From the early stages of our Paris travel planning, we had decided to leave Saturday (our last full day in the city) free from an itinerary. We wanted to have the flexibility to see things we had not yet seen and revisit those we wanted to see again.
By this point in the trip, we had still not visited either the Musee D'Orsay or Sainte Chappelle and we had decided we wanted to revisit the Eiffel Tower. We had also not ordered a crepe from a stand or tried any of the number of scrumptious looking sandwiches that appeared on what seemed like every street corner in Paris. So we started our morning with a loose plan to order a crepe near the hotel, take the metro down to the Musee D'Orsay, and head to the Eiffel Tower where we'd grab some cart food and have a picnic.
Everything started just the way we'd planned at this lovely crepe stand!
Mmmm.... crepes filled with nutella
We arrived at the museum just as it opened its doors, and while there was a small line, we purchased our tickets and handy handsets very easily. This was one of Mark's absolute favorite things we did in Paris. It truly is a spectacular museum! The piece on the bottom right corner was among my favorites, but Monet's ballet paintings were absolutely the top of my list.
P.S. we spent about two and a half hours here and as we were leaving at noon, the lines were incredibly long. I suggest going early or on Thursday evening when it stays open late to avoid overcrowding.
And here is where our day became a bit more interesting...
From my journal: We met the metro to head down to the Eiffel Tower as the cars were just coming to a stop and noticed that the first few were filled with people wearing red and yellow. We have taken a seat in one of the last cars and are watching as the costumed passengers begin to crowd together and cheer and chant and sing. It would be like packing hundreds of Saints fans onto consecutive street cars - the energy was tangible.
After exiting the metro car, we stood on a bench and watched as hundreds of crazed fans poured out of them. Some were young, some were old, some carried bags filled with loaves of bread while others carried whole legs of lamb. This was the start of a serious party, yall!
And we are not ones to pass up a serious party. So we decided, we'd follow them for a while to see where they were headed and what they were cheering for. And when we finally made our way above ground, thousands of fellow fans joined their ranks in this fantastic procession. The funny thing, we were all headed to the same place - The Eiffel Tower (not a bad tailgaiting spot).
It was nearing one in the afternoon and was more crowded than the Saints v. Vikings pre-game celebration by this point. Almost an hour into joining in the fun, we finally found out what was going on - it was the French rugby championship between USAP (the ultimate Goliath and champions for the last two years) and Clermont (the underdog who had not won a championship in team history). While we truly admired the lengths at which the USAP fans went to cheer on their team, being Saints fans, we were of course pulling for the underdog.
The Clermont fans were a little late to the party, but they were no less enthusiastic.
If you are a fan of the underdog, you'll be elated to know that Clermont upset USAP 16-9.
With the area around the Eiffel Tower being so crowded (I forgot to mention that there was an extreme sports expo there that day as well - you may have heard of THIS GUY), we decided to grab lunch in a different spot near La Madeleine, a beautiful church in an area of Paris we had not spent much time in but thought we would like.
After a stop at Laduree for pastries, and a trip to a food cart for our sandwiches, we headed to the steps of the church where we enjoyed our lunch.
The hot dogs are served on a warm and toasty baguette filled with melted cheese and mustard. I don't even like hot dogs, but this one was AMAZING!
And just as we were wrapping up our lunch, a bride and her wedding party walked up the steps of the church. We were just having one of those days where the whole city felt full of magical surprises...
While we had every intention of heading straight to the Sainte Chappelle from lunch, it was getting a bit chilly and we thought we should head home to change and rest our feet. On the way, I wanted to pass Notre Dame one more time. As we approached the church, we noticed the crowds seemed larger and assumed that perhaps Saturday afternoon mass was letting out. The closer we got, the more we realized something about this looked like more than just a regular Saturday thing.
We still don't know exactly what was going on, but the congregation was filled with what appeared to be very distinguished men and women. The men were wearing decorative white robes over tuxedos covered in medals and ribbons. The women wore all black with matching black veils.
With thunderous clouds rolling in, Notre Dame looked more beautiful than ever...
It's funny, I become so preoccupied with planning the perfect trip and getting every little detail squared away, that sometimes I forget the best moments are often the ones that take you by surprise. That last day in Paris, I felt like the city came to life in such a real and authentic way. None of the things we saw were written about in a guidebook or on a travel website. They were the things that just happen when you stop planning and start living.
This post is getting ridiculously long, so I'll tell you all about the Sainte Chappelle and our last meal in Paris tonight!