I’d love to say that we popped out of bed on our first morning in Paris and hit the tourist schedule at the crack of dawn but that would be a lie so I’ll tell you, instead, that we slept in hard core before heading out for our first French breakfast.
First to note, this was a super-packed day! Consequently this is a really long post with lots of words and pics. Grab a bottle of Bordeaux and start playing some accordion tunes ‘cuz we’re about to take you to the heart of Paris!
Second to note, our late-rising selves seemed to fit right in; from what we gathered the working French appear to start their mornings a bit later than the Americans. Things were a lot less hectic over there. (More on that later in a ‘Joie de Vivre’ post!)
Third to note, French breakfast was one of the top 10 things I was looking forward to doing in Paris. (I’m not sure what that says about me, but after having tried real French breakfast, I would keep it in the top 10 things to look forward to!)
Anyway, we finally left the hotel and set off to breakfast which, in short, was delicious! I’ll be brief here because food-critic Ben will definitely be sharing deets on this meal later, but here we are in a quaint cafe munching brunch:
I’ll take a minute to note the atmosphere of this place, though. It was precious! Very rustic with rough-hewn tables, exposed bulb lighting, and metallic accessories. Definitely stored away some inspiration ideas from this place!
Once we were properly nourished, we set off to explore Les Iles.
Brief explanation for anyone who is not overly familiar with Paris’s geography:
Long ago the city of Paris began on those two little islands you can see in the Seine. As the city grew it spread to both banks of the Seine (Le rive droite and le rive gauche.) Some of the oldest histories and structures of Paris can be found on these iles, so of course my history-loving self wanted to stop there first- the heart of Paris!
On the way, we stopped by the Tour St. Jacques. To be completely honest, I can’t remember the importance of this tower, but since this blog is as much a documentation of our lives for us to look back on as it is entertainment for you, I thought I’d note that we stopped by; you never know when I’ll have to say whether or not I’ve been to the Tour St. Jacques! Anyway, it was a lovely structure with a quaint little garden around it. Also seemed to be the place of choice for the homeless population.
*Apparently we took no photos of this; either that or I can’t find any… sorry!
Anyway, so on to L’ile de la cite! Here’s a brief history of the place: l’Ile de la Cite was founded by a Celtic tribe (called the Parisii- namesake, we assume) around 300 B.C. which thrived until the Romans stopped in to build a palace-fortress at the western end of the island around 52 BC. Along about the 10th century, Frankish kings improved this Roman palace, and what remains of this exceptional compound today is Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie prison. (Photos and details on those gems below.) The first place we stopped L’Ile de la Cite was:
Pont Neuf: To get onto L’ile de la Cite, we had to cross the Pont Neuf. This bridge was built in 1607 and was the first of Paris’s bridge to be built of stone (as opposed to wood.) It is Paris’s oldest remaining bridge and it connects the western tip of L’ile de la Cite to both banks. Here she is:
La Cathedrale Notre-Dame: One of the most amazing features of Notre-Dame is her flying buttresses. It is truly incredible how massive these structures are, particularly when you know that the cathedral was constructed between 1160 and 1345. How in the world did people achieve these architectural feats without modern day technology and equipment!? Anyway, Notre-Dame was designed in the Gothic style and was actually one of the first examples of a Gothic cathedral in Northern France. Here are some pics of her:
Crypte Archeologique: so, this place was really cool! Apparently, before the construction of the existing Cathedrale de Notre Dame, there was an original cathedral built in this site, along with an even older city! And what is even cooler is that you can see the archeological remains of the ancient city and cathedral! Of course we stopped in to check it out. Beneath the ground level in front of the existing Notre-Dame is a permanent archeological site that is open to the public. You can see the foundations of structures from medieval times and some that date back to as long ago as the Gallo-Roman times!
*Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take photos of the site; sorry we talked about how cool it was and can’t show you anything…
Le Conciergerie-This is one of the structures that remain from that Frankish palace we mentioned above. This prison is Paris’s oldest Prison. In fact, Marie-Antoinette and other Revolutionary figures were incarcerated here during the Revolution (most of which were later executed…) Despite the tragic history of the building, it was truly beautiful and absolutely fascinating. Actually, the exact notes that I wrote on Le Conciergerie in our travel notebook are “Beautiful gothic architecture; tragic history.” Take a peak:
Sainte-Chappelle-OK this place was “Breath-taking; absolutely stunning” (words from our travel journal.) Also a vestige of the Frankish palace compound, this cathedral was absolutely stunning. The ground level cathedral was rumored to have housed holy relics like Christ’s crown of thorns and pieces of the cross on which Christ died. None of those relics are there currently, but the real treat is the second floor chapel. WOW. 3 of the 4 walls of the upstairs room are made of stained glass. And each panel of glass tells the story of the Bible. In fact, if you read the windows beginning in the North, you can read the stories from Genesis through the Passion of Christ, to Revelations. Aside from the stained glass, all surfaces are intricately painted or tiled; the whole effect is just beyond words:
* Some of the interior shots are blurry
Place Dauphin: after visiting all the beautiful architecture we mentioned above, we thought we’d hit up some green spaces.
Square du Vert-Galant: Named for Henri IV and his lusty trysts, this square can be found at the NW end of the island. It is apparently a popular hang out for lovers.
L’Ile St. Louis: After all the fantastic (but exhausting) sight-seeing on L’Ile de la Cite, we headed over to L’Ile St. Louis. Oh my stars. We are so glad we made it to this island. My notes were: “Adorable! Great architecture, much less crowded, boutique shops & restaurants-Can’t miss this.” This island was so quaint; beautiful window boxes, tree-lined streets, fabulous architecture. Just beautiful. See what you think:
Phew! At this point in the day, we were getting exhausted. So we hopped back to the hotel to kick up our feet for a minute before heading to a restaurant that our dear friend Mackenzie recommended: Chez Francais. And for the record, Mackenzie was SO right! When night fell, we got all dolled up for a date night and took the metro over to Chez Francais, which happens to boast a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. We enjoyed the view, which included a slightly spastic light show, over creme brulee, chocolate cake and wine. There really is nothing like sitting in an open air cafe sipping wine and sharing a beautiful view with your best friend:-) Especially when you’re in Paris!
End of second day a Paris.
Has anyone ever been to Chez Francais? Or how about L’ile St. Louis? What about the window boxes? We would love to hear about your favorites from the Isles of Paris!