At some point I should get started on those two-year-old France/Italy posts I promised, right? As I was writing out these posts, I was planning to spend a little time on each of the sights we went to. I quickly realized just how big of a task that was, as it’s been two years ago and a lot of the details have gone.
What’s left are impressions and emotions connected to those two weeks I spent just discovering new places.
So I’ll stick to full day recaps of my France and Italy trip with my good friend Ellen.
On our first full day in Paris, in the morning we went to hear Mass and listen to the organ concerto at Église Saint-Sulpice. Church of Saint-Sulpice. We walked from the metro stop, going down Rue du Vieux Colombier before hitting Place St Sulpice.
We didn’t get to see the fountain Fontaine Saint-Sulpice as there was some construction work ongoing and the area was walled off. We took many photos. As the first church we visited in Paris, it was amazing and memorable in a special way to me. So much vastness; I felt both small and insignificant, and expansive and one with everything, while I was inside. We said hello to Saints Peter and Paul, guarding the entrance; Saint Michael slaying the dragon; the church tabernacle and statue of Mary, by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle.
It might be the hour we chose to hear Mass, but it was one of the most peaceful Masses I’ve heard. Everyone was quiet and reverent, the very air seemed to calm me. The others would turn to us and shake our hands warmly, friendly smiles on their faces, as we exchanged tokens of peace.
I remember thinking it was the best way to start our Paris adventure.
We listened to the organ recital after the Mass. I think it is an acquired taste.
Afterwards, we had a lovely brunch at Cafe de la Mairie, Place St Sulpice. Chocolat chaud, ham and cheese omelette, and half a salad.
Jardin du Luxembourg et Palais
After our brunch, we walked back up to Jardin du Luxembourg and Palais du Luxembourg. Luxembourg Gardens and Palace.
This was the first public park, in my experience, where I was completely content to just sit around and do nothing. That’s not tough to beat, though: I’ve lived my whole life in tropical Asia where the heat and humidity just kills you. This time, the sun was high and there was almost no cloud in sight, but the cool breeze was refreshing and kept us from feeling like we were baking under the sun.
Which, of course, we actually were.
But it was a perfect day for relaxing anyway.
The garden itself is properly sprawling, and we stayed a good while. Even so, I didn’t quite realize just how much we didn’t discover on our ramble. One day, I will visit this garden again.
Initially I thought this area was simply the abbey and the church. Ah, the ignorance of youth (cough). The abbey gave the area its name. It is Paris’ oldest church, and it stands where an earlier church was destroyed by the Vikings. Inside, the colors and gilding took me by surprise. It is still painted in the medieval manner, and I didn’t quite expect it after coming from St-Sulpice.
Tombs and statues abound inside. There is Rene Descartes’ tomb, and I know I saw it when I was there, but I don’t have any decent photos of it. So, here, have someone else’s.
Towards Île de la Cité
After the church, we continued walking on towards Île de la Cité, taking photos here and there, sitting down to people-watch and rest. Some streets were very crowded. Some where empty. We got lost. It was okay.
We did find ourselves some delicious gelato at Amorino. I had salted caramel and amaretto, and eventually found our way to the Seine.
Place du Trocadéro
After wandering around the banks, we headed down to the Île de la Cité metro station to start our way towards Place du Trocadéro.
The Trocadéro is popular because of the view of La Tour Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower. There were plenty big tour buses that would come and go while we were there, mixing the tourists with people hawking souvenirs as well as pockets of performers here and there. We watched a group of breakdancers for a while. The sun was setting and made for difficult photographs.
We discovered just how late the sunset is as we waited for the Eiffel lights to go up. The sun set a bit past 9 o’clock. We were so pleased to find out we had a lot of time to do some sightseeing, although in the days to come the long days made us very tired.
I had a very non-French hamburger (steak haché) for dinner at Schwartz’s Deli nearby. It was the only place that did not look too intimidating. At least Ellen had a more adventurous (and more French) beef tartare.
You should also check out my friend’s posts about our day:
- Visiting Eglise St-Sulpice
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- Paris Rive Gauche / Left Bank
- Eiffel Tower view from Place du Trocadéro
- Croque Madame at Café de la Mairie
Thus ends the first day.