Thursday, July 26, 2012

Le Grand Tour: Paris Day 1 & 2

Dan and I are back from Le Grand Tour! It was my first trip to Europe, and I want to go back as soon as possible. The grand finale of the trip was a week in Paris, and even though a week may seem like enough time, it was not. There is still so much I wanted to do and see and eat...next time, I hope!

We arrived by train at Gare du Nord on Sunday afternoon, and bought our Paris Museum Passes and Navigo Decouverte passes at the station, then took the Metro to the apartment in Montmartre. The studio was tiny, which we expected, and view of Sacre Coeur and the Montmartre cemetery was as promised.

View of Sacre Coeur & Montmartre cemetery
View from the apartment

The greeter showed us around the apartment, and after starting a load of laundry, we wandered off to Rue Lepic and had a delicious dinner at Le Restaurant. Many restaurants in Paris seem to have a set menu where you can choose an entree (starter) and plat (main course), or a plat and a dessert, for a very good price. Dan had sardines for his entree and lamb tagine for his plat, and my plat was the canard (duck) and then I had the dessert sampler, which included creme brulee, of course. We were very pleased with our first meal in Paris. We passed by Moulin Rouge on our way back and marveled at the long line outside...it extended several blocks! We were ready for bed, but back at the apartment discovered a recurring beeping sound that nearly drove me insane. We thought it was the dryer, and after turning off the machine, unplugging it, shutting off the fuse, calling the greeter who also didn't know why it was beeping after researching online and then tried to locate a repairman after midnight on Sunday, we finally moved it and discovered it was the cooktop above the dryer. I had put the kettle on it (the countertop space is limited), and apparently it beeps when something is placed on it when it's not in use. It was very, very late when we finally got to bed.

The next morning we got pain au chocolat (for me) and chausson aux pomme (for Dan) at the patisserie across the street, then took the Metro to Ile de la Cite for a self-guided walking tour. We started at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

Point zero
Our feet at Point Zero, the center of Paris

Gargoyles
Gargoyles

Even though it was crazy crowded in front of the cathedral, the park on the side and in back were serene and quiet.

Carol at Notre Dame
Carol at Notre Dame

Behind Notre Dame
Flying buttresses at the back of Notre Dame

The line to go up the tower was very long, so we skipped going up, but I did spot a beagle at the cafe across the street. We stopped in at La Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette and many others waited for the guillotine, then continued across the Seine to the Left Bank. After the walking tour, it was time for lunch! We headed to the Marais for delicious falafel, yum. Then we walked to Place des Vosges, where people are allowed on the grass!

Place des Vosges
Place des Vosges

Place des Vosges
Pink brick buildings form a square

From there, we walked over to Place de la Bastille, then hopped on a bus to Jardin des Plantes, the main botanical garden of Paris.

Jardin des Plantes & Mosquee de Paris
Jardin des Plantes & Mosquee de Paris

After wandering around the garden, we walked over to the Pantheon. It is very big and impressive, site of Foucault's pendulum and resting place of Marie Curie and many other accomplished people.

Foucault's pendulum
Foucault's pendulum

Inside the Pantheon
Under the dome

Dan outside the Pantheon
Dan outside the Pantheon

After exploring the crypt and seeing the tombs of many accomplished French people throughout history, we exited and I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time! And walked by some pretty buildings.

Paris buildings
Dreamy Paris buildings

We walked by the Sorbonne, then popped in the Musee de Cluny, which houses medieval art and artifacts, most famously the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. They were lovely and impressive, and it was neat to see the original heads of the kings in front of Notre Dame. By this point we were quite tired (due to beeping stovetop past midnight), and it was naptime. We picked up some groceries at Monoprix and then returned to the apartment.

Refreshed by naps, we headed back up Rue Lepic to Un Zebre a Montmartre for dinner. We observed that wine by the glass in Paris is quite affordable, compared to at home. Dan had a glass of the house red, and I had the rosé, and we shared a salad with oozy cheese...mmm. For the plat, Dan had braised beef with a delicious crispy potato thing, and I had salmon...mmm...thus fortified, we followed a self-guided walking tour through Montmartre. We saw Van Gogh's house, Picasso's studio, Renoir's house, the last remaining windmills, and eventually made our way up to Sacre Coeur. The steps in front were crowded with many people.

Montmartre at dusk
Montmartre at dusk

Sacre Coeur
Back of Sacre Coeur

Carol at Sacre Coeur
Carol & view of Paris from Sacre Coeur

After going inside the basilica, we headed back down Rue Lepic and got crepes at a crepe stand for dessert...mmm, crepe with Nutella!


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