Chapter Two: Checking Out Paris
Day Three – Cheer Cheer For Old Notre Dame, Silver And Gold, Church Goers, Panthéon Sans Sperm, You Might Rue Our Description Of This Street, Sherpa Revisited, On Track For Limoges, Dinner Quandary and Didn’t I Buy One Of These At Trader Joes Last Week
Overcast skies greeted us as we left the hotel a little after 9 a.m. (I can’t believe I let this crew sleep in that late).
After a quick stop at the corner pâtissière (it had been quite some time since I had a pain aux raisin)…
…the fearsome foursome took a metro ride to the Cité Métro station…
…and we walked the short distance to Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris.
At some point on one of our two Paris stops this trip I hoped to climb to the top of Notre Dame for no other reason that I have done it virtually every decade of my life.
When we arrived, it occurred to me that I had not been inside Notre Dame for more than a decade, so we wandered into the church alongside hundreds of our closest tourist buddies and tour groups.
If anything, Notre Dame seemed even bigger than what I had remembered in the past. We strolled by a large chandelier that turned out to be La Couronne de Lumiere (The Crown Of Light), made in the 1840s by goldsmith Poussieigue-Rusand during a major restoration effort.
We walked around Notre Dame for quite a while, and we remembered why it is such a remarkable place.
Soon, we transferred from gold to silver, bronze and gold when we paid 4€ to enter the Tesoro (Treasury).
It was a worthwhile diversion.
There were lots of artifacts on display, beautiful stained glass, and we spent about 20 minutes walking around in there.
Exiting Notre Dame and looking up to see Saint Denis holding his head, I realized the line to climb to the top was more daunting than the actual climb, so we skirted alongside the big church to the East Garden.
Once again, I promised Tracy I would try and satisfy her need to see some gardens on this trip.
Although it was getting near the end of September, the East Garden still contained some pretty flowers.
Wandering across the Seine, we window-shopped on the Île Saint-Louis during a light drizzle.
The gray skies made the stores pop with color as we walked down the street….
…but then I had a utensil faux-pas flashback.
We strolled by Le Tastevin, a restaurant where in 2006 I was severely reprimanded by the hostess for turning my fork tongs right side up, something that I guess is frowned upon.
We decided to leave the area in a hurry in case she remembered the dastardly international incident from six years ago…
…and continued our walk around Île Saint-Louis and window shopped for about 25 minutes or so. On the left bank, we found ourselves outside La Rôtisserie du Beaujolais, where Tracy and I had made friends with a chubby cat on Christmas Eve in 2006, but he must have been taking a cat nap as he was nowhere to be seen.
However, in front of the restaurant was an interesting sight of an electric car getting a charge about being in Paris. I didn’t even know Al Gore was in town.
We ducked in a couple of more churches, Église Saint-Nicholas-du-Chardonnet (I thought I might pick up a bottle until I was reminded that it was the wrong spelling) and Église Saint-Etienne du Mont.
On our last visit to Paris, we had visited Saint-Etienne du Mont and the area in the church where they have stained glass on display, but were not allowed in the actual church due to a funeral (yes, even I have scruples on occasion).
This time we were able to do a walk-through, and it’s a lovely church.
The stained glass is located in a small cloister near the back of the church and dates back to the 17th century. It’s a good way to appreciate its beauty up close and at eye level without getting a stiff neck.
It was getting near the lunch hour, but on our way to find a restaurant, looming in front of us was the Panthéon. The last time Tracy and I visited, we ducked inside the Panthéon only to find a Sperm Exhibit that kind of detracted from the beauty and sense of history of the building .
This is from my 2006 report: “We walked up to the Panthéon, and when we got inside there were white nylon things hanging down from the ceiling, and they were filled with white Styrofoam. It looked like something out of Woody Allen’s ‘Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex.’ Indeed, without too much imagination, they looked like sperm (photo is from 2006 trip).”
I’m sure it wasn’t really a Sperm Exhibit, but that’s what it looked like to me, and I’m sticking to that story.
The Panthéon (sans sperm) is most definitely worth the 9€ entrance fee.
Especially since it gave Kim an opportunity to get some artsy shots of the ceiling.
The Panthéon was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve. From a website I found: “It was then when the Revolutionist government changed the church into a mausoleum, a place to bury exceptional Frenchmen who had sacrificed their lives for their country or who had done something great for France. The Panthéon flipped back and forth to a church over the years but eventually assumed its lasting role as a burial place for martyrs and brilliant French citizens for good.”
Included in the price is the detour down to the seemingly endless crypts below. From Victor Hugo to Rousseau to Voltaire (above) to Marie Curie there were crypts for seemingly anyone who was anyone in France. It was now a little past noon and food beckoned. We found a nice lunch spot at Les Fontaines, 9, rue Soufflot.
We all had Le Menu du Chef for 14€ apiece. The Velouté de Potimarron (Pumpkin soup) received the first “Wow” of any of our dishes on the trip, and everything was good….
…especially Kim’s Risotto with grilled shrimp and pesto.
Satiated, the crew was back on the road, and we just kept meandering through the St. Germain area people-watching and just soaking up the atmosphere. It can never be said too often:
If you go Paris, just walk and soak up the atmosphere. I can never get enough of this city.
Trying to set the one-day Paris church-going record, we stepped inside Église Saint-Sulpice, the second biggest church in Paris.
It was another beautiful church with a nice fountain out front called Fontaine des Quatre Evêques (Fountain Of The Four Bishops).
After our visit, we walked around St. Germain for a little while longer until Kim asked about seeing the rue Mouffetard, a market street he had read about, and one Tracy and I visited on our walking tour with Michael Osman back in 2006.
We hopped on the metro, walked through a lovely park and shortly we were at rue Mouffetard. In the never-ending battle of rue Mouffetard vs. rue Steves (excuse me…Cler), it seems most everyone prefers rue Mouffetard (yes, I know there are other more authentic Parisian market streets than these two, but we didn’t have too much time on this trip).
Many people say rue Mouffetard has a “younger,” “more vibrant” feel to it.
Perhaps that is true, but on this day, it had no vibe at all. It was the Kenny G of market streets…
…boring (but thankfully not playing his music).
While the four of us walked down the nearly empty street, Kim related to us that he had also never been to the rue Cler. I told him that since we would be dining at Le Florimond on our return in a couple of weeks, we would visit that oft-maligned street. As for comparisons…well, you’ll have to wait to read about the rue Cler vs. rue Mouffetard battle when we get there later in this report.
On rue Mouffetard, we did pass by a store whose name elicited some not-so-fond husband travel memories. If you ever read our 2005 Italy Trip Report (We Didn’t Drink All The Vino…), you might remember that I helped some attractive young ladies with their luggage as we arrived by train in Rome, unwittingly leaving my beloved wife to fend for herself…and our luggage. Thanks to my chivalrous, yet in hindsight, idiotic actions helping these young women, Tracy was forced to carry ALL of OUR luggage off the train. “What am I, your Sherpa?” she asked (not in a joking manner).
Well, as we strolled down the empty rue Mouffetard, there was a store by the name of…you guessed it…Sherpa. It was a great photo op, but one I could have lived without. The rain began pouring down again as we hit the final leg of rue Mouffetard, and it was just a short metro ride to Gare d’Austerlitz. I wanted to check out where we would catch the train early the following morning to Limoges. In Limoges, we would pick up a car and drive to Sarlat to begin a five-night stay in the Dordogne.
Of course, most people don’t need to go to the train station the day before a trip, but sadly I’m afflicted with the little known disease of Caboose-a-phobia, which I believe is the fear of reaching your track only to find that the train has departed the station seconds before you arrive.
After being assured that we would have no problem at the train station, we headed back for a little R&R back at the hotel, but first we stopped at our local watering hole where we had nightcaps the evening before. Back at the hotel we all freshened up and then scoped out a spot for dinner.
We didn’t have a reservation anywhere, so we started walking and looking at restaurants and their menus, and, as we have learned from past trips, sometimes every restaurant doesn’t suit everyone’s fancy. When that happens, the results can be less than satisfactory.
Finally, we “settled” on Winstub Au Bretzel located at 1, rue Leopold Robert, almost directly across the street from the restaurant we had dined for lunch on the previous day. Winstub Au Bretzel was a cute enough place, the server was friendly, but the menu wasn’t really “talking to us.” Although we had the opportunity to get up and leave, we reluctantly stayed.
Winstub Au Bretzel is an Alsatian restaurant, which would have been fine had we been in the mood for Alsatian food. In any event, the meal was unmemorable (not bad, just unmemorable). The only thing I recall was that my dinner tasted quite similar to the Alsatian pizza I get from Trader Joes, and although I love Trader Joes, I expect a little more from a dinner in Paris.
We made a vow after this meal to choose our restaurants more wisely, and if we found ourselves in a similar situation, we would get up and leave (which we would actually do much later in the trip).
We went to sleep relatively early because the following morning we had to catch that 6:40 a.m. train to Limoges. I told Tracy that I would set the alarm for 4:30. She said, “OK, but if you do, you won’t make it to the train station on time because I will kill you.” Sometimes I take her threats seriously, so I set the alarm for 5:02. What, me anal?
This was also the last night of the trip that my left arm would not be bandaged, because within about 12 hours, thanks to a self-inflicted luggage malfunction (Revenge Of The Sherpa?), I would be starting my own personal blood drive at the Limoges Train Station.
Next: Day Four – In The Dark, Filet de Maitai, A Bloody Time In Limoges, Dr. Mary’s Bag Of Tricks, Introducing Madame Bleu, Unspeakable Crimes Against Humanity, Dueling Navigation Systems, A Sarlat Sensation, Mind Your Manoirs and A Great Name For Our New Parisian Business Venture