Like our trip to Italy in November 2006, on our second day in Paris I woke up around 4:30 a.m. ready to go. The time change does terrible things to my internal clock (I'm still having issues getting back to my old, pre-trip schedule). For the first three or four days, I wake up wicked early; by the time I adjust to a regular schedule based on my location, it's time to go home and get a new schedule. I'm sure Alan just loved the click, click, click sound of me playing games on his phones before the pre-dawn hour.
Prior to leaving for Paris, we put together a list of everything we wanted to do, everywhere we wanted to go, all the places we knew of that we wanted to eat, and all the sights we wanted to see. Truthfully, it was WAY too much for just 7 nights, but we vowed to do the best we could and pack in enough such that we didn't leave saying, "I really wish we had ... [fill in the blank]."
So, on our first full day in Paris we set off to see The Lourve. I took several art courses in college (some of my study groups were even conducted in the Carnegie Museum near Pitt's campus) and have a general appreciation for art. By no means am I high-brow though. I know what I like - and what I don't - and I don't feel the need to see *every* painting in a museum to make my visit worth it. Having friends who have gone to the Lourve in the past couple of years, I knew that it could possibly become an all-day excursion. Hoping to avoid that scenario, we went with a plan. But first, we had to get there.
We knew because we were going to visit several museums that we should each get a museum pass. You can either buy these at the first museum you visit (not sure if it's available at every museum though) or at a tourist information office. We took the metro over to the arrondisement near the Lourve in search of this office. Unfortunately it didn't open until 10am on Monday, so instead we wandered down the street to this very adorable pattiserie/boulangerie where we had breakfast - two cafe au laits and a chocolate croissant for me and an almond tart for Alan.
Imagine our surprise when we come to discover our great little find is actually a chain - they're all over Paris. *snicker* This same thing happened to us in Rome with the pizza place we found.
From Paul, we got our museum pass and then wandered through the gardens at the Palais Royale and then headed over to the museum.
With the museum pass, you get to skip the line to buy tickets, but at the Lourve you still have to go through the security line. In this case, we entered through the pyramid. (Oh, and the rose line from The DaVinci Code movie? The one where Tom Cruise kneels down at the end of the movie? Nowhere to be seen. A fraud!).
Once inside, we dropped off our jackets (note: museums in Italy and Paris are HOT - leave your jackets when you can), we grabbed a floorplan of the museum that highlights the various sections and decided which parts we wanted to see. Obviously the Mona Lisa was on that list, but what else? For me, I wanted to see the Italian and French masters, the Venus de Milo and a couple of the other sculptures. Oh, and I had read about the basement of the building which I didn't think Alan knew about but I had an inkling he'd like so we added that to list as well. We wandered into a few other places during our time there, but all in all it was a very enjoyable three hours or so.
The problem I had with the Venus statue was that there were HORDES of Chinese and Japanese tourists crowded around it. Now, that in and of itself is not a bad thing. But someone hasn't explained the concept of a museum to these people so there was a lot of leaning against the sculptures and knocking other people out of the way to take pictures of themselves or their friends. One poor old lady took an elbow to the eye when an overzealous man in his 50s decided that he HAD to get closer to the statue. It was really off-putting and wasn't really conducive to just admiring the piece so I moved on.
Winged Victory (I think that's the name of this sculpture) was one of our favorites in the whole museum. Its location - off by itself at the top of a staircase - made it seem very grand. You can't tell in this picture, but it was very imposing and large. Definitely a force to be reckoned with.Oh, and the Mona Lisa? Such a let down. (Is that sacreligious?)
After the catacombs of the museum we found ourselves in a room that resembled an outdoor plaza but was in fact, indoors. I don't know what this room was called or where it was located, but it was just gorgeous and it provided a great resting point after all the walking and standing we'd been doing in the museum that day. The best part was that with the exception of a couple of people who wandered through (and the docent), the room was nearly deserted. Fans of the Lourve reading this will probably recognize the area below and think I'm a complete dolt for not even knowing where I was. Watch - it's a "famous" room or something. (My favorite "famous" room is the Temple of Dendur at the Met in NYC.)
We left the museum shortly thereafter and went and sat in the Tuileries Gardens for awhile as we plotted our next move in the city.
I don't have any more pictures after we ate, so I'm going to have to assume that at that point we made our way back to the 8th for a nap before dinner, which was at a place (translated in English) called Sargeant Recruiter. First we tried to go to Chez Robert et Louise in the Marais (as seen on Anthony Bourdain's show No Reservations), however, they too are closed on Monday. So from there we wandered over to the Ile. St. Louis to that restaurant as I had seen it recommended on a couple of travel blogs.
I think Alan was a bit skeptical about the whole thing because (1) it was kind of expensive and (2) it was a boatload of food. Here's the thing though - this place is historic. Back in the days of Napolean, this restaurant (and another nearby) used to feed the men more food than they possibly knew what to do with, get them well and liquored up and then sign them up for the army while they're inebriated - hence the name. We were tired of walking and I wanted to go, so we wandered in and were immediately greeted by a nice, welcoming french man who treated us very warmly the entirety of our meal.
The meal ... wow, that's a lot of food.
First, you start with a basket of sausages and fresh vegetables and you eat whatever and however much you want. You also get a plate of pate that I'm sure they'd give you seconds on if you were so inclined and a tureen of the soup of the day. That day it was roasted vegetable soup. Most of the sausages were very tasty (there was one I didn't care for) and I love any basket of veggies that gives me fresh fennel to snack on. Oh, and did I mention it's all the wine you can drink? That's my kind of place!
After you have your fill of the "appetizers" you get your meal. Alan ordered duck confit and I ordered cassoulet. Now, I *love* cassoulet. I first had it at Cafe Rouge here in Berkeley when we went to dinner with Seppo & Ei-Nyung in Winter 2006 and have had it at a couple of restaurants in the area since then. We also spent all day making our own cassoulet this New Year's Eve. So when I tell you this was a damn fine cassoulet and could stand up to any of the ones I've had at some of the areas top restaurants, believe me that it's GOOD. I'm salivating thinking about the beans. Alan's duck confit was as duck confit should be but I can't comment any more on it as I was too busy putting a hurt on my dish.
At some point during the meal our waiter brought us a second bottle of wine. I vaguely remember Alan telling me he couldn't drink anymore and me pouring the rest in my glass. And then I remember eating a very good chocolate mousse, wandering up the stairs to the rather fun and quirky restrooms, the waiter putting a THIRD bottle of wine down on our table as we protested "no more, please!" and then wandering out into the cold night air to try to find out way back home. I remember the following - trying to take a self-portrait and not being able to because we kept chopping off each other's head in the picture, wandering down into a closed metro station while the renovators looked at us like crazy people, and saying that we should call Seppo right that instant to find out where he meant for us to eat falafel during our trip. Somehow, we made it home in one piece, but it was a long metro ride and was quite late into the evening. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. and coming home after midnight - with approximately 1 bottle of wine and 4 pounds of sausage in my belly - is fun, but not something one should try with any regularity.