My roommate John and I arrived in the Paris Beauvais airport, once again via Ryanair, landing about an hour's ride from the city center. Upon our arrival, I had my first glimpse of the signature Eiffel Tower, and honestly had to sit back for a second in disbelief that I was fortunate enough to be traveling throughout Europe for the semester (and yes, a little studying sprinkled in there as well of course).
|A small map and a lot of ambition = 4 amazing days|
After finally getting our bearings and finding our hostel, we set out to take advantage of the second half of our first day. With a few tricky conversations in broken English (neither of us speak any French at all) we made it past a few unexpected sites before arriving at are first planned destination: Notre Dame Cathedral, or Notre-Dame de Paris. As was the case with nearly everything in Paris, it did not disappoint and was spectacular. Construction on the cathedral began in 1163 and it took about 100 years before it was finished.
Bastille Memorial (above left), Saint Jacques Tower (above right), and Hotel de Vill (below)
We made our way from Notre Dame to the Luxembourg Garden, a park that is in the 6th arrondissement (Paris is made up of twenty - they are essentially districts by which it is divided up, with the lower the number generally being closer to the city center). We found the Medici Fountain and walked around the 50+ acre park before catching the Metro north across the Seine River to see a small stand-up comedy show to end the night. It was very enjoyable to finally sit down for dinner and relax before the show. We ending up eating at Le Gymnase Café (there are more great Cafés than anything else in Paris) where I got some sort of ham and cheese flat bread melt and experienced my very first crepe - the classic banana nutella. Needless to say, I'd be indulging in many, many more.
Day 2 in Paris involved several more famous undertakings, including a visit to the Louvre, a trek up to Sacré-Cœur, and an evening bike tour around the Eiffel tower (and much more - it lasted over 2hrs and was really neat, I would recommend Fat Tire Bike Tours if you're interested!).
In all honestly, I still did not really understand what the iconic glass prism that topped the Louvre actually was until I did a bit more Googling and visited myself. Nonetheless, it is indeed a unique entrance to an even more unique place. Sculpture after sculpture, painting after painting, artifacts of Egyptian, Iranian, African, Asian, Roman, Greek, and Spanish decent - I could go on for ages, and so could my photos. Below is only a very small sampling of what we saw. A few of the most famous works include the obvious Mona Lisa, the Code of Hammurabi stele stone, the Winged Victory of Samothrace (Nike of Samothrace) sculpture, and the Aphrodite of Milos sculpture.
Sacré-Cœur was a fantastic visit as well. It was completed in 1914 and is located at the highest point in Paris, so it is a great place to get a unique view of the city. There was also an absolutely phenomenal street performer there juggling a soccer ball - it doesn't sound like much, but the guy literally climbed a light pole, hung from the top, and started juggling. One of the best I've seen.
And of course, another crepe stop before heading to bed - ham, egg, & cheese...so delicious.
As it turns out, we only made one major stop on Day 3, but I would say major is not a grand enough term. The Palace of Versailles (the Château de Versailles in French) was the most ornate and extravagant place I have ever seen. The palace itself consisted of 721,182 square feet and the gardens surrounding it made up another 230 acres. In total all of the grounds cover 87,728,720 square feet. The grandeur of the entire place was unbelievable, and it is hard to comprehend a family actually lived there at one time. Here, again, photo opportunities abounded and I have several below, including the inside and outside of the palace, the surrounding gardens and fountains, and Queen Marie-Antoinnette's estate. Her estate lies a bit of a walk away from the palace into the more secluded garden area. It looked more like a child's fairy tale than real life.
We left the palace around 5:30pm, got back into the city in the evening, and visited Tour Montparnasse - one of the region's only skyscrapers. Another savory crepe may or may not have also been in the mix. Montparnasse was one of the few things we did not have free student access to (a huge perk in Paris: if you are an EU resident/student from ages 18-26, make SURE you show your ID everywhere, it will save a lot of money), but it was worth it to see the city from yet another unique perspective. We also were able to catch the dazzling Eiffel Tower light show on the hour again.
Day 4. The day of days. Does that even make sense? Anyway, day 4 was perhaps the most intense, and successful, day of travel I have had. In one day we: climbed the Eiffel Tower, visited Napoleon's tomb, saw Sainte Chapelle, got into Monet's water lilies exhibit, climbed the Arch De Triumph, and saw a show at the Paris Opera House. All of these experiences are world class, and to have been able to fit them, and all the others throughout my time here, into my visit was an unforgettable whirlwind. As you can see below, we were initially a little worried about the view from the Eiffel Tower, but things cleared up nicely by the time we made it to the top.
|A winding, snake of a line to get in by the time we were leaving|
|A quick bite to eat|
Sainte-Chapelle, a royal medieval Gothic chapel, has nearly 360 degrees of remarkable 13th century stained glass
As many people know, Monet was a French Impressionist who lived from 1840-1926. The exhibit displaying eight of his water lily paintings (left & below) had an hour long wait - amazing to see work that someone dedicated the last 30 years of their life to. There were also several other artists' works on display in the lower level of the Musée de l'Orangerie, including Picasso and Renoir.
|A little snack before the Opera show|
Seeing a show at the Paris Opera house was an amazing last stop, even if it was performed in German with only French subtitles - hey, it added to the experience!
|Anddd....to cap it all off - one last crepe|
|Until next time, Paris!|