Photo Essay: Paris, Part VI:
Crypte Archeologique, Notre Dame,
Palais de Justice, and a walk along the Seine

First posted in February, 2005

[ Click here to view the previous Paris photography essay. ]

February 9, 2005, 12.50 PM
Quelques restaurant près du Palais de
Justice qui a la pizza (Pescatore!)

I am in some restaurant near the main court of Paris where they have pizza pescatore for a mere €10 but their Cokes, lemonades, what have you are nearly as much as the pizza - per glass. Bizarre. Oh well, this will help me make the €15 minimum to use my credit card, as I'm down to €10 cash in my pocket and I leave in a few hours. I'd rather not get charged another fee for converting hard currency.

Again, I'm seated within a meter of another person - well, actually, about a third that distance. Personal space in France in nearly nonexistant and it must drive claustrophobic Americans nutty when they visit.

But I digress for the dozenth time. I was telling you about my morning around Notre Dame cathedral. I also saw the archaeological crypt beneath Ile de la Cité, the island upon which Notre Dame was built.

The crypt is an area beneath the square that lies in front of Notre Dame. Descend down a flight of stairs beneath the square and you can see the excavated remains of foundations built two millenia ago by the Parisii, the Celtic tribe after which Paris is named. It was an excellent lesson in the evolution of Paris, and a fascinating hour or two for this archaeologist (I don't do much archaeology these days, but hold a masters in historical archaeology, so this was a wonderful expenditure of my time).

The crypt is poorly lit, so most of my photos from within really aren't much, but since I know there are a few Harry Potter fans that will read this, I've included one photograph:

Remnants of a fifteenth century portal, commissioned by Nicolas Flamel,
who was rumored to have made his fortune in alchemy.

And I saw the gardens behind Notre Dame: Square Jean XXIII.

The gardens were rather quiet today.
All the activity was in front of Notre Dame.

Sam, having read my last post, asked why I didn't
take any photographs of the famous flying buttresses
of Notre Dame. I did, I just forgot to include them.
They're visible from Square Jean XXIII.
This photo lost a lot when scaled down.

And I walked around the Palais de Justice (that medieval castle I mentioned previously). Originally built during the middle ages to house the kings of France, it is now the somewhat modernly renovated court of Paris, guarded by dozens of uniformed police at its many entrances, and allegedly the daily 'home' of about four thousand civil servants. As it turns out, I could have actually made my way through all the security, walked the halls, and peeked in on a few of the cases being tried, but I didn't know that at the time. Something to do next trip, certainly.

A view of the main entrance, Palais de Justice

The side of the building along the Seine
has a more medieval feel to it, though it's
seen quite a bit of rennovation, I think.

I had a pleasant and interesting chat with two female police officers guarding one of the gates. I was for some reason a bit nervous approaching them, but they seemed friendly and helpful to other people, and after introducing myself and telling them that I was an officer in the States, we had a rather nice little chat comparing work environment, staffing levels, equipment, and training.

I have just finished the most expensive Coca Cola I have ever consumed (50cl = €8), and while it tasted no better than any other Coca Cola I've ever had, it was the most savoured of any I have ever had. It sort of evened out, though - the pizza was excellent and worth far more than €10, so I'll just pretend that it was more expensive and the Coke was cheaper. I really wanted a soda, obviously.

After lunch I have decided I will walk the Seine's banks back to where I began yesterday, Pont Alexandre III. I may take in the Rodin gardens and museum, as he's my favorite sculptor, despite the fact that I've seen his work countless times elsewhere and despite the fact that it's late in the day and despite the fact that I left my museum sketch book in Alaska. If nothing else, I hear it's one of the quieter spots in Paris.

February 9, 2005, 05.15 PM
Varenne, Metro

They had to ask me to leave le Musée Rodin.

But before I talk about that, I should address the lovely walk I had this afternoon along the Seine.

It is absolutely amazing how much quieter this city is if only you take the time to descend the stairs at one of the many, many bridges, and walk the lovely cobblestone paths that lie along the river.

The banks of the Seine appear to be the perfect place
for quiet conversation between lovers and friends.

A photo I took earlier in the day of another popular activity:
the river's edge is a quiet place within view of the famous sites,
the perfect vantage point for an afternoon of sketching.

Notre Dame from the Seine. The girl in the previous photograph
sits out of frame to the right, sketching the cathedral.

Each wall, each sidewalk, has its own beauty and character.

Sometimes the walk took you under the bridges in view of the water,
but at other points you walked through wonderfully dark tunnels.
I'll bet this is an entirely different experience at night,
though I'd like to make the walk after dark to see all the
reflections on the water.

The bridge with the most character of all, however, even more than the
Alexandre III, is the Pont Neuf. Literally its name means "New Bridge,"
except it's the oldest bridge on the Seine, constructed in the 1500s.

Why more character than the flamboyant, frilly, Alex III, you may ask?
The bridge has 384 unique grotesques... bizarre sculptured faces that
line the cornices. Each different, each worth your time to examine.

This last one, at left, reminds me of André the Giant. Sadly, I think that every single time I look at it. There's just something Not Right about me looking at a four hundred year old sculpture and thinking of a twentieth century wrestler...

At this lovely willow, my path along the river ended.

I was forced to once again walk along the street.
Louder. Amazingly louder than it had been at the river's edge.
But with noise comes activity. Here is a vendor selling,
among other things, some lobster.

I walked past shops filled with beautifully decorated cakes and tarts.

I somehow refrained from purchasing this amazingly gorgeous peach tart.

Something that really would have been naughty to buy: used books.
But again, as my unfortunate luck would have it, the street vendors
were gone today. A tart can be eaten, books have to be lugged home.
It's probably all for the best.

[ Click here to view the final Paris photography essay. ]