Today was our last day in our very central Paris location and also the last day of our Museum Pass so we decided to go and do the last few things that we had been keeping in the back of our minds. The first one was to climb Notre Dame and visit its famous gargoyles however upon arrival where we realized it was going to be about an hours wait minimum we reconsidered and decided to move on (to be honest my feet and legs were still punishing me for yesterday so I wasn’t totally devastated…).
The next thing on our list was the Centre Pompidou, a gallery for modern art. I am not a huge fan of modern art (aka I am not intelligent enough for it to be particularly accessible to me, especially in French) however the building itself is supposed to be rather unique and the views of the city would be worth a visit in itself. The bad news was that the gallery was shut. The good news was that we figured this out before we headed in that direction.
Plan C was to go back to the Latin Quarter and visit the Museum of the Middle Ages which was highly recommended by the book but which we had skipped the other day in favour for other things. After circling the building twice and walking through its pretty little gardens we came to the conclusion that it was shut for some kind of construction going on. So yeah, not so successful so far. The day was still early and Paris has so much to see that we were not short on things to do.
After wandering through a small street market and then through La Sorbonne we arrived at the impressive Pantheon (whose Dome was undergoing some kind of renovation), a huge building based on the archetype of an ancient temple that had gone through a few identity crises during its history. The building was grand and suitably beautiful on the inside but the best part of the Pantheon in my opinion are the crypts below which are open for a wander and which house the bodies of many great French thinkers, writers, revolutionaries and scientists. The Pantheon was rather reinvented during the French Revolution so the focus on secular heroes of history kind of made sense and was a nice change from the norm. People like Voltaire, Rousseau and Marie Curie (the only woman) all have tombs here.
Because we can’t resist a good pre lunch religion, we decided to take a look at the church that was beside the Pantheon and although we have seen a lot of churches, this one was one that stood out. It had beautifully ornate marble carvings as well as a central pair of marble staircases that I particularly loved. It seemed to be a popular spot for students of the nearby university. Luckily, where there are students there are always good lunch options so it did not take us long to find a busy little sandwich shop where we got a delicious cheap lunch.
Despite my reservations on French “”Jardins”, where grass is off limits, we decided to visit the much loved Jardins de Luxembourg. No doubt they are pretty, with the beautiful Palace at the head of the ordered and well kept flower beds as well as a few mirror like ponds thrown in for good measure. Still hasn’t made me fall in love with the French gardens but it was a pleasant way to wander away half an hour or so. There was also a rather sculpture fountain dedicated to Delacroix (he pops up everywhere in Paris) which was typically difficult to capture in a photo.
In the Lonely Planet, église st Sulpice nearby was mentioned as having rather impressive architecture as well as a small claim to fame in The Da Vinci code as one of the murder scenes. Exciting stuff so we headed towards its two Italianate towers that were thankfully high enough to make navigations rather simple. It wasn’t my favourite church interior (the fact that I took zero photos also makes it very difficult to picture it) but it’s exterior colonnaded entrance was unique and the homeless people begging on the steps with their tiny little chihuahuas sitting on ragged pillows easily come to mind. Oh, the one cool thing inside was that Just when you thought Delacroix wouldn’t pop up again, there he was in this church where he had painted two of a the wall frescoes. In typical Delacroix fashion, he had been asked to paint scenes with angels but chose to go ahead and do some battle scenes instead, which makes me love him even more.
Why see one or two churches when you can see three I hear you say? Good question so we thought we should visit one more. Our third church (st Germaine des Prés) was nearby and had a much humbler exterior than the one before but used to be the main church in Paris before scene stealer, Notre Dame went and stole all the glory. It was pretty adorable, relatively small with frescoed walls and a starry ceiling sky. Afterwards we sat outside with an old guy who was laughing away to himself as he fed the pigeons. It was kind of adorable.
After another stop at Laduree to sample more macaroon flavours we walked up to the Arc de Triomphe to conquer its stairs and get ourselves some panoramic views of this city we both had rather fallen in love with. The stairs were evil and slightly claustrophobic but the views up top were breathtaking. The city lay out in front of us and it was fun to pick out all the places we had been to, with views over to Montmartre as well as to la Defense where the big arch stood in clear view. Of course no view of Paris would be complete with out of favourite tower and here it had a centre stage. Definitely recommend the arc de Triomphe as both a great work out and also an awesome way to get your bearings on this beautiful city.
With out last night in Montmartre we couldn’t leave without a quick visit to the Moulin Rouge as well as the close by little cafe where Amelie works (what an amazing movie). We then ended the night back at our favourite spot, on top of Montmartre with more French onion soup and that delicious French bread (as well as half a bottle of rosé). I knew I was going to miss this area immensely.
1. Crooked Pantheon
2. Inside (surprisingly quiet when compared to most of Paris)
4. St Étienne du Mont (I think)
5. Beautiful staircases
6. Luxembourg palace
7. Ditto but with added flora
8. Just sitting in some random street. I love it
9. Église St Sulpice
10. Arc de Triomphe
12. View towards the Eiffel Tower
13. View towards La Defence
14. Eternal flame under the arch
15. Those red windmills
16. Getting lost in the backstreets of Montmatre
17. Back at our favourite spot