Saturday, 5 June 2010
Our Parisian finale
We were serenaded below the window of the apartment on our last night
So by Saturday, our last full day on this short trip, our batteries were really running down. After breakfast we pottered off to Musée de Cluny and revisited the famous medieval tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn but even their sumptuous detail and workmanship couldn't hold our attention for long - more coffee was calling.
We wound up at a nearby cafe, sitting outside in the gloom, near a young American couple. They were with a female friend who was hogging their conversation: yak, yak, yak. The guy in the couple seemed to be withdrawing into his coat, his girlfriend was nodding politely - we paid and left.
We realised that there was no hope of finding a post office nearby to send our two cards to our respective mothers so pressed on towards the Metro. Our plan was to trek over to the Hôtel national des Invalides to see the tomb of Napoleon. Something else I've never done. This was where I got really quite excited because, after traipsing around endless tunnels and up and down stairs, we arrived at the B-line platform and got on a suburban train for two stops. These trains have two decks (like double decker buses) and it felt like we were going off on a long trip into the unknown.
Our suburban train ride was soon over. When we were back up on street level we walked down a very long, wide avenue where at the end there is a building that dwarfs everything around it. This, as Graham told me, is the Hôtel national des Invalides. Thinking this was too much to tackle on an empty stomach we headed off towards a district where we hoped to find a restaurant. We found several and enjoyed an excellent meal for a cold day.
Now we were fortified and ready for Napoleon and his tomb. It struck me that to get to any destination in Paris you have to walk miles. Before we could get to old Boney we walked through a gate, along a path, through another gate into a huge courtyard with cloister-like walkways. In the courtyard there were groups of military type young people pacing around as if in rehearsal for some future event - we gawped at them for a bit. Once through the courtyard we carried on walking and walking until we got to the imposing front door of the chapel for Napoleon's tomb.
What a weird place this is. Unlike most Christian churches which run from West to East, this runs from North to South. Napoleon was a short man but you wouldn't know it looking at his tomb which, I understand, has maybe five coffins stacked inside each other, and then placed inside this weird marble edifice. The tomb is in the crypt but can be seen from above. Surrounding the tomb are protective pagan goddesses and plaster reliefs depicting Napoleon in heroic poses. It was well odd but worth one visit.
And that really was enough. Time to return to our friends' apartment for the last time and enjoy the serenade from the band that was roaming around the neighbourhood.