On our second day in Paris I started the day early with a visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral. The long lines that form outside the cathedral appear daunting, but they move quickly. The cathedral is still fully functional, and masses and prayers are held even while tourists mill around the perimeter of the sanctuary.
Just across from the cathedral is the archaeological crypt. It is a subterranean excavation site featuring the remnants of old Parisian landmarks going back to the time of the Roman occupation. Visitors can see tiles from the Roman baths, a medieval well, the old docks, and the foundation of a cathedral that was dismantled so the stones could be used to build Notre Dame.
After seeing the crypt it was time to get on the Metro again and head off to the 2:00 visit at the International Film School of Paris, also known as the Ecole Internationale de Creation Audiovisuelle et de Realisation (EICAR). Our contact at the school sent directions for the 15 minute walk from the metro station to the campus. It all went well until I misinterpreted one of the instructions and ended up walking for over 15 minutes in the wrong direction, looking for a traffic circle until I figured out there wasn’t going to be a traffic circle. Thanks to a bus stop map, I found where the school was without any more trouble. Though I didn’t get to the school until around 2:20, one good thing that came of getting lost was having the opportunity to see what I like to call the exotic suburbs of Paris. Okay, they weren’t exactly exotic and they were a bit more urban than suburban, but there were people driving motorcycles on the sidewalks, which was something different.
I arrived in time to catch the end of a lecture about EICAR and its degree programs. The school attracts students from around the world, though classes for international students are taught in English. All non-French speaking students are, however, required to take French classes while they are at EICAR. One unique thing about the school is that students are taught every part of the filmmaking process and take turns working different crew positions. The second part of our visit consisted of a tour of the school. We got to see the equipment rooms, studios, classrooms, and computer labs where the students work and edit their films.
I split from the group again when we returned to the downtown area of Paris. There was just enough time for a short visit to the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie is a part of the Palais de Justice and was at one time a royal palace and a prison. Most of the Palais de Justice is still used for judicial purposes. A notable feature of the prison is the memorial on the site where Marie Antoinette was held before her execution.
In the evening a group of us left the hotel and returned to the Ile de la Cite. We stopped for dinner at a small restaurant just across the river and had possibly the best meal of the entire trip. Some of us even tried the escargots, which are prepared with a kind of garlic-basil marinade. We walked over to Notre Dame and discovered that the square, which is packed with tourists during the day, is even livelier at night. There were people doing stunts with roller blades and a man doing a comedy/mime act, but a troupe of fire dancers drew the largest number of spectators. The cathedral provided a stunning backdrop for the performance. We walked along the river for a little way, enjoying the view of the cathedral and seeing the lights of the city. It was the ideal end to a day in Paris.