After showing Kara around London, we headed to Paris for the weekend via Eurostar train! We did the major sites on our first day, including Notre Dame, the Louvre, Champs-Elysees, the Arc de Triumph, and the Eiffel Tower. I think I am still suffering from some serious exhaustion after that day…SO MUCH to see!
This is Notre Dame. As you can see, it was very dark inside, which definitely added to the huge historic church mystique. This is just the center part of the cathedral; the areas on the side and behind the altar are just as impressive. I was particularly excited by the flying buttresses, which I recall learning about (and making fun of) in the 9th grade. We were able to walk between most of the sights. After Notre Dame, we headed to the Louvre, which required crossing the Pont de Arts bridge pictured below. It’s famously covered in love locks, which is apparently a trend in cities around the world. As I’ve travelled, I’ve seen a few spots where people have tried to start the trend, but none of the structures has had as many locks as this bridge. It’s completely covered on both sides and the bridge is looooong. That’s a lot of love!
Our Parisian adventures were about to take a turn for the worse after we crossed that bridge. As we were approaching the Louvre, a group of teenage girls with (fake) petitions descended on us. They all crowded around Kara and tried to distract her by forcing her off the sidewalk and into the street, all the while waving the petitions around…in the process, one of them grabbed her phone. They obviously did not know who they were messing with. Kara, being her typical awesome self, was super tough and STOLE IT RIGHT BACK, which is seriously amazing considering the fact that these girls are professionals. It was a miracle that she realized her phone was gone in the first place but even more amazing that she got it back! We could also tell that the pickpockets were not used to having their stolen items taken right back out of their hands. Go Kara! Needless to say, we spent the rest of the day clutching our bags and running from the people with petitions. We still enjoyed the sightseeing, but the pickpocketing experience was so unexpected and aggressive and honestly kind of disgusting…so that put a bit of a damper on the day, especially as we continued to see these fake petitioners going up to people at every major site we visited.
But we figured that we had survived the worst, and trekked on!
Pictured above is a teeeeeny tiny part of the Louvre. The Louvre is just gigantic. There is actually a huge glass pyramid (much larger than the one on the bottom right of this picture) right in the middle of the courtyard-ish area and it doesn’t fit in at all! It’s quite unfortunate to look at, so I made sure to stand in front of it to take this picture. The Louvre also has two other wings and multiple floors and it is simply full of SO MUCH STUFF. It used to be a palace, so in addition to paintings, sculptures, and ancient objects, visitors can also walk through Napoleon’s apartments. (The Medicis also lived there!) I got to see his sitting room and his dining room table and all sorts of tables and chairs where important people once sat….my history minor self was geeking out the whole time.
Here’s the Mona Lisa, which is one of those things you have to see but you don’t know why you have to see. Do you know what I mean? It’s in a glass box because it’s been stolen by a museum employee, has had acid splashed on it, and it’s been slashed by some sort of a knife-wielding art-hater. Poor Mona has been through a lot.
It’s a straight shot from the Louvre to the Arc de Triumph if you walk through the Tuileries Garden (pretty much the playground/backyard of many French kings and queens, and also where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI escaped to during the French Revolution) and then up the Champs-Elysees, which is full of high end shops. The BEST part of the walk…and really the best part of all my travels…was lunch time. (Duh.) Look at this macaron. Just look at it. First of all, it was gigantic. Probably the size of five or six of those normal/mini macarons. Second of all, it was vanilla. Vanilla always gets a bad rap for being plain, but really this was a flavor experience unlike any other. Third of all, the cookie part was that perfect combo of chewy-with-an-outer-crisp that every macaron lover craves, and the cream on the inside was cold and delicious. I also got a square of really good pizza, but the macaron definitely stole the show. Kara was kind enough to allow me a bite of her eclair and that was also perfection in a pastry.
Then we hopped on the metro (easier than the subway, but a bit more “dodgy” than the tube) and made our way to the Eiffel Tower. Last semester, I took a class on the histories of London and Paris, so I know way too much about the Eiffel Tower. When it was completed in 1889, many people thought it was ugly! Artists revolted…people got all dramatic about it…and it was supposed to be torn down after 20 years. BUT THEN (is this history thrilling you or what?!) it became super important for communication during WWI and it slowly started to became all iconic and whatnot…and, as we know, it’s a bit more widely loved than it was in its early years.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to take all kinds of fun “we’re at the Eiffel tower!” pictures because the pickpockets with petitions were EVERYWHERE. We had to flee a few picture-taking spots because we could see them approaching, petitions in hand. (Which is actually a really dumb tactic, because you would think that most travelers recognize that the petitions are fake. So they were essentially walking around with flags that declared their intentions.)
By the end of the day, we were exhausted. We found a cute restaurant by the hotel and then headed back for a late night date with Jimmy Fallon. There is nothing else quite like Jimmy Fallon when you are starting to miss the US. Especially because the only other English programs they showed were stock market reports…blehhh
The next day we had a great time at Versailles, so check back later for Paris, Day 2!