|Tuesday morning, we
had coffee and croissants at our usual café and then walked back to the
hotel to equip ourselves for the day. On the way, we found ourselves in
the middle of a group of girls on their way to school - from a building
behind us another girl emerged and was greeted with effusive hugs and kisses.
Then, as we walked on, this group was joined by one after another from odd
doorways and alleyways until the sidewalk was crowded with children.
We picked up the cameras and guidebooks at the hotel and headed for the D'Orsay museum. The museum is in a renovated train station and has a magnificent arched ceiling with a statuary hall and side galleries where the train platforms once stood. Huge gilded clocks are mounted at either end of the hall. The D'Orsay has an extensive collection of Impressionist paintings as well as some from just before and after their peak years of production. We saw many works that had come through Chicago in various traveling exhibitions, but here they appeared among a sea of other works by the same artists - and no intrusive guards or special passes needed. It seemed they had every important Renoir, Monet and Seurat. Only one painting we looked for was missing - "Whistler's Mother" was on temporary loan to a museum in Moscow.
We ate lunch in the museum restaurant, sitting behind yet another giant clock - this one offering a view of the Seine through its glass face. Afterwards, we strolled over to St. Germain des Pres, wandered through the ancient church. We stopped at the Café Zinc for a café espress and watched with some surprise as a door in a non-descript building opened up to disgorge a stream of school children. Schools in Paris seem to be tucked in whatever building is handy and, like this one, do not look like schools.
We decided that we needed something different than a museum for our afternoon activity, so we headed for the Luxembourg Gardens - a large public park around the Luxembourg Palace, where the French Senate meets. On our way, we stumbled on the church of Saint Sulpice, which plays such a prominent role in "The DaVinci Code". We found our way in and located the obelisk and 'Rose-Line' from the book, then admired the rest of the church - it has a huge organ. a spectacular pulpit and side chapels built in the 1690s. As for the 'Rose-Line', it turns out to be a tool set up to indicate the spring equinox - ordered by a bishop in the 18th century who was concerned that he know the exact date of Easter.
Once in the Luxembourg Gardens we admired some ad hoc straw sculpture, watched kids at play in a special sand box and wading pool, saw some young men playing boule and then settled down in two empty chairs in the sun to enjoy a large fountain and pool in the center of the park. Off to one side of the fountain there was a booth that rented model sailboats - boys took them to the pond and then set them careening across the pool. With the breeze, the boats really took off.
Feeling rested, we walked over to the Pantheon but found it closed. We did, however, find an ATM that accepted our cash card and loaded up on Euros. We also took a look at some of the buildings that make up the Sorbonne - the signs on some indicated they had been part of the University for centuries. We ate dinner at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter, then watched a street band play as we headed for the Metro - the band's leader was a sousaphone player with a jester's cap, white knickers and red socks while the trombone player was a guy in a woman's robe and bustier. Quite a sight, even for Paris.