For Love of Wine & Chateaux: Paris Uncorked (Part 2)

With our remaining couple days in Paris, we opted to split the time between food and culture. Sainte-Chapelle fell victim to our late start, but I was hell-bent on seeing the Gargoyles of Notre Dame up close and personal. To satisfy our gelato craving, we queued up for artisanal ice cream at Berthillon, but the artistic presentation of Amorino totally blew us away – multiple flavored gelati were literally transformed into flower petals on our ice cream cone! We also strolled around Place de la Madeleine, aka Foodie Square, a must-see for anyone interested in gastronomic pursuits. The Louvre was our last museum stop – still a great place to check out the masters and see Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile despite the maddening crowd…

Neat rows of gargoyles line the façade of the Notre Dame de Paris.

Neat rows of gargoyles line the façade of the Notre Dame de Paris.

We got to the Notre Dame before opening time in anticipation of the line to ascend the tower. Looking up, the famous gargoyles seemed to stand guard over the cathedral. Carved out of stone, they serve as downspouts to divert rain water from the roof.

Two chimeras in the Chimera Gallery of Notre Dame

A close look at two chimeras, fantastical animal carvings sitting atop the Cathedral’s columns.  On the left is ‘Le Stryge’ (the Vampire) famously portrayed in an etching by artist Charles Méryon.

Several spiral staircases and 387 steps later, we were finally at the Chimera Gallery! We were surrounded by chimeras, which included all kinds of grotesques: birds, mythical beasts, dragons and hybrid creatures. They were eerily fascinating and the highlight of my visit.

Two more gargoyles from the Chimera Gallery of Notre Dame

Smitten by the gargoyles, I snapped more pix of a couple more chimeras looking down on the tourists from their lofty perches.

A brooding gnome gnawed sinisterly on a bone(?), while on the other side, a flying squirrel look-alike seemed ready to launch itself onto some unsuspecting passer by…

Square Jean XXIII behind Notre Dame

Serenity greets anyone who wanders into the Square Jean XXIII behind the Cathedral.

Dedicated to Pope John XXIII, the square is an oasis of peace just a short stroll away from throngs at the entrance of Notre Dame.

The ‘love lock’ encrusted Pont des Arts.

The ‘love lock’ encrusted Pont des Arts – we were there before the city got rid of the locks.

After Notre Dame, we visited another top tourist site – Berthillon on Île Saint-Louis, purveyor of fine artisanal glace (ice cream)! We pushed towards Pont des Arts which is known for the 700,000 ‘love locks’ that tourists attached to the historic bridge as a romantic gesture. Under the weight of 45 tons of hardware, parts of the bridge finally collapsed, and the City decided to remove all locks to save its heritage.

Macarons from food emporium Fauchon

Macarons at the venerable food emporium Fauchon – just in time for our coffee break!

Place de la Madeleine, is foodie heaven where all manners of gastronomic delights await. The square is home to the gourmet food shops Fauchon, Hediard, Caviar Kaspia, Maison de la Truffe and Maille.

Sandwiches from Maison de la Truffe,

The main attraction for us was Maison de la Truffe, the ‘Truffle Palace’ for all things truffle, including sandwiches! We couldn’t pass up the truffle goat cheese sandwich.  With loot in hand, we headed for the neighborhood Starbucks to enjoy our seriously scrumptious spread.

Maison de la Truffe’s upscale restaurant has an adjacent retail area which offers truffle salt, butter, cream, olive oil, mayonnaise, and mustard – practically a truffled product for every need. There is also a loyalty program which offers a nifty 10% savings for dining at their restaurants!

The Louvre's exterior view

Here we are at the Louvre, the mecca for museum lovers.

Energized after our break, we planned to spend the rest of the day at the Louvre especially since it closes late on Fridays. The red neon light sculpture by Claude Lévêque beckons through the glass.

The Louvre Pyramid.

A courtyard building framed by the circular staircase and pyramid.

The underground main lobby had full view of the sunny sky, thanks to the approximately 603 rhombi and 70 triangles of glass in the pyramid (but then, who’s counting – even the museum and I.M. Pei’s office couldn’t agree on the total numbers!)

Miffy lamps in a Paris shop.

Eye-catching Miffy lamps in a shop.

I’ve never heard of Miffy before, but apparently it’s a popular Dutch picture book character. There were Miffy lamps galore, ranging from small to extra large (about 31”)!

Large mushrooms on display outside a grocery store.

Super-sized cepes proudly on display outside a grocery store.

Since November is mushroom season I was on the lookout for them, but the sheer size of these cepes is truly amazing!

Eiffel Tower at night

The Eiffel Tower lit up like a Christmas tree (without the red and green lights!).

We took a Bateaux Mouches cruise in the evening and got to see the City of Lights from the water, including different perspectives of the Eiffel Tower.

Coming up – Bordeaux for our first river cruise!

Please send me your thoughts!