“Paris is the greatest temple ever built to material joys and the lust of the eyes.” – Henry James
“Jet lag sleep” (not an official medical condition) is very intense. Even the lightest sleeper, like myself, could not be awakened during jet lag sleep. Your body feels drained of energy and your brain literally shuts off. Luckily, I do not require much sleep, so I was up bright and early this morning and already adjusted to Paris time. Lena and Josette, on the other hand, went to bed at 8:00 PM and slept solidly through the night until I woke them at 7 this morning. I just feel like you can sleep anytime & anywhere…so when traveling, you can’t waste a minute’s sleep.
Lena and I trudged down the old, twisty, medieval stairs in our building and found a nice boulangerie at the end of the block. A few croissants (chocolate & plain), a baguette, a cheesy baguette, and a few donut-like holes, and we were good to go. We had already picked up some good yogurt and fresh clementine juice at the market last night. Breakfast was served al fresco on the roof.
Following our roof top breakfast, we walked just a few blocks over the Siene to re-visit one of the most beautiful “rooms” in the world. We had visited 2 years ago when we were in Paris, but the Chapel at Sainte Chapelle is undoubtedly one of the most gorgeous gothic-stained glass window displays in the world. It’s literally magical. It takes your breath away when you climb the tight, dark, rounded stone stairs and then you enter into a majestically-lit room, with massive stained glass windows illuminating the space with sparkling jewel colors.
Interestingly, the chapel was built by King Louis IX (9th) to house the famous Crown of Thorns, which had been acquired in the Crusades. The crown is long gone, but what remains is beautiful beyond description.
We’ve been in many gothic cathedrals with beautiful stained glass, but the intimacy with the windows and the fact the room is seemingly constructed of colored glass is what makes Sainte Chapelle so unique.
Sainte Chapelle is part of what is essentially the medieval Palace of the City, where the French rulers presided from 10th to the 14th centuries. After leaving the Chapel, we went next door the the Conciergerie, which was a prison and also the home to the Hall of the Soldiers, a massive medieval hall where staff ate meals and where Royal banquets would have been held. Today, the Conciergerie is most popular because it is where hundreds of prisoners from the French Revolution were held prior to being beheaded at the guilliotine. During the “Reign of Terror”, nearly 40,000 people were killed or died while imprisoned.
Although the original was destroyed over time, one of the Napoleon Bonaparte’s successors later recreated/reconstructed the cell of the Prison’s most famous guests….none other than Queen Marie Antionette.
The Queen was executed at 12:30PM on October 16, 1793…only 38 years old. Far from the days of being adorned in extravagant silk dresses and mile high wigs with gilded birds nests, the Queen met her executioner in a simple cotton frock and shorn hair (to make it easier for the blade to meet the neck).
Enough of that gruesome affair. For us, it was time to walk over to the right bank and visit Le Marais, now a hip neighborhood with twisting little streets full of boutiques and galleries (and also the gay/Jewish district) but at one point this former marsh was home to hundreds of mansions…a sort of Beverly Hills 90210 neighborhood full of 17th century McMansions. Most of the surviving “Hotels”, as they were referred to, are now museums open to the public…but the grandeur of these urban palaces can still be seen.
One of these Hotels is now the Carnavalet Museum, which is a museum dedicated to Parisian history. There are paintings, sculptures, historic signage for businesses, period rooms, artifacts, and the lovely maintained gardens of the former mansion.
Le Marais is also home to the famous Centre Pompidou, a 1970’s museum dedicated to modern art, with its famous inside/out design by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano. We never seem to time it right for a visit, but we took in the playful grounds and its unique design.
Le Marais is full of great shops and store windows that are a feast for the eyes. The French call window shopping “aire du lèche-vitrines” or window licking! I can see why…
All of this “window licking” was enough to whet our appetites for lunch. Luckily, we were very close to one of our favorite spots is Paris,…the Place des Voges. It’s essentially an urban town house complex built by King Henri IV in about 1605. Although he constructed his and her King/Queen pavilions, the Royals never actually lived here…they moved into the Louvre, but other aristocratic families made it their homes over the years. It is now home to a public park and covered walkways with restaurants and galleries. We sat for a lovely lunch and did a bit of people watching for a few hours.
Seems like a pretty full day already, but the Jones Trio knows no bounds. After a delicious lunch (I had a salad with smoked salmon and shrimp) we walked around the Place des Voges to tour a few more gardens.
Eventually, we made our way to the Metro and headed to the Tuileries Gardens for a stroll and an attempt to visit to a museum (which was thwarted by a massive entry line that we weren’t going to fight). So instead, we visited the surrounding neighborhood (passing by Place Vendome and the Opera House) and ended up doing a little retail damage at the famous Galeries Lafayette…the famous 1912 department store with the massive stained glass interior.
On our way out from shopping, there was literally an army of paparazzi trying to get photos of someone, but we couldn’t figure out who it was.
Now with all of this sight seeing and history, you have to mix in a little fun for an 8 year old traveler. Luckily, each summer, Paris erects a fair in the Tuileries Gardens just below the Louvre. We took Lena here 2 years ago and it is all that she has talked about since. As fairs go, it’s still kinda trashy (and actually expensive), but I have to say that it is trashy in a more upscale “French Trash” kind of way.
I used to love thrill rides, but it’s not my thing anymore. Luckily, Josette is a champ and she went with Lena on most of the rides, but I was persuaded to endure a few myself.
And finally, the day ended with a taxi ride back to our neighborhood. I didn’t partake, but Lena and Josette couldn’t resist a crepe (Lena had a Nutella filling)…crepe stands are seen throughout Paris and are the equivalent of a pretzel or hot dog stand in New York. You can get them filled with savory things like ham or cheese or go sweet with Nutella and bananas.
After hanging out on the roof terrace and then a jacuzzi bath for a filthy 8 year old, it was lights out on the lovely City of Light.