Our second day in Paris (see photos from the first day in an earlier post) started with a walk around Bercy looking for a suitable breakfast spot. It was great to step out of our hotel right into a street market (the “Marché Daumesnil”) along Boulevard de Reuilly – while there was the usual market tat (more socks or DVD’s anyone?) there was also lots of good looking fresh produce (the market is every Tuesday and Friday morning). After taking a few wrong turns we ended up having great omelettes at the Irish Corner Cafe looking onto the Nation traffic circle – apart from some green decor there was very little to indicate that it was anything other than a normal cafe… Then we hopped onto the Metro and headed to the Louvre, ready to explore one of the world’s most visited museums!
Brigitte’s plan for the Louvre was to see the western European masters and the furnished rooms – my plan was to keep up with her! But we almost immediately changed our plans when I saw that we could visit the foundations of the medieval Louvre castle – it was really weird (and interesting) to be walking around the castle’s moat underground. The Richelieu wing of the Louvre was great – the apartments of Napoleon III were plush and gaudy and completely amazing…
On of my favourite spots was the sculpture courtyards (Cour Marly and Cour Puget) on the ground floor of the Richlieu wing. It was a beautiful day, so bright sunlight was streaming in on a variety of large marble and brass sculptures. It was a great place to sit down and read the stories behind some of these ancient and massive artworks. Pierre Puget‘s sculptures of Milo of Croton, Perseus and Andromeda, and others really impressed me – I enjoyed being able to view then up close (although this unnerved one of the museum attendants who would have preferred me to be standing a bit further away).
There were some interesting contemporary art surprises in the Louvre for us – for example seeing Wim Delvoye’s modern sculptures tucked in amongst the mid 19th century pieces in the Napoleon III apartments. Similarly, spotting François Morellet‘s “L’Esprit d’escalier” stain glass windows in the stairway of the Richlieu wing – windows that are designed to look like they are open (or falling open maybe?) – was a lovely find. Although, Cy Twombly’s ceiling painting in the Salle de Bronzes was rather a contrast – neither of us could appreciate anything about it…
We had some refreshments at the Richlieu cafe and enjoyed the excellent view of the Louvre’s main courtyard. But after a good few hours in the Louvre we were starting to feel pretty tired and ready to leave… but we still needed to pop past the Denon wing for the obligatory visit to the Mona Lisa.
Leaving the Louvre we walked through the Jardin des Tuileries, before catching the Metro to Montmarte.
Sacré-Cœur & Montmarte
From central Paris the Sacré-Cœur is a real landmark, situated on one of the few hills in the city. We arrived in Montmarte (the surrounding neighbourhood) late on a Friday afternoon, and were struck by how different the vibe was from the other areas we’d visited – the area around the Pigalle Metro station in particular was rather crowded, with an almost tangible sense of excitement and tourist shops spilling out onto the pavements. Maybe it was just the start of the weekend, or maybe this is just a neighbourhood where more young people can afford to live… but definitely different from the other suburbs we visited.
We had a supper at a little restaurant in Rue des Trois-Frères (“the street of three brothers” – what a great name!), before walking up towards the Sacré-Cœur. We hopped on the funicular, skipping the 300 steps up the hill, but were a bit taken back when a guy carrying a six-pack of beer slipped into the funicular cabin through the exit without paying… it turned out that he was one of a group of guys selling cold beers to the many people sitting on the top of the steps looking out over the city. I imagine that it must be a good place to enjoy the early evening – but for me as a tourist it was a bit stressful having to fend off all the buskers (all of the warnings posted around the city about pick-pockets didn’t make the crowds any more enjoyable either…). The Sacré-Cœur is a beautiful church (no photography allowed inside – but check out Google Images if you are interested) and an interesting contrast to the previous day’s visit to Notre Dame. One of the nice things about this church (and those we’d visited the day before) was that it was obviously part of a active Christian community – there were many invitations for prayer and information on the church’s activities and ministries We wandered around Montmarte for a while, heading down the hill to see the outside of the Moulin Rouge and to catch the Metro back to our hotel. Another good day in Paris!
That evening Annette and Thomas joined us at our hotel… and on Saturday morning we were off to the countryside!