Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oct 15, Part 17 - Metro Montparnasse

From the old and beautiful to the old and dilapidated to the new and shiny. The church and many of the buildings in the bit of St. Denis that we saw were old and beautiful. The area around the metro stop had an interesting market, but otherwise was kind of shabby. Now we entered the metro, and the stop was shiny and tasteful. Nice.

After visiting two of the world's major churches, we'd spent enough of the day that we didn't want to start a new venture exactly, but it seemed too early to quit for the day. And I was seriously tired from being on my feet. I thought, "OK, why not just get on the metro and find a stop I haven't seen before? We can get out there and see what it's like." So we chose Montparnasse, which was on our line. When we stepped from the metro, the picture above is what we saw. The camera is lightening the picture, compensating for the darkening skies of evening. And, it was drizzling again. On the right you can just see the edge of Tour Montparnasse (the Montparnasse Tower). In front of us was a famous landmark in Paris, the Hippopotamus Grill. As it turns out, it's a chain, and the reviews range from great to ghastly, with the one here in Montparnasse being ghastly. Unless they've upgraded, I'm glad we didn't go there. Of course, Starbucks was familiar, but we didn't cross the street for that, either. Let's find something French. There is also a very famous theatre (Théâtre de Poche Montparnasse) just as we exited the metro. I didn't realize what it was until later, but I did notice we were in theatre territory.

That's the towering tower. We didn't go up, feeling like we'd had a full day and wanted to find dinner and amble in the direction of home. The view from the tower is said to be spectacular, and of course it would be - all for the price of an elevator ride (actually, it could be free, I'm not sure). The day was not inviting for a good view, either, so we bagged any thought I had of going up. And the Galeries Lafayette, with several locations in Paris is supposed to be fabulous for shopping, which was also of no interest at that point. Well here we were. At least I had seen some of the icons of Montparnasse.

Leaving the metro, we made our way up the Boulevard Montparnasse a few yards toward the square, trying to get our bearings. The convergence of the Boulevard Montparnasse and the Rue de Rennes (ahead of us) is considered the heart of Montparnasse, although the district is large.

Turning the corner to the right, we found this plaque giving us the name of the square itself. Montparnasse seems to be the neighborhood in a bigger sense, and we were on the Place du 18 Juin 1940. Obviously a World War II commemorative. When I looked it up later, I learned that it was here that two hugely important events took place. Fodor's Review states, ". . . This square commemorates Charles de Gaulle's famous radio broadcast from London urging the French to resist the Germans after the Nazi invasion of May 1940. It was in this square that German military governor Dietrich von Choltitz surrendered to the Allies in August 1944, ignoring Hitler's orders to destroy the city as he withdrew."

As we crossed the Rue de Rennes making our way around half of the square, I saw this store. Lee's daughter Laurel is a Body Shop at Home consultant, so I took the photo for her. It was fun seeing some of the same products I'd looked at and bought at her Body Shop Girls' Night Out parties.

Here's a view of the Place du 18 Juin 1940.

And another view of the square. The cafe was inviting with its cheery warm light, but the tables were wet, so we weren't going to sit outside. It didn't feel like time to eat dinner just yet, and the area looked expensive. Maybe we'd go for a cheap snack somewhere? We decided to start homeward.

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