Our last day in Paris crept in on us and although we were already sad, we were surely going to make the most of it. After another breakfast at the apartment, which consisted of fruit, pastries and hard-boiled eggs, we hopped on the metro. We had our last bike tour with Blue Bike Tours and we were meeting at Place St. Michel like we did for our first tour with this group. The fountain is near both Notre Dame and Saint-Chapelle cathedrals, so we left our apartment with plenty of time to see these two beautiful structures. I was most excited to view Notre Dame because it was the first large European church I ever saw. It was just as alluring as I remembered it. Although people said San Chapel is more striking, I am not sure if I agree.
We met the tour guides and selected our bikes, which were right around the corner. By “selected” I mean picked our bikes by claiming one with a name we enjoyed. Each bike is labeled with a name, so it’s easier to keep track of our bikes when we take a break from riding them. I don’t remember the name of my first bike, but the name of my second bike was Napoleon III, and the name of my last bike was Croissant.
Today we were touring the back roads of Paris, so it was like seeing and learning about the little hidden treasures and facts throughout the city. Our first stop was the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which was founded in 1951 by George Whitman and is now run by his granddaughter. This store welcomes authors to reside in the rooms at no cost. The only requirements are that they read almost a book each day and that they pen an autobiography to keep in the store’s archives. It was a quaint place and made me want to pick up several books to read. While there, we also learned about how the caste iron water fountains were established in Paris. They were a present from Sir Richard Wallace, who financed Charles Auguste Lebourg to design them after Paris faced much destruction after the Franco-Prussian War. With these fountains, the Parisians would never loose water connection during war or any other time. As we rode away, we passed by the “oldest” tree in Paris, which was brought from North America.
We then headed to Saint-Sulpice Church, which is a Roman-Catholic has mismatched towers and was recently feature in “The Davinci Code.” Inside it houses a gnomon, which is a device that casts a shadow on the ground to determine the position of the sun in the sky. Another spot we passed the church, Saint-Etienne, which has the steps Owen Wilson sat on in “Midnight in Paris.”
A really interesting thing that tied in with American history we saw was Paris’ oldest café, Le Procope, which was founded in 1686.Famous visitors include Benjamin Franklin, Voltair, Napoleon and Victor Hugo. The café holds Napoleon’s hat, which he left there as payment, and a few other historical artifacts, including a blood stain from someone who was shot while Benjamin Franklin was working on the Constitution.
Our other stops included the Pantheon, which was originally built as a basilica, but then was taken over during the French Revolution and eventually dedicated to the great men of France. We also saw the roman arena, which is over 2,000 years old. It was used for animal and and human battles, but then was covered up and forgotten about once the Roman Empire collapsed. Another extremely old structure we saw was the 800-year-old wall that was built to protect Paris from Richard Lionheart of England, but was eventually uneccesary as Paris grew outside its borders. We rode through Mouffetard Village as well, and seeing the modern street art was interesting.One of the last stops was the Palace Royale, which is known for its charming red bricks and history. Apparently, not all the bricks seen on the buildings are real, due to building permits and regulations in Paris.
Once we completed our tour, we had a few hours left to explore. Pop Pop and I decided we didn’t have time to climb into the towers of Notre Dame, so we quickly found our way to the Opera House. This was so special to me because Phantom of the Opera was one of the first musicals I became interested in on my own and possibly helped start my obsession with France. The Opera was drop-dead gorgeous. The history of it was incredibly interesting as well. Apparently, the opera was more of a social thing and was similar to how we watch television today. In other words, people did not come to the Opera just to watch it. Also, people never came on time, because that meant they had nothing better to do with their day. I am so happy I got to tour it and learn about the famous house of music. And no, I did not see the phantom.
After that, Pop Pop and I took the metro and then rushed to the Les Invalides museum. This is where Napoleon III is buried, along with others, and has the history of all of the French wars. We had about an hour to see it before it closed. The room in which Napoleon is buried is gorgeous, and his tomb is massive.
We finished the night with a dinner at a place recommended by our host’s friend. Apparently, the “real” French restaurants don’t have the menu in French and English. This one only had the menu in French. An interesting thing in France is that its menus come pre-set, so you can pay to get an appetizer and an entre, or and entre and a dessert, or all three. We started with escargot, which we were determined to eat before leaving Paris, and had a satisfactory meal that followed.
Our last day in Paris was amazing, and we did not let one second go to waste. I will miss this gorgeous city tremendously, but hopefully one day I will be back.