Bonjour de Paris!


Emerging from the Blanche subway station to a massive, rotating red sparkle of a windmill with the words MOULIN ROUGE emblazoned in the posting above, I catch my first glance of my home for the next five days: Paris, France.

Props must be afforded Dan for his resolve to insist the importance of location in the choosing of a hostel in Paris. Ours was perfectly located in the Northeast of Paris on Montmarte, the previous home to Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh; and current home to Sacré Cœur.

Our first night was spent exploring the Montmarte area through a walking self-tour from Dan’s guidebook, which included the homes of the artists, a historical remnant of the windmill past of the hill, Sacré Cœur Basilica, the best natural view of Paris, and a crepe dinner in the square.

Each morning started out right with a free continental French breakfast: roll with butter and flower-honey, tea, croissant and orange juice. This was assuredly a godsend break from the inflated prices of Paris dining.

This facade around the left door of Notre Dame depicts a headless man, a martyr who was beheaded by the Romans as an example to Christians.

Day two. Notre Dame’s looming and grand presence was on the Ile de la Cite blocks away as we approached, almost as though there was a low, powerful bass drum pounding in the deep. Or perhaps it was because they were testing the sound system with ‘Massive Attack’-esque music for the concert they were setting-up for in the square in front of the church. Nonetheless, it fit quite well and made the arrival surreal. The external architecture was unmatched with hundreds of stone carvings of people creating the arches and walls of the façade. In my opinion, however, the inside of Sacré Cœur of which taking pictures was not permitted, was more stunning. It was here that we met Yohann, a friend of Heidi’s and Dan’s and French resident who came up to Paris to meet us and tour the city.

After touring the grounds around Notre Dame, we explored another of Dan’s walking tours to see the city around the Isle, and the Palais de Justice/Sainte-Chapelle, for which we waited in a very long line. Grabbing crepes and, on my part, a baguette ham and cheese sandwich, we headed to the banks of the Seine for a picnic. We spent sunset heading up the green to the Eiffel Tower and waiting in line to take the stairs for as far as allowed before ascending the final leg by elevator. Just as Matt & I approached the 2nd platform, the first hourly light show of the night began on the tower, we rushed up to catch the top of the tower alighting in sparkles. After enjoying the most romantic night views in the city of love, Matt and I raced to the base as the next light show was just moments from beginning. Somehow we descended the 1665 stairs to grab pictures from the green. We finished the day with food from a vendor on the opposite side of the tower. I had a foot long hot dog that was dipped in ketchup and mustard and shoved into a bored baguette, delicious!

Day three. The Louvre had the most impressive interior architecture, which often deservedly took more precedence in my attention than the exhibits. The ceilings were of much interest to me and if you check out the album, you will find many examples of the variety.  The Louvre was previously the Royal Palais and home to Napoléon Bonaparte, whose quarters we explored in all their grandeur can have its opulence conveyed by any adjective, but the Louvre owes its historical roots to the Medieval Castle which predates it and the foundation of which is preserved in the basement. Of the exhibits, the artifact based were of greatest interest to me, detailing the exploits of the French in the raiding of the relics of the ancient world through their conquering. The scale and number of the monuments from the Egyptian and Near-Eastern civilizations was astounding.

After several hours, we followed the Jardin des Tuileries (Garden) along to the Champs Elysees toward the Arc d’Triumph to only be stopped a block short by a downpour which saw us running, soaking wet to subway to connect to the Train Station. Here, Yohann provided invaluable assistance negotiating the validation of our rail passes and the reservation of 11 days of complicated train travel with an understandably flustered and amusingly emotive attendant. We grabbed a bite in the area, and not having eaten on my part since breakfast, thoroughly enjoyed the parsley butter skirt steak and fries.

Day Four. After mass at Notre Dame, a trying experience for many of our group that made me sympathize with the pre-Vatican II Latin-mass goers, the group split up to pursue our respective interests. Matt and I headed to one of the oldest areas of Paris, the historic market district, Les Halles. We perused a local produce, bread, and seafood market; and then found a grocer for a cheap but delicious picnic in the Leuvre garden and riverbank of baguette, camembert cheese, dried meat, and wine.

Post-lunch was occupied with the d’Orsay Impressionist Museum and a tour of the city, skipping the subway, all the way back to Montmarte for a repeat of lunch for dinner.

Day Five. Matt and I headed out for a long day of walking all around the city to: conquer the journey to the Arc d’Triumph, a picnic at Esplanade des Invalides, see Napolean’s tomb, the astoundingly massive collection of arms and armour, and the World Wars artifacts at the war museums of Invalides; the gardens of Luxembourg, and I concluded the day at Clignancourt’s Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen flea market.

I’m now on the train from Paris to Mont St Michel with a stop in Rennes. Looking forward to seeing this amazing island town!

Many more pictures and a few videos will be coming soon; due to the internet connects around here, they take some time to upload.

Au revoir! – Pronounced o-reh-vwah


Posted: March 29, 2011

Author: jahjr1989

Category: Blog

+1 Comment
  1. Lisa Huston says:

    Glad you made it to the Musee d’Orsay… I loved that place as much as the Louvre! Your mention of crepes makes me miss them sooo bad! mmmm… one of my favorite parts of Paris was the pastries and crepes for sure!

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