Paris: Day Four

I woke up this morning with what is euphemistically known as "traveler's stomach". I must have gotten a bad "jambon et frommage sandwich" somewhere along the way, or maybe it was that entire tube of potato chips I snacked on last night... the salt tasted so good after marching through the hot Louvre all day.  As I waited for the pills we brought along for just such an occasion to take effect, Holly made the daily trip to the patisserie for croissants and orange juice.  By the time she returned, I had recovered and showered, and we ate breakfast before setting off for the RER station.

We caught a train to Notre Dame, where Mass was underway as we arrived.  Not being Catholic, we stuck to the "Visite" entrance, and wandered around the periphery of the cathedral until the priest finished services, at which point we were free to wander in the middle.  Notre Dame is pretty neat, Gothic architecture isn't really my thing, but it's still impressive, and also not sacred enough to prevent the church from making a quick Euro selling trinkets inside it.

After touring the inside, we found the line outside to visit the top of Notre Dame.  Though our pass would get us in for free, we decided that the 20-30 minute queue to hike up the 400+ stairs to the top was more effort than we were interested in investing in yet another view of Paris from above, so we left Notre Dame behind us and turned South to the Latin Quarter.

Let me just say that I love the Latin Quarter, today was our first day there, and if I ever come back to Paris, it's where I'll want to go again.  There are many interesting shops, gardens, people, and landmarks to see, and it's not overtly touristy once you get a few blocks south of the Notre Dame.

While walking through one of the gardens, Holly spotted some teenagers with a McDonald's sack, but I managed to drag her into a pizza & sandwich shop instead.  There was a pretty good crowd of locals in the shop, and no tourists, so I figured it should be good and/or cheap, and i was right on both counts.  Holly had a square of thick-crusted pepper, mushroom, and cheese pizza, and I had a combo deal they had for a square of pepperoni, tomato, red & green pepper thick-crust pizza, plus a dessert (I took a donut) and a can of Pepsi.  Normal price for this can of Pepsi was 2 Euros, the meal with desert and a slice of pizza was around 7 Euros total, I believe.  We split the Pepsi and the donut, but the pizza was too good to share.  It was quite different from American pizza, far less sauce, less fatty cheese, and much better crust.  I don't know why the French can bake so much better than Americans can, but they do.  Holly said that it was the best "native" food she'd had since arriving in France, meaning "other than McDonald's", I believe.

After lunch, we wandered through the Luxembourg Gardens (which are not in Luxembourg), and Holly prevented me from walking on the grass, which I nearly did.  Paris is so densely populated that you can't actually walk on grass anywhere apart from a portion of the Champs du Mars that's far-removed from the Eiffel Tower.  The rest of it is just for decoration, I guess.  Or maybe they don't want the ever-present Parisian dogs to spoil it with their leavings.

I bought an ice cream treat as wel left the gardens, and wandered some more through the Latin Quarter before consulting our map to find the route to the Pantheon. The interior of the Pantheon is pretty impressive, and it was fairly uncrowded.  The most interesting part of the Pantheon, however, is the crypt, where many French heroes are entombed.  We saw the graves of Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Louis Braille, Rousseau, and Alexander Dumas.  Joseph Louis Lagrange is also buried there, and Holly gave me the "You are SUCH a geek!" look as I prattled on about Lagrange points, and why they're cool.

After I finished my impromptu lecture on the mechanics of satellite orbits and proposed homes for space stations, we hiked a few blocks to the Cardinal Lemoine metro station, where we planned a convoluted route to take us to the tropical aquarium on the eastern side of Paris.  It took two transfers, and a little head-scratching, but we emerged at Porte Doree, right next to a McDonald's, which Holly drug me inside after a Coke (2.25 Euros for a large, for those keeping score at home). A large Coke in a McDonald's here is roughly the same as a medium in the US, and they don't have anything larger. I doubt there's a 48 oz. beverage (equivalent) anywhere in the country, as they don't live on the stuff like we do. I wonder what the French think of the Big Gulps at the average 7-Eleven in the US, those 64 oz. cups they sell in the Western US must seem ridiculous.

After chugging our Cokes, we walked a couple blocks east to the tropical aquarium.  This really wasn't high on our to-see list in Paris, but it was included in our museum pass, and I wanted to see if the French fish wore berets (they don't).

The aquarium is in a building that's undergoing heavy construction to become some other type of museum, and it was practically deserted, other than two groups of 4 year olds who were leaving as we arrived.  It's not very big, so don't plan on spending more than 45 minutes here or so if you go, but it was relaxing and a nice change of pace after looking at art for the last two days.

After the aquarium, we made one quick transfer, and then rode almost the entire length of the number 6 metro route to come back to the Bir-Hakeim stop by our hotel, where we've now paused for a brief rest before we try to find something for dinner, and then embark on an evening cruise along the river Seine.