Monday, November 25, 2013

European Adventure, Part 3: Paris!

Paris was the third stop in my tour de Europa.  Admittedly, this was the city I was most excited about visiting prior to actually leaving the US.  I've always been a bit of a Francophile, and I wanted to be overwhelmed by riverside walks and crepes and art and macarons.  I experienced all of those things and more:
the Seine River on a windy day

Notre Dame

inside Notre Dame

On my first full day in the city, I knew I needed to get my bearings a bit, so I elected to take a nice long walk from the apartment I was Couchsurfing at to Notre Dame.  It was blustery and sunny and lovely, and I warmed up along the way with a crepe and some coffee.  Paris is just as much a stroller's city as Florence, despite the fact that the two could not be any more different from one another.  Notre Dame is a beautiful and imposing Gothic structure, and I was lucky enough to arrive just as a service was starting.  Despite my own tenuous relationship to religion, I was immediately taken by the sound of the vocalist's voice soaring through the rafters as the organ accompanied.  If angels are real, then I'm sure that's what they sound like when they sing.

Following my time in the cathedral, I took a little (long) walk to the Louvre and spent about an hour there.  If you know anything about that museum, you know that it takes DAYS to see everything inside.  Needless to say, I returned there two days later.


da Vinci's 'La Belle Ferronière'; better than the 'Mona Lisa', in my opinion.

more Botticelli.  sigh.

Michelangelo's "Rebellious Slave"
In total, I spent about four hours over the course of two days at the Louvre and it was completely overwhelming.  When I visit again, I'll be sure to attempt my visits during "off" periods; I arrived in Paris at the beginning of a public school break, which I'm certain added to the crowds I ran into.  Add to this the fact that the place is ENORMOUS and a bit of a challenge to navigate.   

Following my brief visit on the first day, I took a train over to the Rodin Museum.  Rodin is one of my favorite artists, and I was not disappointed by the well-curated collection of his works.
A view from the gardens of the Rodin Museum.
"The Thinker"

The original "Thinker"; there are many reproductions that exist and they are often scaled to a larger size, like the version in the photo above.

"The Crouching Woman"
Rodin's works look like living, breathing things...perhaps even more so than the sculptures by Michelangelo (at least to my eye).  I'm always amazed when an artist can give the look of sinewy muscle underneath skin to marble or bronze.  Rodin takes things to another level entirely by capturing beings in unusual postures and positions.  It was amazing to be this close to his work, and I was so pleased that I had the chance to see them like this.


oh, heeeyyy.

Arc de Triomphe.

on top of the world.

On Champs-Elysees.  This is the LINE to get into ABERCROMBIE & FITCH.  Unreal.

Macaron heaven.  I had three mini macarons: salted caramel, chocolate, and gingerbread.  All delicious.

Being a tourist means seeing all of the things people expect you to see when you visit a well-known city.  Above is evidence that I did that!  Climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe was MUCH easier than getting to the top of the Duomo, for those interested.  :)

On my last full day in France, I decided to head to Versailles.  After seeing the palaces of the Medicis and Hapsburgs, I honestly didn't know what to expect.  But man, oh man, was I ever surprised by how strikingly beautiful Versailles is:

Hall of Mirrors.

my finger makes another appearance!
The palace itself is amazing.  Every last inch of the place is covered in one of three things: marble (of varying kinds and from varying locales), frescoes (on every ceiling, and even on the walls), gold paint/gold foil (seriously baller, y'all).  Take whatever you're imagining in your head and multiply that by a thousand.  I'd have more photos from the inside, but it was ridiculously crowded and also dark in some rooms, which are two things that present a considerable challenge to me as an iPhone photog.

Once you're done with the tour, you have the option of touring the gardens...miles and miles of gardens, each of which is different in character from the one you saw before.  I spent almost two and a half hours walking around outside without even noticing that time was passing.  On this particular day, they were playing classical music throughout the gardens.  It was basically the most idyllic way to stroll about gardens; I felt like a character from a BBC version of some Jane Austen novel (without a corset, obviously).  It was amazing, and I didn't want to leave.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my awesome host, Simon, who let me couchsurf in his beautiful 5th floor walk-up in the 10th Arrondissement.  He took me out on the town with his friends, took me to an African club, and even begrudgingly ate Tex-Mex with me (which was awesome!).
This is our best look.

Barbocoa taco and a cactus and queso blanco tostada.  YUM.

I think one of my friends summed this up perfectly when he suggested that Hemingway would be proud of me for hanging out here.  Hemingway would be proud and DRUNK off of the straight pour of rum that they hand out here.
I'd love to head back to Paris someday with friends or family; it just seems like a city that is best enjoyed with others.  This is the only city where I encountered homesickness in a real and profound way.  Something about witnessing families and couples on the street really drove that feeling home for me.  That said, it is a beautiful cosmopolitan city full of beauty and culture, and I look forward to seeing it again.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

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