later on. Realizing we had no corkscrew and no cups, we found a store called Hema that I can only describe as a small IKEA. It had everything! Including what we needed to enjoy our wine later on, a bordeaux.

The rain was unrelenting so we decided to head back to the hotel and regroup.

Yes, this is a department store.

 After a brief respite, we went to Printemps and the Galleries Lafayette. Despite John's encouragement to shop, I was not pleased with the prices. Plus, it was closing by 8:00 pm. Stores close early in Paris. It's annoying. Even if you're not a big shopper, the department stores are worth walking through. They also have tremendous food halls and there's a rooftop terrace at Galleries Lafayette that is purported to have great views. The rain and time prohibited us from seeing them for ourselves.

We then went looking for dinner but found a British pub called The Cricketer a few streets over from our hotel. Quit rolling your eyes at the fact that we were in a British pub in Paris. We had some beer/cider at the bar, ordered a pizza from a restaurant down the street and had a great time feeling much more comfortable amongst many English-speakers and a very friendly waitstaff. We even participated in a trivia contest and came in second place! It was a ton of fun!

Back to the hotel to snack on a little leftover chocolate and some wine. Then, off to bed after another busy, successful, albeit rainy day in Paris!

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