Monday, July 4, 2011

Day 6 in Paris, part 2 - Saint-Chapelle, Eiffel Tower up close.

Since Sainte-Chapelle was our next target, we exited the RER from Versailles at St.Michel Notre-Dame.
Here's St.Michel himself at the fountain at his Place.

Just looking around, anything in Paris will look good in fine weather, even a tour bus.

We could not avoid queuing at the security check at Sainte-Chapelle with the Museum Pass but once we got through that we just went straight in bypassing the ticket queue. There were two security check points, one for tourists (visiting the Sainte-Chapelle) and the other for locals (going into the Palace of Justice) but the guard will sometime direct tourists to the other one to hasten the flow. From the outside, the Saint-Chapelle was not very impressive.

However, at the entrance level, it was already very colourful

but when we climbed the narrow spiral staircase up to the upper level, what we saw was really awe-inspiring; the whole building was full of stained glass. Wow!

Every panel retells stories from the Bible and one can spend the whole day deciphering them. That's why they provided chairs all around but the chapel is quite small so it can get pretty crowded.

But choose a sunny day (if you have that luxury) in order to see the beauty of the stained glass.

Even the flooring is a work of art.

We then went into the Conciergerie next door which was originally a palace but later used as a prison during the French Revolution for the condemned, including Marie Antoinette. We would not have visited this if not because we had the Museum Pass. That is another advantage of the Pass as you could visit places not on your list that you passed by but will venture in since such places are already paid for.

It was very barren inside

but upstairs there were rooms recreated to show the prison scene including the cell of Marie Antoinette. And there was a simple chapel.

This was all rather depressing so we headed out to the sunshine of Paris. As next on my list was the Pompidou Centre, we went to the nearest metro station, the Cite, one of the oldest in Paris and the entrance was very ornamental.

After you have descended the stairs, you have to take a lift to get to the platform below. We changed at Chatelet for the Rambuteau stop to get to the Pompidou Centre.

It was a disappointment since the much vaunted exterior of the Centre was not as colourful as I imagined. It was a happening place with many unique street performers but perhaps good for the not so old and the young at heart.

We could not get to the front of the centre to see the Stravinsky Fountains as the road was closed for some reasons. Later I learned that the fountain area was closed for renovation or restoration of the fountains. My wife was also not keen to venture inside for the modern art so I could not squeeze the last euro out of my Museum Pass but I have already got my money's worth.

Instead we went into the Church of St. Merri and this was the most depressing church that I have seen in Paris. It appeared run-down in parts and in need of some restoration. Maybe because I have just seen the Palace of Versailles.

I was pouring over my map of Paris to decide where to go next when a nice elderly French gentleman offered to help. To accept his goodwill, I asked where Hotel de Ville was and he pointed me in the right direction. So this was a genuine assistance and not a scam. This City Hall (not a hotel) was decked in the Tricolour for the D-Day memorial, I believe.

We hopped into BHV that was nearby for my wife to do her window-shopping since my daughter has asked her to check the prices for a Longchamps design. The BHV is a departmental store that is less popular than Galeries Lafayette and so less crowded with tourists.

Since that design was not available here, the shop person gave us direction to the flagship Longchamps store at Rue de Honrue. We hoped into a Metro and exited at Concorde and the Longchamps store was right in front at the corner of rue St.Honore. After doing what she had to do, we took the Metro again and this time was to the Eiffel Tower as it was still too early for dinner and I wanted to get close to the Tower. The queue was still very long so we just sat and admired the Tower from close up. The Tower looks good at any angle.

There were also some good views of the Chaillot Palace and the Trocadero Garden going towards Tocaredo.

We decided to have dinner at the Chinese takeaway (where there are also seats for sit-down dinner) which my wife liked the barbecue pork spare ribs very much on our first night in Bastille. Unfortunately, this particular dish was not available so we had braised duck instead. We went back to our hotel in Porte Doree and tucked in early to prepare for our final full day in Paris.

Ronald Kwok

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