Thursday, May 31, 2012

The last Paris blog, I promise!

Not that it’s any surprise (to me, at least), but it took me more blogs than intended to cover my week in Paris. Between my tendency towards long-windedness and the number of photographs I took, cramming it all into one or two posts would have been too much. So thank you for sticking with me, and I promise this one is it! After this it will be back to the usual (and probably infrequent, because I’m terrible at blogging regularly) book/writing posts.

The last two days of my trip were relatively uneventful. The weather took a nasty, cold turn, which kept me indoors more and made it hard to get decent photos. The first of the last days (Tuesday), was not only cold (in the 40s) but rainy and windy. A triple threat of unpleasantness, let me tell you. Because of that, the majority of my Tuesday was spent—I’m almost ashamed to admit this—in a mall. A Paris mall, but still a mall. I did get a little tourism in there before and after the mall, though.

First order of the day, however, was a little sleeping in. I had to get up early the day before for my Giverny excursion, so I treated myself to a little laziness, knowing the forecast wasn’t good, and slept until around 10am or so. Then I puttered around, taking my time getting ready and out the door. Finally, I was out and on my way to the Saint Denis Basilica, a big old church on the northern edge of the city. Actually, it might even be in a suburb, but it’s close enough to be on the main metro line, and was easy to get to. Unfortunately, it was still cold and windy outside, so I hurried to the church from the stop rather than linger at one of the big street markets set up nearby.

I just realized I never posted a photo of my apartment. The bed is over by the TV in the back. Excuse the mess. I was in the middle of packing to go home when I took this. :) There are better photos on their AirBnB page.

The Basilique de Saint Denis

Despite this being my third trip to Paris, and despite all the reading and research I did to prepare for the second trip, I had never heard of this church before. What makes it so interesting (because Paris has a metric ton of churches, and after a while they all start to blur together) is that this particular church holds the tombs of nearly every French king all the way back to around the 7th or 8th century. Including, to my surprise, the tombs of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Though it's not really their entire bodies there, but a few remains that were dug up in 1815 and moved there. According to Wikipedia, they were originally buried in a mass grave in the Madeline churchyard, so there's no telling if what was moved to Saint Denis was really their remains or now. Their tombs are in a darker section of the church, with very low lighting, so I was unable to get a photograph without using flash. For all I knew, flash photography was allowed, but I don't like to use the flash in churches, so I refrained. The rest of the tombs were better lit, but still dark enough that most of my photos were blurry. I did mange one decent one, with my camera phone of all things.

The photo below is how most of the tombs looked: multiple bodies grouped together under one slab, with statues on top. Each grouping was labeled with the names and dates of whoever was there, in addition to some extra information in French about their rule. The grouping below was of particular interest to me because some of the tombs belong to my own ancestors. One branch of my family tree can be traced back to Charlemagne, and within that branch are a bunch of European rulers: some from England, some from Scotland, one from Italy, and a couple from France. I went to Saint Denis hoping that they might be there, and they were! In this group of tombs is Robert II (972-1031), his wife Constance (986-1032) and their son Henry I (1008-1060). Another of my ancestors, Charlemagne's father, Pepin le Bref (the Short) is also there, but I didn't get a good photo of his tomb. Supposedly he's the one who built the original church that sat where Saint Denis is today. Also, Robert II's father, Hugh Capet, is supposed to be at Saint Denis, but I don't remember seeing his tomb anywhere. There were so many, it's very possible I missed it.

I spent a good amount of time in the church, partly because I was reading every name to look for ancestors, and partly because I knew it was nasty outside and was avoiding going back out into it. But eventually I had to, and found it had rained while I was inside. It was still misting a bit, and even colder and windier than before, so I hurried off to the metro station, pausing once when a Japanese couple stopped me to ask for directions to Sacre Coeur. Poor things, they were seriously lost, but I was able to tell them what metro station to go to, and I think they understood me well enough.

It was at this point I decided I needed to find something indoors to do. I still hadn’t gotten any souvenir shopping done, so I headed for Forum des Halles, an underground shopping mall that sounded promising.  It was huge, and busy, but most importantly, the stores were heated. Ahhh, heat. I struck out on the shopping front, sadly, even though the stores were more in my budget. I just couldn’t find anything I liked, which became a trend during my week there, and I ended up coming home mostly empty-handed. It made packing easier, but I felt like a shopping failure. A week in Paris, one of the world’s shopping capitals, and I couldn’t find anything to buy! What a shame.

The only other thing I did that day (I spent quite a few hours in Les Halles) was metro over to the Pantheon, another big old stone church I’d never gotten around to visiting before. It’s not used as a church today, but rather as a really huge mausoleum. Rather than royalty, the French citizens buried here are regular, but famous, citizens. Some of the more widely-known are Marie & Peter Curie, Louis Braille, Voltaire and Victor Hugo. Like Saint Denis, their tombs were in dark places not easily photographed without a flash, so I only have very blurry pictures.

The Pantheon

Foucault's Pendulum, in the main area of the Pantheon. They were renovating inside, so it was hard to avoid the construction stuff.

Unlike Les Halles, the Pantheon was not heated. It was pretty cold and drafty inside, so I didn’t linger too long. I wanted to go to a restaurant for dinner, but my plans were once again foiled, this time by lack of wifi with which to look up where to go. Frustrated, I gave up and went back to my apartment to warm up, stopping by a supermarket along the way to get something to cook. I ended up with bread and soup for my meal, but the soup was hot and yummy, and I didn’t burn down the apartment with the hot plate, so I considered it a successful dinner. Actually, I did try to go to a restaurant that night. There was a highly-reviewed place just a block from my apartment that I’d never noticed before, and their website claimed they served dinner starting at 6:30, but when I went over there (at 6:30), they were closed and even though I could see shadows inside (the windows were heavily tinted), my presence outside was either unnoticed or ignored, because no one ever came to open up. It was too cold to hang around on the street, so after waiting five minutes or so, I gave up and went to the supermarket instead.

On my last day in Paris, I did nothing but try to shop. Try being the key word there. I went over to the Louvre area again after reading that there are a lot of souvenir places along the Rue de Rivoli, and walked down the street for a while. Unfortunately, the souvenirs shops there sell the exact same crap as the ones in Montmartre, so I had already seen it all. No luck there. I popped by the Palais Royal to sit for a little while. There was a café near there I wanted to visit for lunch, but I changed my mind when I saw how many people were smoking outside (and it was still cold). I probably could have eaten indoors, but I wasn’t that hungry yet, so I wandered some more, ended up back at the Louvre, and went down into the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center, which is adjacent to the Louvre, underneath the Arc du Carrousel. Sadly, this was another designer mall with prices out of my budget, but it was warm and had a food court. I had my worst meal here, incidentally. Really nasty, half-cold lasagna for €9. I should have gone back to the café.

I had time for one last shopping trip, and after a little research, found that the area not far from my apartment, République, was supposed to have a lot of stores. So I headed that way, wandered around, finally found something for a couple of people (but not nearly everyone I wanted to get souvenirs for), and called it a night. I had to get back to the apartment and start packing.

For the most part, I saw everything I wanted to see on this trip. I never got to the Chateau du Vincennes, or took an excursion to Fontainebleau, but I need something to do the next time, right? Oh, there was one other place I managed to visit:

5 Rue des Pyramides

So what building is that? Well, according to the Contract Ticket List, 5 Rue des Pyramides in Paris, France is the address Henriette Yrois listed as her last place of residence before boarding the Titanic. I have no idea which apartment would have been hers, or if it was even any of those windows, but that’s the general building at #5. One of those may have been her home. When I knew I was going to Paris, I couldn’t resist tracking down her apartment.

If you’d like to see more of my pictures, you can look at them all at my Flickr Paris album. I didn’t post every one on the blog, and the first half of that album is from my previous trip, so there are a lot more photos over there.

Thanks for sticking with me while I recount my trip. It really was a fantastic vacation, despite the sometimes crappy weather. The cough I brought home hasn’t quite left me, so that particular souvenir just keeps on giving, but otherwise I’m fully recovered and back to life as usual. And already wondering where I should go next. I’m aiming for Italy next year!


  1. Ooo. I get to travel vicariously through your pictures, too. My writer friend C.B Wentworth has been taking me on some great cyber trips. LOL Thanks for visiting my blog. :)

    1. And thank you for visiting mine! I love to travel, but sadly can't do it as often as I'd like. This was my big birthday gift to myself this year. :)

  2. So jealous! I really want to go back to Paris. I only spent 3 days there a few years ago. I love the photo of St. Denis. I'm a big fan of cathedrals.

    1. Paris is my favorite place that I've been so far. This was my third trip, and I loved it just as much as ever. Lots of gorgeous cathedrals there, that's for sure! :)