Friday, June 27, 2008
On Saturday, Ally and I planned a packed day to finish off our greater Europe tour and get the most of what Paris has to offer. We were out the hotel by 8:45 and walked to the Louvre. I grabbed a few patisseries for breakfast while Ally had some fruit....good to see where my priorities are.
The Musee du Louvre is Europe's oldest and biggest museum. You are greeted by the glass shaped pyramid in the U-shaped courtyard of the 16th century palace. Filled with statues from Michaelangelo and paintings from all sorts of eras; it is also home to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.
We were selective with the parts of the museum we decided to see since the museum is so vast. Witnessing many works from the Greek and Roman empires and Italian paintings from Raphael and da Vinci. A 5 million euro glass wall holds the Mona Lisa paining from Leonardo. I sort of expected the Mona Lisa to be a large painting that would take my breath away....it wasn't. Though very impressive, it didn't blow me away. I am glad we were able to witness it in person.
After our walk through the Louvre, Ally and I wandered along the river Seine and found a market area with a grocery store. We bought some vino, a baguette, meat, cheese and chocolate and sat along the river for lunch. Our sandwiches were huge and extremely filling, but well worth it.
After lunch, we walked to the historic core of Paris, the Ile de la Cite. We started our walk with the Notre-Dame Cathedral. This 700 year old cathedral was breathtaking. Filled with history, beauty....and tourists, the church is decided to "Our Lady" (Notre-Dame). The stained glass and gothic architecture is something else. Everything inside and outside the church tells a story and is incredibly detailed. The spire, gargoyles, and statues only add to the churches beauty. Notre Dame was different from many of the other churches I have visited overseas and is one of my favorites.
From the Notre Dame we walked along the river to the Deportation Memorial dedicated to the 200,000 French victims of Nazi concentration camps. It is a very moving site and you feel very secluded from everything even though you are in the heart of Paris. The memorial does a excellent job of drawing you into their experience, symbolizing the disappearance of the city, surrounded by walls with only the sky above and a tempting glimpse of the unreachable river.
From there, we walked to the residental neighborhood of the Ill St. Louis. It is a neat island area filled with classy boutiques, sorbert shops and restaurants. We ate some sorbert at an incredible shop. Ally and I decided on melon as our flavor of choice. It literally tasted like they finely chopped and froze muskmelon into a sorbet and put it on a cone.
While we devoured our sorbet, we walked to the Latin Quarter while passing the many green bookstalls selling used books, vintage posters and souvenirs. Within the Quarter we visited the hidden Sainte-Chapelle. A triumph of gothic architecture is a cathedral of stained glass. Something that really made me think of my mother and something I know she would love to see. It is one awesome place. There are 15 panels or 6,500 square feet of stained glass with more than 1,100 scenes depicting the Bible. Ally and I sat down in awe staring at this magnificent work of art and architecture for a while and I had trouble leaving. The Bible states that light is divine and the stained glass truly captivates it here at its best.
After the Chapelle we walked through Pont Neuf to the metro stop and jumped on the subway back to our hotel. After a quick rest stop we headed to the Eiffer Tower for our ascent to the top....at least that was Ally's first plan. The 1,000 plus foot ornament is much larger than it looks in pictures and is quite massive. Built to only impress, it certainly fulfills its duty and did not disappoint us. You don't appreciate its size until you walk towards it for a close view. Ally decided that she could handle the first and second platform which were at 200 and 400 feet.
We took the elevator up instead of the stairs (you can take them to the top, which I will do someday) and then took the stairs down. With the city lieing before us, we were offered some sweeping views. We went up at the perfect time, just before dark and were able to view the sunset along with the thousands of people filling up the Champ de Mars. However impressive the tower is to see during the day, it is at its best at night. The tower is filled with lights and thousands of flashbulbs flash all over the tower when it first lights up.
After our journey up the tower, we walked to our river cruise that we had missed the night before. Our boat had a open upper deck which offered some great views of the City of Lights. People were correct, Paris is lovely from the Seine. Our one hour boat cruise offered some awesome views and even better people watching. Turns out that the summer solstice was taking place that Saturday and is one of the biggest events/parties all year. The banks of the Seine were completely packed with people drinking, dancing and listening to music. The bridges were filled and unfortunately, people were pouring beer onto the boat from above. Ally and I were spared from most of the showers but others were not so lucky.
After our tour we walked back to the Eiffel Tower so Ally could say goodbye to its beauty. The Champs de Mars was still flooded with people at 1 in the morning partying but Ally and I had an 8 o'clock train to catch in the morning so our party was ending. I will try and upload pictures to my picasa web albums as soon as I get the chance.
Back to our home base in London!