So, I really hate my keyboard right now because every time I try to insert an "e" with a circumflexe, it's like: "Navigate away from this page?" NO. DO NOT NAVIGATE AWAY FROM THIS PAGE. *gnashes teeth* (Souhm, there probably won't be any accents in this post since my computer, Gandalf, is being quite annoying. Sorry!)
I know a lot of you were jealous about the fact that I got to go to Notre Dame de Paris for midnight mass on Christmas. Don't be. If you have EVER been to a Christmas Eve/Christmas service at any church, then you probably have a good idea of how it works. You should understand that going to Notre Dame for Christmas mass isn't an original idea at all; Paris being the hot spot for tourists that it is, there were maybe-thousands of people all crammed in there.
We got there at 9:20 or something like that (potentially earlier), but all of the seats were already filled. We crammed along the sides with the other seat-less people. Standing room only; I should have worn more comfortable shoes because I was definitely shifting the ENTIRE time. If you plan on doing something like that, ARRIVE REALLY EARLY. It's insane. Take ANY seat possible, even if it means sitting apart from your group. There's this whole "Introduction to Christmas" photo montage with French speakers (all pre-recorded), and English subtitles, followed by music from the Choir.
I wish I would have known to stand along the sides because people get up and leave every once and a while, so if you were right there, you'd be able to grab the seat before anybody else could. They had security people (maybe? I'm not sure; they were wearing bright orange and blue. We decided that they must be the new Musketeers-- this one guy had an AMAZING goatee and pointy mustache! :O)
“The Snuggie Choir” is what we called them. Don’t they look like they’re wearing Snuggies?!
Anyway, we could kinda-sorta see, and they had monitors set up all over (they were filming the service; you can watch it on TV here), and we took blurry zoomed-in pictures. I don't know if any turned out well, but here's a couple just in case.
This is the arch-bishop in his hat.
This guy is reading something in French. He is not the archbishop.
The archbishop finally took off his hat! That’s him; he has ANOTHER hat UNDER the pointy hat. (I should really learn the technical names for these things.)
(The Archbishop wears this pointy hat, which is amusing (it shows that he is the arch-bishop, not just another priest); they wave around a lot if incense, which we think makes it seem a lot more important. We left before communion though, because at that point, there wasn't any more pretty singing, just rather monotone French blessings or something.)
We got back to our hotel room around 1:something, but of course, we didn't go to sleep until later. Amazingly, we woke up before 11 today! YAY! (9:30, actually, but we didn't actually get anywhere until almost noon.)
We did end up going to Montmartre today; we wanted to see Sacre Coeur, and Simone (the "New Paris" tour guide from yesterday) had informed us that Montmartre is the stereotypically charmingly French part of town, so that moved to the top of our list. Besides the fact that last time, we didn't go here, so it's all new to us. Montmartre, for those of you unfamiliar with the layout of the city, is the highest hill in the city. It offers panoramic views of Paris, and has lots of stairs and cute little streets. The movie Amelie (I still haven't seen it, grr!) is set there. We took the Metro to somewhere near the bottom, and climbed a tiny little staircase to the side of Sacre Coeur.
Wandering towards the "touristy" section, you are basically swarmed by artists with giant clipboards, telling (not asking) you to stop so they can sketch you. I'm not sure how much that costs, but we made it through the crowds of them by saying "Non! Non!" and shaking our heads until they stopped following us. They're certainly enthusiastic. We considered it for a moment, but knowing that they would over-charge and it really wasn't necessary (even for the experience), we continued to decline. Besides the fact that we were hungry.
Brunch (Breakfast. At lunchtime. Same thing as brunch? I think yes.) was on Montmartre, in this little cafe, Au Petit Creux de Montmartre. I had a crêpe chocolat et boule de glace, which was a crêpe filled with chocolate with a scoop of ice cream on top. The fact that it was cold is forgivable due to the fact that we once again had chocolat chaud. (It wasn't that good this time, but it came with SUGAR CUBES so that's okay. :D)
After brunch, we wandered awhile, up and down the streets, attempting to avoid the busy areas, which we ultimately failed at. We ended up in a tiny square with artists all set up, painting and sketching and selling their pieces. All of it was unique, and so pretty, too! Unfortunately the REALLY neat ones were out of my price range. :(
Finally, we walked up to Sacre Coeur and wandered inside. It's free to tour the inside and the crypt below, but you aren't allowed to take pictures in the Basilica itself. I got snapped at (literally) for resting my feet against the back of a pew. (This was after I was sitting like that for no less than thirty minutes) Dad sketched a picture of one of the columns, near the top of the dome. We paid the ten euro for both of us to climb the 300 steps to the very top of the dome. We had some issues with the ticket machine, but luckily the people behind us were patient. :D
It was REALLY windy at the top of the dome, and I was freezing up there (seriously. Bad wardrobe decision is NOT to layer on Montmartre). When we finally descended the stairs (luckily, Dad didn't break a foot this time...), we bought more roasted chestnuts (yum) and tossed some coins to a dude playing Coldplay songs. He was really good; you could hear him all the way up at the top of the dome and we wondered if Chris Martin was on vacation... xD
As we passed the famous stairs (and the escalator-thing on the side of the hill... errrrr... I don't remember what it's called... >.<), we stopped to take a picture but we were intercepted and cornered by these two African men that basically conned us into buying these "friendship bracelets" that they made on our fingers. They kept saying, "Hakuna Matata! Timone and Pumba! We like Americans!" and all these other things. When I referenced the actual song from Lion King, though, they had no idea. Everybody wants to sell you something... but we eventually escaped (not without paying far too much, argh!) and obviously got lost on the way to the Moulin Rouge.
In this picture, you can tell I’m holding roasted chestnuts! Behind me is the Chris Martin guy. xD
*acts silly* Dad: *fails at taking a picture*
We didn’t get any closer than this, because right after we snapped this picture, we were cornered by those two guys.
This is the last working moulin (windmill) on Montmartre. “Moulin De La Galette.”
We got confused; this is NOT the entrance to the Moulin Rouge.
I was debating whether or not to dance around. I didn’t, mostly because I felt awkward :)
Once we had taken enough pictures of the Moulin Rouge, we took the Metro to this modern park, called Parc de la Villette, which was designed by an architect named Bernard Tschumi. I wasn't that interested in the park at the moment, largely due to the fact that I was hungry (I know, lame excuse, but this always happens me! I like art and such but when I'm all grouchy due to hunger, I just can't appreciate it.) Dad was pleased that he finally got to see it though; he wanted to last time but he was vetoed by the rest of us.
It started sprinkling, which ruined the sunny, breezy, and chilly day that we had been enjoying. (*sarcasm*; why won't it just STAY WARM and DRY in Paris?!) At that point, we just went back to the Hotel.
After we rested our feet for while, we headed back out for dinner at Le Petit Marius, which is this rather-expensive fish restaurant near the Champs-Elysees. Dad's meal freaked me out a bit; I mean, who wants their food to be LOOKING BACK AT THEM?! Eugh. I had cod, but that was really bland. It looked nice though! The mashed potatoes were delicious, though. Oh, and the appetizer, too: more salmon and creme fraiche (fresh creme sauce; I'm an idiot for not figuring that out before).
Once Dad finished eating, we wandered around the streets, "window shopping" as much as we could with all the shops being closed. Some other random tourist (from England, I think) came up to me asking if I spoke English (in French, of course); I think she may have thought I was a local? (She asked if I knew were a Pharmacie was... I didn't.) At least, that's what I hope she thought, because that would be SO COOL. xD
From that point on, we just strolled (you don't walk on the Champs-Elysees; you stroll and pretend that you have enough money to buy something) up the Champs-Elysees. Eventually, we wandered into a brightly-lit drugstore, because the shops on the Champs-Elysees are supposed to be unique, exclusive, and... not-common, and does a drugstore not sound common to you?
Well, upon entering, we discovered that is was not, in fact, common. They had Marc Jacobs bags, a bookstore (since when are there bookstores in drugstores?), a wine cellar (no joke), a pharmacie, an electronics/generally cool technology/random thing shop, a deli, and a bar. We bought some water ("no gas"/ “sans bulles”) and some French books (err... sort of. We bought some "phrase books" because they're funny, I'll talk about one of them at a later date because I have my own copy. I also bought The Tales of Beedle the Bard in French, because I don't have my own copy anyway and I would like to read it. I'll let you know how THAT goes!)
And now... we're back at the hotel room! Not much else to say for today. We didn't make it to the Musee d'Orsay due to the fact that we want to actually experience it, but tomorrow we're going to try to go the the flea markets in town as well as the Eiffel Tower (despite the fact that we've already been there. SHH! We'll try to go during the DAY this time!).
Anyway, I hope you had a very merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel from France! :)
P.S. "Fetes de Noel" is Christmas Day in French; literally, Feast of Christmas.