23 Feb 2005

From London, we travel through the chunnel on the Eurostar, a high-speed train that boasts something like a 97% on-time arrival rate. Our train arrives in Paris 53 minutes late. From the Gare du Nord train station, we walk to our hotel. We eat lunch at a nearby café. We ride the Paris Metro and the RER train to the Eiffel Tower. We ride the elevators to the top to see the view, and it's snowing while we're up there. After the ride down, we meet up with Gerritt's friend Amy and her husband and have dinner.

24 Feb 2005

After breakfast, we walk to Gare de L'Est, where I get my photo taken in a photo booth in tribute to the movie Amélie. Next, we ride the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe, which sits on a hill at the center of a terrible traffic circle. We walk down an avenue, past a square called the Place de la Concorde, and to the Musée du Louvre. We see the Mona Lisa — well-known for being famous — and other impressive works of art. After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we ride the Metro to the Cimetière du Père Lachaise, the ornate cemetary where Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are burried, among others. Unfortunately for us, the guards are not letting tourists in. Pleas from a small crowd of Doors fans, like fans trying to get backstage, fall on deaf ears. Defeated, we ride the Metro to Sacré-Coeur, an impressive church set high upon a hill in the neighborhood of Montmartre. The view from the top is beautiful. However, Montmartre is so overrun with tour groups and aggressive street hawkers that it falls short of charming. (This is Amélie's neighborhood, which accounts for its popularity with tourists.) We decide to walk down the hill and investigate the Passages Couverts (covered walkways) along Montmartre Poissonniére, which are pretty nice. We have dinner in this area and take the Metro back to the hotel.

25 Feb 2005

We begin the day with a quick morning walk to the Canal Saint-Martin, which is near our hotel. Then we ride the Metro to make a second attempt to enter Cimetière du Père Lachaise. Denied. We ride the Metro to Îla de la Cité, home of two great cathedrals, Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. We visit both, then have a lunch of crêpes in the nearby Quartier Latin. At 3 p.m., we see the display of the "crown of thorns" at Notre Dame, which is paraded through the church in an elaborate ceremony of costumes, organ music, chanting, and incense. The church trots out this holy relich one Friday a month and every Friday during Lent. We are unable to get close enough to inspect it, but the "crown" is housed in a glass or clear plastic tube decorated with gold. We pick up a leaflet that cites a historic record of the crown dating to 409; it arrived in Paris in 1239. From the island, we walk to the Musée d'Orsay, an art museum in a building that once was a train station. The museum is noted for its impressionism collection, which is beautiful. Next, we walk back across the Seine and visit the Samaritaine department store, which has wonderfully modern furniture and kitchen gear which I can't afford. Dinner nearby, then back to the hotel. Tomorrow, we will ride to the airport and fly home to the U.S.

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