Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Day of Why Nots

Jeudi, le 12 juin.

As I wrote in my journal this evening, today was a day full of "why not?"s. (Yes, I have a journal. And yes, I have remembered to write it in for the past three days now.) Why not do this? Why not do that? Why not go there or stop there or walk just a little further to get there? 

I was on my way this morning from the apartment I'm staying at to the seventh arrondissement ... so why not get off a few metro stops early and catch some sun on the Champ de Mars?

The last time I was there, Molly and I were rushed to take our obligatory tourist photos and didn't really get a chance to just sit around and enjoy all the other visitors. I loved watching the people that passed by: French schoolkids on class field trips, Parisians on their lunch breaks, and -- of course -- hordes of camera-clutching, sneaker-clad tourists. I sat on the grass, kicked off my shoes, and scribbled a little in my journal before surreptitiously snapping some photos.

On my way out of the Champ de Mars, I stopped to photograph a sign. There was a small group in front of it, carefully reading. As I waited behind them, my camera ready, the woman in charge approached me. "Pardon Madame, vous voulez un photo?" She let me go ahead and take my picture, explaining apologetically in French that she was translating the sign for her class of anglophones. Why ruin the fun and tell her that I was an English speaker as well? I just nodded and went on my way.

My actual destination was another iconic Parisian landmark ... recognize that beautiful gold roof?!

That's right, the Hôtel des Invalides. Built by Louis XIV in the 17th century to house wounded and aged soldiers (and to prove that France could build a church with a dome as fancy as St. Peter's Basilica), it is still home to the Institution Nationale des Invalides, which provides services for disabled war veterans.

The complex consists of several buildings, all surrounding a central courtyard -- the cour d'honneur. The covered archways lining the courtyard are peppered with souvenirs of France's military past, including old tanks and cannons.

In addition to the souvenirs on display, the building also houses France's Musée de l'Armée. I peeked around a few of the exhibits, which included lots of swords, paintings, and Napeoleon's favorite horse (stuffed since the 1800s ... yuck!), but spent most of my time in the contemporary department, which focuses on the development of the French army from 1871 to to 1945. You can read more about the Musée des Deux Guerres Mondiales here (link coming soon).


Despite its many other roles, les Invalides has become most famous as the emperor Napoleon's final resting place. He was entombed under its huge baroque dome in 1870, several decades after his death in exile. The tombeau de Napoleon is but one of several tombs located in the vaults; several centuries of French military leaders (including Marshal Leclerc and the guy who penned the French national anthem) are also entombed there. And if already visiting the other museums at les Invalides, why not stop by and say hello to Napoleon himself?


I didn't have any particular plans after my adventures at les Invalides, so I decided to head back to the apartment I'm staying at and recharge. But when the weather is THIS beautiful and grass is THIS comfortable ... why not stop and have a picnic?

I grabbed some snacks and sat for a while on the Esplanade des Invalides, watching the increasingly heavy traffic pass by as afternoon turned to evening. It was kind of funny to think of what a rush these people were in, hurrying to get home or to the airport, while the sunbathers and picnickers on the esplanade seemed to have all the time in the world.


Unfortunately, I couldn't stay on the esplanade forever ... so I packed up my bags and headed back to the apartment. Well, sort of. I passed one metro stop and then another, eventually ending up at the Passerelle de Solférino, a pedestrian bridge just across from the Musée d'Orsay.

On the way, I was asked for help by exactly three different people: an American couple looking for a metro stop, an Australian woman whose husband was comically relieved to hear that the museum they were looking for had probably already closed, and a Spanish-speaking man who just wanted to get on the next train to the Eiffel Tower. Although it was my first time in the area and I had next to no idea where I was going, it just so happened that I knew juuust enough to answer all of their questions. And. It. Was. Glorious.

I got back to my apartment, ready to never walk again after my afternoon full of adventures. But all the tourists floating around Invalides and the banks of the Seine had put me in the mood to explore, so I decided to pack up my dinner and go visit the Eiffel Tower. (Again.) Luckily, it's semi-close to the apartment I'm staying in ... and when you've already walked so far in one day, pourquoi pas add a couple more miles to the daily total? Besides, two miles is a small price to pay when it means eating dinner with this view!


Now I am in bed. Can't quite feel my toes, but I think it was worth it. Quelle belle journee!


  1. Oh my gosh! I can hardly breathe. This is so fascinating and I'm so very proud of you! You are doing it right my dear!
    Love, Mommy

  2. Quelle belle journee en effet! Tu es incroyable! Raconte, raconte. On ne s'en lasse pas...:-)