Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Paris, Deuxième Visite

On our second visit to Paris, we took the Metro to Ile de Cite, where Notre Dame is located. Notre Dame is not the oldest or largest cathedral in France, but thanks to Victor Hugo it is certainly the most famous. There’s a massive restoration project underway, and the front façade of the cathedral has been returned to its original grandeur.


The square outside is bustling with tourists, students and artists. By now, my daughter had adopted a very French style, purchasing a beret and a foulard. She told me that she had been watching French women very closely to see exactly how they knotted their scarves so that she could do it just right.

Inside the cathedral, I tried to explain to my daughter how these buildings were constructed entirely of stone, how the stained glass windows are structural units, how the flying buttresses keep the walls from falling outward, but I think it went over her head. In one of the side chapels, there is a nice model of the cathedral, showing the buttresses. I took my daughter outside and showed her the real thing.


The stained glass is quite impressive, especially in terms of scale. Some of the rose windows are so huge that I am unable to imagine how they were created.


We went outside to a little park behind the cathedral and ate some lunch. My daughter had way too much fun feeding the sparrows, which annoyed my wife and I because we have sparrows in the United States. The street that runs alongside the cathedral is full of souvenir shops, and we noticed that the shop nearest the entrance to Notre Dame has the highest prices. The prices are lower at the one next door, and so on. The one furthest from the entrance is the cheapest. It’s fascinating that you only had to walk a block to save as much as 50% on this stuff.


Later, we took a walk across the Seine and headed over to the Louvre. I had forgotten how massive the Louvre is. It’s an enormous building, and we walked forever along its outer walls looking for the entrance. It’s so big, the cops wear roller blades.


Eventually, we found the entrance. We had purchased tickets online before we left, so getting in was a breeze. We quickly visited the major attractions: Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, which is displayed behind a sheet of glass that could stop a bazooka shell. I was able to walk completely around the Venus de Milo, and discovered something I never knew about this famous statue: You can see her butt crack.


Once we left the Louvre, we wandered around in Paris for awhile, admiring the architecture.


We wound up in the Les Halles district, and decided to have a nice meal. Unfortunately, there are lots of tourist restaurants in Les Halles, and it’s hard to distinguish between a good restaurant and a bad one.

We picked one at random and were seated immediately. We noticed that the restaurant was only about 1/4 full, even though it was 6:00 pm. We didn’t know if this meant that the restaurant sucked, or if Parisians eat late.

Years ago, my daughter had tried escargot and claimed to like it. So she ordered it again as an appetizer and took a bite. As it turned out, her tastes had changed, so I wound up eating the other 5 and a half snails.


My wife had a delicious tureen of French Onion soup, served with a spoon the size of a shovel. When our main course arrived, we were all in fine spirits, laughing and kidding around. My wife had ordered a steak of some kind. It was tough and gristly, and she was horribly disappointed. The mood at our table turned sour and I was amazed at how fragile good times can be. It put a damper on our evening, so instead of hanging around to see Paris at night, we headed home in rush hour traffic.

So my advice is, if you’re ever in Paris, stick with the soup.

No comments: