Here’s the thing about living in Paris. There are hundreds of “major” sites to visit, all of them surely spectacular, but unlike when visiting on vacation you’ve got work and real life to attend to so you never even get to half of them.
Literally so much to see, so little time to see it. How many things in your own hometown have you not visited except maybe when friends are in from out of town?
Fortunately for me, I work with a fun office manager who has a penchant for planning visits to nearby things to see. Our office is right in the heart of the city, so we’re perfectly placed to zip out and back during a lunch break. We’ve got a couple other expats, but quite a few French like to come as well because, like I said, it’s hard to find time to see everything in your own city when you’ve got everyday life to do.
So where did we visit this time?
Back in the spring, when I was a wandering expat with nothing to do, at least once a week I would meet Frenchman at his office at Opéra to grab lunch and sit on the steps of La Madeleine to eat. These lunches often spurred hours-long walks where I tried to see interesting things and find new ways to get home, but it never once occurred to me to go in the very building we were sitting on.
But on this gorgeous, uncharacteristically sunny day, in we went!
What is La Madeleine?
L’Église de La Madeleine, that is, the church of the Madeleine that gives this neighborhood (and métro stop) its name. “L’église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine” is a church built in 1182.. or in 1764, or 1831, or a handful of other dates depending on who you ask and how you define “built.” Ultimately, the building that stands today is Napoleon’s pantheon-style construction, looking very un-churchlike (especially for Paris). But inside, it is most definitely a church.
So, as usual, Paris sights did not disappoint and it was absolutely beautiful. Lined with big stone archways decorated with meticulously painted scenes and statues, La Madeleine is impressive. Not at all what you expect from its official exterior.
Lunch under La Madeleine
As it turns out, there is also a restaurant located underneath La Madeleine, so the plan was to stick around for a bite to eat. We were somewhat mislead by out trusty office manager as to the style and quality of this restaurant, however. It is a charitable restaurant serving… adequate meals (two choices of entrée, main, and a variety of mediocre desserts) for a whopping 16€, or 9€ with a year’s membership that costs 7€ (which, if you’re playing along, is also 16€).
The food was fine, definitely nothing to write home about, but you get to feel like you did a good deed, I guess. What was cool though was that to fit our large-ish group, they led us down a series of tunnels under the church, turning this way and that. It’s no Catacombs experience, but neat nonetheless.
So we ate our very OK meal, tried not to swear (too much) under a church, and had a really hilarious time before heading back to the office.
Not too shabby for a Friday lunch break!