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Published: August 23rd 2006
A woman my husband works with who, incidentally, is French, says that “Paris is the jewel of the world.” Though I’ve not seen enough of the world to be an authority on the subject, I am inclined to believe her. Paris was magnificent, and the city filled me with a euphoria that has yet to dwindle. The pictures we took, it seems to me, are a bit of a lie, or at least a misconception; it is impossible to capture Paris on film, but I have posted some of our best pictures of her. Or us.
It was a bit of a bumpy ride, as we opted for the convenience of a bus tour. We left Heidelberg late Friday night and arrived in Paris for breakfast on Saturday. Our first major stop was at the Notre Dame Cathedral. From my very first sight of it through a bus window to when I was standing in its shadow, my only thought was that this was the most beautiful building I have ever seen. Granted, the inside was not quite as awe-inspiring since it looked incredibly similar to most other cathedrals I have seen, but the overall beauty of Notre Dame will
The Rose Window
Seth and I in front of Notre Dame's Rose Window.
long haunt my memory. Of course, so will the memory of all the people who took the pictures of Seth and I together, pictures that, for example, would get all of us, including our shoes and a foot or two of sidewalk in front of them, but cut out the towers of the cathedral. Sigh… Ce la vie.
Our next stop was the Opera National de Paris, or the Paris Opera House. Like many sites in Paris, to include Notre Dame, the Opera House has been recently renovated and so the stone and statues and gold of the exteriors are now lividly visible instead of covered with grime. We sat on the steps of the Opera House for a while, watching Paris. But then the gates opened and we eagerly went inside. The Grand Staircase and the theatre itself were everything I imagined (mostly thanks to the recent Phantom movie) and I’m a bit disappointed that all our pictures turned out as dark as they did. I was also disappointed in the mural on the ceiling of the theatre, where the chandelier hangs. This, I feel, is one of the terrible examples of an attempt to combine the old
Opera National de Paris
The front facade of the Paris Opera House.
and the modern. Also, I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed at being locked out of Box 5. 😉
Our next stop was at the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysées. The arch was absolutely gigantic. The detail was much more intricate than I had realized. But our photo-opt was over quick, and we hopped back on the bus, driving past the empty cafés (the Parisians are all on holiday in August), the many McDonalds, a Starbucks, a Pizza Hut… which country am I in again?
I see the Eiffel Tower through the window, and soon it is upon us. Maybe I’m being redundant, but once again, the Tower was larger, more intricate, and much more amazing than I expected it to be. I am still dazzled by the Tower and am glad I bought a souvenir statue to sit in my living room, a tiny reminder of a great sight. Before we know it, we’re on the two-story elevator, swiftly climbing a leg of the Tower, and then shoved out onto the first level. We walk about and take many pictures, also making sure to mail ourselves a postcard from the Eiffel Tower Post,
The Grand Staircase
Here I am on the Grand Staircase of the Opera House. Can't you just hear the Phantom singing?
where I feel frustrated that I forgot to bring along my address book. Then Mother Nature takes hold of me and I find myself waiting in line for over ten minutes to be directed into a tiny, dirty stall and hovering over a broken toilet with half the seat missing. I think to myself, this would never happen in Disney world.
Then we check into our hotel and shower (finally!) before dinner. We eat at Le Bistro de Montmartre. Without going into detail, the food was alright but the wines (my rosé with dinner and Seth’s merlot, as well as the dessert wine) were fabulous. Next we take a boat ride down the Seine River. Seth and I sit by the railing, and I thoroughly enjoy the relaxing and picturesque sail and also the wind on my face when it was sans cigarette smoke. Upon returning to the bus, we are given a cup of French Champagne (and later, on the bus ride home, Seth and I win a leftover bottle). I spend quite awhile sipping Champagne and staring up at the night sky, though all I see is the overwhelming Eiffel Tower, aflame with electric lights, dominating my
The Arc de Triomphe
Seth in front of the gigantic Triumphant Arch, Napoleon's posthumously finished project.
Breakfast at the hotel on Sunday morning rather resembled a German breakfast. I ate a croissant with strawberry jam and a hard-boiled egg, as opposed to the common soft-boiled eggs of Germany, and a bit of strong coffee.
Our first stop was the Louvre - right when they opened. We entered from an underground parking lot, had our picture taken in front of a gift shop window with a poster of the Mona Lisa, and rushed the elevators in an excited state. Perhaps we rushed too much in the beginning, but we were so eager. We hurried from the Winged Victory to the Venus de Milo, then got lost and explored the Apollo Room, before finding the Grand Hall and eventually the real Mona Lisa. It was a very beautiful painting, and very life-like, but very small. Especially in comparison to the Large Format French Paintings in the next room. We then ventured downstairs, got lost again, and finally found the sections of the Oriental Antiquities. We spent most of our time here, visiting the exhibits of ancient Iran, Syria, and Mesopotamia. The most fascinating thing we saw was the Code of Hammurabi of Babylon, the first
The Eiffel Tower
A view of the Tower from below.
real recorded law - you know, an eye for an eye, etc. I had no idea it was carved into a huge stone. It was written in Cuneiform sometime between 1792 and 1750 BC. Before our time at the Louvre was up, we made sure to walk through the Egyptian Antiquities as well. There we found, encased in glass, a real mummy complete with the jars. Spooky.
We really hated to leave the Louvre, but the bus was pulling out, and our next stop was the Musée de l’ Armée. First, Seth and I went to see the tomb of Napoleon. I’m still not quite sure what the monument on his grave signifies, but I find it amusing that he was laid to rest in a monument to him that was once a monument (well, a church) of King Louis XIV. We then explored the army museum that was interesting, but containing nothing particularly notable that we have not seen in other museums. Unfortunately, this was the end of our sightseeing in Paris. But we did get to eat lunch at the Hard Rock Café Paris before heading home.
It was a long bus ride, leaving Paris at
1500 and arriving home at 2230. And neither of us was really ready to leave. Paris is so beautiful, so elegant, so timeless. I fell in love with Paris and it broke my heart to leave.
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