Hello everyone! Sorry this is a little late but we were too tired to finish our post last night and then the internet wasn’t working this morning. But oh my, what a day yesterday was!? So full of so much wonderfulness, where to even start? How about the beginning…
After a yummy hostel breakfast of granola, croissants & tasty buns we hopped on the metro. Destination Number 1: the Tourist Information Center. We had purchased Paris Museum Passes online beforehand and needed to pick them up. These things are awesome. They give you free entrance to almost every attraction in Paris. But that’s not all! They also give you priority entrance. There is always a separate, completely empty PMP holders line! We’re already convinced it was a great investment!
Our first activity for the morning was the Rick Steves’ walk of the historic center of Paris. We began this walk in front of Notre Dame. Notre Dame was completed in 1345 after almost 200 years of construction. After learning some interesting tidbits from Rick (did you know the heads of all the statues at the front were cut off during the revolution because they thought they were the heads of the French kings?) we entered.
We had forgotten it was Sunday and were met in line with a number of people attending Sunday mass. You were able to enter the cathedral while service was on but as we couldn’t go into the seats or choir area you didn’t have to pay (which we wouldn’t have anyways with our passes).
If there was going to be one church on this trip we entered during mass we are glad it was this one. The service was extremely traditional and incredibly beautiful. The music was deep & reverent and very haunting. It fit the gothic style of the church incredibly well. There are gorgeous stained-glass windows and high gothic arches & buttresses everywhere.
As a whole the experience was incredibly moving…and we couldn’t even understand anything they were saying!
When we left Notre Dame it had started to rain. We don’t know what we did to piss off the gods but we just can’t escape the rain on this trip!! This was a perfect opportunity to visit the crypt of Notre Dame. This took us under current city level to show us old ruins and provide a breakdown of the early history of Paris, dating back to the first settlements (way before Justine knows everything about French history). The ruins were very well preserved and the information luckily all in English on a handy-dandy handout.
It was still raining when we left the crypt so we made a quick change to our plans. We ditched the Rick Steves tour for later and headed to the largest museum in the world! We hoped on the metro and arrived right at the entrance. With our museum passes we were able to sneak right into the glass pyramid without having to wait outside in the giant line in the rain. Yay PMP! You hear the Louvre is huge and daunting, but it’s also a magnificent French palace that is absolutely gorgeous. Standing in the central courtyard is lovely and the glass pyramid is also a spectacular sight. It really gives it that unique character that distinguishes it as the Louvre. We don’t understand how the French did not like it when it was built!
The Louvre has a long history in Paris. It began as a medieval fortress and became the palace of French kings. At one time, when the Tuileries Palace stood on the one end, the Louvre was the largest building in the world. The palace was left empty once court was moved to Versailles and it was during the French Revolution it became a museum. The revolutionaries were ransacking the buildings of the nobility and decided to showcase their spoils in the Louvre. It became the world’s first public museum.
Upon entering the Louvre you are taken to a large central area with little direction of what to do next. We grabbed a handy map and plugged in our Rick Steves tour through the Louvre. Right from the start we got lost. We could not find the ancient antiquities area we were to start in. However, we did find Winged Victory of Samothrace pretty easily and from there we continued with our tour, looping back at the end to find what we had missed.
In our three hours in the Louvre we saw everything we had wanted to see and so much more…and yet not nearly everything in the museum. Shall we give you a description of some of the highlights? We thinks yes!
Winged Victory of Samothrace
Winged Victory is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world. She dates back to 200BC and was once the figurehead on the bow of a ship. As opposed to most of the other female statues which show a stable stillness, this statue is all about movement & drama. She is reaching with her dress rippling and her wings outstretched. This was definitely our favorite statue and we’re pretty sure it was because of how dynamic it is.
Venus de Milo
Venus de Milo is definitely one of the most famous ancient Greek sculptures. She can be dated back to around 100BC. This chick is hot…especially when you consider she has no arms… She really is the idealized woman. However we are curious as to what makes her so famous and not any of the other Venus statues we saw?
This painting needs no introduction. Everyone has heard of it! It’s small, on an empty wall and hidden behind a layer of glass and yet there is just something about her. That smile, those eyes and the magnetism she exudes makes you want to battle the hordes of tourists for a front row look.
Back in the day when he was trying to be in charge of everything, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France. And by crowned himself we mean, in this picture, he took the crown from the Pope and placed it on his own head. This is the largest painting in the Louvre and it really is massive, but very detailed. An interesting tidbit: Napoleon’s mother was not at the coronation ceremony but Napoleon ordered her painted in the picture anyways.
We also saw loads of really awesome Greek statues & Egyptian antiquities and lots of beautiful paintings. We feel we should have spend more time looking at the paintings but we just know so little about art. We appreciate them for their grandness and detail and how pretty they are though!
Came out of the Louvre and guess what? Still raining… So we again adjusted our plans (because we are not only well-prepared tourists, but also flexible ones) and picked an indoor location to hit up. The Army Museum was only a short metro ride away. We can just hop on and off the metro anytime we feel like as we have a 3 day unlimited pass 🙂 Before going in we needed some lunch. There was a cafe across the street that also featured an open to the street crepe stand. We dare anyone to try to resist the sweet smell of crepes. We did our usual sharing with one ooey-gooey ham & cheese salty crepe and one dream-about-it-at-night-it-was-so-delicious chocolate & banana sweet crepe.
The Army Museum is housed in the large complex of Les Invalides. This was built under the reign of Louis XIV as a retirement home and hospital for army veterans. The Army Museum is basically a look back at the progression of combat. The exhibits each concentrated on one specific time period and the clothes and weapons of war in that era. It was huge and extremely interesting.
The first series of rooms was dedicated to medieval times. You could track how the suit of armor progressed, slowly getting more and more effective at covering a knight completely, and watched swords get progressively bigger & more deadly looking. The most interesting (and kind of sad) thing were the tiny suits of armor made for children. Why does a six year old need a suit of armor? He most definitely should not be fighting anyone! There was also a display of armor designed specifically for jousting. The protection was thicker in certain places where they were likely to be hit and there were handy hooks that helped you hold up the lance.
We then moved into the time between Louis XIV and Napoleon. They had ditched the clunky armor that was impossible to move in in favor of regimentals. These started simple but quickly escalated to a point where you were pretty much dressed in one of the fanciest coats you owned when you headed off to war! It seemed the most buttons your jacket featured the more intimidating you looked. However as the displays became more recent the outfits devolved back to somber colors and designs. This was one crazy thing we saw…a greats plate that had been blown clear through during a battle of the Napoleonic Wars.
Finally there was a section dedicated to the World Wars. This was definitely the most interesting information-wise. We learned all about Frances involvement and visited a whole exhibit on Charles de Gaulle. He was a military leader in the Second World War and led the assault to take France back from the Germans. He was France’s hero of the war and when France was lost politically and Charles de Gaulle stepped up to run the country (he is such a big deal that the airport is named after him). Kristin was amazed to learn about the political instability that had occurred so recently in such an old & peaceful country.
Finally we saw Napoleon’s tomb. It is in a church attached to the Army Museum. The entrance to the area is flanked by two giant black statues. It was very daunting. Then you decend down stairs and are confronted with the hugest tomb. It was really gigantic! And unmarked, which we found interesting.
By the time we left here it was actually sunny! Can you believe it?! And not only sunny but hot! Yay! We decided to carry out the Rick Steves Historic Core walk we had been putting off all day. We saw the Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris), the Palais de Justice (where the supreme court is and the revolutionary headquarters were in the past) and the police headquarters (which was the first building in Paris to be liberated from the Nazis). We also saw Place St Michel which has been the square used for demonstrations through out Paris’ history…for example, during the revolutions, during Nazi occupation and for all student protests.
We did supper in a very similar fashion to yesterday, a €10 3-course dinner. We tried out a different restaurant today, although the choices were rather similar. The meal choice for both of us was: Onion Soup (even though we had it yesterday…it’s just so good!) and Salmon with Mushroom Sauce & Rice. We differed on dessert today. Justine had Chocolate Moose but Kristin didn’t want to push it with the chocolate so she had Yogurt with Raspberry Sauce.
Post supper we partook in the best night activity Paris has to offer: sitting by the Eiffel Tower. It is just as cool the second night. You can bet this is where our blog writing will take place every night!
– People eat super late here! Like super late…like everyone is just sitting around having supper at 11pm on a Sunday night.
– We have only seen 2 Starbucks here so far and they were both in the Mall under the Louvre (and yes that is a mall like West Ed, just attached to the Louvre).
Love, Luck & Louvre,