For our first Easter in London we decided to take advantage of the four-day weekend by spending it across the English Channel in Paris. We hopped on the Eurostar train from St. Pancras station in the morning and in a little more than 2 hours we were pulling into Gare du Nord in the 10th arrondissement. The ride was a great way to travel as you only spend about 20 minutes in the tunnel and the rest flying through lazy, picturesque English and French villages and countryside.
With rain clouds overhead and our apartment not yet ready, we decided to start indoors at the Musée d'Orsay. The museum is set in a defunct late 19th century train station along the left bank of the Seine river which serves as a beautiful backdrop for some of the world’s top impressionist masterpieces. In fact, the architecture was the highlight for us. The main hall of the museum houses a huge Beaux-Arts clock and the tall, curved glass ceiling lets in lots of light that injects a sense of airiness into the space.
At this point in the day we were set to check in so we made our way to Le Marais. Our apartment was on the top floor of an old period building with exposed wooden beams and views out the window of other beautiful buildings along the side street. We ventured off for dinner a couple of blocks away at Le Potager du Marais before wandering the streets a bit more for some sweets to bring back to our apartment.
The next morning was an early one as we wanted to beat the crowds at the world’s most visited museum. After a quick breakfast of pain au chocolat—a staple of this trip—we made our way toward the Louvre in search of its infamous “side entrance.” Even 15 minutes before open there was already a line of far too many people snaking in front of the glass pyramid entrance. We walked toward a small unassuming archway far off to the side to be greeted by an attendant, a much smaller line, and an alternate full-service entrance. Within 5 minutes of open, we were in and on our way to the Mona Lisa. We wandered through hitting our personal highlights, knowing that we wouldn’t ever be able to cover the whole museum without giving it a couple of days. Better yet, we still got to experience going through the glass pyramid—but on our way out instead!
En route to antique print and newspaper shop La Galcante, we took a small detour to the Palais-Royal to wander a bit through the gardens there. The plants were starting to show signs of spring and the spot seemed to be hidden from the crowds as there weren’t many others around on this Saturday morning. La Galcante was everything we’d hoped it would be and more. We walked through the front door (tucked away behind a small alleyway), were immediately and warmly welcomed by the shop owner, and started digging in right away, amazed at the quantity and span of time periods of the prints. After freely browsing for a while, the shop owner approached again and asked if he could help. When we told him that we were looking for a souvenir—something that would remind us of our time in Paris—he shuffled us into the back room and grabbed some extra boxes of prints. We realized pretty quickly that it’d be best to divide and conquer, and after some thorough searching by both of us, Rico finally found the winner (an old photograph of the Eiffel Tower).
Next up was a closer investigation of the two natural islands in the Seine. We started on Île Saint-Louis to grab some lunch and explore the small side streets. After splitting a meal and walking around a bit, we marched on toward Île de la Cité to see the Sainte-Chapelle. The entrance takes you into the ground level of the chapel which is pretty tame and modest, but then a short staircase leads you into the main part of the building, with high ceilings, beautiful stained glass windows, and an abundance of light that shines magnificently through them.
With the end of the day approaching, we found time to take a quick bus ride to a street we had heard about beforehand. Rue Crémieux is a small stretch of very playfully colored houses in the 12th arrondissement that brings to mind Notting Hill here in London. When we first got off the bus we were sure we had the wrong info as the area wasn’t anything noteworthy. In fact, we got so caught up in thinking we were wrong that the street caught us by surprise as we passed it!
This marked the halfway point of our long weekend, with more adventures awaiting us in the morning.