Weather Today: Scattered Crowds in the Afternoon

We noticed at the Musée d’Orsay, that the crowds thinned in the afternoon, so we thought we’d delay the start of our planned return to the Île de le Cité today, hoping to take an uncrowded tour of the Notre-Dame Cathedral (the Palais de Justice is also on the island).

No such luck. When we surfaced from the Metro, the place was swarming with tourists.

After waiting in this line to get into the cathedral,…

…we were told at the entrance that there was another line around the corner for the trek up to the top, which is what we had really come for. That line was at least twice as long – and not moving at all – so we decided to skip the Cathedral altogether, especially since we had already toured it when we were here with the kids.

Instead, we walked east along the Left Bank where we had a great view of Notre-Dame from the other side of the Seine:

We strolled past the booksellers and artists lining the Left Bank, then turned to cross over the Seine on the Pont de l’Archevêché (the Archbishop’s Bridge), the narrowest road bridge in Paris.

But that’s not what the Pont de l’Archevêché is known for today; now it’s famous as the Love Locks Bridge where lovers attach padlocks to the stanchions, declare their love for each other, then throw the key into the river.

The padlocks completely cover the bridge and I’ve read that many Parisians are very upset about the whole thing because it detracts from the beauty of the antique bridge and its environs.

I’m not sure how I feel about it: I like the romance of it all, but things have clearly gotten out of hand; and then there’s the whole thing about the statement – does a padlock really symbolize enduring love?

We crossed over the Pont de l’Archevêché and then the Pont Saint-Louis to the Île Saint-Louis, looking for somewhere away from the maddening crowd to have lunch, but we had to keep going further north to escape the tourist traps, ultimately making our way up into the 3rd Arrondissement, past the National Archives building, where we found a nice place to eat.

After lunch, we looked for a Metro station and a train to get us over to the Basilique du Sacré Cœr, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, perhaps a more appropriate symbol of enduring love.

Growing weary of walking by now, we opted to ride the funicular to the top of Montmartre, the Martyrs Mount. At 425 feet, Montmartre is one of the highest natural points in Paris, visible from our apartment on the opposite side of the city.

In the photo, above, you can just make out the top of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the summit of Montmartre. It’s an impressive structure, but we were stopped in our footsteps by the humongous crowd at the top of the funicular.

We slipped around to a side staircase up to the Basilica…

…and took the picture, below, from its doorstep, looking back across the city (our apartment is in one of those tall buildings in the distance).

We walked around the inside of the Basilica, but opted not to climb to the top; we did that when we were here previously; again, too crowded.

We remembered a plaza not far from the Basilica that we had visited last time where there were a number of portrait artists and painters exhibiting and selling their work, but the character of the place had changed and it was packed with tourists and touts and many of the artists’ booths had been supplanted by outdoor cafes and restaurants.

We left and returned to the funicular, opting this time to take the stairs down.

At the bottom, we had to dodge the crowds, pickpockets and scam-artists on Rue de Steinkerque, then made our way back onto the subway which we took to Gare du Nord, the train station where we’ll catch the train to London in about 10 days when we leave for home. From Gare du Nord, we took the B train to the tramway, then took the tram home. We were exhausted.

When we visited Turkey and Greece last summer, we learned to follow the “Tour Bus Rule” – if there’s a tour bus at a site, skip it, it will be too crowded. Here in Paris, we’ve discovered another version of the same rule; we’ll call it the “Top Ten Rule” – if it’s on the guidebook’s list of “Top Ten Things to See,” skip it, it will be too crowded.

Tomorrow we’ll go visit number 11. We’re expecting it to be cooler and only partly crowdy.

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