Published Jul 8, 2010

It’s really true, sunset is at nearly 11, which goes a long way to explaining why I haven’t blogged lately — It’s hard to come home, edit photos, and write all about them while it’s still light out and I could be sitting at a café, having what the French call a digestif. And the days have been very, very busy. And the hotel internet can be a bit sluggish from time to time, so I got well behind on getting all my snaps online.

But here we are: caught up with the photos, and well past time to write an entry. First things first: we have not gone to the Louvre yet. “Tomorrow,” in the last entry, was Monday, and on Monday the Louvre is closed. Instead, we went to the Luxembourg gardens, walking around for a while, seeing all of the perfectly-manicured gardens and the famous pond in which the youngsters float their sailboats:

Much to my shock, having not been here in probably 14 or 15 years: they actually let you sit on the grass! This is not the France I knew!

Also not the France I know: Notre Dame, while beautiful, is absolutely filled with people. I remember visiting when I was maybe 9, and walking around a cathedral with plenty of empty space, worried more about bothering the worshippers than bumping into other visitors. Now, as DJ L’il Bit said, it’s like the Disneyland of cathedrals — one long line. Still, it’s gorgeous.

Both Mrs. DJ L’il Bit and I are big fans of the gargoyles:

With all the foot traffic, however, I think we preferred the little Saint Germain des Prés church, in a cute little square in the Latin Quarter (that we also keep going to for digestifs!). One of the neatest things about Saint Germain des Prés is that its walls are painted inside, which used to be a feature of all of the cathedrals in France; most of these lost their decoration during the Revolution, with its anti-clerical pushes.

We also went up and down Montmartre, famous home of the Moulin Rouge and Sacré-Coeur. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, well after when I think of people building cathedrals, Sacré-Coeur doesn’t much look like a cathedral anyway:

Also unlike a cathedral, they don’t let you take pictures inside. 

The Moulin Rouge is still there, looking seedy as anything along a stretch of nudie bars; being on the highest hill in Paris, the whole area used to be filled with windmills. We went questing after the last one still there, which was mentioned in every single guidebook we read. We missed it, because it’s on private property, well set back, obscured by trees; amusingly, there’s a restaurant next door that advertises itself as the windmill restaurant, that has a 20-foot-tall replica windmill over the door. Charmingly, we took pictures of ourselves in front of that, thinking it was the real thing. After, we sat at the top of the hill enjoying a cool beverage:

It’s a steep hill down. (We took the stairs up the back way, climbing quickly and avoiding the crowds, then worked our way slowly down the curvy roads, saving our energy in the hot, hot day.)

We took Mrs. DJ L’il Bit’s first Metro ride to the Arc de Triomphe — mobbed with Foreign Legionnaires, by the way — and then back on the train to the Eiffel Tower.

A short line later, we were at the second level, enjoying the panorama. Along, again, with half the world; but at least the Eiffel Tower has a little more affinity for the Disneyland feeling. (Sadly, the crowd was so large they’d closed the top floor, so we didn’t make it all the way up; nonetheless, the second level is well above any other Paris building, so our views were vast and unobstructed.)

Fitting everything after the Luxembourg Gardens, except the above visit to St. Germain des Prés, into one day, we were well ready to take a day a bit off. That meant only walking around the very, very old Île St. Louis and Île de la Cité for about five hours, fitting in some gift shopping (some of our friends and family will be very lucky!) and also some relaxing time at a corner café.

We also stopped by the flower market, beautiful and ancient like the islands:


Today we had lunch with a family friend, a member of the Assemblée Nationale, France’s House of Representatives. We got a behind-the-scenes tour of the Assemblée’s iconic building, the former Palais Bourbon, across the Seine from the Louvre. Sorry, no photos: I could’ve actually brought a camera, but I assumed it wasn’t permitted, so we didn’t. We got to enter the chamber where the Assemblée votes, and eat at the restaurant they all eat at. (Great meal, with fish and a cheese course, by the way.)

And that brings us to tonight. We relaxed in a café for a while, I finished my ’50s pulp sci-fi book that I’d brought along, and soon we’ll be off to dinner and, if we’re lucky, Bateaux-Mouches. See you tomorrow or, given our schedule, more likely the day after!