Finishing Up Our Week
08.07.2012 - 11.07.2012
There's a great market near the Bastille on Sunday mornings, so we went to check it out. It was certainly full of beautiful "traiteur" goods, as well as some clothing, and produce. Going up and down its rows took most of the morning. We ate lunch at "Hippopotamus," a well-known French mid-level restaurant chain. It looked right out onto the Bastille monument.
(Cutting the cheese, er, in the Sunday Bastille Market)
We took our stuff back to the apartment, and then set out to properly explore Le Marais. We saw the lovely Hotel de Sully, with its entrance onto the charming Place de Vosges, with its stately arcades and densely-treed square. In the center is a statue of King Louis XIII, who drained this swamp ("marais") and created this royal residential area. In each of the four corners of the park is a fountain, so it's very pretty and somewhat peaceful.
We looked in the Carnavalet museum of Paris history, then spent a lot of time in the Jewish Museum. Le Marais is hard to explain: part of it's the Jewish quarter, part of it's the gay district, part of it is the riches of past centuries, like Place de Vosge, where Victor Hugo also lived.
Dinner was again at our apartment, mostly the food we'd bought at the market that morning.
Jenn and I decided to go out at night. "Night" doesn't really come to Paris this time of year until about 11:00 PM, so seeing the lights of the city and also beating the crowds in the morning would mean you're really burning the candle at both ends. Both Jenn and I took a romantic stroll along the Seine, stopping at each bridge. Before we knew it, we were at Place de la Concorde, and the Eiffel Tower was lit up.
(Does the sun ever set?)
Mon, July 9
First stop of the day - easily within walking distance - was Saint Chapelle. Anica literally said "wow" when we first entered. The stained glass is breathtaking (even with the ever-present renovations going on).
Next door is the Conciergerie. Once the Royal Palace, now best known as the place Marie Antoinette was imprisoned before her execution. That era is really well reconstructed.
We ate in a cafe across the road, a convenient place my parents had been on their other trip to Paris, called Les Deux Palais.
The afternoon, which was sunny and warm for a change, we took the Seine boat cruise. It left from the quay near Notre Dame, not far from "point zero," really, so that's appropriate. It turns around just past the Eiffel Tower, another great way to view that landmark.
In the evening, Jenn wasn't feeling well, and left the rest of us in "Flunch," a cafeteria-style dining option. Unfortunately, she missed going to the Pompidou Centre, which is a really interesting building in itself, not to mention probably the best modern art gallery in the world (with apologies to the MOMA and the Tate). It's one of the first inside-out buildings, with very colourful tubes. The galleries are accessed by "view escalators." Well-named! The views of Paris from there are spectacular. It shouldn't have been much of a surprise since we picked out the Pompidou Centre from the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur earlier this week. These escalators run parallel to the gallery's public square, which slopes like a concrete amphitheatre or beach.
Inside, I loved the earlier modern floor, with its Braque and Picasso pieces. Anica found a Mondrian painting she'd studied in grade 7 art class this year. She preferred the more post-modern floor. That definitely kept us awake after a long day and questioning: what is that? What does it mean? Is it art? Who decides this is good?
Tues, July 10
(Hugo's latest perch)
My Dad said later that the Musee D'Orsay was his favourite place in the whole trip. Not just for the art, of course, but for the building, too. This time around, Anica was comparing it as a gallery now to how it was shown in Hugo, as a train station. We went straight to the top for the best collection of Impressionist paintings in the world. We spent a lot of time there, even having lunch at the little cafeteria on the main floor, before walking to the Rodin Museum, where we mostly enjoyed the gardens. The Thinker is still deep in thought, and The Gates of Hell are still not open!
We had dinner at the "famous" L'As Du Falafel in the Jewish quarter of Le Marais. While my Dad did not have a falafel, he picked away at his food in good spirits. In particular, Anica and Jenn loved the food here. It often has a huge line-up for takeaway. We also got dessert pastries at a kosher bakery.
At night, Anica, Jenn and I went to the Trocadero square for 11:00 PM and the "twinkling" of the Eiffel Tower. It does that for a few minutes every hour when it's dark out. Quite a sight!
Wed, July 11
Dad summarized our last full day in Paris in his pithy travel notes as: Sewer-China-Grave. If that's not self-explanatory enough, read on!
We did the Paris Sewer Tour first, and guess what? It smelled! But not too bad, and it was interesting. Anica bought a stuffed animal to add to her growing travel collection (a rat, of course!). She said it was cool to do something so different (i.e. not another Paris gallery or museum). Having worked up an appetite (?), we walked around in the area until we stumbled on a Chinese restaurant near the Eiffel Tower called Chez Ming. It turned out to be pretty great Chinese food. And it was almost all local business people eating there, despite being so close to the biggest tourist site.
Then we got on Bus 69, which might as well be a sightseeing tourist bus, although it's just a regular public bus route. It takes you through St. Germain and the Latin Quarter before crossing the Seine, and eventually we could get out at Pere Lachaise cemetery. This is the famous burial place of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison, whose gravestones are now protected by plexiglass barriers. We also saw, and learned about with our guidebook, the graves of Edit Piaf, Colette, Gertrude Stein (Anica's seen and enjoyed the movie "Midnight in Paris," which has made her week more interesting several times by recognizing the people and sites in it). I was surprised to see the monuments to French Jews who ended up in various concentration camps - there's a whole section of those. Some of the art is grimly realistic. Even more amazing is the wall dedicated to the Paris Commune victims of 1870. It's not just a grave, it's the exact spot that about 140 were killed in a final, defiant resistance against their fellow countrymen who had already given up in the Franco-Prussian war.
So there you go: Sewer-China-Grave. One more note: we had really good crepes at Breizh Cafe, which is also in our Le Marais neighbourhood.
("This is The End, my only friend The End" - Jim Morrison)
(Anica contemplates the Auschwitz memorial in Paris' Pere Lachaise cemetery)