Looking back on it this morning, I’m surprised how much we did yesterday. We didn’t go particularly far and wide, but we went up and down a lot of steps to see what we did — and from the sounds of it, we thought all those steps were worth it.
After a delicious pain au chocolat retrieved from the corner boulangerie, we started our walk south from our apartment. The only time-sensitive item on the itinerary today wasn’t until 2 30 in the afternoon, so we were in stroll mode for once.
First stop was the Conciergerie, originally (14th Century) a stately home for the palace concierge, but at some point converted to a prison, with Marie Antoinette as its most famous inmate. To my untrained eye there wasn’t a lot to see here. I did appreciate, though, the difference in cells. A poor prisoner slept on the straw with two other humans. If you had a bit of money, they let you bring your own cot, and you had only one other cellmate. Gentry could have a private room and bring their writing desk from home. The three cells that modelled these differences were all the same size. Marie Antoinette had a bigger cell, more like a bachelor’s (bedsit) apartment. On the other hand, she had soldiers watching her constantly. Oh, and the guillotine blade on display was much narrower than I’ve always imagined.
Seamus visits the Court of Women at the Conciergerie
Next stop was next door, the Sainte (=holy) Chapelle of Louis IX, aka Saint Louis. Whoa! Meet me in St Louis’ chapel, Louie! There are folding chairs placed on the perimeter; we sat and looked up at the gorgeous stained glass, and all around at the colourful walls, and down at the floor with its centre “carpet runner” strip of painted stone. It was just gorgeous.
Inside Louis IX’s glorious Sainte-Chappelle.
After rescuing the picnic cutlery (a knife for the leftover-tuna-stuffed baguette) from the amused security agent, we left the Sainte Chapelle and sauntered over to Notre Dame de Paris. Because we’d already seen a few big churches by this time, we gave ourselves half an hour to look about before meeting up again outside.
Notre-Dame de Paris
It was noon-thirty, so we headed for the Arenes de Lutece, a 1st-Century Roman arena in the Latin quarter. Local schools use it for gym class. We ate our lunch on a bench facing the grates where the lions once emerged.
The ancient Arenes de Lutece, a great place for a picnic lunch.
Then we trooped over to the post office to ask about an envelope that displays the piece of 12th-Century City wall hiding in their basement. They were out of the envelopes, but told us where to wait outside for the tour. A pleasant member of the Paris Historical Society took us down two flights of stairs to the sub-basement and the arch that had been discovered while building the post office about twenty years ago. Our guide gave an excellent recap of the history of the City walls, the look of Philippe-Auguste’s wall, and the life and times of the Bievre River. He was very earnest.
The arch over the Bievre, part of Phillippe Auguste’s wall, is now well below street level.
So was the woman who showed us around the Marie Curie museum. Whoever said that Parisians are cold and standoffish must not have met enough of them. This woman told us about how Marie went to the front with her newfangled X-ray machine during WWI to help dignose the wounded so they wouldn’t die en route to the hospital, and how her daughter joined her as a nurse as soon as she turned 16.
We were finished the Curie museum at 4 30. We went up the UNESCO World-Heritage-designated rue St-Jacques, poking our heads into St-Severin Church as we went by, then over the Petit Pont and the Pont Notre-Dame, past theTour St Jacques (with its bottom third still shrouded in renovations), and up Sebastopol street to the apartment.
We walked by the Pantheon on the way home from the Musee Curie.
After a quick spaghetti-and-salad supper, we changed our clothes and walked over to the Opera Comique to watch Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess. We really enjoyed it, even though we were sitting in the highest balcony and E.g. took half an hour to get over her vertigo.
Yeah, yesterday was a day!