27 April 2007

Paris, Part 2

Paris is a big place. So big that we knew that we couldn't "see it all" in our long weekend there. So we had priorities. One of those for me was to visit the Louvre, or at least part of it. You see, when I was in Paris last, exactly 20 years ago, I was a geeky teenager trying to be cool amongst the other teenagers on the trip. It was cooler to go to Pére Lachaise and see Jim Morrison's grave than to see the centuries of human culture collected in the Louvre. Oh well, that's what I did back then. I did have a great time in Paris back then, but I've grown a lot since then, and darn it, I wanted to see the Louvre.

On the other hand, the weather before the trip was gorgeous in Heilbronn, after a colt and sort of dreary winter, and the last thing I wanted to do was spend a lot of time cooped up inside when the sun is shining! So We decided that if the weather was crappy, we'd hit the Louvre. And we'd get there early enough that we'd be towards the front of the line, if not at the front.

So on Saturday, when we woke up, and it was cold and cloudy outside, we decided to go to Montmartre.
Yeah, in hindsight, all this "let's go to the Louvre if the weather sucks" thing kinda flopped. In reality, because of my massive cold, we got up much later than we normally do on vacations, thus making the chance of not waiting long in line at the Louvre pretty slim, and we incorrectly assumed the weather in Paris would play out like it had in Heilbronn the week before - cold and dreary in the morning but warm, sunny and overall gorgeous in the afternoon.

So Montmartre it was. We started outside the Moulin Rouge and worked our way up to the Sacré Coeur (Sacred Heart) basilica, and were quite disappointed that the low-hanging clouds prevented us from seeing much from the tallest hill in Paris. At this point, we'd been there for nearly 24 hours and I still hadn't seen the Eiffel Tower, supposedly visible from anywhere in town. I was beginning to think they sold it for scrap metal.

So we worked our way back down the hill, and took the Metro to the center of town, thinking we'll see how the Louvre lines were looking. When we emerged from the subterranean tunnels of the Metro, the sun was shining and it was warm enough to shed the hat & jacket. So we popped over to the Saint Chapelle church, built to house the crown of thorns in the 11th century. The books I have read said it is worth it to visit on a sunny day, because the stained glass windows were unbelievable.

Since the church is located inside the Palais de Justice, we had to wait in line to do the X-ray and Metal Detector thing. And then wait in line again to buy tickets. But it went pretty fast. The picture above doesn't really do it justice, but the beauty was marred by the fact that they made absolutely no attempt to control the amount of people crammed inside the church. Surfing a wave of annoying and self-centered tourists is never fun.

After that, we decided to find out if the Eiffel Tower had indeed been sold for scrap, and we headed in the direction it was supposed to be. Shortly after that, we stumbled across this marvelous entrance to the Metro. We really liked the shiny bits and colorful baubles. Oooh! Shiny! Aaah! Colors! Yeah, I'm easy to please.

We popped into the courtyard inside the big ol' U-shaped palace that makes up the Louvre, and headed down to the Jardin des Tuileries. There were tons of people out and about, enjoying the beautiful weather. I've always had problems taking pictures of people on the street, so I gave it a shot. This girl was just sitting at the base of the statue reading, and I thought it looked so idyllic.

When we got the Place de la Concorde, we stopped for a few minutes to look at the Obelisk. While we were there, I decided to continue practicing taking pictures of people on the street and got this couple in mid-embrace.

And these guys, apparently the bus drivers or something, "relaxing" in the cargo bay of the bus.

Eventually we made it to the Tower - yes it is still there. It was extremely crowded and we were getting hungry, so we found some food somewhere (can't remember where...), stopped by the hotel to pick up my tripod and headed back to the big ol' tower for some nighttime photos.

This is looking up from below the Eiffel Tower. I like it because it shows just how intricate and detailed the construction is - it isn't just big honking girders slapped together. It has some elegance.

Finally, we decided to do that kissing thing too. The next day, Jeannette woke up with a cold too. I wonder if there is any correlation between those two things....

Despite our dumb mistake of not hitting the Louvre in the morning when the weather was bad, it was a great day.

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