I can’t believe we are on day four of my Paris recap already. We packed so much into our first three days, and by the time I awoke on day four, I felt satisfied that we had seen and done most of the things we wanted to fit in. Add in plenty of time lingering over meals, relaxing in our apartment, and revisiting favorite spots, and we were very content with the way everything was going.
There was still one thing missing, however, something that was repeatedly pushed back by late starts, long lines, and the assurance that we could always return later.
Meet Sainte-Chapelle. It’s a Gothic-style cathedral on Ile de la Cite, originally constructed to house sacred relics from the crucifixion of Christ, namely the Crown of Thorns and a piece of the cross. Nowadays, however, it is probably better known for its stunning upper chapel, with wall-to-wall stained glass windows. I hadn’t even heard of Sainte-Chapelle when I first visited Paris in 2014, but photos of the chapel left me determined to stand inside the stained glass chamber this time around.
The previous day’s rain was still coming down when we left the house and began our short walk to Ile de la Cite. Memories of last night’s romantic dinner cruise along the Seine hung over our heads, keeping us warm as we bought sandwiches and espresso from a sidewalk vendor and made our way down to the river. In our chic new coats, with espresso and baked goods in hand, we felt at home in the city, happy to live in the moment and forget all about our impending departure.
Breakfast finished, we walked over to Sainte-Chapelle and joined the short queue on the sidewalk. Armed soldiers stood inside to oversee security and bag checks, a necessity after recent terror attacks.
After shaking off that little oddity, we gathered our belongings and entered a small, unimpressive stone courtyard. The cathedral was surprisingly small, its stained-glass windows reduced, on the outside at least, to a series of arches and structural details.
The interior lower chapel wasn’t too much more impressive, I’m sorry to say. I might have been more impressed if I’d never set foot in another French cathedral…but after visiting Notre Dame down the street, the lower chapel of Sainte Chapelle seemed small and even a little plain. The ceilings and columns were done up in patterns of blue, gold and red (reminiscent of paintings of Jesus, perhaps?) and a few small stained glass window lined the walls.
Looking at the intricately detailed ceilings and columns, it’s not as though the room was ugly. The details of the room were pretty, but with its miniature size, booths selling all kinds of souvenirs, and the fact that the religious relics were no longer stored at the cathedral, I was a little let down by the lower chapel. (The crown and cross are now at Notre Dame, for those who are interested.) More impressive is the fact that the building was completed over seven years, a drop in the bucket compared to the centuries of ongoing work invested into Notre Dame.
The upper chapel, however, was everything we’d dreamed of.
We loved the sheer size of the windows, the colorful stained glass and the overall presentation of the room. We visited on an overcast day, but I imagine on a sunny spring day, the light coming through those windows would really bathe everything in a gorgeous glow. I probably wouldn’t return to Sainte-Chapelle, especially for the full price, but it was a lovely one-time stop on our European adventures.
Next up was the Louvre, which we accessed in a matter of minutes thanks to our Paris Museum Pass priority access!
The inside of the pyramid was beautiful, and after getting our maps and realizing just how massive the museum is, we decided to go ahead and see the Mona Lisa first, figuring we could take it easy and explore at leisure after that.
Of course, the Louvre was much more than the Mona Lisa, and much more than just a bunch of paintings and sculptures, if you get down to it. The museum houses sarcophagi, an actual mummy, jewelry and housewares, and the former apartments of Napoleon! It also is home to some of the most beautiful rooms and ceilings I have seen in my life.
The museum fatigue set in after several hours wandering between packed, humid rooms, and we decided to get a bit of shopping done for our evening picnic at the Eiffel Tower. I was thinking maybe some macaroons, some champagne, and with luck, some bread, cheese and charcuterie. Our rental was well-stocked with cups and glasses, so we packed up the champagne and cheese and had just enough time to buy a baguette from a nearby boulangerie before heading back out to the Eiffel Tower.
I dreamed of a romantic evening on the lawn, toasting to a wonderful trip as the sun crept lower on the horizon, the Eiffel Tower finally bursting into millions of sparkling lights. Of course, we arrived to a packed lawn, and dozens of hawkers trying to force the romance by shouting “BEER WINE CHAM-PAN-YUH” and shoving bottles in our faces. Dan wanted to retreat to a park bench, away from the crowds and the hawkers, but I figured they would just come find us there anyway. In a particularly un-romantic move, I refused to budge, insisting that we enjoy the evening on the lawn. Dan wasn’t too happy about that, but as the evening progressed, I think he was glad we stayed. Ignore the hawkers, pop the champagne, and you’ll be just fine.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle was the perfect ending to the Paris leg of our trip, and I’m so happy that I got to share it with Dan. Petty arguments aside, the trip was even better than I imagined it would be, and by the time we caught the train back to our apartment, we had made our peace with our upcoming departure. Nothing like the city of lights to calm your troubles and make everything feel all right!
Paris, as always, you were a dream. I can’t wait to return (over and over again). But for now, on to Rome!