Welcome to Paris Day 2! or Day 4 if you count our day trips…or Day 7 if you count our last stop in Paris…or Day 11 if you count the day trips of those stops… Anyways, the next two days will be filled with lots of aimless wandering and slightly more obscure sights (aka the ones we want to see but not so desperately that they made it into the itinerary of our first trip to Paris).
We started today with a mega metro ride. It took us 23 metro stops and one line change to get to our desired location, which was St. Denis church. Saint Denis, a patron saint of France and the first bishop of Paris, was decapitated on the hill of Montmartre. Followingthis, Denis supposedly carried his head northwards and finally stopped at the site he wished to be buried. A church was founded here in the 7th century and became the final resting place of the French Kings, nearly every king from the 10th to 18th centuries are buried here. Both from the outside & the inside St. Denis looked like a simple gothic cathedral. We later found out this simple cathedral is also important historically for its architecture. Built in the 12th century it used inovative structural and decorative features which are said to make it the first truly gothic building. The design of the 13th century nave has also been the prototype for gothic cathedrals in northern France, England and other countries.
It had all of the markings of classic gothic architecture, but none of the crazy extravagance you see in some churches. The simple columns and ceiling just allowed your focus to be on the complexly gorgeous stained glass. Each window was filled with a difficult pattern or realistic king or detailed biblical scene. And all of them were bursting with color.
The tombs of the kings were interesting…which seems morbid, but what can you do? We got excited whenever we came across someone we’d heard of and Justine quizzed Kristin to see what she could remember of their lives. The tombs varied from simple rectangles to extravagant displays, but all featured a death mask carving of the person. Some are creepily realistic. The most interesting coffins included those of Clovis I (who died about 1500 years ago), Louis XIV (who has as crazy of a final resting place as he had of a home…remember Versailles?) and Louis XVI & Marie Antoinette (who were beheaded in the revolution and dumped in a random grave…they weren’t dug up until 22 years later and were buried in St. Denis in 1815…that’s why the graves look so modern).
The Paris Opera House or Palais Garnier is an amazing feat of architecture. It was built between 1861 and 1875 for the Paris Opera. We originally planned on just going to check out the exterior, but once we started talking about it and the fact that this is the building The Phantom of the Opera is based in we decided to pay the money to go inside. The visit was well worth it! The grand staircase alone was worth the money to see. The detail work on everything from the walls to the ceiling to the statues holding the lights is just incredible. Then you start to wander the foyers and find hallways that look like they were ripped straight out of Versailles…so much gold, mirrors and decadence!
The theater itself was the last thing we saw. You can enter into one of the plush boxes and get a full view of the venue. Every seat is made of red velvet and looks as comfortable as floating on a cloud. Everything is dark wood, gold covered or red velvet, leaving the place looking incredibly rich. It was the type of place that you would go to a show at just to be in the venue. The roof was painted by Marc Chagall…remember him and his modern-style biblical paintings? It looked just as odd as those painting and contrasted a bit with the 7-ton bronze and crystal chandelier in the center, but somehow it all still worked. Interestingly, the falling of one of the counterweights of the chandelier in 1896 inspired the famous scene in The Phantom of the Opera. The lighting was low while we were in the theater because they were doing lighting tests or set-ups or something on stage. This created an ambience of darkness & shadows that made you certain the Phantom could be lurking about, peeking out of one of the balconies.
Lunch time drew us back to the Champs Élysées Christmas market. Our guide (on the Sandeman’s tour we did the other day) had told us about a local delicacy you could find at some of the stalls, so we decided today was the day to try it. Tartiflette is basically scalloped potatoes with ham, which anyone who has ever had ham & scalloped potatoes knows is basically deliciousness. We shared a hardy container of it on the side of the street.
We followed up our potatoes with one of these:
We’d seen these chocolaty creations at many a stall and were curious as to what they were. Kristin was so curious that she just bought one and bit in…
Turns out it’s chocolate covered homemade marshmallow, all balanced on a little waffle wafer. Again, deliciousness. It was starting to rain at this point, so we headed for a McCafé break. After hot beverages and blog posting we were feeling recharged and ready to face the still-coudy-but-no-longer-raining skies.
The no-longer-raining skies lasted about 30 seconds and before we could even get across the river it was pouring. We found refuge under a bus stop but the damage was done…Justine’s ballet flats were soaked right through. You may be wondering why she was wearing ballet flats when she knew it would likely rain today but you see, her runners were still slightly damp from Disney day so she risked it. Kristin was fine…her shoes are waterproof 🙂 To remedy the disaster we headed back to the hostel. First we did a little souvenir shopping though. We’re getting the stuff crossed off our list…literaly…if you know us you know that we have an actual shopping list.
For supper we hit up a place we’d noticed on our last visit but hadn’t had the time to go to until now:
Yes, it is a Canadian pub 🙂 The inside was decorated with hockey jerseys (mostly Montreal), flat screens playing various sporting events and a large RoughRiders flag. Oh and in case you didn’t notice, the door handles are hockey sticks! It was a nice jolt of home to get us through our last week, because we must admit we are getting a little anxious for Canada. For our meal we had a chicken quesadilla (not very Canadian, but something we often eat when we are in Canada), a poutine and Canada Dry ginger ale! Yay Canada!
What We Miss:
Kristin – Food court Chinese food…Justine misses it too…
Justine – Siesta…
Love, Luck & Louis XVI