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 Napoleon'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.
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.