Monday, October 8, 2012

Paris, Day 2: Saint-Chapelle, Notre Dame, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur

Saturday in Paris was another busy day for me. I took the Metro to Ile de la Cite, an island on the Seine, to visit Saint-Chapelle, noted for its 15 magnificent, wall-to-wall stained glass windows that soar 50 feet to the roof of the church. The windows depict more than a thousand religious scenes, like a pictorial Bible. The church was built in 1248 by Louis IX as a fitting place for what some believe is the Crown of Thorns, which has since been moved to the treasury at Notre Dame.

La Conciergerie
Next I visited La Conciergerie, the famous prison that housed thousands of people until they were put to death during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. The most famous inmate was Marie-Antoinette, and they have a replica of her cell, complete with clothed mannequins, to demonstrate her last days in prison before she was beheaded. The building itself is impressive as seen from the Seine. 

Notre Dame
Just around the corner, I found Notre Dame, another imposing building that is built along the edge of Ile de la Cite. There were long lines for free entry to view this landmark of Paris, but they went quickly.

The park behind Notre Dame
After my stroll through the church, I happened upon a lovely park located behind it, where I lunched on a crepe filled with (way too much) chicken and cheese.

Next, I crossed the bridge to Ile St. Louis, a smaller island that is known for its quaint shops and pricey living. Musicians were stationed on the bridge to entertain the crowds, and the music  added to the festive atmosphere of a sunny Saturday afternoon in Paris. While I was there, I found an Italian gelateria that fashioned my cone to look like a rose.

Amarena cherry and pear gelato
Next, I rode the metro to Montmartre, another sight that I had longed dreamed of visiting. I’d heard of its fame as a bohemian haven for freethinkers, including artists, painters and musicians, and imagined it to be something like the Trastevere quarter in Rome. However, it did not live up to the image I had had in mind. Instead, it was crowded with tourists and souvenir stands, so much so that it was hard to walk down the streets. 

Paintings for sale in Montmartre
However, the majestic white church Sacre Coeur sits at the top of the hill in Montmartre and people flock to this area to see one of the best panoramic views of Paris. It’s also a great place to watch the sunset, and the crowd was getting progressively larger when I left about 6 pm. 

Sacre Couer
The view from Sacre Couer
I headed back to St. Germaine to go out to dinner with the Ruggeri’s and their friend Tonino, an Italian expat living in Paris. First we went to a place called Buffalo Burger Grill. You can imagine my surprise to find an American Western -themed burger joint as a place that suburban Parisian families enjoy dining. But when they had problems in the kitchen and couldn’t feed us, we went to another popular French chain, the Hippopotamus. Here again, burgers and fries were the food of choice. Who knew? As usual, when faced with large slabs of meat, I chose a salad instead.
Look at the prices on this menu: 10,50 euros for a cheeseburger!
By the time we headed home, it was nearly midnight, and I was truly tuckered out, and happy to spend the next day hanging out in St. Germaine.

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