Day two began a bit late. We had reservations at Cafe Le Procope, in the 6th arrondissement, the oldest restaurant of Paris in continuous operation. It opened in 1686 and has served the likes of Voltaire, Rousseau, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Sand, Victor Hugo, and Oscar Wilde.
Robert was adventurous and ordered ox cheek. I had chicken, which is what I am when it comes to eating anything referred to as “cheek.”
To get there, we used our five-day metro passes for the first time. We were a little navigationally challenged, but arrived within ten minutes of our reservation, so chalked it up as a success. Afterword, we returned to the metro to make our way to the catacombs for the afternoon tour. Here, we hit a slight snag. The passes would not work. This was realized as I hit the turnstile at full gait only to be clipped in the hips and knocked backward. After multiple attempts, and getting pushed aside by a dozen other passengers who had no problem with the turnstile (and who did not offer to help the very confused and increasingly agitated Americans), we took desperate measures. We jumped.
I am not as spry as I once was, but managed to clamor over the turnstile only to come up short against the gate. I stood in the small space between the two, realizing there was no way I would be able to launch myself over it, and dreading the arrival of a new group of Parisians who would no doubt roll their eyes heavenward at the ridiculous American. I inhaled and forced my way between the gate and railing, just barely squeezing through.
Meanwhile, Robert took to climbing the turnstile AND the gate, which put him about five feet in the air. (He’s pretty darn limber, and ticked off at this point.) He landed remarkably well – after a slight smash against the low ceiling. With much grumbling, we boarded and I began a tirade in my head against the people who sold us the passes, the lack of assistance available, and the French in general. As we passed the Franklin D. Roosevelt stop I glared at everyone around me and fought the urge to shout, “That’s right. Franklin D. Roosevelt, people. You’re welcome.” (Jet lag does not do nice things to me.)
We made our way to the catacombs without my causing an international incident and waited an hour in line. Two words for the catacombs. Creepy. Amazing.
Somehow unexpected were the 132-spiral stairs leading to our destination. I couldn’t resist taking a shot of the exit or “sortie” sign, because it looks like someone running away. Considering our spooky location, it seemed appropriate.
I’m including a couple of images from the ossuary, although somewhat dark. Robert had a small flashlight with him, because he still had a brain, unlike me, so the illumination helped.
I had one creepy experience as we approached the stairs to climb back up to street level. They say when something supernatural touches you it can feel like a cobweb on your skin. After following what had to be hundreds of people through the catacombs that day, I felt a cobweb brush across my cheek. I stopped and looked up to see if water was dripping from the ceiling, or if there actually WAS a cobweb. Robert used his flashlight and inspected the ceiling but we saw nothing. Moving on, I experienced the sensation of my hair being touched. Could just be my overactive imagination, but I prefer to think someone was telling me goodbye.
We fought with the metro a bit more and eventually arrived at Notre-Dame Cathedral. Tourist mecca.
We decided to pass on battling the throngs (I know. I know. Unbelievable, right?) and instead admired it from afar and drifted over to Shakespeare and Company so I could purchase a book and get the inside page stamped.
(I was actually happier than I look. The crowds were getting to me.)
We moved through the square and on to Sainte-Chapelle. Here we learned our 6-day museum passes were actually 2-day museum passes. The kind man taking tickets took pity when he saw my devastated expression and motioned us on, without charging. (Once you use the ticket, the clock starts, as it were. Since it was the end of the day and we needed to exchange the passes for the correct ones, this was most generous.) We walked into the lower chapel prepared to be awed. I thought Robert was going to curse. It was less than we had expected from all the hype. Puzzled, we made our way toward the exit, only to find the stairwell that led us up to the royal chapel, where we were appropriately struck dumb.
Some portions are being restored, and were covered, but for the rest, I can see why it’s considered one of the most extensive collections of 13th century stained glass in the world.
Suitably impressed and exhausted, we returned to the hotel, ordered room service and collapsed. Tomorrow, the Eiffel Tower!