I woke up around 8:30am with a solid 10-11 hours of sleep. The sun rises so late here, I was confused for the first few moments. The mattress was directly on the floor, something I actually really appreciated. I enjoy sleeping close to the floor. For some reason it makes me feel more safe, more cozy. I dressed quickly, packed my day bag, and headed downstairs. I ordered breakfast at Au Pain Quotidien on Rue des Archives, enjoying a cafe creme and soft boiled egg with bread, despite it being a chain that was also in the US. It certainly didn’t feel that way there. From the cafe, I walked across the city, heading towards the Latin Quarter. Once I approached Ile de la Cite, I knew I was lost. Not physically lost – but my heart was lost to Paris. Hook, line, and sinker.
I made it across the river and to the Sorbonne, where my father studied for his doctorate in economics. I was only able to walk around the university. A beautiful yet imposing building, with guards at each door. I found a little university gift shop and purchased some pens as a gift for my father, then continued on to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is a huge church, repurposed as a secular symbol following the revolution. It has histories of the monarchy as well as the republic. The nave was cavernous, surrounded by statues and grand paintings depicting France’s history and legends, from Joan of Arc to the National Convention. There was a staggering pendulum swinging from the rotunda in the center that reached down to the ground, swinging slowly and demonstrating the rotation of the Earth. I discovered that as a 25-year old French citizen, I could get in for free or at a steep discount at many of the sites around Paris similar to this one. This was good news as it meant I’d save a ton of euros, and would be able to afford the audioguides.
The crypt beneath the nave was far more somber, and housed the remains of Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas, Hugo, and the Curies to name a few. After looking at those tombs, I felt that I knew so little of French history – there were so many other tombs with names I’d never heard of.
I left the Pantheon, and was disappointed that St. Etienne du Mont was closed. This was a church just kitty corner to the Pantheon that supposedly holds the remains of St. Genevieve, the patron saint and founder of Paris. I continued down the market street of Rue Mouffetard. It was a cute street with little book and trinket shops. I ended up in a little Brittany-style Creperie for lunch. Though I did discover that I am not a fan of savory crepes, I was able to get my first crepe with apples, a snack I’d loved on my visit to Paris in middle school.
After lunch, I bought some books at a little bookstore, even finding some of my favorite childhood comics of Asterix and Obelix. The cashier was shockingly handsome and very patient with my rusty French. I then crossed over to explore the Luxumbourg Palace gardens, sipping an Orangina as I went.
The gardens were far more open and crowded than I expected them to be, but lovely. The open space was immaculately cared for, and there were many Parisians enjoying lunch or a stroll or helping small children sail little boats in the fountains. There were many statues of famous women of France, and I randomly happened upon a film session of some sort. The palace itself was grand and imposing, with armed guards at each corner. It pleased me to see that they were female as well, I don’t know why. As I walked up to the Medici fountain, I had a pleasant conversation with a substitute teacher from Provence who recognized that I had an accent when he asked me why the fountain wasn’t running. I wish I had spoken with him more, but my shyness won over again.
Next stop was St. Sulpice. On the way I stopped in a lovely rose shop, buying some rose caramels that came in a bag full of rose petals that touted the shops name – Au Nom de la Rose. The shopkeeper seemed disgruntled when I walked in as he was outside having a smoke, but threw in an extra rose when he packed my candies.
St. Sulpice was magical. I’ve always had a love of old churches. I could almost feel the history of worshippers there, in the quiet majesty that seemed to want to knock me over. I walked by all the chapels of the saints and Our Lady. There were several people fervently praying, and although I had no wish to pry in their private moments, I could not help thinking that it was so beautiful to see. The bell towers reminded me of clarinets. I was almost due to meet up with Shani and Jeremy, friends from my first job at Epic in Wisconsin that just happened to be in Paris at the same time. I made a detour and slipped into St. Germain, another church. Though not intricate as St. Sulpice, or as well known, someone was practicing on the organ and the music bounced over the stone and echoed through the pews.
I booked it over to the Ie arrondisement to meet up with Shani and Jeremy. We had wanted to do a wine tasting at O Chateau, but I got there first to discover it was closed for a private party. Changing course, the three of us had several glasses of wine at La Grappe d’Or on Rue Monterguil, then took the metro back to the Latin Quarter for dinner. As we walked through the narrow streets looking for a place to eat, restaurant owners called out to us, trying to entice us to eat at their establishments. We chose a small, semi-Italian restaurant that seemed to have some vegetarian dishes. As I asked to make sure, Jeremy and Shani made me feel so good about my French. I suppose I sound like I’m a lot better at French to those who don’t speak hardly any! It was a needed confidence boost.
I chose traditional French fare for my three courses – escargots, beef bourguignon, and cheese for dessert. I will say escargots really aren’t that bad. If you like butter and garlic, which I dearly do, they’re fantastic. On principle we stopped to get some chocolate on the way back to the bus stop that would take us back to the Marais for the night. My eyes were way larger than my stomach – there was so much delicious looking chocolate. Piles of it throughout the store, all different shapes and sizes and colors. Even a scale model of Notre Dame made of nothing but the stuff. And yet, one piece and I was satisfied. Paris is so rich, and my meal was so recent, it was hard to have any more. Good thing I was doing so much walking.
We bid each other good night, with the promise of meeting up on the Friday to explore Versailles together.