We awoke early after finally getting some much-needed rest; pretty sure I beat the jet lag. After some early morning ablutions, including a much-needed hot shower, I headed out at 7 a.m. in search of our breakfast. I know the French don’t really eat breakfast, but we’d heard and read that many Parisians visit the bakery (boulangerie) for fresh bread in the morning. Such was my quest while my wife continued to sleep.
I quickly found out that unlike DC, Paris is barely awake at 7. Storefronts-those few that were open early-were barely getting underway with cleaning and receiving their shipments; practically no place is open save a few scattered cafes. Unlike in the US, these cafes are not really “take away.” So I ended up wandering around a bit, thankful we’d walked around the afternoon prior as I didn’t feel lost in the least. Finally, around 7:30, several boulangeries began to open and I acquired some fresh baguettes for our repast. I was hungry enough that I pinched off the end and nibbled some on the way back. Fresh and amazing.
We took our time getting started, considering we weren’t in any real hurry. We didn’t really know exactly what we would be doing, so after some discussion over coffee, fresh bread and jam, we decided on walking to Notre Dame and go from there.
The cathedral-only a short few blocks and a bridge from the townhouse-is immense. My wife had always wanted to go there, being the architecture buff she is, and we weren’t disappointed at all. We saw our first “street statue” performance artist out front, an Egyptian sarcophagus. Why that particular get up was beyond us (though we did seem several of them scattered around the city during the breadth of our visit).
After shooting several photos of the front (and noting the roving presence of a squad of armed French guardsmen due to the scheduled labor strike that day) we entered Notre Dame.
It’s impressive. Immensely. The ceilings are just cavernous above you and the stained glass is striking. We spent over two hours just circling the main vestibule and hall, constantly looking up. (I suppose that was the general intent of the builders, after all.) Amusingly, a group of Asian teens were behind us at one point; when we stopped at one alcove to photograph some stained glass, we were entertained as the group slipped in front of us and, as if choreographed, raised their cell phones and smartphones and snapped away. It was sheer amusement of the highest order.
When we finally emerged from the cathedral, we stopped at a nearby crepe stand and enjoyed a hot, fresh crepe before heading to the Parc St. Julia at the rear of Notre Dame. There we took several photos of the famed flying buttresses. We then headed across Pont Saint-Louis to Ilse Saint-Louis, looking for the famed Berthillion ice cream shop. Alas, they were closed through the end of the next week, well after our departure. After some discussion, we headed back past the cathedral towards the Palais d’Justice (after taking a wrong turn on the Pont de l’Archevêché), through the Marche de Fleurs, and then across Pont Neuf. (The bridge is famous for its romantic view but in daylight…not so much. At night, it’s probably pretty glorious; we’ll make sure to check it out on a return trip.)
We then heade up the Rue de Rivoli towards the Jardin des Tuileries. It was mid-afternoon and not really worth going in the Louvre today, since they closed at 5:30. Along the way we were accosted by two street artists who insisted they wished to sketch us, and a woman who supposedly found a ring we’d “lost.” (All attempts to separate tourists from their money.) I did enjoy passing by several street vendors who apparently rent steel stalls along one stretch; they sell everything from souveniers to old rare books and magazines. We entered the main courtyard of the Jardin and rested, then ventured off in search of a public WC for refreshing. We found one in the Carousel below the Louvre courtyard, which cost us each one Euro to use. It was clean, granted, but highly chaotic.
Feeling much better, we headed back up and out to Rivoli to a place that had been recommended to us for their desserts. It’s definitely high-end gourmet; since we didn’t see anything in the cases that appealed, we headed back into Tuileries and picked up a quick sandwich to enjoy while we sat back and people-watched in the garden. It’s very similar to being on the National Mall in DC, though the grass in the Tuileries isn’t dead but well manicured. I will say that Paris is very deserving of its moniker “the City of Love” as nearly everywhere were couples entwined or close together sharing space, food, and wine. Nothing inappropriate, just the closeness of love.
After a bit, we headed back towards the IM Pie Pyramide du Louvre (the glass-and-steel one). As we strolled back, we noticed an older man holding his hand aloft, filled with breadcrumbs. There were at least a dozen small birds swarming all over his hand. It was an amazing sight and somehow just seemed to fit the setting.
We spent some time photographing in Tuileries and then headed back towards the Marais. We passed a large courtyard area that was being used as a skate park and watched several very talented youths execute jumps and skids before continuing on.
Neither of us realized how tired we were until we dropped into short, heavy naps for about an hour after returning to our temporary home. We then meandered out for dinner at a nearby brassiere (Le Bouquet des Archives) and was treated to a great meal with a very friendly waiter. We then searched for an open chocolatier but failed, though we did stumble into an import/export store that stocked some excellent Weiss chocolate.
The evening waned as we headed back to enjoy our dessert and some tea, then shared the photos we’d taken over the course of the day before retiring for the night.
A very wonderful first day in Paris.
(To be continued)