Give us all the cheese.

June 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today was our first real day in Paris. It started with breakfast in the hotel, which was a remarkably nice experience. Although it was only what we would call a “continental breakfast,” everything was delicious. My first bite of croissant was heavenly, and the assorted cheeses were delicious.

Our hotel is magnificently located on Boulevard Saint-Germaine, putting us about a five minute walk (maybe less) from Notre Dame. Notre Dame is only about a 15 minute walk from the Louvre. Plus, Boulevard Saint-Germaine is extremely busy and bustling with cafes and brasseries crowding every block.

My first view of Notre Dame from across the Seine.

After breakfast, we struck out for Notre Dame in a chilly drizzle. On the bridge across the Seine to the island on which Notre Dame is located, there is an unusual display. The railings of the bridge are covered in locks, each with two names or two sets of initials on them. Apparently, the tradition is to write your name and the name of a loved one on the lock and lock it to the bridge. There were quite a few unusual locks, such as a large lock shaped like a fish and one couple even used a full-sized U bike lock.

Locks on the bridge across the Seine with Notre Dame in the background.

Locks on the bridge.

We arrived at Notre Dame to a relatively long line and sub-optimal photography conditions, so we wandered along the Seine to the Louvre. Although there was quite a line, it moved very quickly and we amused ourselves with silly picture taking during the wait. Once inside, we steeped ourselves in Italian, French, and Dutch paintings, making sure to see the Mona Lisa.

The entrance to the Louvre.

I took a couple of art history classes a few years ago, and it was a delightful surprise to walk into one gallery devoted almost entirely to artwork created for and about Napoleon, almost all of which I remembered studying.

We reached our saturation point late in the afternoon and headed back outside into what had become a gorgeous, warm, sunny day. We wandered through the Tuileries and stopped briefly at L’Orangerie, a museum devoted to impressionist and post-impressionist art. Its most notable pieces are the 360 degree Monet water lily paintings; two rooms are devoted to them, and although I’m not much of a fan of impressionism I really quite enjoyed seeing them.

The start of the Tuileries.

From L’Orangerie we wandered to the start of the Champs Elysees, where we took a couple of pictures. Feeling pretty tired and hungry, we headed back to our hotel and then out to dinner.

Looking along the Champs Elysees to the Arch de Triomphe.

We wound up at a small restaurant near the banks of the Seine. It was a delightful, charming little place. The decor was superb, very quirky and fun, with assorted bookshelves and artwork and strings of lights. The staff were welcoming and happy to speak to us in English, and they even had an English version of the menu. The menu was a wonder to behold; although it was usually obvious what was meant (such as the “Corner of Carnivores” section), some descriptions were so obscure as to be hysterically funny (even before we started drinking wine). Reading the menu was pleasure enough, but the food was also delicious. It was an excellent meal, followed by a sunset-lit photo shoot at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame at sunset.

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