After a very late breakfast we headed off on the Metro to visit Montmartre and Sacre Couer Cathecral. The cathedral is large and impressive. What’s more, there is no entry fee. A mass was finishing just as we arrived and then a group of a dozen or so nuns sang another service which lasted for about 20 minutes. They had beautiful clear voices that resonated throughout the cathedral. While I could not understand it, their voices were very pleasant to listen to.
The dome of the cathedral didn’t appear to be open so we were unable to climb it. We had to be satisfied with the view across Paris from the cathedral steps.
We had a walk around the hill of Montmartre finding street artists and cafes. We also found the little cafe called the ‘Lapin Agile’ (an artists hang out for over 150 years) across the road from the little vineyard – the closest one to the center of Paris. After walking in a circuitous route back to the Metro station, we went on to the Citie station to the island in the middle of the Seine to see Notre Dame Cathedral.
We found a cafe where we bought a coffee and a brioche for lunch near the Palace of Justice. It was hardly surprising to find some of the cathedral covered in scaffolding. Half of Europe seems to be under renovation. At least the latest trend of having a pictorial facade over the scaffolding helps to give some idea of what the building would normally look like.
Notre Dame is a grand cathedral but not nearly as ostentatious as the churches in Italy. It has some especially beautiful stained glass windows but because of the renovations, some of them were difficult to see. Just as well we could buy a postcard or two. Outside, at the back of the church are some magnificent examples of flying buttresses.
From Notre Dame we caught the Metro to the other side of the river to Les Invalides. The best way to describe this place is as a combination of a grand tomb and a military hospital. The building was designed to be a miniature version of the Palace of Versaille with the purpose of housing invalided soldiers from Napoleon’s army. It is still used for this purpose and we saw a number of young men in the grounds in wheel chairs (we assume they were injured in whatever France’s more recent military endeavors might have been). The gilded dome (about as big as the one at Flinders Street Station) sits above Napoleon’s tomb. He rests in a huge red granite sarcophagus which is under the center of the dome in the crypt of the building. Also under the outer circumference of the dome (on the ground floor level) are the tombs of a number of important French Generals including Marshall Foch who commanded the allied forces in France in WW1.
On our last day in Paris we found it really hard to get going. We were getting tired of being on the go all the time and in a way we are glad that it is almost time to be leaving for home.
After a late breakfast we walked down to the Louvre. I had seen pictures of the relatively new pyramid in the center of the old Palace, but hadn’t understood its place in the scheme of things. It serves as not only the main entrance but also the central link between the three main wings of the museum. Only the glass pyramid is above ground level: all of the ticket areas, information desks, gift shops and main concourse are two levels below.
It is impossible to see everything at the Louvre so we planned a quick visit to include the obvious highlights including the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo and some Flemish & Dutch paintings that interested us. I think that as the old palace of the French royalty (before they moved to Versaille) the building of the Louvre is almost as grand as the 30,000 works of art that it contains.
By late morning we were ready to move on to our second location – the impressionist museum at the Musee D’Orsay. This is located in an old railway station and has 5 floors of paintings by the major impressionists. We particularly liked the works by Monet as we could visualise his garden and the aspect from which they were painted. We had a nice lunch in the restaurant behind one of the old station clocks.
We thought that we would end the day by going to a couple of the major Paris department stores. However on the train I suddenly got a terrible sinking feeling in the bottom of my stomach as I realized that my wallet was not in my pocket. It had either fallen out, or much more likely been pick-pocketed somewhere around the front of the museum. Now instead of visiting a department store, we were visiting a police station. (Parisian police stations are not salubrious places ).
When we got off the train, I found a traffic police car parked in a square near the Opera House and they gave me some directions to the nearest police station. It was very difficult to explain my problem to the police woman at the front of the station but eventually I was able to make a report with the help ofa desk officer who spoke a little English. Then came ail the hassles of finding the phone numbers of our bank and American Express so the that I could cancel our credit cards. I am not sure whether the worst part of this is the loss of $500 or so, or all the problems of replacing my drivers license and a dozen other store and membership cards. I guess however that it was better that this happen on the last day oi our trip than our first. Fortunately Jill still has her ATM card and an Amex card that we can use until we get home on Monday.
Now all there was to do was to get to the airport and get ourselves prepared for a long trip back to Perth and a flight to Melbourne on Monday morning. With the recent collapse of a part of a new terminal, Paris airport was in turmoil. The printer at the Qantas check in wouldn’t work and it took 90 minutes to go through the check in process. Then when we got on the plane the refuellers created a fuel spill which necessitated the attendance of the fire service and a departure that was 2 hours late.