Monday, April 15, 2013

Paris, day 3: Louvre is all you need

Day 3 dawned bright and sunny, and our agenda was chock-full of exciting art, architecture, history and fondue.
Of course, that is simply a given for spending a day in Paris!

All in all I would say that day 3 was my absolute favorite day in Paris.
While we did some amazing things every day, I would say that the overall package of day 3 wins the contest.

By this time our feet were extremely sore, and I vaguely remember how much pain I was in walking around the city, but looking back all I can remember are the amazing highlights. I love travel amnesia.

Temperatures had warmed up a bit, and sightseeing seemed much more pleasant in the sunshine than it did in the gloom!
We walked around, a little lost and not really knowing where we were going.
We knew we wanted to get to Napoleon's Tomb, and we had it roughly mapped out, but we weren't sure what it looked like.
(Turns out it was the grand gold-dome building we saw on our first day!)
Not that it matters, but I'd just like to say that I was the one that finally found the way, guessing that this might be the right place.
I only point that out because Dusty is a whiz with directions, and I'm a complete nincompoop. So this was a small but significant "Hey look, I was right!" moment for me.

Napoleon's Tomb had been recommend to us by my dad.
It actually wasn't on our list at all, because we had so many other "must-do"s and didn't really have as much interest in a tomb.
However, it was unlike anything we could have imagined. When he was telling me that we should try and go there, he mentioned that it had honestly moved him, because of the beauty, the art and the pure history that lies within the figure of Napoleon.
He's a huge historical character, really. I mean, when you say "Napoleon" to someone, if they've spent a single day in school they know who you're talking about.
It's not like celebrities nowadays, like Brittany, Kate or Ashley.
Spears? Snow? Judd? Tisdale? Olsen? Hudson? Beckinsale? Winslet? Huh? Who?

One of the greatest things we invested in was a Paris Museum Pass.
It allowed us to go to a lot of really great exhibits for free, and was easy to just keep in our wallets (it even unfolded into a map) and made our time in Paris easy and fun. We felt very VIP.
(Although VIP stands for Very Important Person so that just seems redundant.)
The Louvre, Notre Dame, Napoleon's Tomb, Versailles, Sainte-Chapelle, and the Arc de Triomphe are just some of the major spots the pass gets you into.
It's definitely worth the money if you're planning on seeing as much as you can while you're in Paris!
And the great thing is that there are no limits to how many times you go to each place. You could go to the Louvre multiple times through the week, and not have to worry about being charged over and over again.

It's actually extremely hard to capture the vastness of this place.
You walk in, and everything is quiet, cavernous, pristine. Everything is so bright and white, with paintings and ceilings full of bright color and shining gold.
The center of the room is a giant circular hole, with a half-wall ledge like a balcony where you can look down into the floor below, and onto Napoleon's sarcophagus.
At the four corners of the lobby are separate dome-ceiling enclosures, dedicated to members of Napoleon's family, several military officers who served under him, and other French military heroes.
Each is unique, breathtaking and intricate.

Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's elder brother.

Ferdinand Foch
Marshall Lyautey 

At the far end of the room is this grand monument, with stairs on either side of it leading down to Napoleon's Tomb.

At the bottom of the stairs, there are a few more tombs, and then the grand entrance to Napoleon.
The atmosphere is somber, but impressive.

Once you walk down, you are greeted by a circular path that leads you around Napoleon.
(As you can see, the sarcophagus is rather large and overwhelming - it seems to nearly reach the top of the balcony on the first floor, where other visitors are peering down.)

This area is also the resting place of other members of Napoleon's family and legacy, including his son.

After we were done inside, we took our time admiring the structure outside.
We were headed to the Louvre next, but weren't in a hurry.
It was a beautiful day!

The walk around Les Invalides (the series of buildings where Napoleon's Tomb is located) was actually really nice.
Off to the side, there was a garden area of hedges and bushes, and the Eiffel Tower was visible peeking over the top of the surrounding buildings.
The original purpose of Les Invalides was to function as a hospital and a retirement home for war verterans, which it still does. It's quite an amazing complex.

We walked all the way around and back to the other side of the building, and eventually we ended up right back where we were our very first day!
Only this time, there was no snow on the ground.

Still, we were completely unenlightened about the Midnight in Paris bridge.
Yet there it was, staring us in the face.
So incredible!

I love this picture so much!

We kept our steady trudge toward the Louvre, and were enjoying the sunshine along the river.
Somewhere along the way, I paused to take a few pictures and just really soak it up. This is the life.

Around this time is when we encountered yet another breed of con artist.
I mentioned the Children before, but this was another kind of gypsy entirely.
I only call them gypsies because it was unclear what their nationality was, and I don't mean to be offensive.
These middle-aged women (we saw around 5 on the rest of our walk) would veer in your direction, purposefully walk by you, and just as you're about to pass, stoop down and "pick up" a gold ring from the ground (a.k.a they stoop down with the ring in their hand and pretend to pick it up), and turn to you and say, "Is this yours?"
Now, I'm really still baffled at what their plan could possibly be.
We obviously said "no", shaking our heads apologetically as we walked by.
I happened to see the ring in her hand before she got to us and stooped down, so afterwards I turned to Dusty and said, "What exactly was her plan right there?"
If you say no, you obviously keep walking, un-bothered by the appearance of a ring you never lost.
If you lie and say yes, would they...try and sell it to you? Collect a finder's fee?
I guess we'll never know.

Further on we happened upon another famous bridge, the Lover's Bridge!
I'm not sure what the actual name is, but it's basically a bridge where people come and place locks to show their undying love for one another.

Unfortunately, we didn't have a lock with us.
It definitely would have been cool to leave our mark of love there! But we settled for looking around at all of the other locks of love.
It was really fun to walk to the center of the bridge, where the locks were the thickest, and look through all of them -- some of the locks were really personalized, and unique!

The Louvre is on the left side!

The Louvre is really close by the bridge, so we didn't have much more walking to do.
However, once again, we found ourselves extremely hungry with no set plans for where to go.
I was also really aware that we had had absolutely no coffee that day.
Luckily for me, we happened to remember that around to the left of the Louvre is that little ol' Starbucks we passed by the day before!
A nice big mocha was minutes away, and there would surely be places to eat around there as well.
On our way over, we got to come up to the Louvre head-on. What a sight!

Completely gorgeous day!

Looking at these pictures, I can almost forget how cold it was.

I mentioned before that where there's a Starbucks, there's also a McDonald's...
The hot spots for Americans.
If you build them, they will come.

Now, there's something you should know about me.
I've been to McDonald's in every single country I've been to. Italy, Japan, Ireland...
It's actually an incredibly fun experience, because they cater their menus to that specific country.
In Japan, they had a bright green melon soda. Which was amazing. And a strange pork sandwich, and something called a "Shake and Bake" chicken thing, among other things.
In this moment, I kept thinking that if my sister-in-law Amy was there, we would totally have to go to McDonald's. It's basically tradition at this point.

In Ireland!
Just like Ireland, this McDonald's had an entirely separate area dedicated to its McCafe. 
Which had macarons and other Frenchy desserts.
It was packed, and there were absolutely no seats, so after we got our food we headed over to Starbucks and grabbed a table there.

I know you guys must be absolutely appalled that we spent precious time in Paris eating at McDonald's.
But truthfully, it was the cheapest food we had and we were completely full for less than 10 euro!
We had some amazing food in Paris, but with all the walking we were doing we spent a lot of time as hungry hippos, trying to budget our daily food spending.
And besides, they had a Croque McDoo.
That's RIGHT. A McDonald's Croque Monsieur.
A funny little treat for 1 euro. Totally worth it.

They also some crazy fancy sandwiches with goat cheese and all kinds of nonsense.
Now I can happily continue my country-to-country McDonald's tradition.

Once we were full and happily carrying a mocha (me) and a caramel latte (Dusty) back into the cold, we headed back around to the front of the Louvre.

Toy Story clouds. :)

I absolutely love the pictures that capture all the various visitors of Paris.
Especially that one above in front of the Louvre - people walking, sitting, talking, laughing, taking pictures. It's all great.

Madame Eiffel loves to poke her nose in every chance she gets. 

As soon as we walked into the glass pyramid, it was so hot. 
We immediately began to shed our outer layers and make our way down the stairs to the main entryway.
It was kind of nice to shed our coats for a few hours (they had a coat check!) and walk around a little lighter.

We decided to map out the key places we wanted to go, in case we didn't come back to the Louvre. We didn't want to spend an entire day (which you really could) when we had so many other things to see.
Even so, we didn't rush. We savored.

The main lobby was huge, and there were different levels to get to each place.
It really wasn't what I had expected at all.
Everything was SO spread out and so open. It was very spacious. Every exhibit was carefully planned and spaced out, nothing was crammed or stuffed together...there's just so much room. It really felt like you were walking for miles. It just went on forever.

Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory)

Don't ask me why (when we were standing in front of a famous piece of art), when we asked a man to take a picture of us, he tried his darndest to make sure that none of the sculpture was in it.

Here's lookin' at you, kid.
(St. John the Baptist in the Wilderness by Leonardo da Vinci)

As we were making our way through the crowds and the many paintings that lined the walls of the museum, Dusty suddenly froze, staring through an entryway into another large room.
I knew immediately what was going on.
"Is she in there? IS IT MONA!?"

Sure enough, there she was.
Sitting pretty in her intense fortification.
Dusty and I spent a lot of time lingering around this painting.
A lot of people seem to think that she's not that impressive in person...but I would have to disagree with that. I found her to be exactly as I imagined.
She's quite arguably the most famous painting in the world, and no one really knows why.
Hundreds, even thousands, of people pass by her on a weekly basis just to snap a quick picture and rush away, off to do other tourist activities.
How weird is it that the most famous painting in all the world is the most unappreciated in all the world?
After we took some pictures, Dusty and I just took off to the side, staring, trying to uncover her many secrets.
We talked a bit about why it was that she was so famous. What is it about her that made her effect so permanent in art history?
Do you know?

Not gonna lie, after we met this famous lady, I asked Dusty if we could name our daughter Mona in her honor.
He heartily refused, but I'm still considering it. I really think I could revolutionize the name Mona for a cute little girl with brown hair and brown, maybe blue, eyes that loves to sing and paint and play games.
Sweet little Mona.
I'm tellin' you, it could work.

The rest of our time in the Louvre was wonderful.
There was so much to see!
Even the building itself is incredible; but I suppose that makes sense, since it was originally a palace!

The Coronation of Napoleon by Jacques-Louis David
Venus de Milo

I loved getting into the Egyptian art, because I studied a lot of that in school during one of my Art History courses. I would love to take more Art History classes! Especially having experienced so much of this in person. 

It's always vastly different to study something on paper, and see it in person.
I've had a few really amazing opportunities to see pieces of art that I've studied in person, and it's always a bit overwhelming.
There's always some blinking, some "oh my gosh, I saw that in an Art book!" and usually a few "it's way bigger than I thought..."
Shocker: the real thing is bigger than that 8x11 piece of paper reproduction.

Colossal Statue of Ramesses II

The Seated Scribe

If you've seen my reaction in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., you can only imagine my excitement for all of these items as well!

The Code of Hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi was one of the coolest things to see in person.
It's essentially a Babylonian law code (it consists of 282 laws!). It's one of the oldest deciphered writings in the world. 

Seriously an amazing piece of art. Every inch is carved with letters, and it's impossible to try and imagine deciphering something like that.

The last big thing on our list was to see the apartments of Napoleon III.
Before entering the apartments, you entering this giant sunlit atrium area that's packed full of statues. I kept calling it a Statue Garden, because that's really what it felt like.
I wouldn't mind having one.

The Napoleon Apartments were astonishing.
We would soon be seeing very similar grandeur at Versailles, and perhaps even more grandeur, but this was beyond anything we had ever seen at this point.
This is where it became very apparent that there were some huge differences between English royalty and French royalty.
Everything about the French is extravagant, over-the-top, insanely embellished and rich.

What....does your sitting room not look like this?

I closed my eyes and tried to channel some Downton Abbey.
Oh wait, wrong country.

Once we had finished our tour, we were officially ready for the next chapter.
Which was crepes.

We went back to the same vendor nearby to grab a quick treat before we headed over to the Arc de Triomphe!

Nutella and Coconut

I mentioned in a previous trip post that my husband was really enamored by the Arc.
And I must say, I became enamored, as well! I wasn't expecting it to be as impressive as it was. The first time we saw it I was pretty overwhelmed, but this visit became probably one of the highest highlights of our trip to Paris. It was completely unexpected, and absolutely incredible.
It was actually due to rereading some texts from my dad that I caught onto a small little note - he had mentioned a few things that we really should do, and one of them was going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, to which he added "but especially the Arc de Triomphe - it takes time but you will never forget it, and will be reminded of it every time you see an image of it".
I had almost forgotten about it, since the Eiffel Tower is the big one that's known for the ride to the top. Dusty also hadn't known going to the top of the Arc was an option, so when I was going through those messages and mentioned it to him, we both decided we had to try it.

It was not an easy trek. This old winding staircase seemed to go on for miles, and our legs were in pretty bad shape from all our walking and adventuring. I actually had some kind of weird pulled muscle in my heel that was killing me, and going up these stairs took quite all my willpower. 
But in the end...
It was worth it.

Sacre Coeur shining in the setting sun.

I honestly have chills as I'm writing this.
I've never been so overtaken by beauty before.
The wind was cold, but we were on top of the world. It rocked my world. I don't really know how to explain the feeling. The pictures capture such a tiny bit of the real thing - but they'll have to do. A small memento of a stunning memory.
The sun was setting and the clouds were incredible.
It was so beautiful.

Champs d'Elysees
La Defense

Then of course, there was the Eiffel Tower.
In many ways, the Arc de Triomphe is a much more ideal view of Paris than the Eiffel Tower, because this way you get to see the Eiffel Tower. The Arc has the best views of anywhere.

We spent so much time up there.
We really didn't want to leave. It was almost like having to leave The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
There's just a part of you that knows you'll never be in the presence of magic again...not like this.

I'm really thankful for those notes from my dad, and for the ability to climb to the top of that Arc. As he predicted, it will be something Dusty and I never forget - and we will most definitely look back with touches of happiness and longing whenever we see an image of the Arc, the place where we ruled the world for just a little bit.

We spent some time in the gift shop (once you reach the top of the winding stairs, there's a lobby area and a large gift shop before you climb the last little staircase to the roof) and then decided it was time to make our way back down.
Once we were at the bottom, the sun was cascading beautifully across the back of the Arc.
We decided to take a few pictures for good measure before heading off to our dinner spot.

There was some sort of service going on at the base of the Arc.

One of my favorite shots.

Once we were finally able to tear ourselves away from the Arc, we headed over the Rue de Rosiers.
It's an adorable spot with cute streets and lots of shops and boutiques.
It's on the more expensive side, but still really fun to walk around. By the time we got down there it was dark, and a lot of the shops were closed. But we were able to walk around and go into a few of them.
We were heading toward a Fondue place for dinner, which I couldn't have been more excited about!

The place was called Pain Vin Fromage, and was to die for.
It's hard to argue with melted cheese that you dip stuff into, but this was above and beyond.
The owner was incredibly nice. It was obvious this tiny place had been getting a lot more attention thanks to great reviews on TripAdvisor, which is a really great source for finding places to go while traveling. It also happens to be my source for finding this place as well!

It was warm and inviting, and the owner also spoke English very well which helped us out a lot.
We instantly let all the weight of the day release into the warmth of the room, digesting all the amazing moments and great memories so we could have more room in our bellies for cheese.

Now before I go any further, I have to tell you about a wonderful man we met.
And by met, I mean eavesdropped on the entire evening.
We shall call him British Bryce.

Two of our best friends from college are Britany and Bryce. You may remember their names coming up before (from their wedding, or their visit to Arizona this past New Year's Eve).
In any case, Bryce is quite the character. He's kin to a British gentleman in so many ways, many of which were not realized until we met British Bryce.
We were completely entertained by his time at the dinner table beside us, and are better people having known (creeped on) him.

British Bryce, in his classy sweater and plaid button-up.
He had the most divine British accent.
Even more adorable was the fact that he was on a dinner date with his daughter.
Here's all you need to know about the gent:

British Bryce is a writer from London. 
He has a snazzy wine column, and is happily married with two daughters: Lydia and a dark-haired beauty with a nose ring, most likely named Jane or Charlotte. They enjoy smoking together.
He is a wonderful father. His daughters dote on him, and he is known to smile often and even crack a joke or two. 
He never misses a birthday and is meticulous about staying in touch. He's not afraid to pay someone a compliment, but is a harsh critic of food and wine. 
He has a gold wedding ring, and is known to wear expensive sweaters and plaid button-ups on a normal winter day. He uses words like "bugger". 
Topics of conversation included Percy's birthday, Isabel's wedding, bank holidays, and good times in London and Paris. 
What a guy.

While the highlight of the evening may have been British Bryce, the amazing fondue definitely added to the whole experience.
We ordered the Seguin, which was goat cheese, apple brandy, cream and spices. Ohmygosh.
We also ordered a little ham plate, and chased it down with a little platter of fruit and chocolate fondue.

It was probably one of my favorite meals in Paris. The whole idea of eating a meal bite-by-bite, stuck on a toothpick and smothered in hot decadent cheese,'s at the top of my love list.
Plus Pain Vin Fromage was so unique, and definitely a little treasure. I was really glad we went there!

We went back into the cold darkness with full bellies and happy hearts.

On our ride home, we encountered some lovely music on the metro!
We actually had some really fun musical experiences during our metro travels. At one point we danced our cares away to a fabulous accordion player at the Hotel Del Ville stop.
This time, it was a whole band serenading us into the night.

Before we knew it, we were bidding the happy souls adieu as we pulled into the Passy stop and made our way back to our apartment.
As I said, this may have been my favorite overall day in Paris. Even though it's hard to compare each day, this one was really special.
But there was still more to come!
But for now, it was goodnight.

Our street! Heading towards our little home.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the very enjoyable Trip around Paris again for my nostalgic senses. I must return.Kind Regards