Exploring the City of Lights
After a nice hike in the rain with our luggage to the bus stop, a bumpy ride on the bus to the train station and a short nap on the train – we’ve made it to Paris. Ahh, the city of lights. The city of romance. The city of rain? Apparently it has been raining in Paris for quite some time and it doesn’t seem like it is going to let up any time soon as there is rain in the forecast almost every day we are going to be here. Oh well, a walk in the rain in Paris is still a walk in Paris.
After a visit to an amazing cultural museum called Qui Branley, most of the group decided to take a bike tour of the city. My roommate and I decided to skip the bikes, explore on foot and maybe take in another museum or two.
From Qui Branley we walked toward the Eiffel Tower. Because the weather was so overcast, we decided against going up in the Tower; we’ll save that for a sunnier day. But we did decide it was a good opportunity for a photo op while we walked by. Who can pass up a chance to take a photo with the Eiffel Tower as your backdrop?
Next we decided we should visit Notre Dame Cathedral. So we set the Cathedral as our destination and set out in search of the nearest Metro station. Across from the Eiffel Tower is the Seine River and we decided it would make a nice view to walk by while we seek out a way to get to the cathedral.
One thing we quickly noticed was that all of the rain had caused the Seine River to rise incredibly high. It wasn’t that many feet from the top of the arches of the bridges. And as we walked further down the river, we found signs stating that all of the river cruises were “grounded” for the next three days because of the high waters. We walked past a park on the bank of the river but the water was up to the top of the trash cans and you could barely tell there once was a park there. At one point we passed police officers closing off access points to the river. Later in the evening, we would find out that the river is usually only about 3-6 feet high and it was currently about 15 feet above normal and this was the worst flooding of the river in 90 years.
After a short trip on the Metro, we managed to make our way to Notre Dame. No hunchbacks were spotted in the bell tower but it was a beautiful building and a wonderful experience. The stained glass windows were exquisite and it was refreshing to see how respectful and reverent visitors were to the holy place.
Across the plaza from Notre Dame is the Crypte Archéologique Du Parvis Notre-Dame. The Crypte is literally located underneath the feet of all the people walking in the plaza to go to Notre Dame. We weren’t sure what we would find there but decided to use our museum pass to check it out since we were in the area and we had planned to visit the catacombs later in the week. But this crypte wasn’t a burial site like we had expected. In fact, it was a burial site for a city. Underground we discovered the partially excavated remains of a Roman city that was once Paris almost 2000 years ago.
After all of this walking and exploring, evening was setting in and most museums were closing. Plus, we were starting to get a little tired and began to think about heading back to the hotel. But we decided we would check out one last place before calling it a day. Realizing we weren’t that far from the Louvre, we decided we would at least take some pictures from the outside while we were in the area. But upon arriving at the world famous art museum, we discovered this was one of the two nights a week that they are open late. Re-energized, we jumped in line figuring our legs would hold out on us long enough that we could at least make it to see the famous Mona Lisa.
We quickly headed straight for the famous painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. The painting is behind glass, guarded, and behind a barricade. But two things surprised me about the famous work: first, the crowd was much smaller than I expected and we were quickly able to get to the front of the line to see it and take pictures and second, the painting is much smaller than I had imagined.
Before our legs gave out for the evening, we decided to also check out the sculptures of Winged Victory of Samothrace and the Venus de Milo. Both were beautiful and impressive. However that was as far as our legs would take us. After a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the hotel.
Later in the evening, we met back up with the rest of the group and discovered just how strenuous the bike tour was. We also found out from television and social media that the flooding of the Seine River had gotten so bad that the Louvre would be closed for the rest of the week to move art from the lower levels to protect it from the water. Looks like our decision to skip the bike ride paid off in several ways.