paris, je t’aime

17 March 2009 at 5:11 pm 3 comments

I have fallen in love with Paris.

I returned on Sunday from my four day stay in the city of lights and have since decided that I want to spend some portion of my life living there. Aside from the fact that it was a bit less sunny than Cannes, I loved absolutely everything about it. I think I’ve been dreading blogging about my experience because I am sure it will end up being my longest entry yet. I will try to make it as concise at possible!

We left on Thursday. It was a long day of traveling, but I lucked out and got a window seat on the airplane. From that window, I witnessed one of the most beautiful sights of my life. The Nice airport is right on the coast so upon take off, you are immediately over the sea. The sun was reflecting off of the water and the waves became smaller and smaller until all I could see was infinite blue… the horizon even blurred with the sky. After some time over the sea, we began to fly over France. The little orange mediterranean rooftops became smaller and smaller like pebbles, and as we flew over the Alps, they looked like anthills covered in sugar.

When we arrived in Paris, we had a bit of time to settle into the hotel, and then embarked on a Bus Tour around the city. If I tried to recount all of the landmarks and attractions we saw, I think I’d fail miserably, so I won’t bother. (but check for new photos!) My favorite parts of the tour were when we made some brief stops: one at the Eiffel Tower (just for photos, but it was so exciting to see for the first time!), one at the Hotel des Invalides (where Napoleon is buried), and one at Notre Dame. Notre Dame from the outside is absolutely amazing, but the inside… I was speechless. The giant window made of thousands of pieces of glass was majestic. Quiet music was echoing throughout the cathedral, and just being inside of it was a spiritual experience. I am hoping that when I return to Paris with Baird over spring break, I might be lucky enough to attend a mass. I can only imagine how beautiful that would be.

In Notre Dame

In Notre Dame

Dinner on Thursday evening was quite a contrast to my spiritual afternoon. My friends and I made reservations at this small restaurant in Montmartre called Refuge des Fondus. Not your typical Parisien restaurant. The room is quite small, with two long tables lining each wall. We crammed all nine of us into a very small portion of one of the tables, and were served delicious Fondue. The funny part was that they also serve wine in baby bottles. Yes, baby bottles. Although it took me a while to become reacquainted with drinking from a bottle, it was definitely a hilariously fun evening. Since we were already in Montmartre, we decided to spent the rest of our night up by the Sacre Coeur. It was a long walk up the steps to the top, but completely worth it: the company and the view were both exquisite. It was definitely the best way to spend my first night in Paris.

Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur

Day 2 was busy from the start. In the morning, we took a guided tour of the famous cemetary, Pere Lachaise, and saw the graves of many famous people including Moliere, Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, and Edith Piaf. I am usually not a huge fan of cemetaries, but Pere Lachaise is grand and beautiful, and I could see myself going back there to take a quiet walk and enjoy its tranquil atmosphere. From there, we headed over to the Musee D’Orsay. I have always loved Impressionism, so seeing so many great works of my favorite artists (Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Van Gogh) was an afternoon well spent.

Seeing the Louvre was also an amazing experience. (well, the insignificant part that I saw… I wish I could spend weeks there.) Coincidentally, my Emmanuel friend and future roommate Marissa happened to be in Paris the same weekend, so we met in front of the Louvre on Friday evening when admission is free for students. It was wonderful to see her and to see many more amazing works of art. I have to say, the Mona Lisa was more impressive than I thought it would be. So many people have warned me that in person it’s such a let down: it’s too small, it’s roped off, it’s covered in glass… but when I saw it, it was larger than I’d expected, and I felt honored to be in front of one of Da Vinci’s greatest works.

At the Louvre with Marissa

At the Louvre with Marissa

After visiting the Louvre, Marissa and I met up with some of my fellow AIFS students, Alexa, Janet, and Sara, and we stumbled upon the most wonderful small French restaurant in the Latin Quarter called Le Comptoir des Saints-Peres. It was affordable and perhaps the most delicious french food I’ve had yet. The best was the french onion soup that Marissa and I shared – better than any I’ve ever tasted!

Our evening ended late, after seeing the famous Cabaret, Le Lido. It was defintiely a fun and entertaining experience to see, but vaguely disappointing. I had expected such a famous cabaret to be virtually flawless, and yes, the sets and costumes were extravagant, but I was disappointed in the dancers — some of them lacked enthusiasm and they were never completely synchronized. But who am I to be a critic! I know nothing about cabarets… except that I’ve never seen so many boobs at once in all of my life… Although maybe that will change in Cannes as more people frequent the topless beaches!

[Phew! For those of you still reading… I’m impressed! And we just got half way!]

Saturday. In the morning we visited the Opera National de Paris… where the famous Phantom of the Opera haunts…very beautiful. In the afternoon we trekked out to Versailles, and unfortunately that is when my Paris travels began to exhaust me. Nonetheless, I had a great time walking through Versailles, in awe of its extravagance, particularly the beautiful Hall of Mirrors.

On the way to dinner on Saturday, we made a quick photo stop at the Eiffel Tower, and then headed to a fancy restaurant on the Ile de la Cite: 40,50 euros for a 5 course meal and all the wine you can drink. Admittedly, the majority of us therefore got rather tipsy (scandal! Sarah’s now of legal drinking age!) which made for an incredibly entertaining and equally delicious experience. After dinner we tried to find a club recommended by our friend Tara’s “Let’s Go France” travel guide called the China Club. It was a bit of a disappointment, as there wasn’t any dancing, but at that point I was so tired that I happily returned back to my hotel.

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I think that my last day in Paris may have been the day I fell in love. In the morning we took a boat tour along the Seine, seeing once again all of the beautiful sights from a new perspective. At that point, I was happy to be off of my feet, simply resting and enjoying the sights. After the tour, we had about two hours until we had to meet back at the hotel to leave for the airport. The one thing that I had yet to do was explore the Champs Elysees and see the Arc de Triomphe up close. Luckily, my friend Alexa wanted to join me. We left Pont Neuf, where our boat tour ended, and walked along the Seine, looking at the bouqinistes (street vendors) along the river. This was one thing that I especially loved about Paris. There are little boxes along the Seine that vendors can rent to sell old books, souvenirs, paintings, etc. The government owns these “boxes” and if I’m not mistaken, they’ll subsidize the vendors’ income in order to keep them open. I bought a painting of the eiffel tower at one of these bouqinistes, and I can’t wait to frame it and put it up in my room next year.

From there, Alexa and I walked along the Louvre, to the Obelisk, up the Champs Elysees, to the Arc de Triomphe. On the way, I ate my first (hopefully of many) Parisien crepe. The sun was actually out on Sunday, too, and it was a perfect day.

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

I had such a great time in Paris that I didn’t even mind when our plane to Nice was delayed two hours due to technicial difficulties. It was a bit hard to return back to Cannes to “real life” (ha, ha)… but I am happy that I have another trip to Paris to look forward to at the end of my spring break.

Now I’ve just got to get through this week and then more exciting things will be happening! Nat comes to visit on Saturday. (!!!)

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24 heures à milan mon échange langue

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. G'ma  |  17 March 2009 at 6:56 pm

    What a great experience you had in that beautiful of all cities! You saw more in a couple of days than we did in weeks. We lived in sight of the Eiffel Tower for six weeks and can visualize all the sights you saw in just a few days. You are indeed soaking up the true french experience! We are enjoying reliving that beautiful city and country thru your eyes!

    Reply
  • 2. Baird  |  18 March 2009 at 1:54 am

    I always thought that your sensory details in your writing were really strong, but it’s really details in general. I love that you mentioned the French onion soup and the Parisien crepe.

    What a truly incredible city. I can feel your love for it through your words. I can’t wait to go there with you–let’s definitely try to see a mass.

    Reply
  • 3. Victoria  |  18 March 2009 at 8:49 am

    My homework for you over spring break in Paris is you MUSTMUSTMUST go back to Sacre Coeur in the daylight. To the left side of it (if you’re facing it) there’s a small road and hill, and all along that are approximately five trillion artists. There’s also a couple shops if I remember correctly, but it’s heaps of fun to see all the street artists. And the carousel at the bottom of the hill from Sacre Coeur is cute as well during the day when there’s families all on it and whatnot.
    What kind of crepe did you get?

    I miss you! *hugshugs!*

    Reply

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Sarah in Cannes

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