My mom and I have been dreaming of going to Paris together for years, and it’s FINALLY happened! I’ve heard a few people say they were disappointed by the city, but for me, that really couldn’t be further from the truth. I loved all the big sights and all the little markets too. Also, I love traveling with my mom! It’s fun showing her I what I’ve learned… although I’ve only been out of the UK once by myself still, overall, I’m much more used to buckling down and just figuring things out while traveling. For example, after getting to our hotel the first evening in Paris, we already knew everything we needed to about the metro! (Did I really say “for example” in my normal writing? I seriously have been writing way too many essays. And I somehow have three left to write.)
Our hotel was quite cute and Parisian, on a cute little street with a daily market! Our first morning was very enjoyable walking through, looking at all the fruits and vegetables, and planning what delicious thing we’d eat there for dinner.
Our hotel was relatively close to the Arc de Triomphe, so we walked there first. It was nice walking through the streets and seeing all the terraced apartments and absolutely crazy drivers. It honestly reinforced a lot more stereotypes about the French- there were tons of scooters/motorcycles/bikes that just zoomed around between everyone and everything, parking was basically anywhere there was sidewalk space for any vehicle, or even on the sidewalk for motorcycles, and I definitely saw semi trucks trying to parallel park multiple times. Horns honking was basically constant, and even with a walk signal at crosswalks, cars would just go or pull up right next to you. I think they were really more of a recommendation than a rule.
Anyway, the Arc de Triomphe was really great! We looked from outside the huge roundabout first and it seemed quite random just placed in the middle of the intersection. I feel that’s the way a lot of European things are though- stuck in random spots because the modern city was built around them. I really don’t know much about what the Arc de Triomphe was/is for (again I’m showing how embarrassingly poor my history knowledge is), but either way, it was a cool monument to look at. We walked through an underground tunnel to then look at it from underneath, and got to see all the intricacies of the architecture.
I really have a thing for ceilings I think. It’s so incredible to me how so much thought is put into every little part of the buildings, and a lot of times, there are really cool things to see when you look up.
After that, we walked down the Champs-Élysées. There aren’t really any pictures to show for it, because it was just a bunch of posh designer shops that look basically like you’d expect. It was pretty crazy how many nice places there were!! We actually went into an H&M (which was like the cheapest of all the stores) and I felt really uncivilized when I accidentally got deodorant marks on a sweater. Oops.
We also went into a little shopping center to look for bathrooms (which were TWO EUROS TO USE so obviously we didn’t) and saw this wonderful display of macarons. I held out for crepes later though.
Then, we walked to La Tour Eiffel! Like I said, I’ve heard people say it wasn’t as big as they expected, but it was actually much bigger than I expected which was wonderful. I kind of did have that magic moment when we first saw it in the distance! I loved it!!!
Due to a strike, going up the tower happened to be closed for all three days we were there. However, it meant we could go under and enjoy walking around it with much smaller crowds! It was almost peaceful!
The sun helped make everything look so beautiful… it was quite cold but still very good weather. We, however, were chilly and hungry, so after seeing a bit of the Eiffel Tower, went to a nearby cafe to have some quiche and hot chocolate, with a baguette for the road, to tour some more.
We then walked across the Seine to the Trocadero, where there are great views of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re like me and follow cute wedding accounts on Pinterest or Instagram, this is the spot where everyone gets proposed to. We actually almost photobombed a post-proposal picture!
To be honest I don’t know what the Trocadero is either really. I think it has a museum but I’m not sure if that’s the full purpose.
Next, we took the metro to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. With wonderful advice from my dear friend Jenson, we got off at Moulin Rouge and walked up the hill through some really cute streets. There was someone playing accordion, which made me feel like we were straight out of a scene in Ratatouille. I really enjoyed all the walking we did because I felt like we saw more authentic Paris that way- probably still touristy areas, but more than if all we cared about was the big sights.
Almost at the top of the hill was a great art market. There were people drawing and painting portraits and selling their artwork. It was really interesting and so fun to watch! Also I felt great about myself afterwards when several artists told me I was beautiful to try and convince me to pay them for a portrait.
Finally, we had climbed the hill to reach the Basilica. It was definitely one of my favorite things to see, because the view from the top of the hill was so wonderful over the city, the sun was setting, the church was beautiful, and there was a guy playing guitar and singing with the most amazing voice!
I have a thing with ceilings, but my mom has a thing with doors. This sounds weird, but Paris had really great doors- they were all so big and ornate.
There probably aren’t two people that love sunsets as much as my mom and I. We ended up seeing a great one each night. Afterwards, we walked back down to the market, and enjoyed a crepe and wine (guess who had which) while looking at the lights and watching the people. Such a lovely evening and first day in Paris!
The next day, after another lovely hotel breakfast of croissants, hot chocolate, bread, and jam, we took the metro out to the Louvre. That was an amazing amazing place. Again, it really exceeded my expectations! The building was HUGE and beautiful before we even went inside. The pyramid was actually really cool as well, but there was literally no line (which was an absolute miracle ) so we ran in before anyone else showed up and did our touristy picture thing after.
I didn’t really believe one museum could be so big that it wasn’t possible to see everything, even just to quickly walk by them, but once I got inside I understood. Not really sure why I was so skeptical about it in the first place, but it was really just so. so. big. I was blown away. There are over 70,000 pieces of art in the 650,000+ square feet of galleries! We decided we wanted to focus on the paintings and statues, which obviously was still quite daunting- so to again beat the crowds, we thought we’d start with the Mona Lisa. Even making it there was quite an expedition.
We decided to get audio guides, which in my opinion was a great choice, because then we got to learn about a lot of paintings, about artists, and about the Louvre itself in tons of ways we wouldn’t have otherwise. It made seeing the art much more worthwhile!
Because I think some of them are really cool, I’m going to put in pictures I took of paintings and statues from inside… if art bores you, just go ahead and skip it because I have no good historical information to make them interesting, and I didn’t take pictures of the most interesting or even most famous things (although some of them are quite famous which was pretty cool). Also, I didn’t keep track of the names or artists of any of them, oops.
This next painting I actually do know a TON about- I forgot I would see it here! I just wrote a paper on it and one other that wasn’t being shown 😦 for my Christ and Culture class where we learned about how Jesus was depicted in art of the crucifixion. So if you want to hear some commentary on this piece, let me know. It was really awesome to see it in person after writing about it!
Woowoo more cool ceilings! Because the building itself was so historic, it had art literally built into it.
If I remember correctly, I think the next painting is the biggest of somewhere. Probably not ever. Maybe in the Louvre.
Security guard on the left of the Mona Lisa perfectly describes my attitude toward it.
I thought this next painting was really neat because it included so many different scenes from around the crucifixion, normally not all shown together. After hearing a lecture on Christ in art from my class, I had an even greater appreciation for understanding how they portray both his divinity and humanity (called the hypostatic union and arguably one of the most important and fascinating dichotomies ever).
This painting was displayed in the middle of a huge hallway on a stand, and actually for a reason other than dramatic effect. The other side is a mirror image of the same painting! I don’t know if they’re actually identical or not but it is definitely the same scene, looking at it as though the painting was see-through to the other side. My audio guide told me the stand was the same one built for it by the commissioner who requested the unusual double-sided painting.
I think the way art is displayed and museums are set up really make or break the experience! Obviously the Louvre is a pretty world-class museum so there was no doubt it was a really good one, but I did appreciate the unique displays and the way it also highlighted the building itself.
This next one was in a room that was really incredible, with ornate gold decorations everywhere… really wish I remembered (or was aware in the moment) of what it was. But either way it was really beautiful.
The guy in this picture was really embarrassed that he was caught in not just mine, but like four other people’s pictures in the moment he walked into the room. He quickly ran behind one of the statues and I thought it was pretty funny.
I don’t know if I’ve already said this in a post or just thought it- but I wonder how many people’s pictures I’m in that I have no clue about and I’ll never know? I feel it must be a really high number after going to so many touristy places. But even just in everyday life, there are probably so many we don’t realize in the age of Snapchat and Instagram.
I really enjoyed the way they displayed the statues that were typically kept in the gardens, so outdoor statues… they were in this sort of outdoor display under the small pyramids, so there was beautiful natural light and greenery!
We were really exhausted after four hours in the Louvre and seriously could’ve spent a week in there without appreciating it all. I finally understand. After getting really hungry around Eiffel Tower time the day before, though, we learned to stop at a grocer across the street from our hotel in the morning to pack some brie and a baguette for a picnic lunch. Not sure if it’s considered a picnic inside the Louvre (and yes we ate in a cafe area not near the artwork) but it helped us have energy to finish what we at least made the goal of seeing.
Like I mentioned, we did the touristy pictures outside the pyramid after seeing inside.
Next, we walked to see the outside of the Musée d’Orsay. It actually was because we were looking for a metro stop and the museum building used to be a train station so it was near the train line, but it was cool to see anyway. (We ended up not going on the train at all so it was basically a loop to see the museum, albeit not on purpose.)
Then, en route to our actual next destination, the Notre Dame, we walked along the Seine which was really nice. There were cute booths with books and postcards and touristy things, bridges with locks, and cool buildings all around.
Also, even though it made our hands numb, we made the very necessary ice cream stop at Berthillon’s which was apparently some of the best ice cream in Paris according to my thorough research.
Also there was a cool bookstore which is apparently popular but now only for tourists. So obviously I took a picture of it.
Then, we saw the Notre Dame! It was beautiful as expected but again really impressed me. All the intricacies just blow me away. The outside was covered in faces and bodies of people, which I think is so crazy when you imagine they’re all significant and have a purpose. Most of them were probably modeled after real people! The stained glass inside was incredible as well. I understand why it’s so famous. The giant rosetta windows were beautiful and there was colored light bouncing off everything which was so cool. I wasn’t actually sure if it was allowed to take pictures inside or not, but I feel it’s just disrespectful inside churches and cathedrals so I didn’t (and they wouldn’t be able to capture the beauty anyway!)
We had planned on seeing Sainte-Chapelle because it was on the same island in the Seine as the Notre Dame, however, after circling the same block where it supposedly was a few times, we gave up to watch the sunset. Don’t know how we couldn’t find a whole chapel honestly, but the sunset was lovely!
We went back to our hotel and enjoyed dinner from the market, and then when it was dark again, went back to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up! I thought it was so beautiful and really enjoyed seeing it at night. Every hour on the hour, for five minutes, the lights come on and sparkle- there’s really no other way of describing it- which was also so pretty! Pictures don’t do the sparkle justice. And of course, I ate a crepe while watching.
For our last day in Paris, we filled up on pastries in the morning and then headed to the Luxembourg Palace and gardens. I didn’t know what to expect there, but the gardens turned out to be beautiful and peaceful! It was more of a public park, with a fountain in the middle, statues everywhere, benches and chairs for relaxing, and even tennis courts and play structures. We had a leisurely morning walking around the park and then had our (actual picnic) lunch of brie and a baguette.
We decided to make the whole day more peaceful, so next we went on a lovely Seine Cruise starting from Pont Neuf! We saw a lot of the same sights as before, but from a different view and a calm spot on the river. We circled the two islands as well. A great way to see more of Paris!
Next, we walked through some really nice shops towards the Musée Picasso! The streets were narrow and had lots of nice cafes and fancy clothing stores. We didn’t stop into any because the two of us are really just not shoppers, (H&M was kind of an anomaly when we’re together!) but enjoyed seeing the bustling people and cute buildings.
The museum we really liked a lot as well. I didn’t even know Picasso did sculptures at all, but there were tons in there! Honestly, and I know I don’t have a critical art eye but still, I thought the sculptures were not great. They had a definite style but I think they were cool because they were Picasso, not because they were awesome art. His paintings and drawings though, were (mostly… if I can say that) great art! Here are some of my favorites- again with no names, but at least all by Picasso:
I thought his rendition of the crucifixion was fascinating. It was one of my favorite paintings anyway, just because of the colors and composition, but I especially loved seeing it in comparison to all the others of such a different style from the Louvre.
The clouds over the museum looked cool when we first got out.
So, after another really good museum experience, we rushed back to the Seine to see our last sunset in Paris! There was an AMAZING pianist, just randomly in the middle of a closed off bridge, who was playing Chopin as we watched the sun set over the city. We just stood there for ages taking it in. What an incredible moment! Honestly we were/are so so blessed through this traveling… Everything has been so wonderful and I am SO thankful for this experience.
I hope to see Paris again soon, and would love to travel more of France as well. I know there are some really beautiful places all over.
I thought it was fun hearing all the French as well- having taken a few years in high school, I actually picked it back up pretty fast! I was nervous to speak in front of others because I have the most horrible American inflections in my French words but could read fairly well and understand some people when they were speaking slowly enough. It also hit me more how lucky I am to speak English- I could still count on most people there knowing English, or at least enough to get by while I was ordering or buying things- whereas I couldn’t imagine a person who knows only French and no English (the reverse of me) getting by nearly as easily in an English speaking country. It’s so crazy how small my world was and how much I didn’t realize about other people and the rest of the world by being in the US for so long!
Next stop, Rome. Unfortunately my French won’t help me there, so as much as I hate having to rely on it, I’m hoping lots of people still speak English…
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.