Saturday, August 22, 2009

6.5 mi Saturday Walkabout

We spent the afternoon walking to and about the Seine River in the very heart of Paris. The weather was near perfect although a tad on the warm side when directly in the sun. Somewhere around 80 degrees and very scattered clouds.

We didn't actually go IN anywhere yet... just wandered. We're waiting till the Parisians return and the tourists go home to try to get in any of the museums or churches or....

The map at the bottom shows our itinerary -- all 6.5 miles of it!

Our original plan was to go the Paris Plages (Paris Beaches) but they closed down on August 20. (See separate upcoming post on the Paris beaches.)

As we left, just around the corner (literally) from our apartment is a rather magnificent 17th C church I had never hear of -- the church of the Val-de-Grâce (apparently considered Paris' best example of Baroque architecture) built by Queen Anne, wife of Louis XIII, in gratitude to the Virgin Mary when Anne gave birth to a son after after 23 years of infertility.
Yep, this place is right here in my new back yard. Sure beats the old dead oak tree in my current back yard that I'm actually rather fond of.

Furthermore, apparently behind the church is a military hospital (or perhaps, given the size of the hospital, it is more accurate to say the church is behind the hospital!). I will have to check this out more later.

We stopped for lunch at the Académie de la Bière (Beer Academy) recommended before we left by our friend Frank Wilder, who lived in the area with his family for several years. Amanda and I shared a sausage platter and fries. (She had a blond beer while I had a Guinness Dark (see my upcoming post on beer). Still cost us $30! Yikes.

We then took off for the Seine river via Blvd St Michel, which is the main road dividing the 5th (Latin Quarter) and 6th (St Germain) arrondissements, one block west of our apartment. It is a main road that takes you straight to the heart of Paris -- Ile d la Cite.

Upon reaching the river in about 15 minutes, there stood the magnificent Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cite just to our right. We stopped briefly, knowing we would return a later day for a deserved extended visit, and continued along the left bank (that is South Bank for you and me) reaching the last bridge (Pont Sully) over to Ile St Louis and across to the right bank.

We could see sunbathers on the concrete banks of the river below but didn't look like anything else interesting if we continued to the east so we headed back towards the center of Paris along the right bank, branching off on the Rue de Rivoli, one of the most famous roads in Paris.

Along the way we ran across an impressive tower I had not seen or even heard of before -- Saint-Jacques Tower -- that used to be part of a church that was destroyed after the revolution (that's the FRENCH revolution, dummies). We stopped here for rest and water.

As we continued down Rue de Rivoli, we came upon a massive structure that I finally realized was the BACK of the Louvre Museum. Amanda and I immediately thought of the same question: Now what window did Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) jump out of in The DaVinci Code? Was it on the right side onto Rue de Rivoli or was it on the left side onto Voie Georges Pompidou.

(By the way, Ron Howard WAS granted permission to film in the Louvre Museum! I have discovered a self-guided tour online that re-enacts the the Da Vinci Code scenes in the Louvre. Sounds like a fun way to spend a day.)

I had never seen the BACK of the Louvre before, having always entered from the front where the famous glass pyramid is. We entered from the back. Not into the museum (which can only be entered down through the pyramid) but into a large courtyard with fountain in the middle (that kids were playing in).

We left the court yard to front side of the museum to see the pyramid surrounded by more fountains. I know the pyramid is artistically controversial but I like it.

Growing tired at this point, we crossed back across the Seine River and headed back to Blvd St Michel. We stopped off at two cell phone stores to inquire about cell phone plans that would provide us with unlimited internet and data coverage in Paris. This topic requires its own post but the bottom line is there is no easy or inexpensive solution to this problem. Arrggg.


View August 22 Walkabout in a larger map

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