Thursday, March 1, 2018

A Parisian Mini-Break

There are a lot of long weekends for my daughter's American school on the military base, and one of the best things is that they rarely coincide with European holidays. The weekend before last was President's Day which luckily is not a local holiday, so we took the express train to Paris Friday night. I say "express train" but due to unforeseen circumstances it arrived very late, which I detailed in my previous post

After our 3 a.m. arrival we slept late on Saturday. We skipped breakfast and went straight to lunch, then took to Metro to Montmartre. It was a beautiful day so we climbed the hill to Sacre Coeur, which I think is the most beautiful building in Paris. 


It's about 140 steps up the hill. Yes, I counted. We could have taken the funicular but why would we?



This is the back view as you walk down the side streets to Montmartre, which has lots of tourist shops and restaurants. It's also known for artists and there are always sketch artists and people selling watercolors and little oil paintings in the square. We also enjoyed the street art. 


If you've seen BBC's Travel Man with Richard Ayoade, this seahorse is from the Paris episode with Mel Giedroyc. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. You can find all the episodes on YouTube and they're hilarious.


I always love doorways. I especially love the blue color one on this one, and the arched columns.


This is from the Pariosse St. Jean church in Montmartre. It's reddish brick church from the 12th century, with lots of mosaics. I didn't go inside but I found the outside really unusual. 


As we were walking around Montmartre, we decided to stop for a break and a hot beverage. A bakery with AMAZING eclairs was conveniently located on the street heading towards the famous Moulin Rouge.


We did quite a lot of walking and were still tired from the previous night, so after a nap, we went out for cassoulet, the famous bean casserole with lamb, sausages, and duck confit. This enormous pan is meant to serve three people. 


Next day we went to the Ile de la Cite, the island in the middle of the Seine, to climb the Notre Dame tower. We had to reserve our ticket time because only a limited number of people can climb up at any given time. We had a couple of hours to kill so we crossed the street to look for lunch. 


This arcade had a Mexican restaurant which I found very amusing. We did not eat there. 

Instead we found Le Procope, which was also featured in the same episode of Travel Man. It was founded in 1686 and is the oldest restaurant in Paris. Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson ate here,  and they have all kinds of neat stuff, including one of Napolean's hats which is on display in the vestibule.


We ate lunch on the first floor, but the second floor has lots of really cool artifacts including this bust of Voltaire. 


Some traditional escargots. Le Procope also serves boiled calf's head but we decided to pass.  


On the walk back to Notre Dame we saw some more street art. I particularly enjoyed this Star Wars tribute.


Before climbing the tower, we did a quick circuit inside the cathedral. The rose windows are really impressive. 


We still had a few minutes before our timed tickets, so we walked through the garden and had a lovely view of the back of the cathedral. 


Then it was time to climb the tower! I'd done this climb about 10 years ago on my first visit to Paris and I thought it would never end. I've been climbing a lot more hills and stairs since we moved here so it really wasn't that bad. First you climb about 100 stairs to the gift shop to buy tickets, then it's up to the first level.


I think it's the best view in Paris, plus I love all the gargoyles.


There's the Seine river and off in the distance you can see the Eiffel Tower.



Then we walked up to the second level which is above the bell tower. I realized that I could see Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookstore. It's on the first floor of the white building on the corner, in the left of the picture. The front of the building is in shadow, but that's the cafe is on the corner, and the actual bookstore with the green awning is to the right. 


The bookstore was really busy and there was literally a line to get in. It's really quite small and it was very crowded, but I did manage to find some books. They also sell used books at the bookstore and on some shelves outside. 

The next day we meant to go to the Musee D'Orsay, which has the best collection of Impressionist art in Paris. However, we realized too late that it's closed on Monday! So instead we went to the Palais Garnier which is the opera house. It was grey and rainy so it was a good day to do something inside.



The opera house isn't really that big, but the lobby and stairwell are really impressive. 



We couldn't actually walk through the auditorium but there are two open balconies where you can overlook the inside and the stage. 



My favorite thing was the ceiling painted by Chagall. If you've ever seen Moonstruck, you know that Chagall was a very great artist. 



If you walk around to the left side, Box #5 is the one that the Phantom of the Opera always requested in the famous novel. If you zoom in, you can see the brass plate that reads "Loge du Fantom de L'Opera." I'm not a huge fan of the story but it was another literary connection for the weekend.

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The Palais Garnier also has its own library which was pretty impressive. 



Finally -- we ended the break with a lovely bistro lunch. I had steak frites and in the corner you can just see the appetizer for the table to share -- smoked duck breast and foie gras! 

It was a lovely break and I hope I can go back to Paris again before we move back to the U.S. 

19 comments:

  1. Paris is always a good idea! Thanks for sharing all your awesome photos. I loved all of them. :)

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    1. Thanks! It was a short trip but really fun. There's so much to see in Paris!

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  2. Lovely photos - and what a great view from the tower! It's been years since I went to Paris but I hope to go again one day.

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    1. Thanks! It was a lot of steps but it's worth it. I think it's the best view in Paris.

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  3. WOW!!! Those were marvelous! So exciting! And delicious!

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    1. Thank you! It was a good trip -- and the food is really great. I'm sure you could get a bad meal in Paris but I've been lucky so far.

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  4. The only time I've been to Paris was on a weekend trip in '99, and I missed both Sacre Coeur AND Notre Dame. The latter was due to bad timing, a train breakdown, a flood in the metro, and a strike. I only got to see the outside. I really need to go back again one day!

    I have to ask, because your last paragraph seems to indicate a timeline - do you know when you'll be coming back at this point? Or was that a hypothetical?

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    1. I hope you get to back someday! Our assignment is theoretically three years, though sometimes people can extend an extra year. We'll most likely move back to the U.S. in 2019 -- it's coming up fast so I have to get in as much traveling as possible in the next year or so.

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    2. I really need to get over to see you before y'all come back!!!!

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  5. Beautiful photos! I feel like I just took a mini-trip while sitting at my desk. Thank you so much for bringing us on all your European adventures!

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    1. Thanks! I'm pretty amazed at how well the photos came out from my phone.

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  6. Looks like a beautiful and busy weekend! My one and only trip to Paris was also a February trip and I loved visiting in the winter. The tourists were minimal, the cooler temperatures perfect for all the walking, and, best of all, the first signs of spring (blossoming cherry trees and daffodils) were there to make it even more inviting. Thanks for sharing another of your travel adventures - it's fantastic how much you're getting to see!

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    1. We managed to squeeze in some good sight-seeing in just over two days without feeling rushed. We didn't really see any flowers this time around but spring should be here soon. I really want to visit Monet's garden before we leave, also I'd love to go back to Paris and see the Bois de Bologne.

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  7. I’m simply green with envy!!
    Beautiful pics & I loved all the literary connections you made as well.

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  8. Thanks for the great photos. You really make me wish I was going to Paris soon. The last time we were there we had our two small boys with us and they were only interested in seeing the Eiffel Tower. That was over 20 years ago.

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  9. What a splendid trip! I enjoyed each and every photograph and description. How perfectly lovely. Thank you so much for all your effort with this.
    Are you going back to the States in the near future?? Surely you must have more travelling to do before then.

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    1. Just saw your response to a previous post, which has you returning to the US in 2019 or so.

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  10. My husband and I spent a week in Paris for our 10th anniversary in 1984. I have a photo of him and the gargoyles. Being at that height was way too much for me, but he went up to the next level. Paris is a beautiful city. You're lucky to be close enough that the trip isn't too bad.

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  11. Loved this post! Beautiful photos. It's been over a decade since I visited Paris, and I really need to get back there.

    I love Travel Man and all things Richard Ayoade. I read his first book last year, and it's great fun if you enjoy extreme satire.

    That look on Voltaire's face fits so perfectly with the vision I had of him in my head while reading Candide.

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