Saturday, September 12, 2009

Paris, Day 9: Ste-Chapelle & Pompidou

For our first full day in Paris, we visited some sights on the Ile de la Cité before meeting Mike at noon, then heading over to the Centre Pompidou and a nice picnic.

Our first stop was to a sight that we didn't actually
visit at that time - we bought our Museum Passes in the Louvre, then left for Ste-Chapelle Cathedral. We weren't sure whether we could buy Museum Passes at all participating sites, and Ste-Chapelle is kind of small.

After we bought our passes, we christened them at Ste-Chapelle, a beautiful Gothic cathedral with some stunning stained glass windows. The cathedral is split into two levels; the first level is a very austere, crypt-like room, and the upper level has the amazing glass work.

Apparently each window contains dozens of scenes out of the Bible, and if you look at the windows in a certain order, you can basically follow along with the Bible from Genesis to Revelations.

Ste-Chapelle proved to us not only that our Museum Passes were a good value (because even entrance to this small cathedral was 8 euros), but also that they would save us an immense amount of time. We were able to bypass the extensive line at the ticket counter, which we would repeat numerous times on our trip.

Afterward, we went to the Conciergerie, which is basically a very old prison that used to house many prisoners, some of them very famous, before being carted off to the gallows during the French Revolution. Their most famous prisoner was Marie Antoinette, who remained there during the months prior to her trial and execution.

We met Mike right on time at the H
ôtel de Ville and went for lunch at a small café in the Marais. I think everyone but Diane ordered a Croque Monsieur or a Croque Madame, which is what Diane and I made for everyone at our pre-Europe dinner party.

After lunch, we tried to visit the Mus
ée Picasso, but unfortunately it is "temporarily" closed - until 2012. WTF?!

After our defeat, it
was just a short walk to the Centre Pompidou, which is the premiere modern art museum in France. It is as famous for its structure as for its contents, since the entire building is basically inside out, with even its ventilation and plumbing systems set outside the building and color-coded.

The red zig-zagging thing is the escalator system that brings you to each floor. Other pipes are coded yellow, blue, and green for electricity, water, and air ventilation.

I loved the exhibits at the museum, especially the all-female exhibit. Some of the anti-men works of art made the guys a little uncomfortable, especially the one that called all men genetic abominations.

The museum also had a very respectable collection of some of my favorite modern artists, including Yves Klein and Mark Rothko. Diane and I had a funny moment where she made fun of a piece of art that just looked like a chair, and I explained to her at length the principles behind Marcel Duchamp's "readymades" - how they challenge viewers about what is and what is not art, and whether any human expression can be considered art.

Then guess what - it was just a chair. Look who knows so much about modern art now.

The top floor of the Centre Pompidou is really cool and is definitely worth a visit unto itself - it's a huge pipe that snakes across the entire top floor and gives lovely vistas of central Paris and Montmartre.

After a lengthy rest in the square of the Centre Pompidou - and much people-watching - we started heading back up to Mike's neighborhood so we could put him to bed. It was his first day, after all, and he needed to sleep off his jetlag.

We walked up to the Square du Temple to have a nice picnic lunch with some groceries (and booze) we bought. We had tasty figs, sandwiches, and Pepitos, these cute little mousse cakes that had racist Mexican jokes on them. (I'm not kidding.)

And even though there were kids everywhere, we still had some of our wine - maybe too much?

After dropping Mike off at his hotel, Diane and I went shopping at this little discount store, where Diane bought a cute purple top. I found some cute smocked dresses, but unfortunately none of them would accommodate my "big American breasts," as they say.

Having walked to the Louvre that morning, we couldn't resist stopping by at night.

We'd be visiting the Louvre in a few short days, but its proximity to our hotel seemed too tempting to pass up. That pyramid is an awesome thing, especially during a beautiful sunset like that one.

We also caught the sparkling Eiffel Tower for the first time on our trip, which impressed Rob and Diane (and would impress Mike when he saw it the next day). Here's a video to give you an idea of what it looks like:

This video was taken much later in our trip, by Dave on the Trocadero, but it gives you an idea of what the beautiful light show looks like.

First full day down - we had another five days to go!

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