Sunday, April 28, 2013

Paris - Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre, and Arc de Triomphe

After a way too long pause, I am back to carry on with the sharing of my husband's and my adventures in Paris.  It is the day after Christmas and it was a beautiful day!

Sun breaking through clouds Paris

We had several things planned for today but they all had to start with the purchase of the Paris Museum Pass.  For us it worked out to be a great value.  We bought the 6-day pass and it covers most of the major sights giving a good discount.  There are several places you can buy it, but you should purchase it early in the day because they can run out.  We bought ours at Sainte Chapelle and used it there first.

When we walked out of the metro we knew which direction we had to go but when we got to Sainte Chapelle the sign said Paris Museum Pass line here.  There was nothing else saying where to go to get the pass or where to go if you didn't have the pass so we kept walking.  We ended up walking around the entire block right back to where we started.  There was still no one else around to ask for help so we just went in to the only entrance we saw.  It worked.  We found the church, bought our Paris Museum Pass, and went in.

Out of all the churches we have seen in our travels, Sainte Chapelle to me was the most gorgeous. It was built by Saint Louis in the mid-thirteenth century in the heart of the Royal Palace to house the relics of the Passion of Christ.  Although the relics are no longer there, instead they are in the cathedral treasury of Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle is worth a visit.

There are two chapels in Sainte Chapelle, the lower and the upper.  The lower chapel has it charms.  I think it is the colors that I am drawn to.  There are symbols of Saint Louis everywhere.  Here are few pictures from the lower chapel.

wall of lower chapel Saint Chapelle

ceiling of lower chapel Saint Chapelle

Closer Saint Louis replica in Saint Chapelle

While the lower chapel is pretty it is NOTHING compared to the upper chapel, which is AMAZING!  The stained glass is beautiful.  The ceiling is awesome.  The walls are so colorful and even the floors are decorating.  Let me share some photos with you.

Upper chapel stained glass Saint Chapelle

decorated columns in upper chapel Saint Chapelle

Angel over arch upper chapel Saint Chapelle 

Rose window seen from upper chapel Saint Chapelle

boarder on floor in upper chapel Saint Chapelle

Alter at front of upper chapel Saint Chapelle

So, as you can see, Sainte Chapelle was breathtaking!  Even the entrance...

Castle and Fleur de Lis outside wall of Saint Chapelle

After Sainte Chapelle we walked over to Notre Dame Cathedral. The first thing we were greeting with was SEVERAL signs in many languages basically telling everyone to shut-up.

Silence at Notre Dame

Yes ma'am or sir or Jesus...I am not sure but I will be quiet!

After having just seen Sainte Chapelle it was hard to walk into Notre Dame and be impressed.  I feel bad saying that too.  I hope I don't offend anyone.  It was pretty, for sure, but did you see the pictures from Sainte Chapelle??  I mean come on!

Here are some of the most stunning pictures from inside Notre Dame.

Nave of Notre Dame

Inside Notre Dame

Inside Notre Dame showing height

Stained Glass and Shadow Notre Dame

Cross in Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral is very large and beautiful.  The outside of Notre Dame is amazing.  I loved walking around it looking at all the detail and especially the gargoyle rain gutters.  I shared some photos from Christmas Day, you can see those here if you would like.  But I have some more from our visit on this day.

Outside door Notre Dame

Interesting Rainspout with Human Faces and Gargoyles Notre Dame

Winged Creature Outside Notre Dame

Gargoyle Creature Outside Notre Dame

Notre Dame with Gargoyle Rainspouts Sky background

At the back of Notre Dame and across the street there is a memorial for the Jews of Paris who were deported during World War II.  You have to go down a flight of very narrow stairs to enter the memorial.

Stairs leading down into Deportation Memorial Paris

I am very dense when it comes to symbolism but even I got the message the designers were trying to get across here.  Once you go down the stairs there doesn't seem to be any way out.  At one point you can look up and the only thing you can see is the blue sky and maybe a bird.  The bird is free.  You are not.  I can't image how deported Jews felt when they were forced to leave everything they knew with so many of them to never return.

Veiw from Deportation Memorial Paris

There is a narrow opening that you have to go through to see the actual memorial.

Narrow Entrance Deportation Memorial Paris

A room full of lights. Each one of those lights represents the life of a Jew who was deported from Paris.  It is an overwhelming amount of lights.  Very moving.  Very sad.

Lights Representing Jewish Lives at the Deportation Memorial Paris

On a happier note.  The day before, I had promised Frankie we would go back to Rue de la Huchette to eat at one of the tourist trap restaurants.  We decided on a Greek restaurant called Hellenis. 

We both had ordered the 3-course meal which meant we had an appetizer, main plate, and a dessert.  

Frankie went with mussels and he LOVED them.  He also got a pork kebab and apple tart, since those are pretty common to us, I have decided to not post pictures, although rest assured, I did take pictures of them!

Mussels in White Wine Sauce- Helenis Restaurant Paris

I ordered tzatziki as an appetizer.  Since it literally was just the tzatziki on a plate, I am not sharing a picture of that either.  It was good to dip the ever present bread in though. 

For my main plate I chose the moussaka, which is an eggplant and meat type of casserole.  I had never had it before and wasn't completely sure what it was but I had heard of it.  My feeling on trying new foods is that if a bunch of other people in other countries eat it then it can't be that bad.  I know there are exceptions to this, but for the most part I have never been disappointed.

Moussaka Helenis Restaurant Paris

My dessert was very interesting.  All it said on the menu was Greek pastry.  Well, sure, why not try it.  This is what I was brought. 

Greek pastry Helenis Restaurant Paris

Shredded wheat! Ok, not really.  I have looked up what it is and it is called kataifi.  The pastry that it is made from is what gives it the name.  It is stuffed with a nutty concoction and it is delicious!   Here is a look at the inside.  Yum!  And just so you know that plate, was all but licked clean since it was sooo good.

Inside Greek pastry Helenis Restaurant Paris
After eating we headed to the Louvre.  We left the rest of the afternoon and evening unplanned because we knew we would be in the Louvre for some time.  It had always been a childhood dream of Frankie's to go to the Louvre.  I honestly don't think I knew what the Louvre was until way into my teenage, if not college, years.  We were both excited to actually go in and not just walk around the outside again like we did on Christmas day.

There are several entrances besides the often crowded glass pyramid.  We already had our ticket through the Paris Museum Pass so we were able to get in quickly.  Even though we went in through a different entrance than the glass pyramid, it is still fun to go stand underneath it.

Inside the Glass Pyramid Louvre

In case you need them.  Here are the rules of the Louvre.  I love the way they presented them.  It is very clever.

Rules of the Louvre

One of the first pieces we saw (that we recognized anyways) was the Winged Victory of Samothrace.  As you can see it was pretty crowded, I know it was nothing compared to how it could be, but we are from small town Texas.  That's a crowd to us.  It was hard to get pictures that didn't have people in it who are now part of our permanent memories.  Like the lady in green fixing her bra strap.  I am sure she would be so proud to know that is how she will be forever etched in our minds.

The Winged Victory of Samothrace from far

I did manage on a few occasions to get some great pictures minus strangers.

Winged Victory People Free photo Louvre

There are thousands upon thousands of works of art in the Louvre.  It was an overload and I am just talking about from the time we walked in until we saw Venus de Milo, which was only a 30 minute time frame!

Milo de Venus2

We were following Rick Steve's Paris book and he had a plan laid out for the Louvre.  I think there had been a few changes from the writing of the book until the time we went.  We tried to follow it but somehow ended up seeing this.  I still have no words.

Mona Lisa and man with blue hair Louvre

We did find the real Mona Lisa, the portrait, not person, seeing how she could no way be alive any longer!  This is the best picture I could get.  There was a slight disadvantage of me being only 5 foot 1 inch since there was a crowd.  And a thank you to the strange man permanently part of our memories, I shall name you  Ian.  I kind of like the fact that there is a blurred Mona Lisa on the camera that is up in the air, a little artsy of the art, if you will.

Best picture of Mona Lisa Louvre

Here is the reason I couldn't get a better picture. Crowds. Oh and being short.  When you have to push your way in AND away from the Mona Lisa, well that is just too much people for me.

Crowd around Mona Lisa Louvre

Moving away from everyone we saw many more pieces of art.  Have you ever heard the saying that goes something like, "Some pieces of art when viewed up close look like a complete mess, but when you back up and see it in full it makes sense."?   (I am slightly ashamed to admit that I think the quote comes from the movie Clueless.)

Case in point this painting titled La Visite by Monticelli.  Up close, a mess.

La Vista Monticelli up close Louvre

But when you back up and take a look at the entire painting....

La Vista Monticelli Louvre

....well, hmm.  Sorry, it still looks like a mess to me.  (Uncultured swine!)

Signatures fascinate me, especially when they are artists signatures.  I expect a lot from an artist when it comes to the way they sign their name.  They should have the best signatures!  I did like Claude Monet's signature.  He did not disappoint!

Monet Signature

Now for the weird of the Louvre.  You know not EVERYTHING in the Louvre can be so fabulously fantastic, right?

First up, since we ended up staying in the Louvre for FIVE hours, yes, I said FIVE hours, there would have to come a time during those FIVE hours that one of us would have to use the bathroom.  We found a bathroom and it didn't specify if it was men's or women's so we figured it was a single occupancy type of deal.  I walked in and I was wrong.  So very very wrong.  This is what I saw and I immediately got Frankie to come in.

Co-sex bathroom in Louvre

There is no way I could use the bathroom if a man had been in there or walked in.  I made Frankie stand guard in there with me and that was bad enough!  I mean, come on!  We are in the LOUVRE for goodness sake.  One of the most prestigious museums in the world and they have bathrooms like this!!  I know we were in a foreign country and all that, but we were in the LOUVRE!  I have been traumatized for life now.  I need my privacy and in all other European bathrooms that I have been in they have been the most private of bathrooms.  None of those peek-a-boo stalls like in America (except at Buc-ee's)!

Since no one came in, I survived and now we can move on to the other weird stuff in the Louvre.

This one reminds me of a nightmare.  Not necessarily one that I have had, but one that someone could possibly wake up screaming from. 

Studies of Hands by Largillierre in Louvre

And then there is this.  I really have no words for it.

Monkey Antiquarian by Chardin in Louver

We finally moved out of the painting sections and quickly checked out the Egyptian and other non-European items.  We have seen tons of this type of art in our travels.  Let me tell you, those Egyptians were busy little makers of things!

I thought this one was so sweet. It is Akhenaten and Nefertiti holding hands for eternity.

Akhenaten and Nefertiti in Louvre

There was much much more to the Louvre than what I have shown or even took pictures of but it is so overwhelming that there is no way to really see it all in one day.  It is crazy just how enormous that place is!  Frankie has a friend who says he wasn't that impressed and managed to get through the Louvre in 30 minutes!  He says he saw the highlights, including the Mona Lisa and then left. You would have to literally run to get through it and see actually see anything in that amount of time.  If you want to run, save your money and do it outside!

One last thing from the Louvre and we moved on.  We went into the gift shop and it was an expensive one.  It didn't have the normal tourist souvenir stuff, it had the way overpriced, why would you buy that type of stuff.  

Take for example this.

2600 Euro replica of Winged Victory

You can have for your very own a smaller replica of the Winged Victory for the low low price of 2,600 Euros (just slightly over $3,300)!  Or if you notice the figure of the three women in the background, that could be yours too although I am not sure for how much.  

Ok, enough of the Louvre.  If you want more you will just have to go there yourself.  Now you have an excuse to go, right?  You're welcome.

After FIVE hours in the Louvre with only a few macarons to tide me over, it was time for supper.  We walked around some in the Louvre area (I am sure it has some other name for the neighborhood, but you get my drift) and found a Japanese restaurant.  We have been to Chinese and Thai restaurants but never Japanese and never in Paris so in we went.  It was a very good choice!

You see those green things in the bowl by themselves?  Those are Japanese pickles.  They were like no other pickle I have ever had in my life.  They were wonderful and I couldn't describe the taste to you if I tried.  I have never tasted anything like them.  If anyone has any insight they would like to share with me on this Japanese pickles, please do!  Especially, where I can get some more!  

The other dish is a salad with Japanese dressing.  That is what it said on the menu so that is all I can really tell you.  It was good.  I can tell you that!  And say, don't you like my presentation with the chopsticks and all? I should be a professional food picture taker or something, right?  Anyone want to offer me that job that at least matches my current salary (plus all travel cost for me and Frankie [I am not going without him!])??

Japanese pickles and salad

Next up, Frankie ordered the oyakodon which is rice with chicken and a fried egg on top.  You put a fried egg on top and Frankie will eat it...enchiladas, chicken fried steak, hamburgers, etc.  It looks gross but he said it was good.

Oyakodon - rice with chicken and fried egg

I went with tori don which is rice and teriyaki chicken.  We both also had a cup of miso soup.  Everything was so delicious!  

Miso soup and rice with teriyaki chicken called tori don

Let me tell you what, there has only been one time in our travels that I remember when we actually said, "This food is horrible!" and that was in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland at a place called Miami Cafe. Sorry Miami Cafe, but your once frozen now fried to a dark brown crisp chicken was not good.

It was about 8 PM now, still relatively early, so we decided to take a walk down Champ-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe.   I can't remember now if we walked or if we took the metro.  Either way, I know we past by one of the prettiest metro stops!  This is the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre metro stop and it looks to me like a crown covered in beautiful jewels!

Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre  metro stop

There are things of beauty such as the metro stop above and then there are things that are so beautiful that tears come to your eyes.  A vending machine that doesn't just deliver coffee, but delivers Lavazza coffee.  Not only is Lavazza Italy's favorite coffee, it is also mine.  All of this beauty for only 1 Euro and 50 cents!  Be still my heart!

Lavazza coffee vending machine

On to Champ-Élysées, which, by the way, I can now pronounce properly!  It took awhile but I have it down now.  (the-more-correct-than-I-was-saying-it pronunciation - sham pal a say). 

It was all decked out for Christmas and it was very pretty.  I have a better picture that I am going to share in just a second.

Champs-Élysées Christmas decor around trees

At the end of Champ-Élysées is the Arc de Triomphe.  It is massive and Frankie says, "Let's go up to the top!"  And I said, "Ok."

Arc de Triumph

There is no elevator, by the way.  Just lots and lots of circling spiraling round and around stairs.  And while it does make for a cool picture, it isn't that much fun to climb.  It was Saint Paul's Cathedral all over again!

Spiral stairs going up the Arc de Triumph

Once to the second level (note: not all the way to the top yet, but close), they show you this nice little visual so you can either 1.) Realize what an accomplishment you just did or 2.) Come to a full understanding of why you are now going to die on the second level of the Arc de Triomphe.

I was leaning towards option 1 while Frankie was fully believing option 2.

diagram showing the climb to the top of the Arc de Triumph

After more steps and then a few more steps, we were at the top.  It was soooo cold and windy the evening we were up there, but we braved it and gazed around at the city.

Here is the other promised picture of the Champ-Élysées in all its glory.

Champs-Élysées from Arc de Triumph

And the last picture I will leave you with is yet another shot of the Eiffel Tower.  But you have to realize just how beautiful it is at night and then you can understand why it is featured so prominently in my posts on Paris! The quality is not very good because I had to zoom in a lot and it was windy and it was night.  All those things just don't make for a good picture, but even with all that you can see it charm.

Effiel Tower from Arc de Triumph

I am motivated now to go through the rest of the pictures and get them and the rest of our days in Paris blogged about.  So I hope you will stay tuned to see what is next!  Until then, bonne nuit!