After a couple days of getting familiar with Paris and getting some relaxing quiet time together, Monday was the day Kirsten and I really began the hard-core sight-seeing in earnest, despite the fact that we slept in pretty late, lingered through breakfast, and left the room after noon.
Our first order of business was to purchase the Carte Orange week-long Metro pass. This little-known offer essentially separates tourists from residents because the it is available only for Monday through Sunday usage and is almost never advertised in any language other than French. It is much cheaper than the seven-day tourist pass which offers approximately the same features, plus some bus privileges and a round-trip train ride to Versailles. However, since the common tourist never uses the bus in Paris, and since a round-trip train trip to Versailles is not especially expensive, the Carte Orange is a better deal.
Our first real destination was the Louvre. We arrived there at 1:30 p.m. The woman at the ticket sales counter told us that there were no student discounts from the rather steep entrance fee, but advised us that the fee would be reduced by 20 FRF if we entered after 3 p.m. So we decided to hold off for a little while.
We found a post office inside the Louvre complex where Kirsten mailed some postcards she had prepared. We then decided to head over to the Montmartre district of Paris.
I had spent a week in Paris as an eleventh-grader in high school, and the hotel where I stayed, Le Home Montmartrois, was located in the Montmartre area. I walked Kirsten past the hotel and it brought back fond memories of the trip. I especially remembered the potted plant out front where I would traditionally place expired Metro tickets after nights out on the city. It was silly but I remembered it anyway.
We then walked up the steep hills to the top of Montmartre. At the top lies the Sacré-Coeur cathedral. We decided to walk to the dome of the cathedral, which is supposedly the highest point in the city of Paris. The view was nice. We could see far out into the suburbs and country side with the naked eye, but the hazy July weather made it all seem fuzzy-looking.
The stairway down from the dome led us conveniently through the gift shop, which we ignored, and then into the cathedral itself. The cathedral is awesome. It is massive, and quiet despite the hoards. The stained glass lends a somewhat eerie effect to the whole place, allowing light to creep in enough to see yet keeping the place feeling very dark.
We used the Funicular to get down the hill this time, and then set out on a quest for the Artist’s Quarter and a cheap lunch. Oddly enough, we managed to find neither. We did find the boulevard de Rochechouart, however, which is neat because of all its bargain shopping. This is the place where you find last year’s fashions reduced to sale prices. There are also a number of electronics dealers and so on. We restrained ourselves to window shopping.
The heat was making the boulevard terribly dusty. The dirt was bothering Kirsten’s eyes a lot, so we went underground for a while. We boarded the Metro once again and headed towards the Pere-Lachaise cemetery. When we got there we decided to first go on another quest for cheap lunch, which led us to Burger King. Then we figured out how to enter the cemetery without paying the entrance fee by walking in through the automobile exit. It worked out well to our advantage, since the entrance fee was pretty steep considering it is a cemetery, and we were only there about twenty minutes. The thing I thought was noticeably missing from this cemetery was grass. There wasn’t a blade of grass to be found anywhere. Everyone, it would seem, was entombed in gravel. There was a grassy park-like area in the middle of the cemetery, however, but no one was buried there.
After the trip through the cemetery, we were pretty worn-out and sweat-soaked from a full day of touring on foot, so we decided to head back to the hotel for a nap, a shower, and a change of clothes. We then ventured out to the avenue Champs-Elysees for dinner. We had pizza at a large — and nicely air-conditioned — restaurant called Pizza Roma on the avenue itself, and then took in a movie. The film was the popular “Quatre Mariages Et Une Enterrement” (“Four Weddings And A Funeral”), shown in English with French subtitles. Surprisingly enough, however, the subtitles turned out necessary for understanding the movie, since several scenes in the movie feature a deaf-mute whose sign language is interpreted in the subtitles.
After the movie we went to a local grocer for some cool drinks, and I paid way too much for a lukewarm soda. On the way back we were followed for a few moments by some weird laser light. The light completely freaked me out. I guess I’ve watched too many movies with people with laser-guided guns and stuff. It didn’t seem to catch Kirsten’s attention at all, until I told her to move because the beam was on her.