Day 2: The Historic Heart of Paris

Sainte-Chappelle

Best of Paris Itinerary: Let’s begin where Paris did, on the Île de la Cité. Your guide will lead a walking tour of the city’s early history, including visits to a pair of the world’s most significant medieval Gothic churches: the legendary Notre-Dame Cathedral and the exquisite Sainte-Chapelle. Then we’ll take a stroll through the bohemian Latin Quarter, with free time for lunch on your own. We’ll end our afternoon at the Cluny National Museum of the Middle Ages, where after an introduction, you’ll be free to visit the sublime Lady and the Unicorn tapestry and have a rare, up-close look at the artistry of original stained-glass windows from Sainte-Chapelle. Walking: moderate.

Journal

Monday, May 2
We met with the tour group after breakfast, and jumped right into an orientation on the Metro system – at Monday morning rush hour! We bravely took the underground subway to the Île de la Cité, historical center of Paris. First we stopped at the fabulous Sainte-Chapelle, famous for its beautiful stained glass windows, and continued to Notre-Dame, Paris’ cathedral, known for its hunchback Quasimodo. We spent a lot of time looking at the facade and portals to the cathedral, learning about the significance of the statues and the the stories they tell.

At lunch time, we joined Julie and Suzi for an outdoor salad lunch in the Latin Quarter. After lunch, Arnaud led a tour through the quaint Latin Quarter, passed by Odeon theater, Luxembourg Gardens, the Pantheon, the Sobonne University, and Musée de Cluny, which is entirely dedicated to medieval art, and has a display of the famous The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. We explored the museum, then headed back to the hotel with some others from our group.

I tried out the Google Translate app to interpret an urgent-looking sign at the bus stop, but it has its limitations – the bus route was either cancelled completely, or just one stop on the route was closed. Our small group compared notes about whether anyone had actually seen the bus we were waiting for … and eventually, one showed up, so all was well. Note for next time: work on more vocabulary about transportation – tickets, closures, delays, “where is the Metro station?” and “why is the airport terminal closed off?” 😬

In the evening, we had a light supper with Katie at Bistro St Dominique: baked camembert cheese with honey, served with a baguette; ham & cheese omelette. As we walked home, Mom was struck by a sudden urge for crepes, so we popped into an odd little restaurant down the street. (The place always seemed closed, with a locked door, although you could sometimes see a woman standing in the back.) The creperie was empty but its door was open this time, so we gave it a try – the sweet crepes were fine, mine was even served on fire! 🔥 A good ending to an action-packed day.

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.”

– Thomas Jefferson

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