Our second day in Paris started bright and early. We left the hotel at 8am. We walked towards Pont Marie. Along the way, we bought some croissants at a boulangerie and some peaches from a fruiterer on rue de Rivoli. They were delicious!! Hubby is not a fan of breads and pastries but after tasting the croissants, he was converted.
We continued down Pont Marie, with a view of Notre Dame in the background, down the river Seine. It was beautiful in the morning sun. We took a few amazing shots with our camera. We walked down to the start of the rue Mouffetard market street at the square of St. Médard and worked our way up. We bought food for a picnic lunch to take with us – little bright red tomatoes, pain de campagne (country-styled bread), cheeses from the cheese shop. We even found a shop that sold tinned foie gras. We bought a few tins to take back with us (we weren’t sure of the quarantine restrictions – note to Australian travellers – you can bring foie gras back with you as long as it’s sealed in a tin). We loved the atmosphere down rue Mouffetard.
Our next stop was Au Bon Marché. Our plan was to check out the food hall section and purchase our charcuterie selection for the picnic. But enroute, we got sidetracked by the massive ‘soldes’ signs. And then I discovered they had an LV boutique inside the store that was NOT jam-packed with tourist. Woohoo!!! So I went in and purchased the Zippy Organizer in black Epi that I had planned to purchase during our trip. And the entire transaction was all done in French. I was so proud of myself. Hubby was distracted by some Tod’s moccasins that were on special. He didn’t end up purchasing them as he thought he would do better in Milan (he never did and still regrets it). However, a pair of Hugo Boss pants, some Armani and some Ermenegildo Zegna ties soon caught his eye and he was a very happy man for about an hour. (Who says only the ladies take forever to shop?) Loaded with our unplanned shopping haul, we made our way to the Detaxe office to get our forms for our VAT rebate. There was the option at Au Bon Marché to receive the VAT refund in cash on the spot (obviously with the detaxe company taking a certain percentage as commission), and all we had to do was to get the forms stamped on our way out of the EU. So we happily went with cash option!We finally made our way to the food hall section. It was a gourmet food lover’s heaven!! We spent a good 20 minutes just wondering around, wishing we could buy everything, and also wishing that we were staying at an apartment with cooking facilities. The French love their food and it shows! Finally, we made our selection at the charcuterie section and went on our way.
However, thanks to our unplanned shopping stop, we had to skip my planned visit to some of the shops in the St. Germain Des Prés area. We made a quick stop at Hugo & Victor on the corner of Boulevard Raspail and rue Chomel to pick up some dessert for the picnic before heading down to Île de la Cité.
Our planned picnic spot was Square du Vert Galant at the tip of Île de la Cité, but the day was starting to really warm up and we were hoping to squeeze in a visit to Notre Dame after the picnic and didn’t want to go too far. So we ended up at Square Jean XXIII behind Notre Dame instead. There were lots of tourists there, and there was already a ridiculously long queue for climbing the towers of Notre Dame. We found a bench under a nice shady tree and proceeded to set up our picnic. In a blink of an eye, a young gypsy girl approached us. This girl claimed to be deaf and wanted us to sign a petition of sorts. Learning from our mistake yesterday, I gave her a very firm ‘No and go away’ in French and then looked away. For a deaf girl, she had very good hearing and left us alone. Our picnic was yummy – fresh bread with a charcuterie selection, 3 different cheese, some pâté, and sweet red baby tomatoes and to finish it off, two slices of cakes from Hugo & Victor and some chocolates. A nice bottle of chilled champagne would have topped it off but that was something we forgot.
After the picnic, we decided we weren’t up for another round of queuing in the hot sun to get to the towers of Notre Dame. (This is where even having a Paris Museum Pass doesn’t make any difference – you will still have to queue with the others) So we headed back to the hotel for a nice cool shower and a little nap.
Heading back to the hotel, we discovered the worst metro stop in the whole of Paris (in my opinion). Châtelet has got to be the most congested metro station, where 5 different metro lines interchanging with each other. There are endless streams of people and so many different exits that it is quite easy to get lost if you don’t have your wits about you. Having to be constantly aware of your belongings and the danger of pick-pockets adds to the stress of having to navigate this metro station. Don’t get me wrong. It’s lively and has lots of character. We stopped for 5 minutes to listen to a small string chamber orchestra perform, while we were trying to find our exit. But I think even the non-local French people find this station overwhelming. A French lady came up to me and asked me for directions in French. Alas, my reply was ‘Je ne sais pas’ as I had no idea where her destination was either. It was then that I was glad that I took the advice of others and caught a cab from the airport to our hotel on our arrival instead of braving this metro station with our bags and luggage.
In the evening, we left our hotel, again headed to Île de la Cité. This time, it was for our concert at Sainte Chapelle. Our concert was at 7pm but we got there a little earlier in anticipation of having to go through the metal detectors and the possibility of queues (that seemed to be a recurring theme around anything touristic in Paris). But we were pleasantly surprised to find that there were no queues at all. We struggled a little to find the entrance and had to ask around before we were told the entrance was via the Palais de Justice.
The interior of Sainte Chapelle was beautiful. The stained glass was all aglow with the yellow light of the evening sun. It made me wonder what Chartres would look like and I vowed to go there on our next visit to France.
Our program for the night was Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto for 2 Trumpets and Orchestra and ‘The Four Seasons’, performed by Les Violons de France and soloist Frédéric Moreau. The entire concert was about 90 minutes. The performance was world-class. Even though hubby is a classical music neophyte, he enjoyed the entire performance, made even more glorious by the beautiful surroundings. After the concert, there was an opportunity to meet the virtuoso Frédéric Moreau himself. After congratulating him on a fine performance, we purchased one of his CDs and got him to autograph it.
Leaving Sainte Chapelle, we headed towards Notre Dame. Unfortunately, the cathedral was now closed for the day, but there were lots of people in the square in front of the cathedral. Most of them were just out for an evening stroll, or meeting up with friends. We made our way to the back of the cathedral, towards Pont de L’Archevêche. Our Bateaux Parisien cruise leaves from Quai de Montebello. We had pre-purchased our ticket on the internet, so we had to collect our tickets at the ticket booth. The pre-purchased internet ticket is valid for the entire day, and you have your choice of any of the available times. We deliberately chose the second last cruise of the day as we wanted to see Paris by night. When we went to pick up our tickets, we were informed that the cruise timetable had been changed. It was going to be half an hour earlier than planned. So it was a good thing that we were there early.
Because it was the second last cruise of the day, there were only a handful of people on our cruise. We made our way to the top of the boat. The weather had turned and it was starting to get windy and chilly, but the view was fantastic. Paris was all lit up and it was magical. As we past the Tour Eiffel, the lights came on and the view was amazing!!! That was my ultimate ‘I’m in Paris’ moment. Unfortunately, during the second half of our cruise, it started raining and we had to make our way down to the covered section of the boat.
By the time we got back to the quai, it was raining rather heavily. We decided to brave the rain and make a dash across the road to the Quartier Latin. By this time, we were starving and drenched. But at 11:30pm, the bars and pubs are packed but the restaurants were closing. Unsuccessful in our quest, we decided to head back closer to the hotel. By the time we got back to Le Marais, it was close to midnight and it was no surprise that we could not find a single restaurant that would serve us food. We decided to head back to the hotel. Even the guy at the reception desk at the hotel could not recommend a restaurant that would be open at this crazy hour. He suggested we tried Place de la Bastille. However, we were too tired, wet and hungry to bother making the trek down there. We decided to order room service. Half an hour and 40 euros later, we each had a sandwich, chips and a drink. After that, it was time to turn in for the night.