Saturday, 5 January 2008

Paris: Part 3

On Friday we jumped straight onto the metro and headed back towards the Île de la Cité where we were going to visit La Conciergerie, a former palace and prison, and its Salle de Gens d'Arms is the largest surving gothic hall in the world.

We took ourselves on a tour of the hall and connecting cells where the soon-to-be executed 'enemies of the revolution' were held. It was quite interesting to read the names and professions of the people who had been guillotined.

Next door (and a quite significant queue later) is the Saint-Chappelle, the chapel of Louis IX, built to house his collection of holy relics. The stained glass in this chapel is amazing, taking up almost the entirity of the wall space of the chapel. Some people say this chapel is a highlight over even Notre Dame and it would be difficult to disagree with them.

Now this is where it gets a bit hazy because I didn't take any photos, but somewhere in here we walked around the Latin Quarter, visiting the Christmas markets (where Linda saw some lamb's-wool gloves she would covet for the remainder of our trip) and had a very minimal snack in a highly overpriced café. We rounded this off with a lightning-fast visit (if you exclude the queue-sitting) to the Musée d'Orsay, which holds some amazing pieces of impressionist art.

Considering our late start, and the amount of time we spent waiting around in queues, it was already getting dark and we decided against scaling the Eiffel Tower in favour of taking a ride on the ferris wheel that sits in the Place de la Concorde. We thought this would be a bit of a disappointment and that we were doing it more 'because it is there' than through high expectations of what we would see; perhaps this is why we thought it was so fantastic!

When we got to the top of the ferris wheel we had an amazing view over Paris, with the Eiffel Tower in one direction, up the Champs-Elysees in another, and the rest of Paris behind us. We went crazy snapping photos, sparing a few moments to take advantage of the romantic location (the Italian couple in the same car, who were clearly more focussed on the romance aspect, must have thought we were a bit weird).

Have I mentioned we did a lot of walking around Paris? We continued walking up the Sienne and past the Grand Palais before grabbing a Croque Monsieur in a cafe near the Eiffel Tower (it would be an ongoing mission throughout our trip to find the perfect Croque Monsieur) and ultimately going for a stroll under the tower. As an aside, I actually had a preference for the Croque-Madame, which is the same thing but with a fried egg on top - how can you argue with that!

Because the Eiffel Tower is such a conspicuous landmark, and because it was doing an hourly flashy-light show, I think we must have taken about a zillion photos of it. The same can probably be said for Notre Dame, which is similarly spectacular when lit up at night.

Our ultimate disappointment in the Eiffel Tower would not come until later in our trip.

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