Sunday, June 17, 2018
We woke up late and then had to figure out how to take a shower without flooding the whole bathroom! The shower was in a deep old fashioned bathtub and no curtains around it. Eke managed to keep the water reasonably contained to the bathtub. Brian had more troubled and decided to take a bath!
We left the hotel later in the morning and decided to travel by metro to the Pantheon where we were to meet our local guide for the afternoon. We had registered for an Urban Adventure tour at home previously.
Brian has an app on his phone telling us what train, what track, what stops between our location and our destination we need to look for. Sounds simple, right?? Right!! The Paris metro system is very sophisticated with many lines, levels and directions – all underground! There are signs to guide you and yet for newbies like us it looked like a maze of up and down stairs, many tracks, people moving fast. It took us quite a while to get to know the meaning of the signs. We started on RER line A, had to find it, chose the right direction, make a transfer and then needed to line M10 (I think.). It all sounds so simple, yet to experience it is a different thing altogether. We did find our way after a few times going in circles and arrived at St. Michel-Notre Dame stop!
Getting to street level was not too difficult and we found ourselves across from Le Jardin Luxembourg. First we needed some brunch and chose Le Cercle, a pub advertising bacon, egg, croissant brunch with tea/coffee. Our first meal of the day – tasted good. We had plenty of time before our urban adventure started at 2pm. We decided to go for a walk through the Luxembourg garden where we listened to a youth band. It was interesting – various young people directed the band and different ones sang along with the band. It was very enjoyable; some of them did sing very well and we stayed for a while.
Moving on we walked over to a big round “pond” – a water basin where kids were “sailing” small model sailboats which they rented for 4 euro per half hour. The wind would blow them across the water and kids would push them (with a stick) from the edge. Every boat carried a different national flag – Canada was represented also! We met a man there with a very special boat. He had started to build it in 1986 and things were added to it every year. It was a compilation of small doll figures, ropes, trinkets, flags. He was pushing it around on a baby carriage frame. We had an interesting little chat with him.
We thought that we should meander over to our meeting place – the Pantheon – and discovered that it was closed. As we walked around the fence surrounding the building, we had to move around a spot where they were taping a rap music video. (Nobody that we knew.) We then decided to visit the church behind the Pantheon while we waited. It was a very nice church inside and there were quite a few visitors milling around. We were there only a few minutes and were kicked out! A man with a loud voice ordered us all out! We joked about that and then went to the entrance of the Pantheon where we were to meet our guide. The Pantheon opened just at that time and quite a number of people entered the Pantheon. There was no sign of our guide who would carry a red Urban Adventures bag so we could identify him. After waiting another 10 minutes, Eke asked Brian whether we were there on the right day! Brian checked his phone and, -NO, our tour was on the next day, Monday. Fortunately we could laugh at ourselves and took it as a trial run to get there with the Metro the next day. We decided it was time for a tea/coffee and dessert. We settled on the patio of a small restaurant/pub named Gaudeamus, just down the street. It all tasted very good and it gave us energy to make plans for the rest of the afternoon.
Saint Chapelle came up as the next target of our next visit. Brian consulted the metro app on his phone again and we dove back into the Metro system. Knowing the metro line and stations is indispensable to succeeding in travelling the system. The next challenge is finding and deciphering the signs underground with lots of people rushing around. We found our way and ended up standing in line for tickets to go into the Sainte Chapelle. The line moved quickly and we – along with a crowd of other people – admired again the enormous and amazing stained glass windows of the Saint Chapelle. Each huge panel depicts a book of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, etc. The story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is reflected in the two panels across from the entrance at the “back” of the Chapelle. It is a very humbling and respectful awareness of such great art and craftmanship. The atmosphere is kept more or less subdued with the people being told to be quiet with a “Shhh” from the staff every few minutes. It was a very good visit even though we had seen it more than ten years ago.
From there we crossed a bridge over the Seine and found a spot to have a drink right at the river. There is a bike/foot path along the Seine with small restaurants, bands playing, people dancing, and ice cream stands to keep people entertained. People watching is another form of entertainment done very easily there! We saw lots of people walking with strollers, rollerblading, skate boarding, cycling, running and even someone on a motorized unicycle. And then there are of course the Bateaus Mouches- the river cruise boats. We really enjoyed just sitting and watching the world go by.
As it got later in the afternoon we started walking along the Seine in the direction of our hotel. We even saw across the river the tiny apartment, where we had stayed more than ten years ago, on the top floor of a very old building on Isle Saint Louis. We ended up walking all the way back to Gare Lyon, the train station down the street from our hotel. By this time we were tired, so we sat down at an Italian restaurant patio right on Boulevard Diderot across from the train station where Brian had pizza and Eke pasta with chicken and mushroom sauce. All together we did 16124 steps!