After two weeks in the comparative quite and slow pace of Rouen, it was a bit jarring at first to be back in Paris. But being there to meet our friend Faith, to introduce her to the city at the start of her first visit to France, was very exciting. So I got over my initial shock, and got ready to spend a weekend with Therese and her in, yay! Paris. We would cover all the usual best things to do, including a visit to the Eiffel Tower. But on this first day, it was all about heading to the Ile de la Cite, the middle of the city geographically and historically, to make stops at Notre Dame de Paris and (my personal favorite) Sainte-Chapelle.
With Faith taking an overnight flight that changed in Iceland, we kept in touch with her through Facebook to get an idea of when she would arrive. We had some time to kill and didn’t think it would be much fun just hanging around the hotel, so we went for a walk.
I had ambitions of tracking down things I’d never seen before, but it was easier to end up walking along the Champs-Elysees towards the Place de la Concorde. This was worth the trip just to see the latter all clogged up with, I am guessing, arrangements for the coming national holiday (Fete Nationale, July 14th). Along the way, we passed by the Grand Palais and walked through the peaceful Jardin des Ambassadeurs.
We planned on lunching with Faith later, but we were already quite hungry (our breakfast had been pretty light as I recall), so we stopped at a deli called Bram’s to share a salmon salad with pasta (the best part about this was reading the deli’s boast that they are as good as Carnegie Deli – how many Parisians would even know what that was?
We got back to our hotel, the Astor St-Honore, not long before Faith got there. Hugs were exchanged. We checked into our rooms on the 5th floor – Faith had a nice one, and ours was a mini-suite, with a table and chairs and a balcony – very impressive!
We started off Faith’s immersion into all things Paris with a lunch at an outdoor cafe not far from our hotel. Le Saint-Augustin faces the “place” of the same name. Over-priced and not top quality, but we got some sun and filled our bellies.
Then it was time to hit the Metro. We changed at the Republic stop and took that to Chatelet, and a block from there, we hit the Seine. In front of us was the Conciergerie (where Marie Antionette was famously incarcerated) and just to the right Faith got her first sighting of the Eiffel Tower, behind the ancient Pont Neuf.
Next to the Conciergerie is Sainte-Chapelle, a small Medieval royal chapel that is without an equal in my eyes. I will write a separate post to give you the intricacies of its beauty, but here are a couple to give you a taste.
So yes, we spent a good bit of time there. Then Faith and I descended into the Archaeological Paris museum in front of Notre Dame (while Therese took a break).
I appreciate this museum more than I enjoy it. It is instructive to see how all the different layers of historical development of the island were literally not only right on top of each other, but also alongside each other. They make an effort in this museum to give you information about the different sections of ruins – what time period they are from, what function they served. It just comes across to me as a jumble of stone and mortar. I would be thrilled if there were more scale models of the area during different historical periods, identifying sections of the extant ruins that pertain to those periods.
And then it was time to enter the glorious cathedral of Notre Dame of Paris. The cathedral of cathedrals. I think it is crazy but also amazing that a building that is so much in demand as a tourist destination is also so devoted to serving the community’s spiritual needs. There are not that many times of any day of the week that there is not a service going on. We tourists are relegated to walking around the perimeter of the church, away from the action. I enjoyed hearing the cantors leading Vespers, the evening service, while we were there (the soprano was excellent, the tenor, meh).
After the cathedral, we crossed the bridge to the south and retraced steps Therese and I had taken on our first trip to Paris in 2010, to a relaxing cafe where we could have some cold beverages and chill. The cafe, now called Beaurepaire, is still there but has changed ownership since we were last there. As we savored our cold drinks (Mint “diabolo” for me, Campari and orange juice for Therese and Faith), a frenzy to clear out the afternoon loungers so that the dinner service might begin took place.
No worries – we finished up and taxied it back toward our hotel. I had picked out a restaurant just a couple blocks from the hotel, Pomze, a place that is apple-themed. We had a fabulous dinner, another one of those experiences where I was reminded that food is generally exceptional in Paris.
More importantly than having a transcendent meal was having a meal that ably encapsulated the experience of a great day in Paris, both for us and for our new visitor. We went to bed that night ready to wake up the next day and do it all over again!