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Ste. Chapelle or the “Holy Chapel” with the imposing “Palais de Justice” beside it.

To save some Euros and experience a bit of French history, we took advantage of Free Museum Sundays between November and March, where extra sites are open for free admission during this low tourist season. See this website for all the listings of places that are free on the first Sunday of the month: http://en.parisinfo.com/guide-paris/money/free-admission-and-good-deals/guide/free-admission-and-good-deals-in-museums-and-monuments_free-on-1st-sunday-of-the-month-all-year-round

This child knows he’s in a special place. It’s small space accentuates all the dazzling colour and light that we don’t regularly see in (big) churches.

We took the kids to Sainte-Chapelle,  the royal chapel built between 1242-48, by King Louis IX, to house his Holy Relics, in particular the Crown of Thorns (which can be seen on display on the first Friday of each month and during Lent in Cathédrale NotreDame a couple of blocks away.) The church was part of Palais de la Cité, or the royal residence (from 10th-14th centuries) which included the Conciergerie.

While visitors were reading the provided information sheets about the Church, we brought “Dora the Explorer” books. It spared us 15 minutes of quiet time.

There are two striking features about this medieval church. One is that its interior is painted with vibrant colours with lots of motifs and decorations. The other are the striking blue stained-glass windows, mostly depicting scenes from the Bible. It is a kaleidoscope for the eyes and quite breathtaking when the sunlight shines outside.

The Holy Chapel also holds classical concerts in the evening. (See my post about my sisters.) What a nice venue!

After 20 minutes, my children were bored of the church (my daughter had some screaming sessions just before entering the Chapel—her built-in sensors kicked in: “ALERT: approaching old boring building!!”) so we skedaddled to the nearby Conciergerie, which was the royal palace of King Louis IX (and other kings before and after him). Only a small part is open to the public, notably the prison area. Thus the Conciergerie is not a great place to take children unless you want to show them what prison was like (compared to what a wonderful life they have at home) or Marie Antoinette’s (recreated) prison cell before she was guillotined during the French Revolution. It is a sad place to visit.

Tiny window peeping into Antoinette’s prison cell with creepy mannequin as Marie. There were mannequins portraying prisoners in the jails too. (Not great for small children to view.)

Luckily, there was an interesting exhibition called “Bêtes Off,” a pun on “Best of” (bêtes=animals, but can also mean “stupid”). There’s nothing like a display of animals done by artists to make you think of how we treat them in this universe. In retrospect it was an excellent presentation, but many installations disturbed me.

“La salle des gens d’armes” (=the “Hall of Men-at-Arms”) was the dining room for the thousands of staff who worked in the palace. I love the medieval “rib vaulted” ceiling.

“Here is The End of All Things” by Claire Morgan, is a fantastic image (this photo can’t capture) of an owl mid-flight through dandelion seeds.

“Time Flies” by Erik Nussbicker. You don’t know until you get close to it that there are REAL (big) FLIES in that frail hourglass netting. Thank goodness the guards warned me, “NE TOUCHEZ PAS!”

“Vanitas” by Ghyslain Bertholon. This installation had a trail of gilded antlers that popped up like a forest in a different spot. This one gets me in the gut.

There was one video that made me and the kids happy: canaries playing electric guitar. We need more of that in the world than viewing an archaic guillotine blade or art installations of animals in painful situations. Go to this link to view and hear “Les Oiseaux de Céleste” by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. I need a little cheering up after visiting La Conciergerie…