St. Martin Canal, St. Germain & St. Sulpice

The shops along Canal St. Martin

On Tuesday, we started off at Canal St. Martin. My mom said, “There’s not too much action going on,” but that’s probably because we went to early in the day for much to be going on. That, and the fact that she was just looking down at the cobblestone sidewalk where there’s hardly ever any action! Anyways, lesson learned – visit Canal St. Martin in the evening to get the true experience. Regardless, it was a nice walk and it was fun to see the canal “cruise boat” go through the dams and changing water levels.

The dams along Canal St. Martin

Next up, a bathroom break at good old McD’s where I also got a Cafe Noisette – which I just learned means espresso with milk. Nice little pick me up (it’s literally a shot of espresso with milk in a tiny cup).

We walked to Pere Lachaise Cemetery, which was quite an undertaking. Although I must admit that it lacked the charm (and the cats) of the Montemarte Cemetery.

We did see the graces of Bizet, James Morrison, Sara Bernhardt (whose tombstone was romantic, but not over-the-top) and Oscar Wilde (whose Egyptian-themed, lipstick-covered gravestone was very over-the-top, in the best way). But I’m proud to say that Chopin’s grave was the most adorned with flowers and mementos. Then again, maybe that’s because it’s the year of Chopin.

Bizet's tomb at Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Random but beautiful tomb at Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Oscar Wilde's tomb at Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Chopin's tomb

I also stopped at Victor Noir’s grave – his tombstone was him lying down, and the bulge in his crotch was rubbed bronze, from so many visitors rubbing it. I wasn’t sure who Noir was or what his crotch was symbolic of, but I gave it a quick rub too, just in case! I just Wikipeda-ed him, and apparently Noir was a French journalist and his tomb is recognized as a fertility symbol. Oops…

Getting through the cemetery was truly an exhausting mission – it is HUGE – so good thing we had a bag of madeleines to fuel us.

Finished, we hopped onto Bus 69 per Rick Steves’s recommendation (it apparently goes past a lot of the big tourist destinations). Two stops later, we were at the end of the line since we got on the bus going the wrong way. Once we actually got going the right way, though, it was smooth sailing & sightseeing. We hopped off at Hotel Deville and finally made it across to St. Germain.

At last we were at St. Germain des Pres church, which is the oldest one in Paris. The inside was beautifully painted in deep navy blues and burgundies, which apparently used to be the preferred interior decoration of churches back in the day.

Inside St. Germain des Pres. The photo doesn't do these colors justice.

Next on our church tour was St. Sulpice – scene of the Da Vinci Code! In my mind, I was expecting some small church, but that must have been a different scene from the book/movie, because this church was huge! My highlights from St. Sulpice:

  • Altar with some saint and skeleton (yes, I know my detailed and well-researched descriptions are breathtaking). Similar in theme to the one I saw at St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Main altar, where a figure of the Virgin Mary was floating on 3D stone clouds coming out of the altar.
  • The scientifically-structured monument built in a way that the sun hits its golden ball and marks the solstices. I believe this was the key part of the church for the Da Vinci Code.
After the church, we explored the St. Germain neighborhood, which is lined with cute boutique shops and expensive designer stores. And how could we leave without strolling down Rue Bonaparte? Lots of cool antique shops, too. As darkness fell, the area continued to get livelier with people dining and drinking at all the cafes. We decided to dine & drink back at Latin Quarter.
Cute boutique in the St. Germain neighborhood
Cafe near Rue Bonaparte

After dinner, I guided my mom on the Rick Steves nightwalk through the two islands (Ile St. Louis & Notre Dame) in reverse. We gazed at the spotlit Notre Dame and crossed over to Ile St. Louis. It was a nice, calm, quiet walk – except that I had to pee really bad after all that wine I had for dinner! I ended up having to run into a random pizzeria in Marais to relieve myself (wait, is that the right phrase?). As I tried to stroll out nonchalantly, one of the waiters asked me something in French along the lines of “bien?” Apparently, I wasn’t as nonchalant as I hoped to be when I ran in! And that was my classy ending to a long day in Paris.

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