Paris: Day 2

DenaNovember 16, 2010
Notre Dame de Paris

I spent my second day in Paris exploring the 4th, 5th, and 6th arrondissements. In chronological order, I visited: the Mosque of Paris; El Jardin des Plantes & The Museum of Natural History; The Pantheon; Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore; Notre Dame; and Ile de Saint Louis.

Although it sounds like a lot to do in a day (on foot), Paris is actually very pedestrian friendly. Once the metro took me to the area, I spent the rest of the day exploring. I did not have a phone or GPS with me on the trip, so I relied heavily on the Google walking maps that I’d printed out beforehand. Those maps were invaluable because the map in my guidebook was virtually useless.

My first stop of the day was the Museum of Natural History. En route to the museum I passed the Pantheon & the Mosque of Paris. Both structures were lovely, but they don’t make it onto my list of “must-sees” in Paris.

I was very excited about the museum itself. I adore natural history museums. I have an uncanny attraction to taxidermy and all things science. I’ve spent full days exploring the Museum of Natural History in NYC. But… the museum in Paris was a bit disappointing. It was beautiful to me. There were plenty of exhibits and gorgeous animal reproductions. However, there were no English translations to be found, not in the audio exhibitions or on the walls. I’d hoped to at least be presented with a map in English so that I could navigate, but alas, no such luck.

The museum did have a gorgeous ambiance, glowing, blue lighting and four floors to explore. It wasn’t a complete loss, but I would not recommend a visit unless you can speak & read French.

After the museum, I stopped for a phenomenal lunch at Tabac de la Sorbonne in the Quartier Latin and then continued on my way to Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore. I didn’t realize how close the bookstore would be to the Notre Dame Cathedral! As I was walking with my eye out for Shakespeare & Co., suddenly the breathtaking splendor of Le Notre Dame came into view.

A glimpse of beauty...

I tried not to be too distracted by the cathedral and made my way into one of the world’s most famous book shops. Inside, Shakespeare & Co. is magical. There are hidden nooks everywhere. There is a narrow staircase that leads to the second floor. As I ascended the stairs soft, haunting music pulled me closer. I followed the sound into another hidden room where a young man was playing the piano—which is apparently open to the public.

I do not know who the young man was or what he was playing but I was completely enchanted. I filmed this quick snippet of his beautiful music:

(If you have trouble viewing this video, click here.)

After this unexpected interlude I continued to explore the shop which is a book-lovers dream. Eventually I had my fill of running my fingers over colorful book spines and headed back out into the light of the day—I was so ready to soak in the majesty of the great cathedral.

I passed through the most charming little garden between the book shop and the church. I was so in love with the space that I decided to film a quick video post which you may have caught in September.

I made some friends in the garden...

Finally, I was on my way to Le Notre Dame. It really was as amazing as I imagined it would be. It was like something out of a dream. You have probably seen pictures, but seeing it in-person is truly awe-inspiring.

The Notre Dame de Paris was one of the first Gothic cathedrals. It has all of the architectural elements that you imagine a Gothic cathedral would have—giant spires, flying buttresses, stained glass windows, and lots of gargoyles. The structure is fantastic, beautiful, and haunting all at once. I spent so much time circling round and round, enjoying the view from every angle.

Gardens around Notre Dame

Haunting & beautiful

When I finished gazing, I took the short walk across a bridge and over to Île Saint-Louis which is one of the two natural islands in the Seine River. Île Saint-Louis is a lovely place to stroll and window shop. In my experience it was one of the higher end areas of Paris. The price tags affixed to the items in the shop windows were far outside of my budget, but it was fun to look.

I made a quick stop at Berthillon for an over-priced gelato and then headed back toward the cathedral.

That's me with Notre Dame de Paris in the background

I ended my adventure with some late afternoon postcard writing and a bite to eat in Le Notre Dame Café. Afterward I headed back to my host’s place for my final night in Argenteuil.

Stay tuned for the third day of my Parisian adventure. 🙂 Believe it or not, it gets even better!

Comments (6)

  • Andra Watkins

    November 16, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Dena, it is so funny that the very first photo in this blog post is my favorite view of Notre Dame. That side of it is majestic. I love reading about your trip, especially since it’s how we “met.” 🙂

    1. Dena

      November 16, 2010 at 4:11 pm

      @ Andra – Sometimes I think we are the same person! (What a compliment to me.) But I suppose we are just kindred spirits. 🙂

      I am so happy to hear that you are enjoying reading my adventures. I am also grateful that it is what brought us together.

      I read about your holiday party this morning. I’ve been trying to scheme up an excuse to get down to Charleston ever since. 😉


  • Andra Watkins

    November 16, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Well, I’m sure we could scheme up a place for you to stay. 😉

  • Dena Botbyl

    November 16, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    evolution you | Paris: Day 2

  • Dena Botbyl

    November 17, 2010 at 12:21 am

    evolution you || Paris: Day 2

  • Dena Botbyl

    November 17, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    evolution you | My Second Day in Paris:

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