Paris Stories and Tips

Paris 2007: Day 3 - A sunny day finally!

Winged Victory of Samothrace Photo, Paris, France

We slept late today. I guess we were later to bed than I realized. We woke up about 10 this morning and between the two of us getting ready, we weren’t out of the room until about 11! The sun was shining, the sky was blue and we'd slept away half the day! At least it’s nice to see the sun! We had a quick breakfast at a café on Rue St. Germain and headed to where we could catch a bus that would go all the way into Montmartre. Turns out there was a bus stop just feet from the intersection but we'd gone across the road and up a few blocks to find a stop. Just as well though, we passed a post office so I managed to get stamps for a few postcards.

The bus came after a few minutes. Still free of charge, too. It took 30-40 minutes to get there and only got us close-ish but was the easiest and most direct bus. We walked for a bit, not finding it quite as quaint as we expected at first but the streets were soon cobbled and narrower. There were lots of fruit and veg stands, flower shops and of course, cafes. We ended up by the Abbesses Metro so rather than going up closer to Sacre Coeur, we seemed to have gone sideways around it.

There was a gorgeous Byzantine church there, St. Pierre de Montmartre that we had a quick look at and inside they had some lovely stained glass windows. We saw a sign that pointed the way to the funicuclar that would pull us up to Sacre Coeur and when we got that far, there was a lovely old carousel at the foot of the hill. It’s really beautiful, with figures, and scenes and an organ on it and it’s actually got two levels. Things were ruined a little by a group of men that kept approaching the tourists trying to tie coloured lengths of string around wrists, for a fee no doubt.

The funicular was free! Up to the top to Sacre Coeur. In photos you see it looking very white and clean but it’s actually rather grey and dull. The views from the front of the church were pretty spectacular!

We went into the church which is very nice but not as impressive as Notre Dame. I turned the sound off on the camera and managed to get a few stealth shots without the flash.

We left there and strolled around behind, past St. Jean de Montmartre which is quite an old church. As we got closer to Place du Tertre where the artists are all set up, we were approached twice by painters carrying a canvas who were trying to get us to agree to sit for a portrait. No thanks. The square itself only seemed to be about a third filled with people set up but late November is hardly high season. You'd walk by and the artists would still try to call out and say we had inspiring faces. All the cafes around the square were hugely expensive so we had no intentions of having our lunch there.

We went to the Dali Exhibition just around the corner (see review) after we had a lovely lunch at Le Poulbot (see review).

We weren’t really sure where we were going when we started walking but we knew we'd come out of Montmartre if we just walked downhill. We followed a few lovely winding streets with beautiful houses. It was all very quiet, no traffic other than the occasional car and hardly even any people walking about at first. We knew we wanted to get to the Moulin Rouge eventually but at one point, weren’t quite sure where we were and couldn’t find the street on the map. I actually took a picture of a street sign on a road below us to get an idea and a man came along and gave us a hand as well. Where we were was actually just off the top of our map! He directed us to a little staircase, like an alley, which took us out onto a famous street, Rue Lepic, which, when followed, would take us down to where the Moulin Rouge was and back to "civilization".

Rue Lepic was home to several famous artists. If you go up it far enough you will also see another old windmill, the Moulin Galette though where we came out from the staircase was past that. Rue Lepic is lined with old buildings and quaint views and when it straightens out, there are a lot of fruit, veg, flower, cheese and butcher shops as well as interesting little gift shops and, of course, cafes. It doesn’t feel "touristy" at all yet I’m sure it is probably elbow to elbow with visitors in summer.

We rounded the corner and snapped a few pics of the red windmill over the famous nightclub, the Moulin Rouge, which was made famous by the can can dancers and Toulouse-Lautrec who painted the dancing girls there. Farther on is the large intersection, Place Clichy. The vehicles are coming from every direction and the bicycles, scooters and motorbikes are weaving in and out between the cars, trucks and busses. People cross the road whenever they can, regardless of the redness or greenness of the lights!

We got bus 95 and even got a seat! It stops right in the Louvre compound but we went out by the river to get a few pics with the late afternoon sun shining all golden on the water and buildings.

There weren’t long queues to get into the Louvre. Wednesday is late opening night and it’s about 5 p.m. now. My feet are really sore and I don’t know how long I’m going to last but we’re going to give it a try. I got frustrated pretty quickly because the museum map didn’t seem to match the signage and I couldn’t seem to get oriented. I was warm and my mouth was getting really dry. My blisters were killing me. We did manage to find the items on our list and saw some other nice statues and paintings along the way.

When I was first here in 1977, the Mona Lisa was on a wall, now she’s on a temporary wall in the middle of a large room with a "viewing" area roped off. Really seems to cheapen it now. The Venus is in a hallway all on her own and apparently it’s usually packed out too but when we were there, there were only about a dozen viewers. My favourite is the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the headless and armless statue that represents the Greek goddess Nike. She made a big impression on me in 1977 and I really wanted to see it again.

I was nearly at the end of my rope by this time and even finding a café was a trial because that was something else that didn’t seem to match the map. We found our way back out to the grand entrance hall under the pyramid and found a takeaway stall where we bought some water and some diet coke. We found a bench and recovered for awhile. It’s not like I expected to see the whole Louvre. You couldn’t possible and stay sane. There’s just too much and it’s something you need to take in smaller bites.

I started to feel a bit better once I'd rehydrated and rested my toes and I decided I did have one last burst of energy to go on our boat ride on the Seine. We made our way to the Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris even though the name means New Bridge). The boat dock is below the bridge near the left bank. We had a 40 minute wait for the next boat and had to use up most of the rest of our cash because they didn’t take credit cards.

The boat left at 8 and we started off outside on the top deck even though it was chilly. There was a multi lingual woman taking photos that you could buy after the cruise for 10 euro. The tour was narrated though the accent of the man doing it was very heavy and hard to make out. The buildings and bridges were so nice all illuminated. It all takes about an hour. We managed to get a few decent photos which is difficult obviously because of the movement and vibration of the boat.

The dock wasn’t that far from the hotel, about a 10 minute walk. I saw a sign that I thought said "Marquis de Sade" which sounded interesting. It was actually "Muraille de Jade" (see review).

Back to the hotel around the block, pack up our stuff and hit the sack because we want to get up early.

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