First, a Rest Day
We needed a rest day. After a long and awesome week of tourist activities, our brains needed a break. Julien and Michelle kindly offered to let us stay at their place while they were on vacation, and they were supposed to leave today, but were delayed by train problems. There had been a bad train wreck south of Paris a few days before, and the cleanup and investigation was still ongoing. That was the direction Julien and Michelle would be headed, so they had to figure out an alternative way to get there besides the train.
After sleeping in, we met up with Sheila for some delicious Asian food in our new neighborhood on the left bank. She and Austin had returned the night before from their cruise and we gave them their apartment back and the key. Each restaurant we went to was not open for continuous service. Many places shut down in the afternoon to change out the menu. We had just had Vietnamese food a few nights before so we walked right past Pho 14 (yes, there are so many that they are numbered). But our path eventually led back to this delightful gem and we had the best Pho we ever had! Pho if you don’t know is a wonderful Vietnamese noodle soup and is amazing! It was great to catch up with Sheila, hearing about her experiences in Italy and Croatia on her cruise, and telling her about our experiences in Paris.
We left Sheila, and headed back to Julien and Michelle’s apartment and chilled out. The four of us ordered in (pizza; four different kinds) and debated which movie to watch. We settled on Boy. Have you heard of it? We hadn’t, but we recommend it. It is an independent film from New Zealand and had a great sound track and dialogue. Oh, and the pizza was really delicious. You could taste the distinct flavors of all of the different cheeses used in the four cheese pizza!
Montparnasse, Luxembourg Gardens, Street Skate
The skyline of Paris is world famous. Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Elysees, Montparnasse… wait, Mont par what? It happens to tourists all of the time. You’re looking out at the city from the top of Parc de Belleville or the steps of Sacre Coure and you see old buildings and older buildings and the Eiffel Tower and strange new buildings like the Pompidou. And then you see a giant, ugly, out of place skyscraper. That’s Montparnasse.
Parisians hate it too, but there’s one big plus. Thanks to the 1970s architecture, we have an awesome building to see Paris from and the building of course disappears from the skyline if you’re on it. We paid top euro for this much famed view. Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy at the top of this 60-story monstrosity. You’re pretty far south of the main city and so while we liked the view, we preferred the view we’d seen from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. There was one additional point of interest though: the window washers. There’s a contraption that the window washers can operate to drop themselves down and around the outside of the skyscraper. No thanks!
From the top of Montparnasse, we descended Europe’s fastest elevator and headed off to the catacombs. The catacombs span many miles under Paris and many people go hang out in the tunnels, mostly illegally. Young people on adventures and secret clubs that pop up for a few hours.
But then there is an official entrance – a tourist attraction that everyone told us that we had to see. It’s always busy for many reasons, but two would be that there is no sun and is under ground so it is nice and cool. The other reason is that a few centuries ago the city officials decided to make more room for living people by emptying the cemeteries and placing the bones underground and arranging them in various ways. So that sounds weird, but also cool.
As it turns out, the line was way too long and we decided to come back another day, to get there earlier before it opened.
We headed toward the Pantheon to see Foucault’s pendulum (a giant pendulum that reveales the rotation of the earth by the way it’s orbit shifts) but it was undergoing restoration… for the next three years! It’s supposed to be a pretty cool building inside with Victor Hugo and other famous people buried there, but we decided to skip it.
Instead we grabbed sandwiches and headed to the nearby Luxembourg garden. This is a giant city park that may be familiar to many people for its famous pond where you can sail the little sailboats. It’s pretty cool: young kids (mostly) push their rented little boats off of one side of the pond with sticks and then joyously watch it cross the pond with the help of the wind. A boat almost was stuck under a fountain’s waterfall in the middle; it submerged and then came out the other side. Nathan loved watching this process unfold and said he would definitely be doing that if he were a child here. After eating we walked around the park watching Parisians soaking in the sun, or lounging in the shade, or even playing chess.
We had yet to see the inside of Notre Dame, so we headed over to Our Lady of Paris after lunch only to be overwhelmed by yet another long line. We watched a few minutes to see how fast it would go and it wasn’t a bad wait at all; about 10 minutes and we were in. The first thing we noticed was how dark it was compared to the other churches like Sainte Chapelle, whose walls are 75% stained glass. Once our eyes adjusted to the dim light, we found a seat and just sat back and enjoyed the peace and beauty of this incredible cathedral. It’s huge, with bursts of light from the stained glass far above, very impressive and mysterious but we missed the glorious light of Sainte Chappelle.
Amy had been invited to another street skate by Eloise, but this time she was prepared for the streets of Paris with all of her gear. She met the girls at Gare de Lyon and the heat was intense even at 7 pm! Every few minutes looking up at cool stuff in Paris was very surreal. Oh, there’s a famous building; and another one. It was awesome. It was tough to keep up with these girls. Amy had no idea how long they would be skating – it ended up being about two hours in all. Their skating ability and stamina were awesome and Amy is inspired to join in more trail skates at home. She felt it really helped her skating to see all of the places and obstacles they encountered on every skate. Inspiration!
Nate cooked a delightful curried lentils and potatoes and we called it a night. We were determined to get a good sleep and get up early to get in line for the catacombs.