France was unexpected. I went to Paris with the preconception that everything would be overpriced and the people would be snobby. I was pleasantly surprised. Paris was amazing. The weather was better than anywhere (in the 70’s!), the food was so ethnic, and the place is just gorgeous. The building are unlike anything I’ve seen and the gardens seem to be the replacements for piazzas. I was not expecting to love this city as much as I did.
We landed and made our way to the hotel. At first we thought we bought a 7,60 ticket that only took us to a train station (a total of 8 minutes) but luckily it took us from the airport to the RER line. Also Paris has some great deals! We got a weekend metropass for a person under 25 that was less than half the cost of what it would have been if we had bought a standard adult all day pass. It was amazing and very nice of the ticket lady to tell us about this deal. We also got a 2 day museum pass (highly recommended!) for 32 which we used for 7 different museums/sites. That’s less than 5 per site. If I had not gotten this pass, I would have paid 71! Also this pass got us out of waiting in lines (except at Notre Dame)—such a perk. Sorry for that aside. The first thing on our list was a quick stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens. This place seemed to have all sorts of Paris-esque qualities to it. The people were just sitting and talking or reading or crosswording or sudokuing or iPoding or napping. They were so relaxed. But so many people were there and it reminded me of Seurat’s http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Georges_Seurat_-_Un_dimanche_après-midi_à_l%27Île_de_la_Grande_Jatte_v2.jpeg
After this stroll we booked it to Notre Dame so we could buy our Museum passes to use for tomorrow. We were kind of worried that they would have run out or closed—but we were in luck. After getting our tickets and dinner in the Latin Quarter (French Onion Soup and Fondue) we made our way to Sacre Cour, a Gothic cathedral that is on higher ground that overlooks the city. Everyone was there; chilling on the steps and picnicking on the grass. But what was so cool was that amidst the ruckus outside, Sacre Cour was quiet and had some awesome spiritual vibrations. Its altar was the most creative and well-executed altar I’ve seen in a church. It was not all the way in the apse, but just in front of it, so that you were able to walk around the back of the altar. After this we decided to go see a sunset view of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero Square and then a nighttime view of the Tower from the Champs de Mars. Trocadero square’s view was very climactic—there was a building in front of the Tower between the metro exit and the actual Tower so you could only see the Tower when you walked right to the middle of the square. But that’s when it hit me that I was in Paris. Sadly, the Champs de Mars was closed (for Bastile Day celebrations, which we found out about later…)
The Eiffel Tower!
Yes, here it is again!
The next day started with the Palace @ Versailles. Our museum pass helped us cut the ridiculous line and we lingered a bit more in the palace so we could see the fountains in the garden turn on (because on that day we’d have to pay to go into the gardens because the fountains were turned on). The fountains weren’t even all that fancy and especially after Tivoli only two fountains even come close (Piazza Navona’s and the Trevi, of course!). One thing that surprised me about Paris was the number of ethnicities it had: it’s the most diverse place I’ve been to in Europe Also there are a ton of Tamils. A TON. There was Tamil writing in Sacre Cour, Tamil people on the metro, and Tamil speaking security people at Versailles. The palace itself was beautiful, but what really took the cake was Marie Antoinette’s estate. The quaint cottages within a hamlet were just wow; I-want-to-live-there-slash-reminds-me-of-Assisi-WOW. After Versailles we went back to Paris and did the Orsay. Oh how I love Impressionist and Post-Impressionism: Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne, Seurat, Gaugain, etc. It was just awesome. For the record, Renoir is my favorite. It was definitely a bigger museum than I expected, but very enjoyable nonetheless. After this, we made a quick stop at St. Chappelle before heading out to the one recommendation we’ve gotten from everybody to eat at in Paris: Las Dus Falaffel. (Thanks Dane and Saloni!) Oh boy, it was good! J While enjoying our falafel at the side of the street, we met a couple from Salt Lake. The woman was a Longhorn alum and her best friend was Plan II-how cool?! I love running into Longhorns abroad. Also since the sun doesn’t set till forever (around 10ish pm) we decided to go see the outside of the famous Paris Opera House, Opera Garnier—we had seen some of its interior design in the Orsay earlier, the Moulin Rouge, and a bit of the red light district area. We went yet again to the grass near Trocadero Square to see the sunset followed by a midnight falafel run to Las Dus—just like kebabalicious or Ken’s back in Austin!
Inside the Palace's Hall of Mirrors
The Hamlet of Marie Antoinette
Vegetable and Flower Gardens in Marie's Estate
Another View of Marie's Estate
Inside the Orsay!
Look at that ceiling
The famous Moulin Rouge
The Eiffel Tower from Trocadero Square
Midnight Falafel Run
The following day began at the Lourve. It was my first time there (definitely not my last!) and it was unbelievable. I saw all my favorites and there even was a room filled with paintings by my all time favorite artist: Claude Lorrain. I also discovered 2 more artists that I am now a fan of: Pierre Patel and Pannini. Pannini has the best paintings, especially for all you Rome lovers: see below. I really want prints or posters of these paintings for my room. We went through almost the entire museum in about 3 hours or so. I was very impressed. Oath of the Horatii, Liberty Leading Her People, and Raft of the Medusa left me awestruck. I was incredibly humbled to even be in the presence of such works. The Louvre courtyard with the Pyramids is also really spectacular. It’s always open and it’s a great spot to sit and relax. We went to the Orangerie afterwards to check out Monet’s elliptical rooms with his waterlillies. It was very different having a 360° all-around vantage. Also their Renior collection was more impressive than the Orsay’s—so at that point this museum became better than the Orsay for me. After lunch we made our way to climb Notre Dame. On the way I met Rob (from SECL) who was studying abroad there. It was totally random, but awesome running into him. Climbing Notre Dame was a blast to the past, ie Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The line was long, but it was the only line we ever had to stand in during our trip to Paris, so it was bearable. I got a few more postcards written during the wait. The gargoyles and the view were definitely worth the wait. After climbing down, we entered the actual cathedral and attended mass (at Notre Dame!). We also admired the beautiful stained glass. And the church is HUGE. For dinner we had couscous—see exotic again, and afterwards we headed to the Arc de Triomphe and after climbing that, we strolled down the famous Champs de Elysse (a famous street). We saw the futuristic cars and the Mercedes Benz dealerships and the LIDO cabaret, and the largest Louis Vutton I’ve ever seen. Yet again, we made our way back to the Eiffel Tower and took a Seine River cruise. It was pleasant but really chilly. The area around the Eiffel tower was really crowded because the next day was Bastile Day (the French equivalent of July 4th). The Champs was also covered with French Flags.
Nike of Samothrace!
In the Egyptian Hallway
Pannini's Ancient Rome Painting
Pannini's Renaissance/Baroque/Neoclassical Rome Painting
daVinci! I wrote an essay on this painting this past semester for my High Renaissance Art History Class!
The Orangerie-Nympaheum of Monet's Waterlillies
On top of Notre Dame!
There's the Tower again!
Mass at Notre Dame
Sacre Cour in the Distance (On top of the Arc de Triomphe)
Me+Eiffel=Happiness (On top of the Arc de Triomphe)
The tower from the boat of the River Cruise
The next morning we awoke to the parade passing near our hotel. Although we were planning on going either to Chatres (to see a famous Gothic cathedral) or to Giverny (to see Monet’s House) we decided against it because if we missed our train back, we’d be stranded in Paris. We spent the day in the Luxembourg Gardens, the Tulleries Gardens, and the pyramid courtyard of the Louvre. We started off the morning with breakfast from a bakery down the street. And let me tell you: best croissant I’ve EVER put into my mouth—buttery, flaky, but not too crispy; an amazing chocolate chip cake thing with a dollop of chocolate fudge in the middle. It was absolutely divine. The Luxembourg Gardens were especially nice today. Families were there to sail their toy sailboats in the large fountain; it was really adorable. Gardens are seriously the French equivalent of Italian piazzas. I wish there were more accessible gardens/piazzas with grass and benches back home. I’ve become so accustomed to picnicking and napping in them.
Overall France was amazing. I am definitely coming back to tour the Gothic cathedrals throughout the country, go to Giverny, inside the Opera and the French Pantheon, as well as to relax on the Riviera. Also another plus about France is that people don’t smoke nearly as much as they do in Italy or Greece. The Paris metro was also a ton of fun to ride: It was always a puzzle trying to figure out how to get from Point A to Point B with the shortest amount of stops and least number of transfers! Up next: our adventure to our hostel in Barcelona.