Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Paris: Doing The Tourist Thing

On the Friday after Christmas Brian and I got to go tour Paris on our own, without the kids.

This was the coolest Metro stop I think I saw all week.  We also went through one of the gigantic ones with a huge atrium and staircases.

This is the main station on the island where Notre Dame is.  I didn't see any other cool Metro signs like this on other station entrances.

First we went to the Sainte Chapelle, which is this almost 800 year old chapel that King Louis IX built to attach to his palace.

It's much smaller than I imagined actually.  Very tall, but the interior looks to only hold maybe 200 people if they were set up in rows of chairs.  This "main" floor is actually the second floor and there is a basement area with tiny curved staircases built into the stone that you have to go up to get here.

There are 25 "panels" of stained glass that are easily 2 stories tall and from one side to the other they tell the whole story of the Bible.  Not that I could figure out what any one pane meant, but it was interesting!  (we didn't find the guide pages until we were ready to leave)

This round window is at the back, opposite the alter area and has a balcony below it that is basically 3 floors above the street level outside.  I think this is where the king had his access across from the palace.

As you can see on the right, they are in the process of restoring some of the windows so 2 or 3 of the first panels were all covered with scaffolding and plastic sheets.  Kind of a bummer, but at least we still got to go in.

It's totally amazing to me just how many of these individual panes there are and that they are so old!

The main doors at the bottom enter into the "basement".  The balcony on the second level corresponds to the floor inside where I took most of the pictures and then the large round rose type window is at the 3rd floor level.

This is the outside of the front of the chapel, where the alter would be.

So, after standing in line awhile to get into the Sainte-Chapelle we really didn't feel like standing in the HUGE long line for Notre Dame.  Here's Brian in front.  We then walked around the left side and compared to the chapel... yeah, this thing is huge!  Someday maybe I'll get to tour the inside, but there were high winds so the top parts were closed off that day anyway.

Past Notre Dame we went to cross the river and discovered this bridge completely covered with locks.  I guess it's a fairly recent tradition, but there are locks locked onto other locks and I'm not sure where you would even put more.  But I couldn't find any more than a couple years old so either it's that new or they've taken some off already?

It looked pretty cool and all the locks had names and dates either engraved or written on them of couples.  Both sides of the bridge railing, inside and out!

Look, I made it to Paris!  (even though I wasn't feeling so great this day still).
You can see the "lock bridge" on the left in the background.

Then we walked roughly east along the river until we got to the Arab World Institute.

Silly selfie between the entrance walls.  No, you didn't HAVE to walk through these!

Brian remembered there being a tea shop that had really amazing tea and food so we had afternoon tea with a plate of appetizers.  I have to admit the Moroccan mint tea was amazing.  Green tea base with mint leaves in it.  Totally different than "mint tea" that you would think of.

The whole exterior of the "front" of the building is a glass wall with these built in metal shutters.  They are light sensitive and automatically open and close to control how much light and heat from the sun come into the building.  Very cool designs!  The above one is mostly open and the below one is a different window with the shutters mostly closed.  I didn't see any of them moving.

Starting on the 7th floor there was what they called an Arab Museum... but we weren't very impressed.  It was a wandering tour through 3 or 4 floors that actually had very few artifacts, but a lot of TV screens and/or projections on the walls with information.  It felt like it was trying too hard to be a museum, which was sad because I was really hoping for more information and history.  And there were plenty of English translations too so it wasn't just because I couldn't read the French!

The entrance is bottom center and this is the wall with all the moving shutters.  Very unique!

You can see in the reflection on this photo a red horizontal stripe above a white one.  There was the weirdest white "blob" thing in the middle of the courtyard which the waitress (with limited English) tried to tell us was some kind of installation about Chanel?  It was just weird and had what looked like giant red flotation devices tied on top of it!  Very garish and not open currently.

Then we took the metro farther south to the "new" National Library of France.  I had seen some pictures of it online and thought it would be cool to check out!  There are 4 high rise buildings on 4 corners of a large block that look like open books to me.  One end of the complex is level with the street and the other end has many steps going up.  I thought they were solid, but the whole steps and decking between the buildings is that all weather decking material.

The actual library that is open to the public runs the rectangle under the decking around this inner park area.  It's about 3 or 4 stories high although I think only 2 on the inside with very tall ceilings. 

The whole complex is lovely and while we didn't have much time inside there were two very large (like 12 feet in diameter) paper mache globes either given as a gift or commissioned by a king just after the discovery of the New World.  It was crazy to see their impression of the world.  The bottom of Australia was this hazy area that had no distinct border, like they didn't know what was there.  And then there was the "Isle of California" which basically had Baja California being much bigger and completely separated from the mainland!

After this we trekked back across the city on various metro lines and when we got to our last stop Brian walked another 45 minutes or so in the opposite direction from our apartment to find a larger supermarket that actually had gluten free stuff for the kids.  We were pretty much out by this time since I'd hoped to hit the GF bakery that was closed the day before and we needed some snack type things we could take on the plane home.

Everyone else went up in the Arc de Triomphe that morning and then to play at the gardens near the Louvre.  Perhaps I can get my SIL to guest post with photos from that day...

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