Day 2: Paris
Being so jet lagged and still getting used to the time change, it was hard to wake up at a decent hour, but we had a plan. Today we were going to do Rick Steves’ Historic Paris Walk. This hits about 15 points of interest over a three-mile walk, beginning at the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Before beginning our day, we had a laugh ordering croissants at the cafe.
The Historic Paris Walk Begins
If you’re really in the mood to immerse yourself in the tour, put in your earbuds and follow along with the free Rick Steves Audio Tour and Maps just as we did.
The walk officially began at Point Zero – the very center of France, just outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral. We admired the architecture and listened to a brief history lesson (via the RS audio tour) while waiting in the queue. Some of the gargoyles hanging over the edge of the cathedral serve as rain spouts, gushing out water from their mouths. As we approached the entrance I was wow-ed by the lovely detail on the enormous cathedral door. The kids nearby were laughing and shouting as they played with a giant bubble maker, but once inside everything fell to a respectful whisper. The Gothic arches of the ceiling aren’t just beautiful, they serve to push the weight out – to the flying buttresses on the outside of the walls – instead of down. However, it’s the original rose window of stained glass that really steals the show.
This is a memorial to the French victims of the Nazi concentration camps. It’s sunken into the earth, so once you descend into the structure you can only see the walls and sky, giving a feeling of imprisonment and isolation. Inside the memorial room, a lighted crystal shines for each French citizen who died. The message above the door reads, “Forgive, but never forget.”
As we walked over the bridge to the Left Bank, we noticed the railing fence covered in padlocks! Apparently lovers will initial a lock and secure it to the fencing as a symbol of their love and devotion. I’ve never seen this in the US, but we spotted it in a few other places as we traveled through Europe. We continued our stroll along the Left Bank where secondhand booksellers and other merchants displayed their goods in green stalls along the Seine River with the Notre-Dame at their backs. The bohemian Shakespeare and Company Bookstore and the skinniest house in Paris (two windows wide) were other points of interest on our walk.