DIY Paris: Tuileries, Île de la Cité, Arc de Triomphe
And the adventure continues. Here we go.
7 AM | We left the hotel early for some authentic french petit déjeuner. We chose a cafe called Terrasse Saint Lazare about one block from where we were staying and we both ordered their breakfast special. Kent had his traditional french omelet and I settled for some bread and chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). What I learned about typical french breakfasts is – you can never have too much bread in the morning! My, my! What a surprise it was to have a breakfast meal with literally 3-4 kinds of bread to devour – croissant, baguette, tartine and so on. And they always serve their cafe au lait (coffee with milk) with freshly-squeezed orange juice.
8 AM | First stop of the day was Musée de l’Orangerie located in the Tuileries Gardens. I’ve always wanted to see Monet’s Les Nymphéas, which in my opinion was his best work.
Monet’s masterpiece was displayed in a white oval room on the first floor of the building. There was this indescribable feeling of tranquility the moment we stepped inside. It was just beautiful.
More artworks were housed on the basement – mostly by Impressionists and modern artists like Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir and Soutine.
What I like about Renoir’s works is that they somehow mirror his advocacy for feminism and his portrait Des Deux Fillettes is one of my favorites.
On the other hand, another artist that stood out for me was Chaim Soutine, a Russian Expressionist. Although most of his works appear to be distorted and comical, they present a rather deeper illusion of his life in poverty.
9 AM | Right after the Orangerie, we headed out to bask in the little sunshine that we had that day in Jardin des Tuileries. André Le Nôtre, the man behind the Versailles gardens was also the same one who designed this public park and is currently a part of the Unesco World Heritage, the Banks of the Seine.
We spent a few minutes to sit on the iconic green chairs, people-watch and of course, sip another cup of hot choco.
Isn’t it a lovely day?
9:30 AM | We didn’t get to see other parts of the Musée du Louvre so we decided to give it another try. Luckily, the Paris Museum Pass gives unlimited access to all the museums listed under it within the number of days you bought it for. So yes, Louvre take two!
Some of the pieces we missed on our first day were The Winged Victory of Samothrace, a Hellenistic sculpture that dates back to 200 BC, which was a welcoming sight towards the Denon Wing in the Daru Staircase; and Venus de Milo or Aphrodite, goddess of love, a sculpture by Alexandros of Antioch dating back to 100 BC.
Going around the Louvre makes you feel like a lost puppy so I suggest that you join a tour group or at least invest on an audio guide to be able to understand the pieces you’re looking at. Or if you’re on a budget, download Rick Steves’ app. On the contrary, I kind of enjoyed the room with the greek and roman antiquities. Jean Goujon’s sculpture of the caryatids, a reminiscent of Greece’s version reminds me so much about my favorite greek statue, the Erechtheion.
Last but not least, what’s a visit to the Louvre without stopping by the Napoleon III Apartments? If there are more superlative terms than grandiose and opulent, then it’s what you can use to describe this part of the museum.
Back in the day, the Louvre was not just a museum but also served as a residence for the monarchs for a period of time. Across centuries, the royals have built and rebuilt parts of the Louvre but majority of the changes were made under Napoleon III who made it his Cite Imperiale.
12 PM | After a few hours of visually stimulating our senses, we finally made our way to Île de Cité, one of the two inner-city islands that was once a medieval city. From the Louvre, we crossed one of Paris’ well loved bridges, Pont des Arts, which used to be the Lovelock Bridge.
But what made my heart race was actually the art stalls by the Seine! Oh, such heaven! There were books (french vintage!), artworks by local artists, postcards, posters – definitely cute keepsakes to bring home. Sadly all I could afford at that time was a Monalisa fridge magnet (we were on a budget but it was still okay).
Paris is so wonderful (sigh). A few meters away, we crossed yet another one of Paris’ favorites, Pont Neuf, the current Lovelock bridge. Of all the places we got to visit, Kent and I really saved our lovelocking ceremony for Paris since this city is closest to my heart. It’s not the same anywhere else. Paris is Paris.
12:30 PM | It’s almost time for lunch but we needed to visit a very sacred place first, the Notre Dame Cathedral. Would you just look at that gothic beauty! No wonder Victor Hugo got so inspired!
Aside from being one of the oldest and largest churches in the world, it is also the seat of the Archbishop of Paris and houses some of the most important Catholic relics in history – the Crown of Thorns, a piece of the Holy Cross and one of the Holy Nails. The interior was just whoah! Unfortunately we weren’t able to climb up the tower to see the gargoyles since the queue was just too long. Anyhow, there’s always next time.
Notre Dame Cathedral / 6 Place du Parvis Notre Dame, 4th Arrondissement / Admission Free, Tower 8.50 Euros – Included in Paris Museum Pass
1: 30 PM | Somebody’s happy to finally set foot on Shakespeare and Company! What a dream come true! Whenever we travel I make it a point to visit special bookshops but this one has always been on top of my list.
George Whitman’s Shakespeare and Company used to be called Le Mistral but was later changed to its present name in honor of Shakespeare’s birthday, and also as a tribute to Sylvia Beach’s first Shakespeare and Company bookshop that hosted famous writers at that time – Hemingway and Fritzgerald to name a few. Imagine that! It’s quite surreal too, to be actually be in the same place where my favorite movies were filmed – Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset and Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. I promise to come back whatever it takes. Perhaps, next year? (crossing my fingers)
There’s also a nice cafe next door, with a lovely view of the Notre Dame. That’s where Kent and I had our lunch while going through the book that I bought, a screenplay of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset which was of course stamped with the quintessential Shakespeare and Co. logo. And who would pass up the chance of getting their signature tote bag? Definitely not me!
I forgot what Kent had for lunch but I ordered their Vegan Pesto and Roquette Sandwich and a fresh berry juice. It was absolutely tasty! For sure I never tasted pesto that good! I also love that they serve organic, vegetarian and gluten-free menu. It’s one way of giving customers a guilt-free diet! Plus, the place itself is cozy and the staff are very friendly, so I highly recommend you guys to check it out!
Shakespeare and Company Bookshop and Cafe / 37 Rue de la Bucherie, Paris
3 PM | I didn’t want to leave but alas, life must go on. LOL. We walked around the area a little bit and decided to see Sainte Chapelle, a small gothic chapel which is part of the Palais de Justice complex. It is most famous for its stained glass windows. It was mesmerizing, especially when sunbeams hit the colored glass.
4 PM | Just beside the Saint Chapelle is the Conciergerie, which used to be a royal palace but then later on served as prison. This was where Marie Antoinette was once kept. Today, it has become a popular tourist destination. Part of the conciergerie that we got to access that afternoon was the Guard Room which was winningly turned into an art exhibit gallery.
Conciergerie /8 Bd Du Palais, 1st Arrondissement / Admission 8.59=0 Euros joint with Sainte Chapelle – Included in Paris Museum Pass
5 PM | We wanted to watch the sunset from Arc de Triomphe so that’s where we headed next. The views from above were glorious! There were 284 steps to get to the top and I remember stopping for air in between but once we got there, the view of the illustrious axe historique (the grand axis) was all we could focus on.
Did you know that there were 660 names inscribed on the walls and pillars of the Arc de Triomphe? These names correspond to the brave soldiers who fought during the wars of the First French Empire and French Revolution. In addition, underneath the arc is The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a symbol of honoring millions of French soldiers who died during the WWI and an eternal flame is lit during sundown. (A little trivia from the net and guide books can’t hurt, right?)
Arc de Triomphe / Place Charles de Gaulle, 8th Arrondissement / Admission 9.50 Euros – Included in Paris Museum Pass
6 PM | The last stop for the day was Trocadero, to view the Eiffel Tower sparkle like stars in the night. The light show runs for five minutes every hour starting at sundown till around midnight. We missed it on our first day because it rained so we had to come back obviously. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. It’s not called the City of Lights for nothing! The moment it started to dazzle in the purple sky, all I could hear was La Vie En Rose even if there was actually no music at all. This was it, the epitome of my Parisian experience. And I am beyond grateful to be able to share it with the love of my life.
It was pure magic.
That’s how our third day went. I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I did writing it. To be continued.