Saturday, January 15, 2011


Wow, what a busy last 36 hours I've had. Yesterday after I quit writing I did some things on the computer and then attempted to sleep but just couldn't. My body does not adjust to different time zones well. I didn't fall asleep until soon after 6am, and then got up at 9am. I had a busy day to get started on.
It was raining but not too hard, and I didn't want to carry around my huge umbrella all day. Also, I wore my running shoes in hopes they'd support my foot better. Big mistake. As I was walking to the Metro I bought a cheap umbrella (for 5 Euro!!) that was small and easier to cart around all day.
Living in New York I've seen plenty of subway performers, but these guys with all their instruments were really great.

I got over to the little island where Notre Dame is and there was one small burst of wind and my umbrella broke. Awesome.
And my feet were getting wet. Sweet. And I couldn't find Notre Dame. Luckily, everyone I've asked for help has been so nice. A man ran out into the rain to make sure he was giving me the right directions. I finally found it, and felt like a drowned rat.
I was actually very happy with the way the photo turned out. You'd never know how disheveled and frustrated I was.

The cathedral was beautiful! And huge! I loved all the stained glass.
I also noticed a little room available for confession with a session happening. I've always thought the Catholic approach to confession was sort of cool.

I made my way over to the treasury where I'd read that I'd see Christ's crown of thorns. I was so excited about this. Sadly, it turns out it's only available to be seen on the first Friday of every month, and certain holidays (like Easter.) However, my audio guide informed me I'd be able to see part of the wood from Christ's cross, and one of the nails.
I was really confused though, I didn't see either anywhere. Wouldn't this be something that's well marked and attracting mobs of people? Strangely, it wasn't.
I found the piece of the cross, which was amazing to see. It's just a small piece, probably an inch or two in length and about the width of a pretzel stick.

I never did see the nail. I asked the woman at the entrance to the treasury but she spoke little English. I was grateful for what I was able to see.
Next I headed to Sainte Chapelle and the Conciergerie. I'd read that there'd be a line and there was, but not bad. Sadly, they were stopping letting people in at 12:30, but I could come back at 2. I missed the cutoff by just a few people.
Oh well, I wanted to go home and get my rain boots and umbrella. I stopped at a little boutique near my place that Gina had told me about called Lollipops. It was so cute but pricier than I normally shop. I decided it's not every day that I'm in Paris and I deserved to treat myself a little. I bought a big handbag and a necklace. I'd been wanting a handbag big enough to fit my laptop for when I travel for a long time. So this was perfect.
Then I went home, changed, made lunch, and rested my food for a bit. About twenty minutes later I headed back out.
I got in line for Sainte Chapelle about 2:10 and was there about an hour. It was sort of torturous, but, I finally made it in. Sadly, I found out La Conciergerie had closed at 3 that day. Sad.
I went into Sainte Chapelle and thought, "This is cool....but.....really?" I'd heard it was supposed to have the most beautiful stained glass in the world. It was just a small chapel with some pretty windows and a gift shop. I took a few photos, looked around, and ten minutes after thought, "Well that was a total waste."

I did think it was cool how old and antiquey the walls were.

Then as I was exiting I noticed a staircase. Hmmm......I went up and, oh my goodness, it was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.
Two views. Because I took a million photos here and this is when I just couldn't decide which I liked better.
The walls were basically made of stained glass. It was so beautiful I almost cried.
It was spectacular. I'm just so sad I couldn't see it on a sunny day because everything I read about it said it's best to see in the afternoon light. (It was afternoon, but it was grey and raining.)
Looking straight up.

I died over this. It's my favorite thing I saw in Paris. I think there's 1000 windows stained, telling the story of the world, square by square, from Adam and Eve to the Apocalypse.
Again with the struggle, to get a clear shot. And really? Did you need to include basically my whole body? I was kinda going for a shot of the walls with me just in it, but.....whatev.

Absolutely amazing. No one visiting Paris should miss it.
These signs are all over and saved my life.

Next I was off to Sacre Coeur. What a hike it was to that place.
This shot doesn't do justice. It was a freaking work out.
The view from the top. Probably better on a clear day but I still appreciated it.

It is massive. No photos were allowed so it was nice to just sit and reflect. Sometimes I love when photos aren't allowed because then I can just relax and enjoy, rather than stressing over missing the perfect photo op.
Maybe it was just the exhaustion setting in, but to me, Sacre Coeur was.....another church. I mean, it was really cool to see, but I wouldn't have cried if I'd missed it.

Then I took the funicular (people mover) down the hill to reward myself for climbing up. I was starving so I popped into a little restaurant. I've enjoyed using the little French I know.
After eating I headed to the Moulin Rouge. It was a longer walk than I'd anticipated and I knew the neighborhood was a bit sketchy so I got paranoid since it had gotten dark.
There were people out but the vibe definitely felt different. I managed to get a quick photo of Avenue Rachel, and then two shots at the Moulin Rouge.

Next, the Arc de Triumphe. At this point I was pretty thrashed, but still motivated.
Luckily the Parisians mark the underground so well, so I was able to come out from the Metro right on Champs Elysees in the front of the Arc for some great photos. And then I couldn't figure out how to get across the busy street to go up. Hopefully I'm not the first person to experience this. I was so confused (I'm blaming exhaustion.)
Tired of the same old pose so I threw in a peace sign to jazz it up.

I went back underground, asked for directions, and ended up in the same spot. I asked again, and then it all came together. There's a place that goes underground to the Arc that was basically right in front of me, but I was oblivious.
I made it over and headed in. (By the way, if you're planning to go to Paris and not quite 26, go before your birthday. So many places have a cheaper entrance fee if you're under 26 and I felt too guilty to lie.)
I knew there was an elevator somewhere, but I wasn't in the mood to figure it out. So I braved the stairs. I was definitely at that, "Let's get this over with so I can cross it off my list" point. I was feeling so exhausted and a little sick.
Running on almost no sleep, complete exhaustion, being out of breath, and dizzy, made for a blurry shot when I got to the top, and I didn't care. Get me a bench!

I made it to the top and the view was gorgeous. I looked around, snapped a few photos, and was on my way.

"Oooooh Champs Elysees, OOOOHHHH Champs Eleysees..." Anyone else know that song?
So pretty. I love that there's really no competition around.
Tomb of the unknown soldier at the bottom.

I was planning on stopping at a pastry place that was recommended to me by three different people, because I was right by it, but I hadn't written down the exact address and I couldn't bring myself to wander the Champs Elysees. I couldn't get home soon enough. I'd basically slept three hours in the last 48.
I tried to stay up as long as possible but at 8:30 I couldn't fight it any longer and gave in.
And then it was 2am and I was awake. I don't get it. If I was that tired at home I would have easily slept for 10 hours. (* It's true, I slept 5 hours on the flight home, and then another solid 11 in my bed that night.) Despite my efforts I was up for good. At least I could get an early start to the day. (Not THAT early, I was on my computer till 6:30. Thank goodness the place had wifi.)
As I'd been dozing I was thinking about how sad I was that I didn't get to see the crown of thorns, and then it dawned on me-THIS is the first Friday of the month!! I got online and after doing some research found out there's a whole ceremony they do at 3pm. Hmm, that won't work for me. I didn't see anything about the crown being on display during the day, and I wouldn't be able to call anyone to ask till 9:30. The cathedral opened at 8am so I made my way over at 8:30.

The view out my window my last morning.

Sadly, they don't display it before. I tried to figure out how I could make it work, but I had to pick up my luggage at noon, and there was no luggage allowed in the cathedral. I'd already researched place to store luggage during the day, and there really weren't any. Sad. Talk about disappointment.
Then I headed over to the Conciergerie since it was closed the day before and I was right there. I was first in line which was nice to beat the crowds. It was interesting. I wouldn't say it's a must see, but if you're seeing Sainte Chapelle (which you must!) you might as well because you can buy a combo ticket.

It was cool to see Marie Antoinette's prison cell while she waited for the guillotine. (Can you imagine if we still did that today?) Beating the crowds definitely made it creepy. When I was in the area by the jail cells I was by myself, it was dark and quiet, and they have mannequins in the cells. It was totally creepy. I think that place is haunted.

After I finished there I rushed to the Musee d'Orsay. Everyone raved about it, and it was right up my alley. I love Impressionism. There were a lot of Monets and Van Goghs, and several others. I didn't get nearly the time I would have liked. It was packed though, so I wasn't too sad to leave.
My last spot was the Champs Elysees. I'm glad I can say I walked down it a bit, and I found Laduree. It's a really nice pastry shop. (I should have known, considering the address.) I got some macaroons because that's what everyone recommends. To be honest they've never looked appealing to me, but I loved them! I had to make one more stop at the crepe guy on the street since we've become friends (and because I wanted another body is ready for detox.) He was so nice and we chatted for a few minutes, he gave me his number and made me promise I'd come back and then I had to head to the apartment to pick up my luggage. I'm not looking forward to schlepping to Charles de Gaulle, but I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.
Paris has been very kind and I will definitely be back. Looking back now it seems silly to be worried about my safety here. Obviously I always need to be smart, but it was so easy to get around and the people were so nice. Thank you Paris!
I've been sitting here in Starbucks for the last two hours and my flight's not for another five, but I think I'll get on my way and quit prolonging the process.
What an amazing week it's been. I'm so grateful to my friends for their recommendations, my family for their support, and my Heavenly Father for keeping me safe.
So long Paris- I will be back! Au revoir!!


Janie's World said...

You got some great pictures, Rachel. St. Chapelle is so beautiful, prettier than any church I've been in ever! I'm so happy that you finally made it to Europe.

Michelle said...

these are great pics. Where to next?

Anonymous said...

These are some amazing shots. The stained glass walls look AMAZING. I'm worried about your foot woman.

Ang said...

I have loved reading all your posts about your trip! When is your next trip? I can't wait to take it via YOU!

Elise said...

Looks so great. I am glad you were able to go & explore.

Kate said...

Rachel: I loved reading your blog and seeing the pictures. I could feel your emotion coming through your words. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us, who live vicariously through you! You're such an amazing girl... and I love the way you love life and get the most out of it. You're awesome. I love you -- Aunt Kate

Debbie said...

such great pictures honey! yes, you are very good at describing your trip and your feelings. Brought back some great memories for me when I was in France last summer!