The fourth part of the EPIC Paris travelogue commences here. I can’t seem to make them shorter, and I apologize.
Before I begin day four, I should mention that (because of the planned Spanish Air Traffic Control Strike), we have decided to cancel out April trip to Barcelona. We have decided, instead, to go to Wales– we will be staying at Portmeirion (of The Prisoner fame), and in Criccieth. Someday, we will do Spain as a family. Sadly, it will have to be later than sooner.
Also, you may be asking yourselves, “How can he possibly remember all of these activities / events? Is that man some kind of GENIUS?” The answer is simple. I am making it all up. Lying like a rug. In addition to my febrile imagination, and the cut-and-paste embellishments I use to make it “all seem real,” I used a Moleskine City Notebook whilst we were in Paris (I’ve kept one for London for years, I’ve done Paris now, and I had actually pre-purchased one for Barcelona as well), and I am converting my notes from that.
So… equal parts genius, lying, and faithful bookeeping. That’s the secret.
WELL. Without further ado. Tuesday morning. As before, petit déjeuner at the hotel. We left early, and headed for Anvers, the Métro stop closest to Sacré-Coeur. (Or, rather, The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Paris– lets call a spade a spade!) For those of you who have not been there (folks such as myself), Montmartre is super cool– and the butte itself has quite the slope! We trudged up a couple of streets from the Métro to the outlier terrace, and decided to take a ride on the DOUBLE DECKER carousel there.
This was an incredibly picturesque setting for an incredibly cool carousel. The kids loved it. We got down and took the measure of the steps again. Somebody online said there were 225. It was on the internet, and therefore true. I felt like this might be 200 or so too many for us to carry the stroller up (even though many of them are very wide & deep), so the kids and I took the funicular, and Lana braved the stairs alone. (That’s right, I said it. FUNICULAR.)
We’re not sure, but you MAY be able to see Lana crouching to take a picture on the steps at 0:24. Or, maybe, she was already at the top. She is hella fast, you know.
We got to the top, and were stunned. Sacré-Coeur is as beautiful close-up as from the bottom of the hill. Evidently, it is “built of travertine stone… [which] constantly exudes calcite, which ensures that the basilica remains [blindingly] white.” (All I know is, in that hazy overcast atmosphere, I had to keep stopping the camera down 2 f-stops.) Our self-guided tour through the interior did not disappoint, either– they were in the middle of Morning Offices, and some incredible vocals began shortly after we entered, which hung and echoed like crazy in the huge vaulted space for nearly the entirety of our tour. Not sure whether it was a woman, a man, or (least likely but SOUNDED LIKE) a castrato, but whatever they were, they had some pipes. Finley was truly impressed with the frescoes / murals on the ceilings.
Sidenote: You may recall the incident (Lana mentioned it in her post) where the tour guide at Salisbury Cathedral had mentioned that the ceiling of the Cathedral was originally painted, but that the paintings were obscured by the iconoclasts… and that a week later, when we toured Canterbury Cathedral, prompted by no-one, Finley asked if there used to be paintings on the ceiling. Finley is now, it would seem, fascinated by ceilings in buildings of antiquity. SO– Christ in Majesty, the mosaic in the apse, really got to her.
We walked back outside, and took some pictures, including a family portrait we had a kindly stranger take (We figure, always look for a poor bastard with kids, as she/he is going to be least likely to run off with your camera. At least, you would hope so.)– forgetting, however, to pose for the family picture with the BEAUTIFUL CHURCH as opposed to the MISTY CITY in the background. Hence, the horrible Photoshopping on the blog banner for this last little while. Here, however, is a nice picture of Eli and Finley.
After taking in the view again, we headed down the steps, into the Métro, and headed to the Île de la Cité for lunch & to visit Notre Dame de Paris. We had two recommendations for cafés in Saint-Germain-des-Prés— Café de Flore, and Les Deux Magots. Based solely on respondents numbers, we chose Café de Flore, which was pretty awesome. I bet Les Deux Magots is pretty great, too. Let’s face it, just about any café in Paris is going to be able to say that famous artists/political figures/philosophers were habitués– but both of these claim Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus and Pablo Picasso as regulars, among others. It still felt pretty heady/speculative in there, and Eli and Finley were quick to begin to lay out revolutionary plans (or, perhaps, quick to start coloring. You make the call.)
After a delicious lunch (Lana & I split a Croque Madame & a Salmon Quiche that was a house special), we headed for the Île de la Cité. I should say that Café de Flore is the first restaurant I have ever been in where, for the majority of the tables, the waiter has to pull the table ITSELF out of the way in order to seat half your party… a good-sized space, but packed to the gills with tables. Oh, and did I mention that I initially misunderstood the Host, and followed him into the restaurant pushing the stroller? He only realized I had followed him in with my rolling trip-hazard AFTER we had penetrated a good way into the afore-mentioned tightly-packed array of tables; I was afraid of his possible anger, and possible similar rage on the part of the wait-staff, who began to pile up behind me like cars in Final Destination 2. A perfect opportunity to see that vaunted French Waiter Rudeness. But no, it was not to be. The Host graciously turned Sawyer & myself around, and escorted us to an exterior entrance way that he accessed with a key code– a perfect place to stash the stroller. What a cool guy. Getting back to it was even less hassle. Pretty awesome. And the waiter kept messing with the kids… a great deal all around.
Anyhoo, Île de la Cité. We walked, which took maybe 15-20 minutes at most. Eli was pretty fascinated by the Palais de Justice, which is the seat of the highest courts of France, and which was barricaded on one end by a formidable wall of Gendarmerie troop carriers. The walk to Notre Dame was short, but punctuated by some blasts of particularly cold air blowing up the Seine. Nothing like walking beside a river with a baby, and having a sharp blast of wind turn the stroller 90 degrees & run it into the river railing. Nice. We got to Notre Dame eventually, regardless. We first went down into The Crypte Archéologique du Parvis Notre-Dame, which is an archaeological crypt under Notre-Dame Cathedral Square that has been converted into a museum & shelter for relics. Lana felt that we had seen much of this same architecture when we went to Bath, and that it was a little disappointing. This is evidently a fairly common reaction, as I look at some rating sites, but I still thought it was pretty cool. I am what you would call a “happening guy.” At any rate, our Paris Museum Passes had covered our entry (I think the Passes were well worth it, BTW), so we weren’t out the cost of admission. We then went inside the Cathedral itself. Pretty incredible. Paris was a series of incredible things. I am having a hard time with the whole don’t-repeat-an-adjective thing. I had seen pictures of the inside of Notre Dame before, but seeing it in the flesh– actually experiencing the volume of open space in the crossing, for instance– is something that words or pictures cannot do. We wandered for a while, Eli and Finley and I taking some pictures (Eli and I using my camera, Finley hers):
As always, Finley’s pictures are featured on her photostream.
We finally went back out into the daylight, and walked to the eastern point of the Île de la Cité to see the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (a WWII memorial), which was just as austere and chilling as you can imagine. You enter (basically in isolation– there is a guard to prevent more than few going in at any given time), go down a narrow flight of stairs into a grim, high-walled faceted courtyard, and turn to enter a crypt-like structure. There are several openings that look like viable exits, but all are barred. The major internal view is of a long, narrow corridor adorned with tiny, backlit crystals. Each stone represents one of the 200,000 individuals deported from France to German concentration camps during World War II. There are some good images of the memorial here. Pretty rough stuff– strong enough that the kids could sense it. We exited pretty quickly, and walked across the Pont Saint-Louis and the Pont Louis-Philippe, and into Le Marais.
We walked all over Le Marais. We really did. We wanted to see the Place des Vosges, which was pretty– the bummer was that the gardens at the center, which we thought the kids would be able to run around in, were unfortunately closed for refurbishment. On the way there, however, we saw a display touting an exhibit called “Photo, Femmes, Féminisme,” which we returned to and attended; it was extraordinary, showing 150 years’ worth of visual history of the French Feminist movement.
After the exhibit, we tried again to find a park for the kids to run around in. It was getting towards 4:00, and we knew we would have to make some dinner decisions relatively soon. We walked toward the Jardin du Bassin de l’Arsenal, while I called a nearish restaurant called Le Coude Fou. Two disappointments in a row, really. The restaurant wasn’t “able to get it open, you know, for the tables and the seating” until 7:30, and the playground was mobbed with hormonally-charged teenagers. We tried to ignore this band of generically dressed nonconformists (you’d know them anywhere) as best we could– there were two “big toys,” we were using one, they the other– but finally their body language could not be ignored (it was the language of love, being spoken by those with no fluency), and we chose to go. What to do, what to do. We hiked back through Le Marais toward the Métro at Saint-Paul, considering Le Pearl and L’As du Falafel (one seemed unapproachable with children at this time of day, the other was probably too far); we ultimately decided to hit a fromagerie (cheese shop), boulangerie (bakery), and pâtisserie (sweetshop), & head back to the hotel.
Sidenote: FYI, the Saint-Paul entrance is one of the most difficult places to move a stroller through that we encountered, in our entire stay.
Going back to the hotel was the right decision. And the food was good.
End of PART FOUR! This thrilling ride approaches it’s final end! WOOOOOOO
PostScript: for extra credit, two more pictures from Le Marais.