I love, love to plan trips and do research and find cool things to do on vacation. I felt like I had found a bunch of really great things to see and do on this trip. So imagine my dismay when we got to Paris and I realized that I had entirely forgotten to include the Eiffel Tower in our plans. How big of a bonehead am I? So I shuffled a bunch of stuff around and we decided to make a pilgrimage to that most iconic of landmarks first thing in the morning so we wouldn’t have to spend the entire day in line.
You can get Eiffel Tower tickets online ahead of time. This is what anyone with half a brain does. And then there’s me. Apparently I have less than half a brain. But we only had to wait in line for about half an hour before we were on our way up. I probably didn’t include the Eiffel Tower subconsciously; I’m super terrified of heights. Elevators especially make me panic. Most of my nightmares feature elevators. Anyway, we went up to the second level and looked around and . . . well, that’s about it. But everyone else decided to go to the top. Because that’s what you’re supposed to do! But there is a big, fat line to go up to the top, and a big, fat line to get down. And really it’s not all that interesting to go to the top when you can’t really tell what’s what because it’s so tiny. I waited and waited and waited for the rest of my family to get back down. It took forever and my advice would be to go up to the second floor (which is massively under construction right now) and forget about going to the top.
The weather ended up being gorgeous. A bit chilly in the morning, but wonderful by the afternoon. We decided to stop by the Rue Montorgueil, which I’d heard from lots of people was really cool, but it was sort of lame. Mostly it’s just a bit of market stalls and oddball shops and my family was not in the mood for shopping. We were hungry and nobody could agree on anything to eat. So we caught the bus up to Sacré Coeur instead. Well, we caught a bus to the vicinity of Sacré Coeur. The bus drops you at the bottom of the hill. Rumor has it that there is a little railway that will take you up to the top (requires one metro ticket) but we couldn’t find it. So we hoofed it up these:
Plus about a million other stairs. (Actually it wasn’t too bad.) There was hardly anyone walking up this way. Once we got to Sacré Coeur, though, we were in a giant crowd of people.
Sacré Coeur is a big white basilica (a basilica is a really special Catholic church) that is barely over a hundred years old. It’s quite beautiful and very different-looking than most other churches. It’s white for one thing. It’s also on the top of the highest hill in Paris which makes it even more impressive.
I found it quite interesting that it’s dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, not Mary. Not being Catholic, I’m not really into Mary all that much. I’m sure she was an amazing woman–she was chosen to be Jesus’ mother, after all–but Mormons don’t believe she was perfect nor the result of Immaculate Conception. Going to school at a convent I was really blown away by how much worship was directed towards Mary instead of towards the Savior. And don’t say that’s not true; I’ve heard the rosary more times than I care to, thankyouverymuch. And growing up I saw statues of Mary in all my neighbor’s front yards, but no Jesus statues anywhere. OK, sorry, I’m getting a little wound up. Sacré Coeur is actually dedicated to the Lord, a pleasant surprise in a place where churches are dedicated to everyone BUT Jesus. I was also pleased to see that they had a more glorious depiction of Christ than just the bloody and morose Crucifixion.
Sacré Coeur is tourist trap central. There are people trying to work tourist scams everywhere and tons of shops selling the exact same things. You can sneer or just go along with it and maybe buy a fridge magnet while you’re at it. I find it interesting that you can get cuter Paris-themed stuff outside of Paris. For instance, I bought the most adorable mug that says “Paris” and has a really cute bike with flowers on it. And I purchased it at Target last year. Yes, Target in Austin, Texas. Things like that make finding genuinely unique Parisian souvenirs almost impossible. I finally ended up getting French beauty products for my friends back home.
As I’ve said before, sightseeing requires a great amount of strategy. In my planning I checked to see which sights were open late so we could make the most of our time. We saved the Louvre for the day when it stayed open until 9:30 pm. By the time we arrived at 5:00, a lot of the crowds were gone.
We grouped all our museum-going into just a couple of days so that we could take advantage of the Museum Pass (also known as the Intermusée Pass). Unlike British museums, French museums charge admission and they’re not cheap. The good news is that if you’ll be going to three or more of them, you can buy a pass that allows you free entry into just about every museum in Paris. You also don’t have to wait in ticket lines which can be extremely long. Since the Louvre was so dead when we arrived, we bought our museum passes there (you can buy them at any of the sights. Just be prepared to wait usually. At the Louvre, you don’t buy them at a regular ticket desk. You have to go to an office way at the back of a hallway past the gift shop). Kids under 18 don’t need a pass; they’re free at most museums. If they’re like York, who is seventeen but looks like he could be much older, they’ll need to bring ID to prove their age. (If you do an online search for the Museum Pass, be careful. There are several websites saying they’ll sell you one and have it shipped overseas or to your Paris hotel. It’s very expensive and unnecessary. It’s not hard at all to buy your pass once you’re in Paris.)
It’s been a long time since I was at the Louvre. It seems like they’ve remodeled it a whole bunch. Originally it served as the Castle where the French Kings lived, so it’s quite fancy. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the ceilings, which are opulent, to say the least.
America is a place of plain ceilings, so these really blew me away. I was more impressed with the finish work of the museums than with most of the artwork. Even little hallways have fancy ceilings.
Of course we saw the Mona Lisa which, in case you hadn’t heard, is small and not that exciting. But it’s famous so like any celebrity there are dozens of people mobbed around it, taking pictures.
I loved these paintings by Giuseppe Arcimboldo. The people are made of plants and fruits and vegetables. Pretty cool.
I have always liked tiny, little things and the painting that caught my eye the most was this odd one of feet by Ingres. It’s about 8×10, which compared to everything else in the Louvre is positively microscopic.
India tends to get a bit comatose when she’s hungry and tired. When she’s in that mood there is no artwork that will impress her.
By the end of the day we were wiped out and beyond tired. It was nice to get some ice cream and watch the boats pass by on the Seine. The stairs that you seen on the far right side in the picture below are the ones that were less than a block from our flat. I was positive that I’d completely fall going up or down (they’re steeper than they look) but I never did. Miracle!