About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Louvre and Pepper Spray

We woke up to a chilly morning in Paris. Brandon and Katrina actually put on an outer layer.

We had breakfast at the bakery down the street. What a fantastic and dangerous place. I'm glad we don't have a bakery like this in our neighborhood or I would be in trouble. Brandon and I had chocolate brioches. I also had a mini quiche tart. Katrina had a mini tart and a croissant.

After breakfast we walked to the Bastille to catch the Metro. Katrina stopped to take a few more pictures of the Bastille in the morning light. Other than the early morning traffic, the area was pretty quiet and peaceful. This would change later in the day.


Our plan was to follow the Rick Steve's historic walking tour.

We caught the Metro and headed to Notre Dame. Notre Dame is a 700 year old cathedral packed with history and tourists.

It sits on an island in the middle of the River Seine. We wandered around the plaza taking pictures and reading about the church, before entering to get a look at the interior. I found the interior to be very dark. Visitors can climb the tower of Notre Dame, but we chose to skip this due to the very long lines.

Notre Dame

Almost all of the churches in Europe have beautiful stained glass.

After exiting Notre Dame, we wandered through the archaeological crypt under the plaza of Notre Dame.

The backside of Notre Dame.

We walked around to the back of the cathedral to take a few more pictures, then crossed the bridge to the Isle St. Louis. This is yet another island, smaller in size, filled with restaurants, boutiques and famous sorbet shops. This island wasn't developed until the 18th century. Before that is was a swamp. We strolled the streets and checked out a few shops, before making our way back across the bridge and heading into the Latin Quarter.

Crossing the bridge to the Isle St. Louis.

This quarter is famous for its bohemian character. This was part of Europe's leading university district in the Middle Ages - home of Sorbonne University. IN those days, Latin was the language of higher education, thus the Latin Quarter. This area is filled with bookshops, eateries, cafe's, street singers and jazz clubs.

We wandered through a street market.

Another view of the River Seine.

Our next point of interest was Sainte-Chapelle. It is a gothic cathedral of glass that was speedily built between 1242 an 1248. Notre Dame took 200 years to build. We chose not to go in due to the long lines. This was the second line we skipped today!

Next door to Sainte-Chapelle is the Palais de Justice. Across the street is the Flower Market and the Prefecture de Police. They were showing off their vintage police cars and a fire engine on the plaza. The Prefecture de Police is where Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame used to work. We also walked through the flower market before heading to the Louvre.

This stretch of lower highway along the River Siene is closed by the city of Paris in the summertime. They call it the Paris Plage (beach). It is a newly developed faux beach, constructed in the summer along a two mile stretch of the rivers right bank. They truck in potted palm trees, hammocks, lounge chairs, and 2000 tons of sand. They also setup climbing walls, a swimming pool, trampolines, beach vollyball, badminton and frisbee areas.

We had to cross the river and walk several blocks before arriving at the Louvre. Of course, a long walk demanded that we have ice cream.

Muse'e du Louvre is Europe's oldest, biggest and greatest museum. It is home to the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Greek and Roman statues, Michaelangelo statues and paintings of from the greatest artists of the Renaissance to Romantic period.

The Louvre.

We immediately found the book shop and looked for a guidebook for children. As we have learned from past museum visits, this keeps Brandon fairly interested and engaged. He sometimes acts as a tour guide, telling us all about what we are seeing or what we should see.

Brandon and his guidebook.

The Louvre is huge. To really see everything in the museum, you would need to break it into sections and spend several days. I know Katrina would love that opportunity. I find I am about halfway between Katrina and Brandon on the 'interest scale'. Brandon likes to find what he's looking for, admire and move on. I like to pause, look and study, but keep moving at a little slower pace. I think Katrina would like much more time to study and enjoy the paintings. It's nice that they allow photos as long as no flash is used.

The Seated Scribe ca 2600-2350 BC

A world-famous smile...and the Mona Lisa is nice too!

So much to see...

After we hit all the highlights of the Louvre, we walked along the river to peruse the vendor booths while making our way to the nearest Metro stop.

View along the River Seine.

Remember how I mentioned how peaceful the Bastille area was this morning. It's amazing how things can change in a matter of several hours...

The Metro was jam packed with people. Most were going, well, who knows where they were going, but most were not going to the Bastille. I've never felt so crowded before. Imagine those TV shows or movies where you see people cramming themselves into the subway. This was one of those times.

We exited at the Bastille to find that the underground hallways were packed with people from other Metros, most of them college age or younger. As we neared the exit stairway, the passages became so congested that people were barely moving. Katrina grabbed Brandon's hand and slowly pushed her way through the crowd and up the stairs. I kept right behind them, trying to protect them from behind if the crowd started pushing. Thankfully, everyone seemed to be fairly orderly.

Relieved that we made it up the stairway without incident, we momentarily relaxed and realized that we were not out of the crowds just yet. The entire Bastille area was filled with people. As I mentioned, mostly college age and younger. Katrina noticed that the street we came up on was blocked by several blue police vans. We didn't think much of it at first. I thought it was some sort of holiday, festival or rally, so I took my camera out and took a couple pictures of the scene.

When we became more aware that this was more of an unruly crowd than we realized, we started making a beeline for the street our hotel is on. To get to our street we had to walk around the front of the opera house. As we were doing this I began to notice people tossing wine and beer bottles down the stairs and at people on the sidewalk. Time to really get moving. We continued on around the main stairway leading to the opera house. I noticed that the stairs were full of people, many drinking. Then I noticed two guys helping a third guy down the stairs. He looked like he had been drinking heavily and had also been in a fight or beaten up. He was shirtless, heavily bruised and battered, and unable to stand on his own.

My only real thoughts were of getting Katrina and Brandon out of there. We hurried along, but had to detour into the street when a crowd of people came our way. Most of them were coughing, crying and generally upset. We noticed policemen in riot gear one or two people down and trying to clear out the area around the bus stop. I realized that pepper spray had been used. Another person came stumbling by with a bloody face. This was serious.

We skirted around the police, hoping they would notice that we were trying to get out of the area. At this time I still had my camera in my hand, but was holding it down so as not to attract attention. I flipped it on and tried to take some discreet pictures of the scene. I got a couple which is amazing considering how fast we were walking and the fact that I was taking pictures without aiming.

We made it to our street and within a 100 yards everything seemed normal again. This we when I first realized that my eyes and nose were burning from the pepper spray. Brandon complained about his throat. I think Katrina felt it in her throat as well. Thank goodness we missed the actual spray by a minute or two. I'm also happy we made it through without incident.

My heart was racing. I could tell we were all a bit anxious. We would hear sirens the rest of the evening and late into the night.

Now that we were safe and in the neighborhood of our hotel, we continued on to the restaurant, L'Encrier, for dinner. Its a small little place with amazing French food. Katrina and I both had a nice steak with pepper sauce, potatoes, and zuchini. We also had an appetizer of bread slices with an olive patte. Of course, dinne was not complete without some red wine. Brandon had a salad and some of our potatoes. Neither of us speaks French. Its funny how translations can be lost or mixed up sometimes. Brandon ordered a salad because there was nothing else on the menu he liked. When our steaks came, he like the potatoes. Katrina tried her best to ask for a small plate so we could share our potatoes with him. Instead, we got a large plate full of potatoes. We laughed and they end up not even charging us for them.

Dinner at L'Encrier

We had a short walk back to the hotel room. It was an interesting day of landmarks, museums and pepper spray.

No comments:

Post a Comment