The next day I decided to brave the Louvre. Having been tipped off to a few secret entrances during the walking tour I was all ticketed up and inside within 5 minutes of getting off the metro. Take that people lining up at the main entrance! After stopping by the Venus de Milo (awesome!), decided to just get it over with and headed for the Mona Lisa. I survived but it was touch and go there for a while. Fought my way to the front, got a photo, did the ‘huh, I thought it would be bigger’ thing, and got the hell out. To be honest the rest of the museum, especially the Egyptian and sculpture wings were much more interesting, and I spent quite a while getting lost in the quieter sections where the crowds who only go for that one painting never get to.
Once I decided that if I hadn’t seen everything, I’d certainly seen enough I headed to Notre Dame. Took a quick circuit of the inside but found myself far more impressed by the exterior. Lined up to climb the towers and got up close and personal with the amazing gargoyles. Enjoyed a spectacular view which did in include the Eiffel tower, and saw the enormous main bell which had to be almost twice my height. Definitely worth the 400 steps, if only for the amazingly expressive features on the gargoyles.
For my last night in Paris, I returned to Monmarte and treated myself to a very nice French meal of almond encrusted goat cheese salad, salmon steak with pasta, crème brulee which arrived fully aflame and a glass or 2 of pinot noir, because honestly eventually you just have to accept that no handsome French millionaire is going to swing by the hostel and insist on taking you out for dinner so you better spoil yourself. After all that indulgence I continued on to the Arc de Triomph which I may or may not have broken into as it was a little unclear as to which parts you did and didn’t need tickets for. But the security guard that saw me enter via the exit (oopsy) didn’t seem overly fussed…and I wasn’t set upon when I tried to leave the country so I think I’m ok.
Having finally figured out what that niggling feeling that I’d forgotten something was all about, checked out early on my last day and made my way to the Catacombs. Chatted with a few people during the wait in line and eventually made it inside (glad I got the tip to go early!). Just incredible. Its over 2km of tunnels through old limestone quarries with thick walls of bones and skulls from when Paris emptied the cemeteries in the 1700s, in most places stacked taller than me. Very cool and creepy, definitely the highlight of Paris for me.
Back on the surface I found my way to the Musee d’Orsay which, for me, was so much more rewarding than the Louvre, having a huge collection of more contemporary artists such as Renoir, Monet, Toulouse Lautrec, Picasso and some more of my very favourite Van Gogh pieces (the painting of the church that was featured in that Episode of Doctor Who is simply mesmerizing in real life). Lots more of the same at the Orangerie, but with the added bonus of Monet’s Water Lillies Certainly none of that size based disappointment so common around the Mona Lisa with each of the 8 being almost 2 metres tall and running the length of the walls.
Since I was in the area, wandered to the Hotel de Invalids and had a gawk at Napoleons tomb which is just about as humble as you’d expect from him, being a giant marble sarcophagous under the golden dome of the church and surrounded by Roman style carvings of himself as emperor with all his minions looking on in awe. Yikes. The rest of the complex is a military museum so zipped around there before racing back to pick up my bag and heading to catch the Eurostar to London.