Sunday, February 01, 2015

Destination: Paris | Part Trois

Monday, May 5, 2014, was our 2nd official Parisian day. It started as the one before it and as the ones to follow would: croissants and fresh fruit and the smell of hot coffee. But this day, we had sunshine pouring in the windows. It was going to be our warmest day of the trip - 68 degrees!

Gilly and I, along with our new friend Maria-Valentina, took a taxi to Pont des Arts to cross another item off my bucket list: secure a lock on the famous bridge. The bridge is so heavily-laden with tokens of love and commitment, the locks are several layers deep. It was then that I learned that periodically, the locks are cut off & removed from the bridge because the added weight poses a threat to the landmark. And my heart broke a little because logic doesn't factor into romanticized ideals; of course a single bridge could not withstand millions of heavy metal locks, but...they cut them off?? Le sigh. At least the memories will last forever.

"Love Lock Bridge" | throwing our keys into the Seine River | a little part of us left in Paris
Looking across the Pont des Arts | the view from the bridge
We found our way to the metro for a short ride to Notre Dame. The metro was entirely intimidating to me the first couple times. The foreign language that I love but am not yet completely familiar with was a large factor, but that aside, Paris is not Twin Falls. I was determined to pay attention and absorb as much as I could because 1) it was a reasonable little challenge, and 2) worst-case scenario, I wanted to have some idea of my bearings.
Because the metro does not spit us out at the doors to Notre Dame, we enjoyed one of the most beautiful walks I've ever experienced. The historical architecture saturates the city, the river wears gorgeous bridges like jewelry, and the warm sun shone on Paris like a spotlight, highlighting her already beautiful features.

If you've never been to Notre Dame, or more specifically, inside the cathedral, it is hard to quantify. It is astounding in every respect - the details of the architecture, its commanding presence, the sound of the bells, the unbelievable stained-glass windows. But what really moved me was the overwhelming reverence as soon as you stepped inside. We were allowed to take pictures, but silence was requested. I had been wearing heels (of course), but had wisely brought sandals. I changed shoes immediately, as my clicking and clacking would have echoed though the entire place.

Mass was being held while we were there, which was something I hadn't expected but was glad to have been able to witness.

When we had made it through the entire interior, we exited and saw the line of people waiting to venture up the (many, many) steps to take in the views from the 2nd and 3rd levels. We thought on it for a moment and decided we just had to experience it, too. So we waited in line for no less than an hour before we were able to make the climb to the 2nd story. We were informed the 3rd level was closed, so no bells for us, but if that was the worst news we received that day, then we were doing pretty good. We could not believe how many stairs it took to get us up there. They seemed unending! But, my goodness, when we finally made was absolutely worth it:

Outside of Notre Dame | Coming down one of the staircases | Parisian street | Parisiennes
We got back on the metro and headed for the Basilique du Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart Basilica). The beautiful building is perched on top of a hill with a view even the locals cannot get enough of. We entered and immediately felt the same reverence Notre Dame embraced, but here photography was not allowed. We were there as tourists, but some were there seeking something more - peace, hope, forgiveness, was humbling and amazing. I felt the humility of being allowed into such a place where people from all over the world have been coming for hundreds of years. My feet took the same steps of countless before me, all drawn by personal reasons. And those doors welcomed them as readily as they welcomed me. No judgment, no condemnation, no hesitation...simply open to whomever sought to enter. It is a lovely and powerful place.

As busy as the steps are, a similar scene is found on the grassy slopes that roll down from the basilica. Crowds and individuals come to this place with nothing but bottles of wine and beer and take in the view.

We stopped for some gelato and then got back on the metro and headed for Montparnasse, where I bought a dress and some leather heels that I probably love an inappropriate amount. We also stopped at a beautiful cafe for lunch and witnessed police redirecting traffic around a planned protest. The issue was about gay/lesbian rights, but I'm not sure if the protestors were for or against the matter. Regardless, they sat in the middle of the street while a live band started rocking. It was quite an odd experience for Gilly and I, but a fairly regular one for the locals.

On the metro | Cafe Montparnasse for lunch | Police & Protestors | Shopping at Pimkey

We headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and headed to Le Table Lauriston. The menu was written on a large chalkboard. Lobster and white asparagus appetizer, prawns for dinner, and creme brulee for dessert - all accompanied by the most amazing red and white wines. One of the gentlemen at our table ordered a pear-based alcoholic drink and insisted we had to try it. Being pear-based, you would think of something similar to a wine-cooler or, at the very least, sweet. My word, I would rather swig whisky than ingest that concoction! I'm willing to bet a car could've gotten a few miles off of it. Or taken my nail polish off. Charles-Antoine had a good laugh at my expense and I breathed smoke for a few minutes after. We enjoyed so many laughs and memories with that group; the evening was perfect.

We headed back to our hotel, completely happy. Gilly and I cranked some tunes and had our own little late-night dance party before I Facetime'd my family at 1:30 a.m. (It was about 5:30 p.m. for them.)

Two perfect days in a row. The pressure was on for tomorrow. But if anywhere could pull it off, it would be Paris.