Europe tour day 15: Touring Paris

On our 15th day in Europe, we woke up groggy to a cold 14-degree morning. We planned to visit two must-see places then see where our feet can take us for the rest of the day.

First stop, Sainte-Chapelle!

One end of Sainte-Chapelle.
One end of Sainte-Chapelle.
Sainte-Chapelle's rose window
Sainte-Chapelle’s rose window

Sainte-Chapelle is a beautiful Gothic chapel filled with preserved stained glass windows depicting scenes from the Old and New Testament. We had to line up outside for a few minutes then go up the stairs which was quite a tight fit. I’ve seen the pictures but I didn’t expect such magnificence. My family was also taken aback because all they knew was that we were going to a chapel with stained glass windows.

Sainte-Chapelle guides
Guides for the stained glass panels

I think I stood there gaping for a few seconds, imagining the people lucky enough to attend mass in such a beautiful place. Sainte-Chapelle was a testament to the craft and artistry of the builders.

One of the perks of not being part of the tour group was that we weren’t in a hurry. My parents enjoyed reading the guides that, thankfully, had English translations. Inside the small chapel was definitely an amalgam of several nationalities and languages as everyone excitedly took pictures or discussed the beauty before us.

I was more fascinated by the relic, Christ’s Crown of Thorns (pictured above), one of the most important relics in Christendom.

I was not a fan of gothic architecture until I’ve been to Munich. It felt dark and frightening to me. Sainte-Chapelle was undeniably gothic, and by this time I’ve learned to appreciate the style. There’s something darkly fascinating and beautiful in the combination of its spires and curves in what seems to be such a forbidding style. And in Sainte-Chapelle, the plain-colored façade is negated by the light and pops of color within the chapel.

Sante-Chapelle is a gothic architecture
Sainte-Chapelle is beautiful inside and out.

Sainte-Chapelle is located within the Palais de Justice courtyard, and the exit brought us directly outside to this beautiful building, the Palais de Justice. We didn’t know it was the law courts. We just kept taking pictures! Thankfully, the gendarmes (police) didn’t throw us out.

Outside the Palais de Justice
I got so excited seeing the motto of France: liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Afterward, I led my parents to the end of the street, towards our next stop: Notre-Dame de Paris. This one was a required stop for us. We only had to wait in line for a few minutes.

Scale model of the Notre-Dame de Paris
Scale model of the Notre-Dame de Paris

It wasn’t just the architecture of Notre-Dame that got us excited (and the flashbacks of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame that kept playing in my head); inside the beautiful cathedral are so many precious relics.

There is also an exhibit on the many changes the Notre-Dame went through the years since it was built in the 1600s. And despite the huge number of tourists milling around and taking pictures, I still felt the holiness of the ongoing celebration.

Inside Notre-Dame featuring its rose window.
Inside Notre-Dame featuring one its rose windows.
Even the door and arches have artistic renderings!
Even the door and arches have artistic renderings!

It was already lunchtime when we finished touring Notre-Dame so we had to find someplace to eat. We crossed the bridge because I read somewhere that there are numerous cheap places to eat nearby just by crossing the bridge. And along the way, I stumbled upon the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. To my family, it was just a Parisian bookstore, but to me, it was a haven for my bookworm soul. I was just trembling with excitement at being in the same place where people like George Whitman (who built this store on the Left Bank) and Anaïs Nin once slept or hung out. My dad and sister went looking around and finally read the history of the bookstore and they were so happy to have been there too!

Outside the Shakespeare & Company bookstore
Outside the Shakespeare & Company bookstore

So happy, in fact, that my dad had his photo taken outside the bookstore. Hehe! His photo’s better than mine!

Finally, with my mom grumbling in hunger, we found a small street filled with little eateries. We went inside the first one which was serving pita filled to the brim with meat and other toppings (according to the picture) for less than 3 euros. Afterward, I had my first (and last, sadly) crepe from the small kiosk across the street. It actually tasted just like the crepe from Cafe Breton here in the Philippines, but eating it in Paris made the experience memorable for me!

Our next stop was the Panthéon, which used to be a church dedicated to St. Genevieve and to house her relics, but is now a secular mausoleum of several famous French people. We didn’t know how to get there by train or bus, coming from where we ate, because I didn’t have data, so using the map, we simply walked. My mom was feeling chill and really, Paris’ streets are so beautiful that we didn’t mind.

The Panthéon
The Panthéon

Inside the Panthéon, we found Foucault’s pendulum, still swinging and moving! We were trying to find the tombs when my mom spotted a wall that got her calling my name.

Tribute wall to Antoine de Saint Exupery
Tribute wall to Antoine de Saint Exupery, whose body was never found

She had just finished reading The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery, on our way from Munich to Switzerland, and we both loved it so much.

Afterward, my dad and sister have finished admiring the Pendulum and going through one of the exhibits inside, and down we went to the crypt.

We found the tombs of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (I had my picture taken with it as a nod to my Political Economy roots), husband and wife scientists Pierre and Marie Curie (I do have to thank Pao for having shared with me the history of Marie Curie a few years back), the Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, a book I’ve read over five times), Victor Hugo (author of Les Misérables), and Voltaire.

Other notable figures I’m familiar with, who are buried there, are Émile Zola, Louis Braille (the one who invented the reading system for the blind and visually impaired), and Jean Monnet (again, a nod to political economy).

After the Panthéon, we were trying to find our way to avenue des Champs-Élysées on foot, when we passed by Les Invalides. My dad’s inner child came out and he asked if he could look inside the museum. Thankfully, Les Invalides was part of our Paris City Pass so we were able to enter at no charge. However, mom was really tired from all the walking so she just stayed in the courtyard while the three of us looked at guns and read up on more history.

Some of the books I’ve read have described the armor they used to wear during battle, but it was still incredible seeing them in real life. I didn’t know that swords and guns used to have prettier designs, compared to today when they seem be all about function. Also, some of the displays are not allowed to be photographed.

We left Les Invalides for a stroll along Avenue des Champs-Elysée, which took us almost two hours! This was probably the most epic time we’ve gotten lost because we were looking for the bus that can take us home from Champs-Elysée, so we opted to take the train but couldn’t figure out which train to ride and we just got even more lost. We finally found a bus that would take us to the bus stop of the bus that can let us get off very near our street. Everyone keeps saying French people are snobbish, but when they heard me ask the bus driver (in French) where the bus stop is, several ladies behind us helped me out.

When we got off the bus station, and I completely misunderstood the instructions, I came across an elderly French man walking his dog. I asked him where the bus stop was, and he held both my shoulders and told me I should take the train, nobody likes to take the bus, just take the train because it’s easier. He was so warm and kind, and talked to me in complete French too, even if I was bumbling. I guess they really do appreciate it when you try to talk in their language!

We got lost in Paris, yes, but I have no regrets because seeing Paris and walking along the non-touristy streets made me love the city more. Oh Paris, mon amour!

This picture captures how I imagine a sunny day in Paris :)
This picture captures how I imagine a sunny day in Paris 🙂

Please don’t grab my images and use them without permission. All photos are unedited except for the watermark I’ve placed.

Read about my Eurotrip!
Rome day 1-2
Rome day 3
Florence days 4-5
Pisa day 5
Venice day 6
Austria day 7
Munich days 8-9
Zürich days 10-11
Geneva day 12
Paris day 13
Paris day 14 – Touring the Louvre
Paris day 14 – Seine River Cruise
Paris day 14 – The Eiffel Tower
Paris day 16 – Last day in Paris & hop on-hop off tour

Other links you might find helpful:

Getting ready for Europe  |  Preparing your Schengen visa requirements  |  Booking your hotel and plane fare  |  Filling out the Schengen visa form  |  How to apply to the Italian embassy thru Via  |  Cross-country train travel in Europe

One Reply to “Europe tour day 15: Touring Paris”

  1. […] Read about my Eurotrip! Rome day 1-2 Rome day 3 Florence days 4-5 Pisa day 5 Venice day 6 Austria day 7 Munich days 8-9 Zürich days 10-11 Geneva day 12 Paris day 13 Paris day 14 – Touring the Louvre Paris day 14 – Seine River Cruise Paris day 14 – The Eiffel Tower Paris day 15 – Touring Paris […]

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