Paris: Bread, Cheese, Art, and Churches
Hello friends, it is Molly in Paris! I have been here for 4 days and I have had quite the French experience. I ate oodles of cheese, bread, chocolate, and other French things. We are staying in an apartment on the Left Bank of Paris, which is known for its philosophical thinkers, such as Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, etc. These men and women would sit in cafes, drink coffee, and think deeply. Even now, this area is full of students who are attending the Sorbonne (University of Paris) and let’s hope they think a lot too.
We arrived early Tuesday morning from Vienna (which did you know is rated #1 for Quality of Living in the world?). We arrived at our quaint apartment and I found out my “room” was a small alcove above a ladder in the wall. It was my little birds nest, I liked it. After dropping off our stuff, we got breakfast at the Duex Maggots, which we learned later is a famous cafe. I had good coffee and a tasty omelette. While drinking my coffee, I reminisced how I had spent so much time in countries with bad coffee, but great tea. I’ll miss the tea for sure, but I love coffee. I’ve missed it.
I had seen the Eiffel Tower (and the Arc de Triomphe) while driving in and I had an itch to go see it for real that day, so Jamie and I walked along the Sienne River towards the tower. We took a turn to look at the Army Museum building, just SE of it. We did not go inside, but the building has a golden dome and we learned Napoleon is buried beneath it.
We continued NW and then through the trees and buildings, we saw it. We had found the promenade and the Eiffel Tower. I pretty much frolicked towards it, while occasionally making my brother take a picture of me. There were lots of people in the promenade, either taking pictures or having a picnic. After 15 minutes of frolicking and taking pictures, we made it underneath. I was impressed with the intricate lattice ironwork. Jamie and I spent a long moment appreciating the size and architecture, it really is a modern marvel. We walked into a park and found a bench to sit on. We had a great view of the tower and we had Coca Colas to quench our thirst (‘Merica!).
I knew I’d be back to climb to the top, so we said “see yah later” and went back towards the Left Bank to meet up with my Dad. We got dinner at a French restaurant and after dinner I went on a walk following the Seinne River, but East this time. I listened to a piano player for awhile, then I found a thriving street full of people eating and drinking. I continued on my way and noticed a large cathedral in the distance and knew right away that I had found Notre Dame. At sunset, the walls were illuminated and I could see the flying buttresses and gargoyles. I walked all around the cathedral, looking at the different gargoyles and statues. I walked farther away from it, through a garden and found a bridge with lots of locks on it. This bridge is where couples buy a lock, write their names on it, lock it to the bridge, and then they throw the key into the river, to prove their everlasting love for each other. So romantic. I then watched the sun set over the Paris cityscape with Notre Dame in view. What a great first day.
The next day, I woke up early and picked up breakfast for the family. After eating, we all explored the Left Bank together. Dad had a book, so we looked at the historical buildings and walked the cobblestone streets. We visited the Sorbonne, just to see what the university looks like. It was very magnificent. I went to the University of Oregon (go ducks!) and I always thought our buildings were pretty cool, but European colleges are far more elegant. We then went to Notre Dame and went inside. I got an audio tour, which I was thankful for. I learned a lot about the history of the cathedral. My 3 highlights were: The round rosary windows on the North and South sides were gorgeous. Also, there are wooden sculptures that tell the story of Jesus’s Resurrection, which were used by the illiterate back in the 1400’s. Lastly, I did not know the cathedral was in ruin for hundreds of years, it wasn’t until the 19th century that it was renovated.
Dad had not seen the Eiffel Tower, so we took the #10 subway to its nearest station. We walked the promenade again and took more pictures as a family (Aw). I split from Dad and Jamie so that I could go to the top. I climbed the steps to the first and second platforms, reading the informational boards along the way. Since it was rainy, there were less people on the tower, which was nice. By the time I reached the second platform, the sun had come out. I waited in line for a short while for the elevator to the top. In the elevator, I watched Paris get smaller and smaller and there were lots of gears and wires we passed along the way. At the top, I had an amazing view of Paris. The platform is circular, so I could see all of the city. I found my favorite spot, where I could see the Arch, the river, and a beautiful cathedral on a hill in the distance. I stood there for awhile, enjoying the view and daydreaming.
I returned to the Left Bank and got French food again. I got creme brûlée that evening and it was the best I have ever had! After dinner, I walked along the river again and saw lots of people picnicking and smoking cigarettes on the canals. I don’t like to smoke, but I do like picnics, so I bought a small snack and joined in with the French culture. The night air felt nice and surprisingly the canal smelled pretty good too. Many tourist boats passed by and I waved to them, the children looked so pleased.
The next day was jam packed with fun. Dad got breakfast, some croissants and fruit, and then we decided to walk across the river to explore the Right Bank. We found out it is the market place, so there were shops everywhere. There were lots of old buildings that were converted into stores and there was the Pompidou, the famous modern art museum. The outside was very interesting, it had lots of tubes and wires. We stepped inside and got a glimpse of it. I like art, but modern art is hard for me to understand. When I go to exhibits, I feel out of place because people all around me are appreciating a piece of art that I just don’t get. After that, we walked down the street towards the world famous Louvre.
We found the building and walked inside it’s gigantic doors, and through the doorway, I could see the glass pyramids. The building itself is so big, there are 3 separate sections that house priceless art from all over the world. I did not realize how huge The Louvre is.
Jamie and I went inside and went to the Denon section, the one with the Mona Lisa. We walked into the Italian sculptures room and we also looked at stonework from Spain and from the Nords. We then entered the Renaissance hallway and walked in between priceless art pieces. I even recognized some art that I learned about in school. Near the end, we walked into the Mona Lisa room. I was happy to finally see her in person, she really is beautiful. We continued exploring until the museum closed. I wish I had more time to see the other exhibits.
We got dinner and then I left Dad and Jamie to see my friend Pauline, who I had met in Ecuador 2 year ago, specifically at the Galapagos Islands. (I took a week long trip to the islands and lived on a boat that brought me to the different islands. Pauline joined me for 4 days and we became fast friends). I met her at the Gare Montparnasse to then take a train to her house 20 minutes outside Paris. We chatted the whole time and caught up with each others lives. That evening, she cut me slices of baguette and I ate smelly cheese or ham spread with it. It was so French! We also prepped the Crêpes batter for our morning breakfast.
The next morning, I woke up early and started to read my new book Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Planchett. I am 50 pages in and it is hilarious! Pauline woke up eventually and she taught me how to make Crêpes and then we feasted like French queens. We had honey, sugar, jam, and butter to make some delicious Crêpes. Yummmmm! Afterward, Pauline played piano and I listened. She played Miyazaki music, music from movies, and Debussy. I enjoyed listening to her play; she is very talented.
She showed me around her village, which is very cute. We walked around the old part and she showed me a church that was built during the 1100s. She did not think much of it, but I was amazed. We walked to the cemetery too (did you know that the French have extravagant tombstones/tombs, even for ordinary people? It’s the norm here). We then sat in a park and talked about the world and how gay marriage is now legal in both of our home countries/states. Hooray!
She walked me to the train station and we said our goodbyes. I was so happy to see her again and I know this will not be our last meeting. Good luck with your Librarian Studies degree, Pauline!
Well, the rest of Paris was spent eating dinner and packing my bags for London. I walked to Notre Dame to get one last look. I’ll miss seeing the pretty cathedrals in America.