Churches and more

Trip Start Jun 23, 2012
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17
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Trip End Jul 14, 2012


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, Île-de-France,
Monday, July 9, 2012

We set off for a late breakfast at the famous Cafe de Flore - the setting of some famous French film and popular spot with celebrities. Sadly we didn't brush shoulders with anyone of note, though the omelette was a star performer in itself and was made with the most delicious of cheeses. Shenae headed off start some shopping so Blake and I popped in to have a look at Abbey of Saint Germaine-des-Prés, the oldest building in the area and notable for the burial place of Descartes and the site of a famous statue discovery. We found Shenae in some shops shortly after and wandered through the boutique Parisian streets looking at products altogether too fashionable and pricy for me.

Back to the metro and a short ride later brought us in the vicinity of Notre Dame. A little further walk to the Seine and we had the perfect view of this magnificent building from across the water. The intricate and decorative guttering, gothic spires and huge bell towers makes it one of the most grand old buildings you will ever see. Eventually the others got bored enough of watching me staring at the building and they ushered me down further to a famous bridge across the river, notable for the engraved padlocks that inspired lovers have clamped on the bridge. Another great vantage spot for the building and many more photos were taken there. We wandered around the building itself and into the massive square at the front that was packed with people in a gigantic line snaking into the building itself (though it was moving at a rapid pace and we had scarcely more than a five minute wait). Inside again requires an architect's vocab to do it justice, but even a layman could appreciate the huge vaulted ceilings, large stain glass windows and prayer alcoves. Shenae's two candles burned brightly near the altar and the entire building had a powerful aura of muffled, respectful quiet.

After a quick bite at a place across from the Notre Dame we attempted to go and have a looking at the Jewish holocaust memorial behind the building on the Seine, however it turned out they didn't open on a Tuesday (it is impossible to predict Parisian opening hours). We took the metro to Place de la Concorde, a giant square famous for the separation of King Louis XVI's head from his shoulders. Usually the square, fountain and obelisk make an impressive and expansive site - less so today with it in the middle of preparation for the arrival of Le Tour de France. We had to imagine how nice it would look without the grandstand and framed by the old buildings as it looks down the Champs Élysées. Further down we saw the huge Grand Palais and the smaller Petit Palais across the road from it. Up from there we walked across the ornately designed Nicholas III Bridge and both the National Assembly and Invalides.

Planning for a nice night of dining out, we headed back to the apartment and waited for Carrinne to finish work before getting changed and going out. We rode the lines across the city to Monmarte, a pretty (though people heavy) and old part of the city that - after a bit of a climb - gives a visitor a sweeping panorama of the city. The place was bustling with tourists, touters and locals gathered on the steps singing and drinking their wine. At the top is the stunning Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, an iconic and beautiful building that towers on high from the top of the hill and looks even better lit up at night. With a plethora of restaurants to choose from we went to a place that had a little private courtyard to the back and live music spilling out from inside. The food itself was a bit of a letdown (Shenae is a very strict onion soup connoisseur) but we couldn't complain about the company (or beers and cocktails). After looking at the beautiful Basilica by night we wandered back down to the metro station (with its decorative art nouveau sign - I remembered something from high school art) and dropped Carrinne off at the apartment (she had to work the next day) before continuing our way to see the Eiffel Tower by night.

Lit up with spotlights and shadowed by a colourful night sky, it is a night sight of Paris that cannot be missed. We stood around for a long time taking photos (Blake's camera proving to be far more handy than ours) and enjoying the view. At 1am the tower glittered in a dazzling display for five minutes, like some oddly-shaped disco ball, before going dark for the night. We struggled to get a taxi but finally located a rank of them, weaving our way home after a very long day.
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