Explore. Dream. Discover. (Mark Twain)

06 March 2010

5 Days in Paris

Arc de Triomphe on our first night in Paris.

For our first longer-than-a-weekend break, Sora and I headed north to the lovely city of Paris. We were greeted at the Beauvais airport by Sora's friend Noah Schlueter, a Butler alum and American au pair in France. He had been traveling around France during a holiday, and kindly took a little detour to Paris to meet us.

Arc de Triomphe on our first morning... note the blue sky!

Having Noah around was great! Not only had he been to Paris a couple of times before, but he spoke French and knew French things. He explained French history, pointed out the best pastries, chose the best cheese... the list goes on! Noah has been in France for almost a year, and had great au pair and travel stories to share. It was the first time I had met him, but we quickly bonded over our mutual loves for Sora and the Sartorialist. Bottomline: a definite top notch guy! Like any good American overseas, Noah keeps a very entertaining blog which I have added to my side list (Must sees: his Youtube channel for clips of his boys and his French "crib").

Noah, fitting in with the fashion elite.

We started our day with a leisurely stroll to Rue Cler, a traditional Parisian street that happens to be Rick Steve's favorite. Any favorite of Rick's is a must-see in my opinion, so we played Parisians for a while and picked out cheese, wine, and a fresh baguette for a picnic lunch.

It wouldn't be a trip to France without French cheese from a street market!

We picnicked on the Eiffel Tower lawn and enjoyed watching Parisian children and rejecting wandering African sellers. (If we didn't want 3 keychains for one euro, we aren't going to want 5...)

Sora, the Eiffel Tower, and I.

I will forever treasure my pictures of the Eiffel Tower with blue sky! We definitely lucked out on the weather. We were expecting rain everyday, and it only rained as we were driving to the airport on the way back.

"Asians" in Paris!

Way bigger up close than expected!

Strolling the streets.

After our delicious lunch, we hit to the streets again and just took in the sights around us. We stopped for crepes with Nutella, browsing at the book stalls, and many photo ops.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Booksellers along the banks of the Siene.

Musee du Louvre... the famous pyramid!

Later, we ventured to the Louvre. The estate is absolutely massive, and even with good intentions, one would only be able to make a slight dent in seeing everything! We picked the evening because we thought it would be free admission, but lucky for us, it was free all of the time! Being a student living in the European Union who is under 26 gets many free admissions to the major sites. Pompidou, Orsay, Versailles--all free!

Inside the pyramid with the rest of the bargain hunters.

The hysteria surrounding the [tiny] Mona Lisa.

The Louvre, lit up.

When in Paris, dine! For dinner, we dined at a delicious little bar/restaurant. Delicious food, fun company, great conversation--I couldn't have asked for more!

Sora's French cuisine: "steak tartare":
raw hamburger served with spices and topped with a raw egg.

Noah's French cuisine: "confit de canard": duck!

The next day brought us to the Pompidou Center, a unique musuem of modern art. The long tube on the outside of the building is the escalator, and all of the pipes are on the outside of the building. We browsed a feminist art gallery and were pleasantly puzzled with the "creative" artist interpretations and subject matter (the museum bookstore was great!!).

Inside-out facade of the Pompidou Center.


Next up: Monmartre. This is one of Noah's favorite spots in Paris and he was eager to spend more time here. Rick had a Monmartre walk, and we quickly fell off our scheduled timeline in favor of "people watching" and exploring.

Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Monmartre.

The street performers drew big crowds on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur. There was a "freestyle footballer" who Noah had recognized from a previous trip to Paris! We also were entertained by a group of dancers? comedians? who were not afraid to pull up their pants and shake it for a few Euro.

Working the crowd in Monmartre.

One of the many talented artists in Place du Tertre.

One of my favorite parts in Monmartre was Place du Tertre. It is the town square, and filled with artists who have set up easels and showcase previous works. Rick noted that each stall has been passed down through generations, and art is the family business. Some artists did carnival-ish caricatures, but others were very very good!

I could live on crepes for the rest of my life... dead serious.

Cafe des Duex Moulins, of "Amelie" fame.

Also on the walk was a stop at Cafe des Deux Moulins, a cafe made famous by the French film "Amelie". We stopped and had a cafe, and daydreamed about being chic and Parisian. ("Cafe des Deuz Moulins" = Cafe of Two Windmills)

Moulin Rouge was another stop, and the gateway of a particularly seedy side of Paris! We blushed at the many sex shops and shows that lined the street... very risque!

Sora and I at Moulin Rouge ("Red Windmill")

On Saturday evening, we bid Noah a sad farewell and were on our own again. We headed to Versailles on Sunday, giddy with yet another free entry!

The gate of Versailles (and Kappa friendly!)

The Chateau de Versailles is incredible and absolutely massive. For the whole effect, you must visit the main palace, the gardens, and small palaces dotting the gardens. The inside is definitely fit for French royalty, and Sora and I were taking notes on its interior design for our future abodes. I loved the Hall of Mirrors, which was chandelier after chandelier, lined with mirrors, and overlooking the gardens.


The Hall of Mirrors.

The (sadly bare) endless gardens of Versailles.

Our visit in February did not provide us with any flowers to admire, but the sheer size of the gardens is enough to impress. The map says it takes one hour to walk from the Palace to the end of the main stretch--and that is without covering the perimeter area or the little mazes inbetween!

Pretending to be a village girl at Marie Antoinette's peasant village.

One of our favorite parts was exploring the Hamlet in the Domaine of Marie-Antoinette. She created the village because she adored the simplicity and quaintness of peasant life. There were about 12 buildings, thatched roofs and all, and farm animals.

Adorable recreated peasant village.

Of course, Marie-Antoinette's peasant village WOULD have a beautiful peacock.

We made it back to the city in time to go to Musee d'Orsay. I really enjoyed the museum! The Impressionism wing was really cool and more of my style. Seeing the Van Goghs and Monets in real life was very neat.

Musee d'Orsay: train station turned world-class museum.

A self portrait by Van Gogh

Monday began with a Rick Steves walk down the Champs Elysees. Memorable stops included Fouquet's Cafe and Restaurant and Laduree Tea Salon. Rick said Fouquet's is a popular spot with French celebrities. We couldn't get over the 1000 Euro bottle of wine on the menu!

Walking the red carpet at Fouquet's Cafe and Restaurant.

Laduree has been on my Paris list since I first heard about it. Rick called the macaroons "out of this world" and he was not lying! I couldn't decide which flavors to choose, so Sora suggested I have one of the shopgirls pick her favorites. That was an excellent idea, and I was given 6 delicious flavors :)

It is not really a macaroon if it isn't from Laduree.

Little pieces of heaven--worth every Euro!

The prices were a little steep, so my few macaroons came in a little paper bag instead of the chic boxes I longed for. Don't worry, my "Laduree macaroons in a box" fund is being started as we speak to be ready for my next trip to Paris!

The eptiome of Paris fashion: Chanel.

We spent the afternoon windowing shopping and, once again, wishing we were Parisian (and rich). The two major department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, were awe-inspiring and majorly out of our league!

The gorgeous domed ceiling of department store, Galeries Lafayette.

A Parisian sky.

On one of the many bridges across the Siene, with "the island" in the background.

We crossed the river and followed a walk around the Left Bank. One of the favorite stops was Roger-Viollet, a photo library of French photographer Henri Roger. The little shop was filled with black and white photos and albums of more Parisian scenes.

A fascinating photo library during Rick Steve's Left Bank walk.

For our last night in Paris, we headed to the top of the Eiffel Tower. The scene was absolutely breathtaking! We stayed up there for a long time, and took picture after picture to capture the moment. We actually ran into another group of SLU girls while at the top! Small world!

A view from the top!


I now know why the whole "City of Lights" thing came about..

Sora and I on the top--our last night in Paris.

A top-of-the-hour sparkle.... So. Beautiful.

Our last attraction in Paris was a trip to the Catacombs. Everyone says it is creepy and incredible, but you must see the millions of bones for yourself to believe it! The Catacombs are a series of undergound tunnels that are lined with the bones of six million Parisians. The majority of the bones were transferred from city cemeteries, and have plaques marking what church they were from. It was very, very spooky!

Catacomb bones.

With that, we headed back to the airport. Our trip to Paris had ended, but our adventure getting back to Madrid had just begun. Stay tuned...

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