Day 41: More Classic Paris

I slept in a bit after my late night out, which was a mistake. I was heading to the Musee d’Orsay in the morning. Well, so was everyone else. If I’d read up a bit more I would have found that Tuesdays are a really bad day to visit the Musee d’Orsay because the Louvre is closed and so everyone goes there. The line was down the block, almost around the corner; and yes, it was the line for the museum pass which usually has a line jumping aspect.

Got in and wandered around. The museum is in an old train station, which is super cool looking to me.

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Otherwise, there’s a lot of cool more contemporary art in the museum. I really enjoyed this museum a lot more than the Louvre, but that’s obviously due to the type of art I enjoy. I caught a few more Van Gogh pieces here. I was super annoyed that I’d seen 3 very good Van Gogh displays and had not yet seen his Starry Night painting. So I had to look up where it is. Of course, it’s in the Met, in NYC. So maybe I’ll have to take a trip there to see it soon. But amusingly, every museum sells pictures of it, or souvenirs with that on it. So every time I thought that museum had the actual painting.

I did really love the gallery with all the painters that used the dot painting method. Van Gogh and Munch tried it at one point which was displayed in their comparison at the Munch museum in Oslo (which I’m loving more and more as I see other museums). Anyways, this is one that I really found myself drawn to.

Interesting to me more due to method than subject
Interesting to me more due to method than subject

I’m amazed how the contrasting colors really play into the overall view of the subject in the paintings. I wish I could take up a painting hobby (just like I wish I could take up a lace hobby, maybe someday).

After this I headed over to check out Notre Dame. The line was insane, and I seriously debated going in or not. I ended up deciding yes. All said and done now, it wasn’t too interesting and I would have not been too sad to miss it. But not knowing, I would have been sad, so I’m glad I waited. The line had the out and back and turned out again. Yet it didn’t take more than 45 minutes. And was very organized for having no ropes.

Afterward I headed back to the hostel to do some laundry and to sit down. Both were very needed. Everything was dirty, and I was pooped. I had tossed out dinner to everyone again that night, gotten no response (for dinner), so off I went to eat on my own after my laundry was finished.

I got to Bouillon Chartier and the entire menu is in French so I just kind of picked something. I ordered it and the server asked me like four times if I was sure I wanted that. It was very French. She described it as intestines. Which made sense because I thought it was sausage from the name. So I said yes, I’d like that, regardless of her questions.

Well, she was right. And intestines was an understatement. I got it and tried it. It looks like a sausage. I cut it open, and no longer do I think it is a sausage. It smells like a barn yard. I convinced myself I needed a bit to say I’d had it. So I took a bite. Ew. I had to order something else. Luckily for the server, she had warned me every way possible, so I ordered another and paid for both. Lucky for me, it wasn’t a super expensive restaurant, good place to try weird food.

This is what I ordered. I couldn't even tell you what it is. I'm impressed they could.
This is what I ordered. I couldn’t even tell you what it is. I’m impressed they could.

Checked out the wifi and ended up meeting up with the same people later nearby. The Danish girls were there before the others, and had brought drinks with them. So we headed to find a bench or a park, which didn’t exist so we settled for a curb to drink some. Then we headed to a bar where everyone else met us, but we still had drinks left in the bought drinks. Three of us went out to have a bit more, and came back to the bar, and were told we couldn’t go in. Well, that’s a problem. Our things were in there and coats and our friends. Convinced the security guy to let one person go in to collect things. I’m sure they didn’t expect to lose 8 people when they said the three of us couldn’t go back in, but they did. And no one was even close to annoying. So weird. Would never fly at home.

Headed home after checking out another bar for a bit. Nothing too exciting.

Day 40: Fontainebleau and Eiffel Tower

In the morning I headed off to Fontainebleau to visit the Chateau. It was suggested by a friend and confirmed by the tourist guide as a thing to see. It is the oldest decorated royal French Chateau. The rooms were decorated in the styles of different rulers, some older than others, but the furniture was authentic, which was amazing. I can’t keep straight which Napoleons and Louis lived in this palace, so I won’t try.

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One of the most interesting things I learned from the audio guide in the chateau was that French Queens and Empresses had to give birth in “public”. This was mentioned in a room that is now named for the ruler that was born there. The rooms were chosen before the woman was to give birth and all were allowed into that room while the birth was happening. This was said to be done to prove that the heir was legitimate. Which is amusing because the heir followed the paternal side…. No way to prove that before genetic testing.

After the Chateau I headed out to the gardens area. Very pretty. I’m sure nothing like Versaille but everything also happened to be empty, much more to my liking.

I was intending to wander the town for a bit, but everything was closed (Monday is the day of being closed I guess). So I grabbed some food for my picnic lunch on the train and headed to the train station (on foot). I was very grateful I took the bus from the station when I got there. It looked close, but really wasn’t. Oh well. Exercise.

I got back to Paris and decided to head to the Champ Elysees (sp) (cham ellise is what it sounds like) which is the main shopping street leading up to the Arc de Triumph. I was hopeful I’d find some things that were must haves here, but mostly was just unhappy with the number of people on the street or in the stores. Or how giant the stores were and how I could visit a lot of them at home.

Breezy and chilly. Quite the arch way
Breezy and chilly. Quite the arch way

Made it to the Arc de Triumph then headed down the other side of the street to visit Louis Vuitton, but passed when I saw there was literally a line into the store. Funny, because I ended up passing another, with no line. Looked around, and it’s just not for me. Oh well. Money saved. I bought nothing anywhere this day. I was surprised.

I headed over to check out the Eiffel Tower. But first, by this point, I really had to pee. Enough so that I caved to standing in line for one of the toilets on the sidewalk. Well, these lines move SO SLOWLY. Turns out you go in, use it, it closes, it cleans, then the next person can go it. So it was actually very clean, but I would have taken dirtier and faster hands down.

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Took my look at the tower and had to catch the RER train to meet everyone. Well the RER station was closed. The next closest station is far. So I headed to the closest metro that got me where I needed to be, also far away. I was late to the meeting. Oops.

And then we ended up heading back to exactly where I had come from. Oh well, I never would have found everyone in the park by the tower.

We grabbed some food and headed to the park. Grabbed a seat. Too bad it had rained sometime sort of recently, we all ended up with wet butts at some point in the night. Park Life.

It was hilarious to see the guys wandering around selling drinks. They were SUPER over priced (of course). But mostly, it must be illegal because every once in a while they would hide everything in one of the few trees of the area and walk around like they were looking at the tower and then the police would drive by. Then they would go back and grab all their things. A couple were selling the small Eiffel Tower keychains and other small souvenirs which actually turned out to be a decent deal. I didn’t end up with any, but others did.

We hung around for a while, taking some pictures in the process, because what else are you supposed to do when it’s this pretty, and you have people to take fun pictures with!

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Eventually we had drank all our wine and cider and decided we should head home. I thought the metro closed at 2, so the fact that we left at midnight, wasn’t a problem at all. I had two metros to catch to get back to the hostel, easy, restful. Except the metro stops at 12:30, which means the last pick up at stations is sometime before then. So I got to my transfer point and the train pulled in and turned off. Ut-oh. And of course I had taken the metro farther from my hostel than we were to make the transfer. We were nicely at the Arc de Triumph, which had I not been so concerned about getting home, I would have stopped to take pictures in the dark. I had found some guys speaking English, looking at one of the metro maps in the station. I asked where they were going, and luckily, it was half way to where I was going. I asked if we could split the cab and they were more than happy. Turns out Paris is tiny, and the entire fare would have been 17 Euros for myself to get home. With the split and drop off I got home on 7 Euros. Sweet deal. Still a stupid time for the metro to close in such a large city. And something that should definitely have been mentioned somewhere in something I got from the hostel or on all the online info. That’s not even when you leave to head out in a lot of cities.

Day 39: The most Paris of Paris things to do

I decided before heading out on this trip that I needed to go to the Louvre early in the day, preferably when it opened. Lucky for me, it didn’t open until 9. I got there around 9:15. With the lack of need to buy tickets, I walked right in. I headed straight for the Mona Lisa, knowing that even though it felt crowded now, it would only get worse. It was surprisingly not difficult to get my picture. And thankfully everyone now tells you that it’s a tiny painting, don’t expect much. Because that’s the truth. Nothing extraordinary about it.

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My general thought on the Louvre is that if no one ever again decides to paint the Crucifixion, or the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus, the world will have enough paintings. If you disagree, sorry. And the rest of the museum should be decently titled “Shit we should return to the countries we stole it from”. So it was interesting, but not thrilling. And WAY too big to be one museum. One of the special exhibitions was the restoration of the Winged Victory statue. That was very interesting. I will never understand how someone decides what’s dirt or rubble vs what’s part of some statue. Essentially, the statue was a bunch of pieces that they managed to put back together.

It's creepy to see this man constructed out of vegetables.
It’s creepy to see this man constructed out of vegetables. However, his counter part constructed of fruit was just entertaining.
And wtf. This is just gross.
And wtf. This is just gross.
Sometimes the rooms were as interesting as the art in them.
Sometimes the rooms were as interesting as the art in them.
And I just loved this blue guy.
And I just loved this blue guy.

After the Louvre I went to catch this walking tour. This time I was plenty early. A couple other people struck up conversations around me and I just joined on in. Turned out to be a great choice. I’ve had great luck meeting people on walking tours. We toured and learned our bits and pieces. We had a slightly modified tour as the real TOUR was going on. Of course I refer to the Tour de France. It was ending in Paris this day, and blocks off a lot of streets.

Classic picture, had to be done.
Classic picture, had to be done.

My new friends and I had intended to grab some food and wine and catch a seat somewhere to catch the race. But after heading to the toilettes, we seemed to be stuck in the area we were. The metro was closed and we couldn’t cross the streets. So we checked out what was going on. It was the sponsor parade for the Tour. So we grabbed a spot, figuring the Tour couldn’t be far behind.

Let me just tell you, we were very very very very wrong. Which would have been fine in the sunshine, but it was raining. And rather chilly. Oh well. Mind you, every time something came by we got excited figuring the bikes were soon and so we should stay. Wrong. It ended up being about 2 hours. And then the bikers came by in probably 30 seconds. Because it was gross out and they all already knew who won. After the Mona Lisa and the Little Mermaid, this still wins as the biggest disappointment of my trip so far. Good thing it’s a once in a life time thing.

Up close... and freezing.
Up close… and freezing.

After this we grabbed some dinner. I tried the, walk away from the tourist places to find dinner option, but all we found were closed restaurants. So we went back to the Latin Quarter. And did not walk far enough, because it was not good. And the waiter totally worked us over. Oh well. Lesson learned. I should have known before.

The group decided we all wanted to picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower and so decided to meet tomorrow to do so.

Day 38: Thalys and Paris

I had previously made my reservations for the train from Brugge to Paris. I had to change at Brussels Midi (French) or Zuid (Flemish) station. Of course it was always listed as Midi when I search, and so when they only announce Zuid it always freaks me out. And then I got on my Thalys train, and someone is in my seat. Which is fine had I understood what they were saying, that seats don’t matter that much, just pick one. But luckily, someone near me also made the person in their seat move. So I wasn’t alone. And my reserved seat had a nice window.

Got to Paris fine. Had the easiest time yet finding my Hostel.

I got in around 12, and I was hoping to grab the 1pm walking tour. Well. I got there around 1:15 and it was very gone by then. So realizing that the tour started by Notre Dame, I headed over there. Just saw the outside but got good info about opening times and saw that you could climb the towers which I hadn’t known before. And because it was Saturday, they were open until 11! I decided that was a must do. I wandered off to Saint Chappel, and found a short line and decided to wait.

Saint Chappel is in what is now the Palace of Justice. It used to be a royal residence. And the Saint Chappel was created to house the relics, which are also no longer there, but now at the Notre Dame treasury. However, this was still a very good site to see. I picked up the Paris Museum Pass as my ticket for this entrance.

If you have any sort of tiny love of stained glass, but the Saint Chappel on the top of your list. Wow. I have a couple pictures, but I’m sure they don’t do it justice.

SO MUCH STAINED GLASS!
SO MUCH STAINED GLASS!

I was very amused by the entrance area to the Saint Chappel. So the Palace of Justice that surrounds the chapel is all the old Parisian style. But check out this building in the courtyard.

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Clearly they ran out of office space.

After this I headed back to actually check into my Hostel. Then grabbed a drink before heading back to the Notre Dame for the late night special. I left the hostel at 9ish, got to the line at 10 and was worried they were going to close it before I got up. I was so happy to see the “line closed” sign go past me. Such a great view.

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Back home on the metro. Thankfully not too creepy, even at night.