Monday, February 23

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

We woke up early today so we could get to the Louvre and be in line before it opened. Of course, I got up too late, so we had to rush to get there. When we got there, we were shocked at how few people we saw. We were thinking, what’s all this about long lines? This is nothing! Well. Turns out that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. So yeah. We’re smart.
We walked over to the Museé d’Orsay, another museum that we wanted to see, just a couple blocks away. There was quite a long line at the Orsay. After we’d been in line about 45 minutes, it started to rain/sleet. Luckily, we had our umbrellas, but it was awfully cold. We finally got into the museum after another 30 minutes. We had another Rick Steves audio tour for the Orsay, and it was awesome. The tour told us exactly where to go, and which piece to look at, then he’d explain the history or background of the piece we were looking at. I don’t know a lot about art or art history, so this was the way to go. The Museé d’Orsay is pretty cool. It’s in an old train station, so it’s got this long central hall with a high arched ceiling. We saw lots of Impressionism there.
It was still drizzling when we left the museum. We walked through the Jardin des Touilleries, stopping at a café in the park for lunch. This park has beautifully manicured lawns and shrubs, but they weren’t so impressive in the winter. We saw a pond with a thin sheet of ice on it, and these birds were walking on the ice. Yes, it was that cold. Afterward, we continued on through the park to see the Place de la Concorde. This is where the big obelisk is, where the guillotine was in the late 18th century.
After looking through our guidebook, we decided to check out Des Invalides and Napoleon’s Tomb. This is the military history museum. We thought it might be awesome, but it turned out to be really disorganized and not tourist-friendly. Most of the building was being renovated, so hardly any exhibits were open (which they failed to tell you before you went inside). In a four-story building, three floors were closed. We did see these old models of land that were used for army tactics and strategizing were kind of cool, but that’s about it. We asked someone where Napoleon’s tomb was, and we were told that it was closed. This was really disappointing, because that seemed like the main attraction there. But there must have been some sort of language barrier, because on our way out, we saw a sign that pointed toward the tomb, so we followed it, and a few minutes later we were there. It was in a different building altogether, though our tickets got us into both. I don’t think our guidebook explained that very well. This new building was much bigger, more elaborate, and much more impressive than the military museum. It had this huge gilded dome and lots of marble everywhere. The tomb itself was enormous. Thirty people could have fit inside it. Maybe Napoleon had a bit of a Napoleon complex, eh? (Ha!)

Next, we took the metro to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. There was no line, but we had to climb about a thousand steps to get there. We’d read that the view from the steps of the Sacré-Coeur was the best in Paris, but it was super misty and foggy, so . . . no such view. Outside the church we saw a guy who looked like he was ready to propose to someone. He had candles, a picnic basket, two glasses of champagne, and he kept looking around for someone. He was clearly waiting and watching for someone, and he looked nervous. I wanted to see the proposal, so we waited about 15 minutes, but she never came, so we went on inside.
It's not a great picture, but he had candles and everything!

The basilica was neat. it had a big round dome, not cross-shaped like the other cathedrals we’ve seen. This felt like a real church, not so much like a historical monument. People were really there to pray and such, and it all felt more serene, somehow.

We walked around the area for a long time—Montmartre. There were tons of cool little shops, and charming restaurants, and it was all very lively and Parisian. We walked to the Moulin Rouge, which did not look very historic. We wanted to go in, but it cost something like 160 € per person just to get in. We ended up going to dinner at a little place a block or two away, and it was awesome. We had goat cheese salad and a pizza. I think the pizza was called “pizza du chef” and it had little pieces of hot dog (okay, hot-dog-like sausage) and a fried egg on it. Weird, but not bad.
After dinner, we thought we’d go back to the Eiffel Tower and go up to the top. Since tomorrow’s New Year’s Eve, we were afraid it might be closed, and we didn’t want to miss it. Who knows when we’ll be back, you know? So we make our way over there. Andrew wanted to try to get off the metro at a different stop this time, because he thought it was closer. We got off and walked toward the tower, and about ten minutes later, we were at the stop we should have gotten off at. When we finally got there, we found out that the entire thing was closed because of ice. We felt really stupid for not going up yesterday. BUT! We took more pictures!
Tomorrow we’ll try the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower again. Cross your fingers that they’ll be open this time!

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