Paris is cold. For a week and a half now, it has been cold and rainy and windy and gross. Disgusting. I thought this was supposed to be my summer vacation?
In any case, let's talk about Sunday and Monday! Sunday morning I grabbed the Metro with a Parisian friend, Edith, and an English friend, Jo, to Sacre Coeur, the church on a mountain that you can see from basically any peak in Paris. So, I'd already seen it from the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame when I went to Montmartre (the town that houses it) on Sunday. We got there before the noon mass, and already there were a ton of people sitting around on the steps, taking pictures and roaming around the souvenir shops that lined the cobblestoned streets. Despite this difficulty, we took pictures anyway as we climbed the hill of steps to get to the church.
So we climbed all the way to the top, right in front of the Church, and got a magnificent view of Paris (this is basically at the top of mountain, after all). Unfortunately, I did not spend enough time admiring this crazy view as we were immediately pushing our way through the crowds of the church to get a spot for noon mass. Guess what? No noon mass. At least we heard the end of the 11am mass (I looove church choirs) and got to admire the interior of the church for a bit. The interior is absolutely breathtaking, but I think that's true of most churches in Paris. Or in Europe, for that matter. Unfortunately, no pictures of the interior. You'll just have to go yourselves!
We then took a little tour around the outside of the building, back to its gardens which are absolutely beautiful. It has several little nooks covered in ivy and shaded by trees, with little benches inside. It also has a pathway of rocks lined by trees that make a green awning. In addition, there's a mini waterfall at the center where a bunch of birds were nesting and twittering away. Very calming environment. We wanted to sit and have lunch there, but first we had to get food!
So we took a walk through the town of shops and cafes and lots and lots of local artists hawking their very cool art (I almost bought a 45 Euro pop-art square with a painting of the Eiffel Tower...absolutely magnificent), but we were hungry and there was no time to waste, so we kept going until we found something that we were satisfied with. I immediately, using my sixth sense of French pastry-scavenging, found the best creperie on the block (and there were many). I ordered une crepe au beurre sucret et noisettes. It was pretty incredible. It was a humongous crepe with butter, sugar and walnuts and it took me a good twenty five minutes to eat. It was incredibly filling. So so good and worth every centime of the three euros I paid.
We found a park and sat down and ate for half an hour before continuing our walk through town, down some roads that Edith knew incredibly well (she had grown up there) until we got to the red light district of Paris. YES. So awesome. And guess what it houses? The Moulin Rouge. Crazy. I was so excited to get to see this, because I didn't think I would! I didn't realize it was such a short walk away from Montmartre. So of course, it was picture time.
So then we continued on a little walk through the district, marveling at the very interesting stores and cafes it houses...hm. We got on a bus (yay! finally on a bus!!) that took us magically straight to Isle St. Louis. And man, were we tired. But, you know me. always on the go! And I refused to waste the few hours that I had until 6pm (when I assumed I would be having dinner with two of my friends from the Foyer). So I grabbed some Berthillon ice cream (no longer worth the money, IMO) and hopped on the Metro to Chateau de Vincennes.
It was about 4:15 at this point, which gave me about an hour and a half or so at the chateau. This was nothing like Versailles. Versailles is huge and lavish and very touristy, and has grounds that stretch forever. This has two courtyards, several buildings that you cannot go into, a chapel and a dungeon. But, honestly, it was even better than Versailles. Its authenticity basically screamed at you. Instead of being like castle from a little girl's fairy tale it was like a castle from the historical fiction books you read as a fourth-grader, fascinated by the Knight of the Round Table.
The chapel was pretty, of course, but nothing mind-boggling. It had an exposition about angels who are musicians, which showcased sculptures, paintings and musical instruments from the 1500s and before. Things they grabbed from the collections of kings and queens and royalty of the past. Pretty well done. A security guard randomly started conversing with me about what I'm doing in Paris and such. Nice enough man. Didn't follow me for the rest of my tour around the chapel, which was a pleasant surprise.
Then: the dungeon. So so cool. They housed the Marquis de Sade here, as well as other famous names who wrote letters and little memoirs during their stay. This place was incredibly well-maintained. (Also this whole castle belonged to Charles V, who lived in the keep that houses the dungeons) Every room was labeled with the purpose that it once served: study, music room, wardrobe, bathrooms, etc. It had bridges and tiny windows and concrete doors and all that jazz. It was so easy to see exactly how this could have been from the 1500s. It was like being transported to another time. In fact, they had a room in which they had placed black/white "barcode posters" on the walls. Using an electronic handheld pad, you could scan the 'barcodes" and see exactly how that section of the room looked when Charles V lived here. Hard to explain, but it was cool.
I took a nice walk, up and down and up and down winding stairs as always, through the keep, seeing all the rooms marveling at how OLD everything was. So awesome. And then I took a nice stroll through the back courtyard, just to take pictures of the buildings that I could not get into and the whole grounds as a whole. It was a sunny/cloudy/not cold/not hot day, so just the perfect weather to enjoy something like this. And enjoy I did! Traveling alone has become my friend...well, not really. But you get the gist. It was nice.
I was back to the Foyer around 6pm, but lo and behold, one friend already had plans for dinner and the other was nowhere to be found. So I skipped dinner, cleaned my room and took a shower. I met Jo around 8pm in the reception and we went back to the Fete des Tuileries. I thought we'd walk around, grab some candy, etc. I didn't want candy though, just some food. But all the "real food" (and there isn't much at a carnival) was super expensive and not worth the line that we stood in for a few minutes. So I decided to have my first "gaufre" (aka waffle). I got a pretty gross-looking, unnecessarily large waffle with strawberry jam dumped on top. No fork, two napkins and a plate. Great. We walked through the gardens and found a bench to sit on while I ate this disgusting concoction. It wasn't even a good waffle. It was just a bunch of oil in the shape of a waffle with store-bought sugar-pumped jam. EWWW.
That wasn't very pleasant. What was pleasant? Afterwards, we took a walk through the gardens, past the Concorde, and towards the Champs Elysees. On the way, I found a crepe stand that sold me a crepe with ham and salt for 3 euros. And THAT, my friends, was real food. MMM delicious. It was getting dark then, but there were still a ton of people on the Champs Elysees, on top of the Arc de Triomphe, in one of the dozens of cafes that were still open, getting ice cream from the 3-story Haagen Daaz, doing some evening shopping. The lights were on and it was beautiful.
And that was pretty much it for my evening. I would write about Monday evening, but I actually have to start work at some point. And that point has come. A ce soir!