With the arrival of my first morning in Paris, I woke up raring to go and headed down to the kitchen to get the free breakfast that the hostel provided. It was only continental, but there were hot, fresh croissants every morning. With a bit of butter melting on top and a cup of tea, the croissants made the perfect companion to a French sunrise. After breakfast, I grabbed my bag and headed out the door. I made my way to the metro station and hopped the first train to the city center. My first stop was the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. After taking numerous photos of the entrance, I made my way inside with the other crazy tourists who had decided to get up as early as I had. I grabbed an audio guide and proceeded to meander through the cathedral. As I had earlier discovered in Rome, Catholics are excellent at pomp and circumstance, also known as opulence.
I performed my duty as a tourist, taking photos galore, particularly those of Latin inscriptions. Call me a nerd, but the Latin writing on the stained glass windows excited me. I could translate a few of them on the spot, but I took photos of all of them for future reference. Having satisfied my curiosity for yet another big European church, I pressed on. It was a good decision, too, as the line outside was tremendously long. Aside from the long line, I was also met with a man feeding the pigeons and starlings to the delight of the waiting crowd. From there, I crossed the southern bridge, leaving the Île de la Cité for the southern bank of the Seine. I walked to the Conciergerie, a former royal palace and prison. It was here that Marie Antoinette was held for 72 days before and during her trial, the result of which is well known. It was quite an interesting visit. Much of the building is currently used as Palais du Justice, housing various Parisian law courts. Because of this, I was only able to see the front entrance of the Palais.
Much of the cultural and historical importance of Paris is centered on the Seine, winding its green way lazily through the city. On the Rive Gauche, or left bank, where I was currently standing, the Sainte-Chapelle was constructed by King Louis IX to house the Crown of Thorns. If the Crown ever actually resided in this chapel is unknown, but it certainly is not there now. However, the stained glass windows were quite beautiful and incredibly detailed. The Museum Pass I had purchased allowed me to bypass the line in which many people were waiting. It saved me a lot of time and standing, which is always a good thing on such a short trip.
I exited the chapel after some time and wandered around the Île for a bit, eventually making my way down the Seine toward I knew not what. Before long, I had stumbled upon the Louvre. It seemed just in time, too, for the clouds were gathering above the city, growing darker with every passing minute. It suddenly began to rain quite heavily, and I used my wonderful pass to again bypass the line and get out of the rain. At this point, it was about 13:30 and I would spend the next four and a half hours wandering through the vaulted corridors of a palace turned museum. The size of the place is incredible and it is difficult to imagine that royals actually lived here. Why would anyone need such a giant palace? I saw all of the paintings I wanted to see and a lot of tourists I had hoped would not be there. C’est la vie.
Following my extensive and tiring tour of one of the largest museums in the world, I met up with my friend Noel. We picked up some sandwich supplies, bought some wine, and headed for the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. Chatting happily away, we worked our way through our sandwiches and wine, waiting for the Tower to light up and take our photos. Never did I expect wine or bread to taste so good, but France is renowned for such things. Absolutely delicious. The Tower began to light up around 21:30 but the sun had yet to set far enough to allow for decent photos. It did begin to get chilly, though, so we were waiting impatiently to retreat to a warmer location. We finally managed to get our photos and go, at which time we headed towards Noel’s hostel to grab a drink before we parted ways for the evening.
At around 01:00, it was time for me to head back in order to make the curfew of 02:00 which my hostel was enforcing. Being what I thought was only a short distance away, I decided to walk back. Oh how wrong I was. I was walking rather briskly, fearing that I would be locked out, and just made it back before the doors were shut. I was safe but unable to charge my electronics due to the lobby shutting down with the curfew. So I went to bed having made the decision to wake up early to feed my camera and phone before I left.