Wednesday, October 14, 2015

St. Germain and the Latin Quarter

Day 12: It's cold, 3 museums, 4 churches, a special lunch, and a concert at Sainte Chapelle.


We slept pretty well in our little apartment.  We broke our fast on eggs and toast we'd bought at the little store nearby.  Tasty!  It had turned cold, windy and gloomy overnight.  Sadly, this weather would prevail throughout our stay.


Today we'd be venturing into a part of Paris we'd explored but little on previous trips:  St. Germain and the Latin Quarter.  On the agenda: Musee Delacroix, buy 4 day Museum Pass, St. Germain des Pres and St. Sulpice churches, lunch at Les Papilles, the Pantheon, St. Etienne du Mont church, (Musee Moyen Age Cluny, St. Severin church), concert at St. Chapelle. 


We bundled up and took the metro to St. Germain des Pres stop.  One great thing about staying on Ile de la Cite was its centrality.  We felt this location was busy and touristy but super convenient.


We found our way to the somewhat hidden Musee Delacroix, bought our tickets and toured this small, un-crowded and interesting museum.  How I would love to have this as my home! No wonder Delacroix could create his gorgeous works of art here: it felt peaceful with light filled, comfortable rooms.  The studio in the back and the garden were delightful.


We next headed to St. Germain des Pres church.  We popped into the garden at Square Laurent-Prache because the Blue Guide talked about the Picasso sculpture in the center and the remains of sculptures from the Lady Chapel at St. Germain des Pres.

St. Germain des Pres church was founded in 558 as part of a Benedictine Abbey.  It was desecrated in the Revolution and has undergone many changes as a result. The 6th Century chapel was closed for renovation but we were able to follow the Blue Guide around this interesting church.  It was dark inside and hard to see the remaining frescoes.  It is badly in need of restoration.
 
Back outside, we took in the confluence of the three brasseries, Café des Deux Magots, Café de Flore and Brassiere Lipp, before making our way over to St. Sulpice.  We passed a Pierre Herme and just had to get macaroons (oh so delicious!).


St. Sulpice is handsomely situated on a nice little piazza with a pretty fountain.  The church itself was also very impressive.  Per the Blue Guide:  The organ is humongous and supposedly one of the biggest in existence; the two clamshell water holders were presented to Francois I by Venetians and are on rare marble pillars by Pigalle (we didn't know Pigalle was a sculptor, thought it was just the sketchy street in Montmartre!); we found the bronze meridian line but the sun was too weak to illuminate anything.  And unfortunately, the Delacroix frescoes were under restoration and not visible at all.  I liked this church.
 
We had a 1230pm reservation for lunch at Bistroy Les Papilles (30 rue Gay-Lussac) so routed ourselves there.  It was a bit longer walk than I had anticipated so we didn't get to meander through the Luxenbourg Gardens.


We arrived to an almost full restaurant.  Les Papilles is tiny with really fun, colorful floor tiles and a pretty bar area.  The wines are on shelves along the wall where we sat.  The service was great.  We both got the beautifully presented and delicious cauliflower soup.  Husband followed that with lamb shoulder and vegetables (outstanding) and I had a tuna steak (I don't love fish but there was nothing else on the menu for me).  I loved husband's veggies and sauce!  We shared his panna cotta which was outstanding--the best dessert we had all trip.  Excellent lunch.  I'd love to go back.


We walked outside to light rain.  We were headed to the Pantheon but noticed the Institut Oceanographic, the Institut de Geograpie and a sign about Musee Curie.  We asked the guy at the door but he said the Musee Curie was closed.  This was contrary to our Blue Guide but we didn't speak enough French to clarify. Per google, it looks like it was a block away from where we were.  At any rate, we missed it.
 
Our next stop was the Pantheon (free with museum pass).  This is a humongous building.  It felt cold to me, both in temperature and aura.  I think it's just too big, too ostentatious, too much.  It was softened somewhat by the beautiful frescoes depicting the life of Saint Genevieve.  I liked watching Foucault's Pendulum swing; it's fascinating to me, and to many others by the number of folks around it. We visited the tombs of Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Voltaire, etc.  I'm not surprised I didn't like this Pantheon since I also don't like the one it's based on in Rome.  The outside is almost completely renovated and was clean and fresh. 


We made our way over to St. Etienne-du-Mont church which is a shrine to Saint Genevieve.  It's a really pretty church; I loved the purple doors.  Inside is light, airy, and expansive but still intimate feeling.  The "Reinaisssance jube" or "rood screen," 1525-1535, (Blue Guide) was spectacular.   I don't remember ever seeing one of these "jube's" before.  We paid homage to Saint Genevieve at her shrine and found a somewhat hidden room, just off the rectory, to see the stunning 1605-1609 stained glass windows that are at eye level. The Cluny has stained glass windows at eye level but I don't remember ever seeing them so up close in a church before.  I really liked this church.


It was only 4pm so we looked at the map and headed to the Musee du Moyen Age/Cluny (free with museum pass).  There were lots of students from the nearby universities walking around in costumes doing skits and busy getting to and from classes.  A semester at the Sorbonne would probably be the experience of a lifetime--wish I'd had the opportunity when I was younger...

We visited the Cluny in 2003 and 2005.  But I did not remember all of the incredible items it had on display.  Yes, the original statues from Notre Dame, the stained glass fragments from various churches, including Sainte Chapelle, the remains of the Roman Baths, and the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries are all here.  But the altarpieces, tapestries, the late 7thC Visigothic votive crown, the 1330 Golden Rose, illuminated manuscripts, medieval weaponry, a book of combat techniques, etc., etc. are all outstanding too.  The Blue Guide is heavy but it sure is informative!  Husband and I both very much enjoyed this return visit to the Cluny.


Around 530pm, we headed back to Ile de la Cite but popped into St. Severin on the way.  Nice church.  We were looking for a place to have a drink but no place called our name so we kept walking and just went back to the apartment to refresh before the 7pm concert (Vivaldi's Four Seasons) at Sainte Chapelle. 


Husband groaned when I told him about the concert but it was actually very nice (he liked it).  I bought tickets ahead of time on www.billetreduc.com for 23E per person.  We went through security and were directed to the right and up to the second floor of the Palais de Justice, so we entered via the Upper chapel (not via the lower chapel like on regular tours).  When we arrived, it was still light enough out that some of the stained glass windows--now all renovated--were glowing.  So beautiful.  We were in the middle of the three sections which was just fine.  It was not sold out.  The concert was about an hour long and it was lovely.  It's such a beautiful setting that it's hard not to enjoy the music.  Very glad we did this.


It rained very hard right after the concert ended so we all lingered as long as possible in the Palais de Justice.  Finally, security ushered everyone out into the wet night.  Husband and I made our way back to Au Bougnat and snagged a table at the bar where we had fries and eggrolls and drinks before heading back to the apartment for the night.  It had been a wonderful day in Paris! 


Takeaways:
1.  So many churches, so little time!
2.  The Blue Guide Paris is heavy but wonderfully comprehensive.
3.  Les Papilles--outstanding!
4.  Musee National du Moyen Age Cluny--outstanding!
5.  Concert at Sainte Chapelle--outstanding!
6.  I love Paris! :)


Next: Walk with a Greeter, Arts and Crafts, Picasso, Monet and all their friends.



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