“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
- John Hope Franklin

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ok, So I Really Am A Tourist

Bonjour from the Seine!
I've had a busy past few days continuing to explore Paris in tourist mode - there's just so much to see! Here's a sampling of what I've been doing lately...

View of Ile St-Louis from the Seine
Our school organized a ride one of Paris' famous "bateaux mouches," the open-topped sight-seeing boats that run up and down the Seine River which divides the city into two parts, the Left Bank & the Right Bank. We had a really warm, sunny day for this which was great & it actually helped us to get more familiar with knowing where things are situated in the city. Not to mention it was fun & afforded us some pretty cool views of Paris!
Close to our house in the 20e arrondissement is Pere Lachaise cemetery, where many famous people are buried (Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, legendary lovers Abelard & Heloise, Balzac, Colette, Delacroix, etc.). The cemetery occupies 118 acres, so needless to say it takes a few visits to see everything. I had somewhere to be shortly after we got there, so unfortunately I did a quick breeze through & actually didn't see anything particularly noteworthy, although I'm sure I'll make a return visit when I have more time at my disposal.  

A tomb at Pere Lachaise

A bunch of us continued to wander around downtown after our boat ride & we found ourselves back at Place de la Concorde, ending our walk with another stroll through the Tuileries.
Fountain at Place de la Concorde
Ended our night at la Tour Eiffel - the Champ de Mars (grassy expanse at the foot of the tower) is a very popular spot for young people to come hang out & watch the tower sparkle for 5 minutes at the top of every hour. Add a few bottles of wine among friends & you've got yourself a fun night!

Thousands of lights sparkling - great way to end a great day!
I made a return visit to the Louvre the next morning to see a bit more of the museum, as it is absolutely impossible to try to see everything in one go & becomes too much of a sensory-overload..better to break it up over a few visits! I checked out the Ancient Middle Eastern section & the galleries of Northern European paintings. I'm anticipating that I'll need at least 2 more visits to take everything else in, plus I'm sure I'll still keep going back because it's just so cool there!

The Code of Hammurabi
After wandering around there for 2 hours, I decided to head up to Montmartre, the highest part of the city, to check out the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur. I remembered it was a long walk up many, many, many stairs to get there, but I most certainly forgot how tiring it actually was!

Basilica of Sacre-Coeur
Of course I couldn't make it all the way up there without having a klutzy incident, as per usual. About halfway up the terraced hill leading up to the church, the straps on one side of my leather sandal decided to break, making the rest of the walk all the more challenging/exciting. But once I got to the top, I decided to pay a couple extra euro to go all the way to the top of the dome to check out the views of the city from up there. Despite my broken sandal & the spiral staircase with 300 additional steps I climbed to the top & was treated to a gorgeous bird's-eye view of Paris below.

View from the dome at Sacre Coeur, totally worth the climb!
And my day didn't end there! I met up with some friends and hobbled my way to the Centre Georges Pompidou, a giant factory-turned-inside-out looking museum of modern art. I love museums but am not totally sold on modern art - I am more in my element with Renaissance-era works & love Impressionism as well. I was able to find some cool stuff in there in any case, and will make a return visit to see the other half of the museum another day. 2 museums and 4 hours of art later, I was all museumed out, but it was cool nonetheless!

Centre Georges Pompidou

Behold the glories of modern art

This weekend, we're able to take advantage of something called "Les Journées du Patrimoine" (Heritage Days), which is a weekend set aside each year by the French government where all state-run museums, offices, monuments, historical sites, etc. are opened up for free for all to come and check out. It's a way for the government to reach out to its citizens and make all its treasures available to everyone, young & old, rich & poor, French citizens & foreigners alike, to ensure that everyone gets a little more cultured. I think it's a great idea and gives everyone the opportunity to check out things that are in their own backyard that they might not normally ever feel like visiting. And of course, it's very popular with penny-pinching students like me! We only averaged a 20 minute wait for each attraction, which is what you might wait on any given day & have to pay on top of it. So it's pretty much a win-win deal!

In the refectory hall at La Conciergerie
Our first stop was La Conciergerie, part the 6th century palace/prison complex where everyone the first King of France, Clovis lived, and where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned while awaiting her execution by guillotine during the French Revolution in the 18th century. Most of the rooms are empty here, but those in the prison side of things have been reconstructed/furnished to reflect their appearances during the Revolutionary period.

Marie-Antoinette's cell, complete with creepy dummy-in-mourning
Attached to the Conciergerie is the Sainte-Chapelle, the royal chapel built by King Louis IX (future Saint Louis) in the 13th century to house relics of the Passion, including the Crown of Thorns & a fragment of the True Cross. The room is likened to a reliquary (the special box that usually houses relics and is ornately decorated) turned inside-out, due to its mind-blowing ratio of stained-glass to stone supports. From the outside, the building appears to be dark with dirty stones and sooty windows, but upon entering, you can't help but have to pick your jaw up off the floor!!

Upper Chapel of Sainte-Chapelle
The Upper Chapel with all the impressive stained glass sits atop the Lower Chapel, where the King's attendants & court would go to pray and worship, while only the Royal Family and his closest advisors were able to enter the magnificent upper chamber.

And if that isn't enough for one day, we made a last stop at Paris' Hotel de Ville (City Hall), which usually is mostly off-limits to the public. Not today though! The inside of this building was incredible, adorned with so much gold, rows upon rows of chandeliers, and huge paintings on the ceilings. Very impressive!

One of the many giant halls in L'Hotel de Ville
This weekend of free attractions continues tomorrow and I can't wait to pick some more places to visit!

Don't forget, you can always click on the pictures to see them full-size and in greater detail!

1 comment:

  1. Hi again,

    Looks like you've been very busy sightseeing. Isn't school going to get in your way once it finally starts??

    See you soon & love you tons :)