The next day, we covered a lot of miles on our own walking tour of Paris. We really wanted to go to the top of Notre-Dame. We had been warned that the line forms early, so were up and at 'em by 8 AM. However, the line was already a few hours long. Then we found out why: it is a 327-step climb to the top viewing deck. Not only that, but it is a narrow, circular staircase with traffic going both ways. Consequently, you need to ascend and descend sideways. Yup sideways. There was no way my creaky knees were going to accomplish that, so we passed. I was really bummed, but old knees happen. I took quite a few photos (translate: 100s) of Notre-Dame last summer, so I only shot a few (translate: 50) this time. Don't worry, I'm not posting them all!
Last spring, I read Paris in Love by Eloisa James. She and her husband, Alessandro, are university professors. After she beat breast cancer, they decided to go on sabbatical and move to Paris with their children for a year. She wrote a book about her experience. What set her book apart from typical travel guides are the incredible details she provides about off-the-beaten-path places that she visited. After reading this book, I compiled a list of must-see places. At the top of the list was Parapluies Simon, a 106-year-old store offering hand-crafted umbrellas. Here's what Eloisa James wrote about it: "This is an intoxicating umbrella store. Alessandro bought me a present here: a pink umbrella edged with three rows of ruffled polka-dot silk. I feel like Julie Andrews with it, as if I might stroll into a painting and have tea with penguins, a la Mary Poppins." (Eloisa James. Paris in Love. Page 612.) After a description like that, how could I not go? So my very sweet and patient husband set out on the Great Umbrella Hunt with me. Yup, he's a keeper!
Along the way, we came across this totally cool apartment building
and this pretty church. I have no idea what church this is. I didn't bother to look into it. Can you really blame me? I was hunting for the umbrella to make me feel like Mary Poppins!
We finally found it!
Let me say that Parapluies Simon is the ittiest, bittiest store I have ever entered. It's also the most fascinating. It couldn't be more than 12' x 12 ' yet it houses scores of beautiful, unique umbrellas! Click here to see a one-minute video about the store. It's in French, but that only makes the umbrellas seem even prettier.
I wasn't disappointed in this store! I'm sure you've guessed that I went home with an umbrella. Actually, I went home with three. It took me an hour to choose them! I forgot to take a picture of Brittany's, but I chose a compact one for her. It's black with the Eiffel Tower on it. I got a compact one to keep stowed in my car. It's not at all ornate, but it's still pretty.
I also chose a super girly, fancy-schmancy one. It's in the umbrella basket in my foyer.
These are supposed to be the impressionist painters working in the city. Think Claude Monet.
There are even doggies playing!
I love my umbrellas. Sigh. Click here and then click on Photos to see some of the beautiful umbrellas you can find in this store. It just might make you want to go to Paris! (Mom, if you're still packed, I'm ready to go!)
Parapluies Simon is a stone's throw from Jardin du Luxembourg, the Luxembourg Garden. This is Paris' second largest public park. It's actually the garden of the French Senate, which is housed in Palais du Luxembourg.
I love this photo. This is the same planter that's along the right edge of the above photo. I backed up quite a bit, then squatted until I was eye level with the handrail. I think it's cool that the clouds look lower than the planter.
We then crossed the Pont des Arts pres Musee Louvre, the Bridge of Arts near the Louvre. Padlocks emblazened with the names of couples in love cover the sides of the bridge. There are even street vendors on the bridge selling locks and markers.
Yes, it seems totally romantic. The problem is that the city of Paris sees this as vandalism. Every now and then, city officials send their peeps to cut off the locks. I was a total Miss Goody Two-shoes (aka A Stick in the Mud) and refused to add a lock for us. What can I say? I'm a hopeless Rule Follower.
These are just some random shots along La Seine.
Next, we headed to Avenue des Champs-Elysees, the most famous street in the world. It begins at one end with the Arc de Triomphe which commemorates those who died for France in both the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars.
I thought I took some photos of Avenue des Champs-Elysees, but now I can't find them. Hmm. Did I mention that this street is full of lovely cafes (yes, once again we indulged in crepes and champagne for lunch) and very high-end shopping, including the headquarters of Louis Vuitton? No Marshalls on this street!
Anyway, we strolled along Avenue des Champs-Elysees until we reached the Grand Palais (Le Grand Palais des Champs-Elysees), which was built in 1897 to serve as the center of Paris' art exhibitions. It's such a beautiful building. We wanted to take a tour but it was closed. Insert frown here.
Some big old clouds moved through, which created an interesting background for these photos of statues.
Directly across the street stands Le Petit Palais, Paris' Museum of Fine Arts. Insert another sad face here. This was also closed.
Just past Le Grand Palais and Le Petit Palais is the most ornate bridge in Paris. The Pont Alexandre III connects the Avenue des Champs-Elysees on one side of the Seine with Les Invalides (once a military hospital, now a military museum) and La Tour Eiffel on the opposite side of the Seine.
Once again, I couldn't resist taking some artsy shots with the clouds.
That's it for now, peeps. Wishing you a FAB weekend!