T'is the Silly Seasons. Falling Madly into Tourist Trap. Walking into Bridge of Love Locks Blindly.
30.03.2013 5 °C
We went to the Information Centre on Rue Saint-Honoré. We wanted to buy the Paris Pass so skip the queues to museums, specifically Palace of Versailles. Well, we couldn't escape the queue in the Information Centre. This is to be expected during Easter weekend holiday (or as the French calls it, funny enough, 'Bank Holiday'). The queue for the Paris Pass was about ½ hour long.
The queue for the Louvre was much longer. As the Information Centre isn't far from the Louvre, we thought we just dropped in for a quick visit. I guess this is the Easter weekend crowd despite being in the low season. We didn't plan to go in as we already visited it the last time (I wasn't impressed by the crowd then). Judging from the queue, it would be much worse once you're inside.
We could order a Paris Pass while in Singapore, but the postage is killing the advantage if we only want a 3 Day Pass. As we headed back to the Tuileries Metro station, we passed a Chinese restaurant locates at the corner of Rue Saint-Honoré and Rue des Pyramides, not far from the statue of Joan of Arc.
The restaurant in question bears the quaint name of Auberge des Trois Bonheurs ("Inn of the Three Joys") and Chinese name is 福祿壽 ("Fu Lu Shou"). I love French food as much as any Francophile, but after days of chewing croissants, and baguettes, I decided to give my tired jaws a holiday. We were desperate for some homesick Chinese food (our homes are Singapore and Sydney, which have excellent Chinese cuisines. Especially Sydney, which has far better Chinese restaurants than Singapore).
We ordered seafood noodle and a soup noodle. The soup noodle is ridiculous, and the stir-fry seafood noodle is passable. We spent the rest of the day sightseeing Île de la Cité. This is one area that worth a 2nd visit.
This is an island lies in the Seine. London has the Thames, Cairo has the Nile, and Paris has the Seine. It's pretty safe to say that cities that are older than 1 millennium grew out of rivers. Port cities like Sydney (in fact, all Australian capital cities), Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai are upstarts because international maritime trade didn't really take off until the 16th century.
The island lies smack bang in the centre of Paris, which is encircled by ring-road that's appropriately called Bd Peripherique (Periphery Bvd). And not surprisingly, it's also the birth place of Paris. In fact, its archaeological remains of the ancient Paris is buried underground just in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral. We descended into Crypte Archéologique (Archeological Crypt) to visit the archaeological excavation revealing successive layers of the city.
Of course, Notre-Dame is the star attraction on the isle. Nothing puts a holiday destination on the map quite like Hollywood today. Before movies came along, it was novels that caused tourists to flock to the place. In this case, Victor Hugo's. Especially his creation Quasimodo. Unfortunately the queue outside the cathedral was only slightly shoter than the Louvre. T'is the Silly Seasons of Easter weekend.
Notre-Dame Cathedral wrote the book on flying buttresses. To be precise, the Notre-Dame often used as a classical example in architecture textbook when flying buttresses are cited. If I remember correctly from my 1st and my only year of architecture study where the students are required to buy the heavy tome of Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture. That and its close neighbour Saint Chapelle are cited for its structures of flying buttress.
La Sainte Chapelle (St Chapellle) was having a competition with its rival and neighbour Notre-Dame for the length of its queue, we decided not to waste time see who would win, there're many more fishes in the ocean (and tourist sights in the isle).
The queue outside La Conciergerie is losing the rivalries to the above 2 locations, we loved to lend a pity visit. The prison system in this place probably invented the systems of classes in hospitality industry from airline to hotels where the rich get better accommodation while the commoners get more basic setup. I also learnt that many famous political prisoners passing through here including Queen Marie Antoinette, who stayed here before her head was dropped into the bucket to quench the rage of the Parisian mob.
If there's a tourist trap in Paris, it's called Les Deux Magots. I'm willingly fell into it like kid in a candy store (or a caffeine addict in a coffee shop). It's a cafe that was frequented by notable artists and philosophers in the early 20th century with luminaries like Ernest Hemmingway, Pablo Picasso, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, etc.
Apart from their associations, this is a cafe like every other. Well, except for the 2 large Chinese sculptures of seated Chinese Mandarins attached high on a pillar. The coffee shop's full name was taken from a popular play titled Les Deux Magots de la Chine (Two Figurines from China). They're actually considerably larger than figurine size. They're in fact, life-size.
My defence to Etta for coming here was that since we need to grab some (late) lunch, this was as good a place as any. And it locates only minutes walk from Saint-Germain-des-Prés metro, which is only a 3 stops from Cité metro on Line 4. We ordered a club sandwich, and it turned out to be not too shabby. The coffee is a typical decent drop of French brew.
After the delicious lunch, Etta directed me to our next item on the itinerary: Le Panthéon. By the time we got there after some 10 mins walk later, we were greeted by a shut gate. I don't believe we were late. As it turned out, the building I was taken to wasn't the Panthéon, but in fact Institut de France. To an untrained eyes, they could easily mistaken for each other, especially if you a
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