Michelle and Lacey Versus the Doors of Paris
Also known as my crazy stressful 2 1/2 day weekend in Paris
My mother and I arrived into Paris around ten in the morning, to clear, cold weather. We made it through passport control with the barest of glances from the guard, to our amazement. Apparently Americans aren’t big on France’s suspicion list right now. Pleasant news for us.
After a bit of stumbling about, we managed to figure out how to take the little shuttle train thing to the other terminal, so we could catch the “train” to Paris. When we’d first learned we needed to take a train into Paris, I was imagining the type of train one takes from Narita airport into Tokyo. Alas, the truth is rather that it’s like taking the metro, just as you do from Reagan in D.C.
The ride was decent, not horribly long or crowded, and by noonish, we’d made our wait outside with our suitcases, and to Notre Dame. The last time I’d seen the outside of Notre Dame was about eight years ago, and I never got to actually go inside.
Going into the main part of the church is free, and well worth the visit even if you’re not religious (which I am not). The rose windows are absolutely the highlight of the church, it’s incredible to think of all the work they took. What’s even more amazing is the fact that the glass in the windows were not painted. They are colored glass, which is infinitely more work than just making clear glass and painting it.
Some of the other highlights in the church included a state of Joan of Arc, letters of peace for the world, and the Cracow Crib which stands at over sixteen feet high.
After my mother and I had a break in our apartment, we headed out to the Louvre on foot. Interesting tidbit: On Friday nights the museum is open late until 9 PM, and is free for anyone under 26 (which included me, hooray)
I wanted to go to the Louvre for the main attraction, which is of course the Mona Lisa (which is only called that in the U.S. and maybe Canada?) After first having to take a moment to come to terms with the fact that I was truly in front of such a famous piece of art, I was a bit amazed at just how small the painting is, even for a portrait. It’s not necessarily a drawback, nor does it make seeing the painting any less. But after it being so big metaphorically, it’s a weird realization to see how small it is literally.
Although the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa are considered the main attractions, the Louvre hosts plenty of other gorgeous and interesting art, and artifacts. My particular interest was in the Egyptian section, which holds several statues and an impressively intact sarcophagus.
After the walk back from the museum, we stopped into a crepery (yes those exist over there in abundance, and they should exist here in abundance instead of McDonalds)
My first crepe was a bust. I’d wanted to try a new type of crepe, but let me tell you, after Grand Marier has literally burnt your tongue from how much is on one crepe, a plain nutella crepe sounds fantastic.
My second crepe was far more satisfying (one with tiramisu in the middle), and we headed back to the apartment, happy with our good day.
Only to not be able to get into the apartment. Our key wouldn’t work. We tried. And tried…..And tried . Without success. We spent two hours trying to make this key worked. At long last the woman who was responsible for setting us up in the apartment etc. arrived (by this point it’s about 11:30 at night) and it takes her all of two seconds to open the door with our key.
I’m not sure I’ve ever felt stupider in my life. (The closest I’ve come was when I ran into poles on my bike in Tokyo and flipped over the bars) Apparently, the key required a very very specific way of twisting it, and in our over 100 attempts to turn the key various directions, we never stumbled upon it.
After not enough sleep due to the above listed ordeal, my sister arrived at the apartment. Following a sumptuous breakfast, we went back to Notre Dame so my sister and mother could go in. They had both been, but it had been at least eight years, so they saw it with more or less fresh eyes.
Next we headed to Saint Chapelle (which if you know French or can just work it out, is not a very creative name) It’s a gorgeous, and lesser known church that really is quite spectacular. We bought a double ticket which also gave us entrance to the Revolutionary prison next door, which had its hey day during the Reign of Terror. This is where Marie Antionette spent her final days before facing the guillotine. A really fascinating and not overwhelming museum to visit.
Following this, my mother’s and my day got a lot more frustrating and unrewarding. A long walk ended with us discovering that the metro stop we needed didn’t sell proper tickets. After managing to get tickets, we headed to Palais Garnier (a place I really wanted to visit because it’s the opera house that Phantom of the Opera is supposed to be set in) only to discover there was no visits that whole weekend. Apparently the universe was conspiring against us.
We decided to head for the Eiffel Tower, determined to succeed in seeing something that afternoon. Of course, we were only able to go up to the second tier, because it seemed it was just going to be that kind of weekend. But I had never been up the tower before, and the view was absolutely gorgeous. It was frigid up there, and after a few photos and some gazing out at the city, we had to wimp out and head back down the stairs.
Our evening was finished by a very weird kind of raclette which wasn’t at all how we’d wanted raclette, me getting locked in a bathroom stall, and the apartment shower flooding a huge part of the apartment. Not an A Plus finish.
We got a late start headed to the Church of the Sacred Heart. The church is quite nice on the outside, but honestly I wasn’t that enamored with the inside. It was too wide open and cavernous, and not in an appealing way. We only spent about fifteen minutes inside before heading down the stairs and to the Moulin Rouge.
For those who are woefully uninformed, the Moulin Rouge is in the Red Light district. You will walk past sex shops if you wish to see it. Take that into account. It’s right there smack dab in the middle.
Following this little excursion, we had a scrumptious tea before my mother and I headed over to the Musee D’Orsay, mostly known for its collection of various impressionist art. Two of my favorite painters are Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. The museum does hold a few nice pieces, but alas there was only one water lily painting, and no paintings of sunflowers, nor Starry Night. I imagine these paintings are in Amsterdam, and most of the lillies are at the museum in Monet’s home town.
An important thing to note about this museum if you decide to go! The hours are listed as closing at 6 PM. But this is inaccurate. They close the exhibits at 5:30, and more or less tell everyone to GTFO. People there were so rude, that I have no intention of in fact visiting the museum again. There was no excuse for their behavior.
Our last night in Paris was rounded off by a boat ride on the Seine, and one last crepe. If you are considering going on the boat, definitely do, it’s beautiful! But dress warmly. To see the sights, you really want to be out top, and I deeply regretted not wearing warmer clothes because I got too chilled to enjoy a lot of the ride.
My trip to Paris was fun, exhausting, horrible, fascinating, and everything in between. I would perhaps advise to never try and see this much in Paris in such short time, but if a whirlwind experience is what you’re after, give it a go.