Sightseeing in Paris: Notre Dame, Louvre and other spots
Paris Travel Blog› entry 13 of 19 › view all entries
And so, another day in Paris, and another day of walking (I was praying my legs don't hurt too much today, and thankfully the left ankle held up quite well!). It was fairly sunny and the weather seemed good, so off I got ready, walked down to my favourite creperie right outside the metro and ordered myself a nice chocolate and almond crepe. I love crepes! Thank God I don't permanently live in France, it's unhealthy. LOL! Anyway with fuel for the tummy taken care of, my first stop of the day was going to be the Pantheon, but I thought why not visit the much talked about but less hyped Jardin du Luxembourg.
I really have to say this was a quiet star attraction of my visit so far.
After spending about 1 hour here, I made my way through blvd St.Michel looking for a bookstore to buy some FLE books. Boy - this road is huge. Call it the Oxford Street of London (or wait, is that the Champs Elysses?). In any case, this is a place where I finally got to see the real Paris - the chains, the stores, the people, the rush, the everyday life.
Notre Dame de Paris - this church here is SIX centuries old. Yep, SIX. It's been the hallmark of all things Gothic and although I've seen tons of "similar" churches, I have to say this one is huge. And the way it's been built, with plenty of space around means you can actually walk around it and appreciate it better. The classic flying buttresses, the trio of sculpted portals - one of the Virgin, one of the Last Judgement and one of Sainte Anne.
There's a huge huge huge queue that starts forming here so go early! The narrow staircase leads up to a bookstore where they let you wander around for about 10 mins (talk about smart!), but then you walk up to the top and it all seems worth it. The Gargoyles popularised by Victor Hugo are present in all shapes and forms, originally created to ward off evil spirits from the Church.
I really was enjoying myself - walked around the touristy roads, bought some souvenirs and a cheese crepe (again!), and walked my way to Sainte Chapelle. Loved the stained glass windows here again, but other than that, nothing else to write home about unfortunately. Very average.
From here, I started walking back blvd St.Michel and first stop was Gibert Joseph where I picked up a few books, before heading to the Museum of Middle Ages. I didn't care much for this place, other than the highlight - the room with 6 tapestries, 5 of which each highlight a sense.
Hunger struck again, I actually ate a Nutella-banana panini (yes!), and then finally made my way past the Latin Quartier to the Pantheon. From afar, you would say "St.Pauls" part 2? Close up, it looks even more like a clone. And guess what, you're right! The Pantheon houses the dead bodies of some notalble soldiers and rulers of France. It was originally "just" a church, until Louis XV had it rebuilt on the same lines as London's St.Paul's. The jury is still out on this one though, I don't know if I was thoroughly impressed. I have to say though, I really really like the idea of a Museum Pass which allows you to just walk in without doing any kind of research, and if you don't like the museum, big deal - you can walk out and feel happy you didn't waste too much of money!
I was feeling really tired, and this was one of those days where, as much I was appreciating Paris for what it is, I ended up comparing it to London at times and could feel my disappointment.
Musee de Louvre - You can find all the technical information and stuff on Wikipedia, but from personal experience, I can safely say that this place really really lives up to its hype. It's massive, which isn't surprising considering it was originally a royal residence converted into an Art showroom only after the King relo'ed to Versailles. And this was in the late 17th century. So imagine how much of art has been collected over the years. It was officially opened as a museum a decade later to the public, of course you didn't have a website those days.. ;-) but it's really magnificent. Everything sets the tone - the fancy palace courtyard with the state of the art pyramid in front of it, the halls.... my God the architecture of the place.
By this time, my legs had completely given up on me (who'd have thunk browsing museums were this tiring!) although I did keep thinking that I have to come back here to see more, both on this and in future trips. I headed back to the hotel, had a shower and rested my feet for a bit, before taking off around sunset time to 2 other places on my checklist - Centre Pompidou, an ostentatious piece of colour thrown in the middle of classique Paris, the bright escalators, the pipes, the transparent buildings, it really is a sight to behold. I sadly couldn't spend much time inside, although some books say that this is Tate Modern of France. I sadly can't comment as I didn't see much, but a 5 min stroll definitely showed similarities.
My final, final stop in an otherwise long, long, long day was, well perhaps the 2nd most recognised symbol in Paris after the Eiffel Tower, namely the Arc de Triomphe. Fact-wise, this is the largest arch in the world, commissioned by Napoleon. And from a history point of view, this has witnessed some of France's proudest and most humiliating moments. I reached around 9pm, right at the start of sunset and I was told to visit that time to see Paris in dusk and in the dark. Getting to the arch is interesting, you can't cross it - obviously - with so many roads and traffic... so you take the underground walkway to it.
Onto another busy day....!