By the time we finished visiting Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, Paris had seemed to be completely done with being moody. The sky cleared up quite nicely; the weather was as pleasant and spring-y as it could possibly be. We started getting a better handle on Latin Quarter so we kept wandering aimlessly for a bit. On the way, we also passed by University of Paris, better known as la Sorbonne. If memory serves me right, it’s one of the most, if not the most, prestigious universities in France. Is it? Don’t hesitate to correct me. Then, we made a turn to Jardin du Luxembourg.
Oh but before the park was a pit stop at a random bakery shop to grab some macaroons for a perfect Parisian afternoon picnic. (The macaroons weren’t so delectable, unfortunately.) Before I went to Paris, I had heard glowing reviews from world-wide travelers about how Jardin du Luxembourg exemplified the best of Paris’ public parks. Some even went so far to say it really could surpass Jardin des Tuileries. Naturally, I was uncontrollably excited and included it in the “must do at whatever costs” list without hesitation. Little did I know that I had set myself up for a mild let-down. I know you’re going to attack me for daring to speak ill of this ultimate Parisian gem, but just hear me out for 2 seconds. The park was indisputably quite lovely and well cared for, even more so under the gentle afternoon sun and breeze. There is a but, though. It was insanely crowded as in no more good place to recline and relax. I still cling to the belief that I must have visited the park at the wrong time of the day because off all the reviews that I read, the general consensus is that the park is supposedly much less touristy and chaotic than Tuileries. That being said, we did our best to enjoy our short time there with the company of the not so heavenly macaroons mentioned above and fresh water. I’ll surely return to the park next time I visit Paris. The next stop of the day was Montmartre since we wanted to see the iconic Basilica of the Sacré Cœur. It wasn’t close to Jardin du Luxembourg by any walking standards; however, we only had two days left in Paris and the following day was already reserved for Château de Versailles. Physically speaking, we could have walked all the way from the park to Montmartre but given that we were pressed for time we opted for the metro instead which allowed for more visiting time. The Paris metro is just as efficient and user-friendly as New York’s subways, so I had no problem figuring it out myself. Trust me, you will know it like the back of your hand in no time.
Now, let’s have a real talk about Montmartre. Unlike Jardin du Luxembourg, I didn’t need to go the whole hog and research far and wide to learn that I’d have to visit Montmartre. There have been so many movies, documentaries, songs, pictures, novels and guides flying around and extolling the virtues of Montmartre that its name and image are almost imprinted in any traveler’s mind. For me, the movie Amélie really sealed the deal. Additionally, is it just me or the name “Montmartre” alone already exudes an extraordinary aura of romance and sexiness? It must be the perennially provocative “r” sound, I think.
Anyway, no review of the site needed reading beforehand; I went to Montmartre with the full blind faith that it would be exactly what it’s always cracked up to be. Lord have mercy, I was shocked to my core when I got out of the metro station. If I had to rank the most disorganized and packed sightseeing site in Paris, Montmartre would sadly be it. It was overflowing with visitors screaming and shouting and bargaining, not to mention all the shops selling cheap and cheesy souvenirs imported from China. We decided to stroll around the surrounding district for a while in hope that the maddening crowd would get less…maddening as dusk approached. It did get slightly better when we came back, but there was another unanticipated obstacle before we could climb to the top. And that was the unbelievably aggressive touts who at one point or another deliberately stood in our way and pestered us with questions and souvenirs. How foolish of me to believe that sellers and vendors in my third-world country are the pushiest.
Basilica of the Sacré Cœur is very elegant-looking from afar, but the panoramic view of Paris from there fell short of our own expectations. Maybe because I hadn’t truly recovered from the sensational views from Arc de Triomphe the day before. Or maybe I was so used to the Manhattan skyline that anything flat and widespread didn’t instantly register in my brain. Or maybe it was simply a cumulation of the day’s disappointments. I don’t really know. Nevertheless, the golden hours’ sun rays did cast a beautiful light all over Paris that afternoon, for which I was grateful for. Otherwise, the pictures below would never have materialized. As you can imagine, we didn’t stay there for too long. Since it wasn’t so late, we agreed to give Paris’ most iconic landmark and easily the most stunning tower in the entire world a shot–The Eiffel Tower. Up to this point, we had seen it from afar numerous times but not up close and personal. With two days left, panic mode crept in. (That explained the bizarre choices map-wise for this particular day.)
So, we soon hopped on the metro again and headed to Champ de Mars which wound up being the true definition of a human zoo. We both were psychologically prepared for that, though since it’s the damn Eiffel we’re talking about here. We had neither the energy nor patience to line up for the tour, so we only circumambulated and admired its magnificence, which was even more impressive in the flesh. Oh and observed tourists strike a (at times absurd) pose as well 🙂 We lingered at the site for a considerable amount of time to watch the sky gradually transform itself from being golden to pink then to black as well as the Eiffel put on its “outfit of the night”. A mesmerizing way to cap off another day in the City of Light. Every negativity we experienced earlier in the day seemed so minuscule in that moment…