Now that we were settled in Paris, and were quite refreshed from staying in our flat, off we went on our adventure! The next two days were all about the museums and things to see. We bought the Paris Museum Pass for four days, thinking we would use it to the fullest. In hindsight, we should have gotten it for two days. But the Paris Museum Pass was a great tool! It waives the cost of most museums and attractions.
Our four day pass was €100 for the both of us. If you calculate how much it would have been to see the Sainte Chappelle, Louvre, Army Museum, Arc de Triomphe, Rodin Museum, etc, we would have paid much more than that.
That morning, we first headed to Notre Dame. Thankfully, the line wasn’t too long just to get in yet. It is free to get inside, but the cost comes from taking the tour and climbing the towers. That is where the pass would also come into play, but the line at 10a was already 100 people deep. We decided we had already seen the Parisian skyline, and would skip it.
The church was absolutely stunning and the stained glass was out of this world. Jeff keeps saying that even Notre Dame is eclipsed by Westminster. I would agree if it wasn’t for the windows. The space is massive and decorated throughout, but what makes Westminster so incredible to us is the people who are interred there. Which led our interest to the crypt, so after our lap around, we asked a woman where it was. She could not have been more disinterested if she tried–classic French fashion–and told us it was outside. How vague. We eventually did find the entrance in the courtyard near the entrance for the parking lot (for anyone else who just wanders around).
We actually never wound up going inside. They told us where to get the Museum Pass, and we thought we would return. But alas, there were other things to see. Next we went to Sainte Chapelle and stood in line. Every attraction now has security, so the hold up is tourists with bags having to be searched every time they want to see something. But in the case of Sainte Chapelle, it made sense because the church was right next to a large government building.
Sainte Chapelle was gorgeous. The stained glass was even more remarkable than Notre Dame, if I dare say. It was near floor to ceiling of intricate design and beauty. Or would have been if half of it wasn’t covered by scaffolding due to restoration. I couldn’t believe it–more scaffolding. It has followed us from Rome to Paris.
We decided the next logical location would be The Catacombs. Jeff was really gung-ho to see this, and I thought it was super creepy to see millions of dead bodies under the streets of Paris. We made our way toward it when all of a sudden, we saw a line (or queue) of people wrapped around the entire block. They only let a max of 200 people in at a time, which resulted in us waiting for over two hours. Between the games on the phone, the snacks and second-hand smoke, we were so bored and tired waiting and waiting–so by the time we FINALLY got in, we didn’t get the full experience as we just walked straight through. We didn’t loiter or relish as much as we hoped.
But that being said, it was pretty extraordinary. Millions and millions of displaced bodies were transported in the 1800s from neighborhood cemeteries to the underground pit. Hygiene was becoming an issue, which caused this change, but whoever brought the bones underground had a mission in mind, and a touch of OCD. They were all arranged in stacks and designs including a large column. After several minutes, you become desensitized and almost can’t believe you’re staring at a human skull. It was quite surreal.
The underground space covers 2.2km of damp trail and it spits you out on the other side of the
neighborhood. Walking back to the metro station, the realization of what was under our feet hit us as we tried to imagine was Paris was like 200 years ago.
Hungry and tired, we went to a small store and picked up some picnic fare to snack on in Luxembourg Gardens. The rain was on its way, but we had a good thirty minutes to relax and take in the beautiful gardens of Luxembourg. It was like being at a beach resort with lounge chairs surrounding fountains and a small palace. But then, as the rain came, we headed toward the flat in lieu of the Pantheon near the University of Paris. I had no idea Paris had a Pantheon, but I can tell you, it was nothing like the one in Rome.
This one was huge and open and almost immaculate. Would you believe it was covered in scaffolding both inside and out? We walked around it and were impressed by the sheer size. Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas, Marie Curie, Voltaire, and Rousseau were just a few of the people interred in the crypt.
The next day we were ready to conquer the Louvre. We headed out there first and were met with a million tourists, naturally. But when we got in, we took our time. Like every other picture-taking tourist, we first went to Mona Lisa and took our quick picture. Seven years ago, when I was there before, I got smacked for taking a photo. Now with iPhones and digital cameras, I guess they can’t regulate it.
I was rather disappointed The Winged Victory was taken away for restoration, but I was determined to see the Venus de Milo. We saw some really incredible pieces including some paintings of paintings in Rome. It made us laugh as we were just there and we played a bit of Where’s Waldo spotting the places we had seen.
After about two hours, we were tired and wanting to leave, but I hadn’t seen Venus yet. As we tried to make our way to see her, we got terribly lost. The Louvre is huge, and when planning your trip, allot time to see it, and then add an hour to get out. Now having gone twice–it actually takes that long to find your way into the sunshine. It’s ridiculous. Museums of that nature almost do themselves a disservice since every hanging picture is a masterpiece in its own right–but there are so many, it slowly becomes white noise.
We headed to the Rodin Museum. I absolutely loved this gallery when we were there before, and I was so excited to see it again. What I didn’t realize is that before, we actually hadn’t seen the whole grounds. I was floored to see it was more than a house and courtyard! The Rodin Museum is the only privately funded museum in France and makes it completely worth it. The works of Rodin are remarkable from The Thinker, The Kiss, and the Gates of Hell.
Inside the house, where The Kiss is held were also paintings from Monet and Van Gogh. No big deal, or anything. Also on exhibit were photographs by Mapplethorpe since he drew a lot of influence from Rodin. Without a ton of tourists, this gallery is by far my favorite I’ve ever seen in my life.
Just across the street is the Army Museum. We didn’t explore the whole museum, but we did want to see Napoleon’s Tomb. We were trying to anticipate the size of it thinking, would it be a smaller than normal box or would it be a lavish, Faberge egg of design? It was neither. When you walk in the incredible large structure, you look down onto the tomb. The box is massive but still a simple, dark marble design. The Faberge element came from the surroundings. The building was massive and unbelievable. They really loved this man to put him in such a large space.
At this point in our trip, we were terribly exhausted. But before the day was to end, we made it to the Arc de Triomphe. Would you believe it was covered in more scaffolding? Despite first looks, there is a way from where the metro spits you out to the Arc without risking your life running across the roundabout of aggressive traffic. Granted, it took us a while to find it, but we did. We were unsure if we’d make it hobbling across (athletes or not).
Something to note about the Arc–there is no lift. To get to the top, you must climb 284 stairs. So, we started our climb and made it all in one go. There are little cubbies that have a bench for people to take a break, but we just kept going. Once we made it to the top, people dropped like flies on benches and chairs. We had to laugh to ourselves. If only these people would stop smoking, they wouldn’t have to wheeze their way up each step.
The views from the top were remarkable, and we did get to see the Parisian skyline with the Eiffel Tower in it. But then an unholy storm came through forcing us from the top. But the couple of pictures we snapped made it worth it.
The next day was reserved for Versailles!