Yes, 1,091 stairs in one day because Notre Dame has 387 and the Tour Eiffel has 704. But apparently 387 + 704 = 2 amazing views.
Today we got up extra early to leave at 9 am for Chateau de Vincennes, a medieval castle! It was like a fairytale castle, except the real thing in its antiquated state. The color was very faded, with many tones of yellow or brown or beige.
We had tickets to cross the bridge over a field of grass (like a mote) and go up into the tower. There were spiral staircases here, too, as we climbed up to see the small rooms and chambers. No furniture was present, but merely rooms of brick and old fireplaces. A balcony was on the other side of the little bridge, where we could see the grounds. The building across from us (which we didn’t go into) kind of looked like Versailles on the outside. This medieval castle was never taken during the wars.
Across the castle towers was a church, which was as white and clean as the Chartres Cathedral. The stained glass never comes out as radiant in my photos, but I really enjoyed sitting in the bright church with those common arched ceilings.
For lunch, we walked around the back of Chateau de Vincennes to a park-like wooded area on the other side of the street. It was a really nice park with dusty gravel paths and even a pond with lilypads. Teo had brought us sandwiches, so I ate a curry chicken one with avocados while sitting on the grass among the flowers.
After the picnic, Teo led an optional walk to Canal St. Martin, so I went along to see it. Though the area was perhaps a little grimy and grungy and not as nice as the Seine, I liked seeing people hanging out around the canal with the water so high.
At one point, we saw a boat coming up the canal so we waited to watch. Since the canal is tiered, they have a special process to open the canal and let the water levels equal out, raising the boat, so it can sail through. Here is the blockage when it’s closed, but we watched it for about 15 minutes while it opened.
We also met up with one of Teo’s old students who gave us each a slice of a fruit tart that was brilliantly flakey. After this stroll along the canal, I branched off with two girls to go to Notre Dame, since we embarrassingly have been here over two weeks and have not gone inside. The line in the front was about 30 minutes to get inside the church.
It was really similar to every other church we’ve been to, to be honest, with arched ceilings, stained glass rose windows, and gothic details. However, I was surprised by how dark it was inside, with very little light shining through even with several chandeliers and candles around. Posters described the history of its construction, and I could see what Teo was talking about when he said that it was built over such a long period of time, adding other styles to change it.
Another line greeted us outside, this time an hour long wait to pay to climb the 387 stairs to the top. I’ll repeat: waiting in line to pay to walk up stairs. That’s right. Despite the winding spiral staircases, it was worth it. We stopped at the first level to see the complete 180 degree view of Paris in front of us, with the array of gargoyles and rooftops of Notre Dame behind us. Really stunning, even on this cloudy day. In fact, it started raining while we were up there but oh well.
(The view is so breathtaking in person, seeing all the perfectly Parisian buildings and all the landmarks that we can now recognize.)
We walked up more stairs, first to the bell tower to see the giant bells and then to the top of the left tower. We had five minutes at the top, but you can even see the Arc de Triomphe from here, though much of the view was the same as the first level. I was so glad I went to Notre Dame – I can never get over these aerial views of Paris.
Once we wound back down the stairs, we stopped along the bridges nearby to look at art for sale. There are a lot vendors here drawing caricatures or selling paintings or prints of Paris. I LOVE these artworks because they try to capture the fleeting nature of this city, so it makes sense why the impressionists loved Paris. It started to downpour, so I quickly bought a little impressionist painting of the Eiffel Tower, but every stand I passed had wonderful pictures. Wish I could collect them all.
For dinner, I went to the grocery store Franprix to get cheese-filled pasta. I’m discovering little hidden foods of Paris in these markets that aren’t exactly famous Parisian but that I enjoy. For example, there’s this fig and nut cheese that has the texture of chunky cream cheese and a salty and sweet taste. And there are these sodas called Oasis (not oasis like the desert, but pronounced oh-ay-sees). They will correct you on your pronunciation if you say oasis. Anyway, I’ve had both raspberry and tropical flavors, the latter of which is the best soda here. I don’t think these are even French things, but I’ve never seen them at home.
Post-dinner a group of us decided to climb the Eiffel Tour because it was one girl’s birthday (yes, another birthday!). We left around 10 p.m. so we could see it sparkle starting at 11. However, apparently we should’ve gone earlier because they said that once you walk up the stairs to the second level, you have to buy another ticket to ride the lift to the very top and it might close soon.
So we tried to climb the tower really fast, but I actually ended up losing them for a while because I stopped on the first level to look at the view. Then I spent a long time just looking for them, climbing the next set of unbearably endless stairs. It’s really cool being inside the tower at night, when it’s lit up so you can see the intricate metallic weavings illuminated.
We didn’t make it in time to buy tickets to the top, but the view from the second tier is still amazing at night. I especially love the northwest view of the Seine.
And, as always, at 11 p.m., the tower sparkles for five minutes, which was unbelievably neat to see from right there. The lightbulbs just flicker on and off and create weird shadows when you’re up there. It was great, other than the part about losing my group for 20 minutes.
So, all in all, like I said – 1,091 stairs at Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower. Even more if you count Chateau de Vicennes. But, it was a day of breathtaking views as well.