Monday, July 1, 2013

Paris: partie deux: basically everything

July Column
Saturday was one of the most packed days of my entire life, but also one of the best. We started our morning by finding a local boulangerie to pick up some pastries for breakfast. I'm seriously going to miss how wonderfully inexpensive good pastries are here, they're so ridiculously over priced in the States and not nearly as good. But I digress. After breakfast we headed to the July Column, the monument to the storming of the Bastille and the Revolution in general. It was originally a different statue, with an elephant (which can be seen in the most recent film adaptation of Les Miserables), but that statue was never finished and torn down in order to build the July Column. The Bastille used to stand just behind where the July Column is, but it doesn't actually exist anymore. Kristen and I both love Les Mis and find the Revolution extremely interesting, so that was definitely one of the top things we wanted to see while in Paris.


Random really pretty building on the way to Notre Dame
After looking at the July Column and getting slightly turned around, we finally figured out how to get to Notre Dame and headed that way. Notre Dame is actually on a little island on the Seine River, at the heart of Paris, in the middle of arrondisements 1, 2, 3 and 4. Many of the most famous monuments in Paris are located right around this area, and the richest, most powerful Parisiens live here. I don't even want to think about how expensive it is to rent/buy an apartment in that area. And after walking along the Seine for awhile, we came upon Notre Dame. It is massive. Like, you-can't-fit-the-whole-thing-in-a-single-photo massive. Its also much larger front-to-back than I expected, because the front (with the two towers) is so tall you can't tell from pictures how large (and intricate & ornate) the rest of it is out the back. Its absolutely stunning. And old. So. So. Old. Its actually celebrating 850 years this year. That blows my mind.

Panorama of the Seine
Back of Notre Dame

We came up to it from the back, which has a really beautiful garden with a fountain and tons of beautiful flowers. The back of Notre Dame is so intricate, so detailed. I actually really liked the back better than the front. Its a shame it doesn't get photographed from the back more often. Around that side of the cathedral were several (very touristy) cafes and stores - the interesting part being that several of them were names "Esmerelda", of which Kristen and I can't decide if that's where Disney got the name for the gypsy or if those places are named after the story. It made us laugh regardless.

Side of Notre Dame
After taking several pictures of the gardens and back, we walked around to the front to behold the full majesty of the building. I'm repeating myself, but it was so incredibly huge. Like. I can't even describe how big this place is. Its just so tall and majestic - because I know we have really tall skyscrapers in the States, but this was a different kind of massive. I really liked this church on the inside, too. It was different than all the churches we saw in Italy three years ago, which all have a million frescos on the walls/ceilings/doors/probably floor (not really but it wouldn't surprise me if one did). Notre Dame was definitely from a different era, gothic to be precise, and was very muted in colors but high on the ornate scale. I could easily see Notre Dame being insanely creepy at night, and quite possibly haunted (besides the fact that its a church). While there is no longer a parish at Notre Dame (meaning weddings, baptisms and funerals can no longer take place there - which is good because otherwise there would be three weddings there every single day of the year and no one could ever visit), they do still hold Mass every evening and Sunday mornings, but we weren't there during the right time of day. Regal is probably the best word to describe the atmosphere inside Notre Dame - there may be hundreds of people milling around, but it is no doubt a sacred place. There was also a special exhibit off to the side that cost 3€ that Kristen, Cameron and I decided to go look at. The exhibit was the "Treasury of Notre Dame" and was a display of many of the most precious (read:expensive) church relics, such as priest clothing, manuscripts, etc. So many beautiful, shiny things, and who knows how much its all worth. Much more than I'll ever have, that's for sure.

Another random beautiful building in Paris

Notre Dame door
After Notre Dame we walked to the Pantheon, an ancient Roman building that has a crypt below where tons of people are buried, including some famous ones. It cost a bit of money, though, so I decided to hold off actually going inside until Max and I go back to Paris at the end of July. Kristen and I waited outside while Hannah and Cameron went (it was free for EU residents but Kristen had left her ID in the hotel and didn't want to pay either). It was surprisingly cold all day so we took refuge behind the giant pillars and just sat and talked, all while looking at the Sorbonne Law School. Yeah, no big deal or anything. Sometimes I can't believe this summer is real, so many important places that I've been lucky enough to see with my own eyes.

After the Pantheon we headed to the Louvre, but that needs its own entire blog post, so I'm skipping over that until my next post.

la Sorbonne
After the Louvre I actually decided to go back to the hotel and take a nap until it was time for dinner - I forgot to mention, worst part of Paris: I was sick the entire time. Not cool, body, not cool. I had a really bad cold, and all the walking (and running) around Paris and le Louvre had me completely spent. I knew we were going up into the Eiffel Tower that evening and wanted to be able to enjoy it so off to bed I went. Kristen and Cameron went to visit le Sacre Cœur, a really cool building that looks similar to the Taj Mahal, and Hannah went to le Musée d'Orsay, the impressionist museum. Sacre Cœur is definitely on my list for Max's and my trip at the end of the month, Kristen and Cameron (and Hannah, who ended up having time to go as well) absolutely loved it, and the entire area around it. And I thoroughly enjoyed my nap, and felt marginally better. I also managed to navigate the Paris Metro all by myself in order to meet up with them again at l'Arc de Triomphe, without getting lost once! Score 1 for Aubrey.

So l'Arc de Triomphe is right in the middle of one of (if not the) biggest roundabouts in Paris. This would be when I fully decided you could never pay me enough money to drive in Paris, because, again, there aren't any rules apparently. No lanes, no lines, just crazy people driving wherever their little hearts desire. Terrifying. Thankfully we didn't ever have to take a taxi in Paris so we successfully avoided the madness. Also thankfully, there are underground tunnels to access l'Arc de Triomphe so that no one has to cross the crazy street. And again, it was so big. L'Arc de Triomphe is a monument to all the fallen soldiers of France, starting with either the Revolution. It is also the site of the French version of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - there is a flame burning underground that has been burning without cease for decades (the Dusseldorf airport wifi is too slow and I can't look up the exact date). It was really beautiful, though I wish we had gone back when it was dark to see it lit up - I'm convinced basically everything in Paris is better at night - but it was beautiful regardless.

Coming up in the next few posts: Musée de Louvre, le sommet du Tour Eiffel, and Versailles. :]

1 comment:

  1. The architecture is stunning! Such wonderful shapes, and intricacies ... Wow. I'm so sorry you weren't feeling 100%. =-( But so glad you got to see everything - and thanks for sharing it! I sure hope to visit someday, your wonderful descriptions and photos really pull at my heart! C'est magnifique!