Today we had a bus tour of Paris, included as part of our package through AMA Waterways. The tour guide was informative and interesting which was good--because I hate bus tours. We drove past some interesting sites and then stopped at Napoleon's Tomb for a photo op. We also stopped at Trocadero for a photo op (great views of the Eiffel Tower) and bathroom break (totally cool art nouveau bathrooms in the metro stop). We then got out of the bus for a tour of Notre Dame Cathedral. End of tour--I thought it was totally fine for a tour but I prefer to go about myself and was happy to get the chance to do so. We thought about climbing to the top of the cathedral but the line was really long by this time (probably around 11:30) so instead we walked around the Island and the along the Siene where we bought some picture postcards from one of the riverside vendors. We generally followed the walking tour recommended in the Rick Steves book.
After a look at the line to get into Ste. Chapelle we decided to head to lunch first. We found a little place in the Latin Quarter called La Maison de la Lozère
. It is a small place and had great French fo
od from the Lozere area of France (southish part of the country) and also apparently serves as a shop/tourist information center for people who want to visit this area. After lunch (with delicious bread and wine) we headed over to Ste. Chapelle and waited in a long line that was totally worth it. Pictures really don't do it justice.
As if we hadn't done enough to fill a day already, we went from Ste. Chapelle to the Louvre. The museum was open late that night so we knew we didn't have to rush. Lines were short although the museum itself was still plenty full. One Friday nights not all the rooms are open late so we knew if we wanted to see any of the Dutch and Flemish paintings we needed to head there first, before those rooms closed at 6:00. The key to the Louvre: Don't go in there like a neo-con into Iraq. Have an exit strategy!
I had found a couple of suggested tours of the Louvre, which we modified based on our own interests. We went heavy on Renaissance art (Veronese, Boticelli, Titian, non-Mona Lisa DaVincis) and also on pretty rooms (Napoleon III apartments and Apollo Gallery). Of course we saw the three ladies: Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, Mona Lisa. I had heard so many times that the Mona Lisa was smaller than most people expect that I was surprised to find it quite a bit BIGGER than I expected. Unless it was a fake :)
We were there for about three hours before our feet and attention spans gave out. Afterwards we grabbed coffee at the Louvre Starbucks (yeah--I know. But we needed a quick jolt of caffeine) and lounged in the Tuileries gardens before heading back to the hotel. We found a couscous/tagine restaurant right off the Place de Republique so we went there to eat. We fell asleep early again after our very long day.