Friday, April 6, 2018

France – Day 3 – 3/31/18

We got up early to go downstairs for breakfast at 7:15 only to discover that, although they open at 7:00 weekdays, the time changes to 7:30 on weekends. So, we spent the fifteen minutes talking to the off-duty night manager. Interesting man.

While we were in the lobby, we told the manager about the closet doors that didn’t open, and none of the English language TV channels worked. We had reported these issues to the manager the day before, and she said the maintenance man would come the next day (that day). We reminded the morning manager again, and he assured us the problems would be fixed.

Breakfast was not included in our base cost, so we were charged €12 apiece per day. However, given the limitations of the place, we felt it was our best option. The selection of choices was adequate: a variety of breads, eggs (boiled only), yogurt, cereal, fruit, juice, cheese, and deli sausage. However, they have a great coffee dispenser with lots of choices. I had mocha. Yumm!

We got ready and headed out toward the Metro station. This was our first venture into the world of the Paris subway system with Bob and Bernie. We remembered finding it very easy to travel using the Metro on our last trip, and our memories proved accurate.

The first stop of the day was Sainte-Chapelle, the beautiful gem of a church in the heart of Paris. We remembered the way from our visit in 2014. However, evidence of heightened security was apparent everywhere. A police presence was visible all around the area. (The chapel is located on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris.) Our museum passes allowed entrance, and we were able to bypass the regular ticket line.

We entered the lower level and made our way to the narrow two-story circular stairway leading to the upper floor. The climb was daunting, but worth the effort when we emerged at the top to the sight of the gorgeous windows soaring above us. When we were there in 2014, a major renovation/restoration project was under way. Most of the building was covered in scaffolding. Some of the panels had been removed and replaced with white glass. This time, all the windows appeared in their glory. We arrived shortly after opening, so early morning light shone through the colored panels.

Unfortunately, no visitors’ guides were available in English, so we explored the windows on our own. A video provided information on how the repairs and restoration had been accomplished.

On the way out, we strolled by the museum souvenir stands. Bernie found a lovely Christmas ornament for the exchange at church. While she was purchasing her ornament, I spotted some real finds. Each year, we have given our nieces and nephews ornaments from wherever we have visited that year. Now that they are grown, we continue the tradition with their children. The last time we were here, we got some miniature Eiffel towers on key rings and converted them to ornaments. What caught my eye were gargoyles on key rings. We have several grand-nephews, and I thought they would love these. The little girls will enjoy them, too. I also found a coloring book for the youngest, our great-grandniece.

Larry said he needed a toilet, so we went to where we remembered them being located. Despite a large sign on the side of the building, the area was surrounded by barricades. A guard stood smoking just outside the building, so we asked about them. He shook his head and then gestured for us to go outside, turn to the right, then go left.

We followed his directions and discovered we were headed toward Notre Dame, second on our agenda for the day. Nowhere along the way did we see any signs for toilets.

As we neared the cathedral, the crowds grew huge. It was, after all, Easter Saturday, and many people wanted to be there during Easter week. Also, the area around the church was completely surrounded by fencing and barricades. Entrance was possible only in three or four locations. The only signs we saw for toilets pointed toward the church, and they appeared to be blocked as well.

We approached three young gendarmes, who were smoking next to their vehicles, and asked about public restrooms. A nice young lady pointed across the street and indicated we might find some in that building. We left Bob and Bernie to stand in the several-blocks-long line while we went in search of the toilets.

We crossed the street and entered the building. We asked the guard. He shook his head and pointed farther down the block. Once outside, the only signs we saw were, once again, inside the cathedral grounds and inaccessible.

We continued down the street. At the corner, we looked to the left and spotted two round grey buildings sitting on the sidewalk with lines of half a dozen or so people queued in front of each of them. I turned to Larry. “I think these are the self-cleaning toilets.” He grimaced. “I certainly hope so.” It had been well over half an hour since he had expressed the need, and we had walked quite a long way since.

Even though the signs said only one person could enter at a time, most friends and couples entered together. The line on the second one from the end shortened faster than the other. “Looks like that one is moving.” A man standing at the end of the first line pointed toward the other one. We followed him. Of course, we started to talk. His name was Peter, and he was from Melbourne, Australia. He was a teacher in a private school and was in Paris for a conference starting on Monday. He decided to arrive a few days early for some sightseeing. We had a nice chat while we waited. He took his turn, the toilet cleaned itself, and then we entered. We did our business and then the toilet cleaned again. (It performs cleaning after each use.)

Feeling much better, we headed back to locate Bob and Bernie in the entrance line. On the way, we tried to call them to let them know we would be entering from the far side from where we had left them. No answer. But a second later, my phone rang. It was Bob wondering where we were. They hadn’t gotten in line, but had waited near the police vans. We said we’d meet them there.

The guys decided they didn’t want to wait in the long, long line for entrance but would walk down the side and take photos from the outside. However, the sidewalk along the side was also blocked. We passed through security (a much shorter line on the side) and then got in line to enter the church. Welcome to Paris, the city of long lines and waiting.

We finally got inside and were able to walk around the cathedral. The artwork is impressive, even though some of the paintings are nearly illegible because of the centuries of candle smoke. They could have used a good cleaning, but I have the feeling cleaning and restoration are never-ending processes in a building this old packed with so many old treasures.

Larry wanted to go out to the side to take photos in the gardens. However, all exits were blocked except for the front doors. We returned to the front and made our way outside. We walked parallel to the church, headed for the back. Once again, the first block behind the church was completely surrounded by fencing and barricades. However, we were able to cross into the park at the second block. Larry and Bob took a few photos. Then we continued on to the bridge across the river.

On the other side (the left bank) we walked back toward the front of the church, and Larry took a photo from a distance. The street vendors were starting to open their stalls, so we looked at the artwork, books, magazines, and other wares for sale.

We spotted the restaurant where we had eaten the last time, the Café Panis. Since we had enjoyed it, it was now one o’clock, and were hungry from all the walking, we decided to eat lunch there.

We enjoyed our meal. Bob, Bernie, and I all ordered quiche, while Larry ordered the tortellini. He remembered it from our last trip. Unfortunately, they only had two orders of quiche left, so Bob changed his to the carrot and sweet potato soup. (He and Larry both finished our quiches.) The food and service were as good as we remembered.

Next time: France – Day 3 – 3/31/18 Part II – The Long March


  1. Last year in Italy all of the famous sights were guarded by Italian military. Too bad that these days we have to worry about bombings. :(