Catacombs, Sacre Coeur, Louvre. . . We Excel at Touristing

For Wednesday morning, we’d bought tickets online to visit the Catacombs, which open at 10 am. That meant a relatively leisurely morning and a Metro ride to get there. We arrived a bit before it opened, and there were already long lines. I believe that this is the girls running to get into line before any walkers who were on their way.

The lines at the Catacombs are some of the worst because the space is small, so they control the numbers who can enter at a time. We still had to wait in line, but our situation was much better than the folks who didn’t have online tickets. Actually walking through the Catacombs doesn’t take all that much time, and everyone seemed to think it was pretty fun. Here’s the one picture we took before we realized that we weren’t supposed to be taking pictures.

Cute W and I had the free-with-your-ticket audio guides, but the girls were less committed to making it a learning experience. Instead, we’d call out interesting facts and remind them to wait for us. Between all the stacked up skulls and bones there were signs with various sayings and aphorisms–usually contemplating our mortality–in French and Latin. That turned out to be some of our most fun, with me trying to make out all of the French and M tackling the Latin.

The Catacombs are pretty close to Luxembourg Garden, so that was our next stop. At that point I think Cute W and M were interested in possibly biking around the gardens, but J was not super-excited about biking, plus it was pretty chilly. We decided to have a little picnic and then move on, and our sandwiches were yummy: a mixte ham, cheese, and butter; a ham, lettuce, and tomato; and a warm sandwich with chicken, cheese, and mustard. French sandwiches tend to be both simpler and weirdly more delicious than their American cousins.

It was tasty, but we were cold! We got back into the Metro and headed north to the bottom of Rue des Martyrs, inspired by the book I’d read to walk up the street on the way to Sacre Coeur. Cute W was chilly enough that he actually hopped off the Metro before us to grab a jacket, then borrowed a bike to catch up with us as we meandered up the street. The girls and I wandered from shop to shop on our own before Cute W caught up. In one shop M and I each saw a pair of adorable earrings which we totally should have bought. It is mostly good that we are not impulse buyers, but sometimes you should just go with your instincts. I had a vague notion that maybe we’d circle back to the store and M figured that she’d be able to find similar earrings online. We did not and she did not. I’m still a little bummed about it. We also walked into a very fabulous sweets shop, Sébastien Gaudard, where the woman was so sweet and friendly and everything looked and smelled so fabulous that I simply had to buy a lovely, expensive, tiny little chocolate mousse cake. We spoke in (my awful) French and when she heard that we’d be sharing it as a picnic, she made sure that I had napkins and little spoons and she wrapped it up like it was a little present. Which made me thank her and tell her how lovely it was, and next thing you know she was giving us cookies for free. Seriously, these Parisians are super-lovely if you put in some effort.

Cute W caught up to us and we spent quite a bit of time in Chine Machine, a vintage shop that was on my must-do list both from the book and because the girls so appreciated their vintage shopping in Savannah. While we were there M tried on an old-school black leather jacket with plenty of zippers that looked fantastic on her. Actually, it may have been faux leather, but it was so inexpensive that it was an amazing deal even for faux leather. For some reason she decided against it, and both Cute W and I were surprised she could pass it up. I am glad that she’s not consumed by her appearance, but honestly? Sometimes I wish she appreciated her flat-out gorgeousness a little bit more.

By this time we were almost to Sacre Coeur–there were just a whole bunch of stairs to walk up to get there. And yes, I know that there’s a funicular that you can ride up instead, but we just weren’t exactly there and we are stair-climbers over ticket-buyers by temperament. Of course I was once again bringing up the rear.

Sacre Coeur was pretty dang crowded, actually, which made walking through the actual church a bit less enjoyable. But we did like the relaxed vibe and the opportunity to just plop on the grass and eat our treats and rest for a bit. Of course I was reading Rick Steves. J, my little Energizer Bunny, was roaming hither and yon while M rested. I had remembered tons of artists drawing portraits around Sacre Coeur on previous visits, and there were fewer of them than I expected, which was a bit of a bummer.  We headed downhill and then paused in a playground to sit and confer about our next stop.

Because we are unstoppable tourists, we decided on the Louvre.

This was actually in the original plan. The Louvre is open late on Wednesdays, and so we bargained that starting our visit fairly late in the afternoon would help us to avoid lines and crowds.  We hopped on the Metro and entered the museum directly from there, which turned out to be an awesome strategy. We didn’t wait at all to get in. As for avoiding the crowds, well. . . .

I’m sure it could have been worse.

Here we are contemplating Napoleon crowning himself, which was a familiar story from the girls’ tours earlier in the week. We had decided to go into the Louvre and follow Rick Steves’ book on Paris and its Louvre highlights tour with the idea that we’d hit the must-see stuff and then we could linger or return later if there were things that we were really excited about seeing. I mean, honestly, the trouble with the Louvre is that not only that it is huge and expansive, but it’s also located in a city with a lot of other pretty fantastic museums.  At this point we’d had a long day, and because I am a museum-lover, I paused often to say, “Wait, are you guys good? I don’t want this to be a Death March,” but the girls were excellent, once again. Their attitude was, “Let’s do this!” We followed all of the book’s walking tour, which brought us by the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, Mona Lisa, Raft of the Medusa, Liberty Leading the People, Odalisque, and more. We stopped in the gift shop for some postcards of our favorite pieces, but then we were pretty much toast. In fact, we walked outside and collapsed on the grass–we are the nearest group of supine figures.

The day had taken a turn for the just-a-bit-warmer and gorgeous, so we spent a bit of time exulting in the splendor of the day. That included playing along some of the play spaces that are along the Seine (one of the many reasons why I argue that Paris is great for kids).

All that was left on our agenda was dinner, so we decided to do another picnic. We wanted to buy fixings at Rue Cler, which was a bit of a distance away, so we biked along the Seine. I said before that there was mixed enthusiasm for the city bikes, but biking right along the river is easy, pleasant, and efficient. We bought ourselves some goat cheese, our cheese-favorite Brillat Saverin, and another cheese recommended by the fromagier along with saucisson sec, baguettes, artichokes, wine, carrots, and apricots. We walked over the the park with a view of the Eiffel Tower to eat.

As we ate the sun was going down, so it started to get chilly again. That didn’t prevent us from rallying and getting ourselves some Amorino ice cream. J had had Sorbet Envy ever since we’d first gone and she’d decided she liked my flavors better than hers. By the time we started looking for ice cream, we were so tired that M, J, and I managed to miss the ice cream place and walk right past it, even though we’d visited before and the whole point of our walk was to look for the ice cream place. Luckily Cute W was there to steer us in the right direction, but it was clearly time to go home and to bed.



One Comment

  1. Claire

    I loved the Catacombs! It was very crowded when we went, too (actually, pretty much everything in Paris and London was).

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