WARNING: Lots of boring(?) historical facts/info about architecture and Paris in general in this post. Sorry! That stuff is mostly for me because I find that stuff to be interesting but my memory is terrible. Feel free to skip through all that 🙂
Although I miss home and family and friends a ton, I at least had the opportunity to travel to France with my French roommate, Marion, and spend 3 nights in Paris and around a week and a half in Normandy, where her family lives. It’s not the same as a Feldman Chanukah Haggle with Rob as the M.C. or eating latkes and bagels and lighting Chanukah candles, but it’s so nice to be able to spend winter break with a family at their home 🙂
Soooooo, this post is about Paris, where we started off our trip in France. We checked into a hostel in the Montmarte District on December 21st. This was my first REAL hostel experience… i.e. sleeping in a room full of bunkbeds. Although it wasn’t the worst, I definitely prefer to be in my apartment or someone’s home. The guy sleeping in the bed beneath Marion snored like a hibernating bear and I was kind of worried I’d catch some disease if I walked barefoot in the bathroom. BUT, on the plus side, there was free breakfast! Woohooooo. Very beneficial for a 22 year-old whose salary is miniscule.
Anywho, we spent the first night in Le Montclair Montmarte hostel and woke up bright and early to jumpstart our first day in Paris. We started off by walking to La Basilique du Sacre Coeur (The Sacret Heart Basilica) which was built on the “hill of martyrs” in Montmarte between 1875 and 1914.
The inside of Sacre Coeur was beautiful, but unfortunately, visitors aren’t allowed to take photos 😦 Here’s a google image of the inside just so you can get an idea of what the place looks like:
Afterwards, we walked around a bit in the Montmarte district. I got a little shot glass souvenir from one of the touristy shops (that’s one of my things — to collect shot glasses in the places I travel to) and we also passed through a Xmas Market. Montmarte and the community around it is where many artists had studios or worked (for example, Salvador Dalí, Amedeo Modigliani, Claude Monet, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Montmartre is also the setting for several hit films. It’s also apparently known as a night-club district although Marion and I didn’t spend time in any night clubs during our stay 🙂
Taking the “Metropolitain”, we arrived at St. Michel-Notre Dame stop and then walked along the banks of the Seine River. We went past the Palais de Justice…
…and eventually came across a bridge full of “love locks“. I was SO EXCITED that we’d found the bridge where people attach locks in the hopes that leaving a lock on the bridge will make their love last forever. But, after doing some research (while writing this post), I’ve learned that there are multiple bridges with “love locks” attached… the most famous of which is the Pont des Artes (Considered the most romantic bridge of Paris, the location where lovers declare their eternal love for each other by writing their names on a padlock and locking it to the bridge. It’s a pedestrianised bridge that connects the Louvre to the Institut de France.) So, although I found one bridge, Pont Neuf (I think?), where love locks can be found, it wasn’t THE BRIDGE I was looking for. Oh well. I still thought it was really cute/romantic 🙂
After thatttt, we got to la Catédrale Notre Dame de Paris! The place is SO incredibleeeeeeely beautiful. I’m still in awe of the gothic architecture and the stained glass windows inside are seriously a wonder to stare at. Plus, the additional lighting expertly placed inside the cathedral made everything seem so old and a bit creepy but also mysterious and full of secrets. Luckily for me, we were allowed to take pictures inside this work of art 🙂
After having lunch in a cute little restaurant by Notre Dame, we passed through another Xmas market and then walked to Le Panthéon, formerly a Christian basilica built in the 6th century (FRIGGIN’ OLD) by a certain King Clovis, designed to house his tomb and that of his wife when they died. Saint Genvieve, the patron saint of Paris, was also buried here in 512 AD. Eventually, The Pantheon became a secular national “temple” where the tombs of many famous Frenchmen (including the philosophers Voltaire and Rousseau –– considered to be symbols of the Enlightenment of the 18th century and the ideals of reason and science) and ONE Frenchwoman (Marie Curie a.k.a. Nobel Laureate in physics for her work on radium) are now housed.
In 1744, Louis XV had the architect Soufflot redesign the church and the king dedicated the church to Saint Genevieve because he prayed to her when he was very ill and attributed his recovery to her. In 1791, the monument to her was turned into the national Pantheon and for two periods during the 19th century, Christians worshiped here. It was finally given over to secular use in 1885 with the funeral of Victor Hugo (a writer famous for his support for Republican ideals and his support for fundamental freedoms). Inside the Pantheon are many paintings created by the most famous artists from the late 19th century and onwards; the paintings depict the history of Saint Genvieve and the story of the beginnings of both Christianity and the monarchy in France. There are also paintings of Joan of Arc and other famous Christian heroes from the history of France. Sculptures from the early 20th century depict subjects that include the French Revolution, at the base of the pillars supporting the large dome. In the back of the main floor is a painting of The National Convention. Downstairs is the crypt where the famous Frenchmen and woman are held.
After checking out The Pantheon, we went to meet up with Justine, another girl from France who, like Marion, is also studying at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela this year. We met underneath the Eiffel Tower. To be honest, when I first saw it, I was like “ummmm this isn’t as pretty as I imagined it would be”, but once the sun went down the lights on the tower went on, I changed my mind 🙂 Anywhoooooo, after meeting up with Justine, the three of us walked around. We passed by Pont Alexandre III,
then through a Xmas market full of booths selling hot wine, macarons, and other Christmas-time goodies,
then we walked along Champs-Elysées (one of the most famous streets in the world, lined with cafés, restaurants, and shops, that is over 1 mile long),
and FINALLY we got to…
L’Arc de Triomphe (a monument built in Place de l’Étole (now called Place Charles-de-Gaulle) between 1806 and 1836 to honor the victories of Napoleon Bonaparte and, later, generally to glorify the armies of the Republic and the Empire).
We actually got to climb to the topic of L’Arc de Triomphe and the panoramic view from the top was spectacular. Definitely worth the walk up! The monument stands in the center of the Place de l’Étole, which translates to the “Star” because 12 avenues radiate out from it, all of which are named for famous people and battles. Here are some views from above!
For our second day in Paris, the three of us decided to go to Versailles. Unfortunately, when we got there, it was discovered that the palace is closed on Mondays. Double-you-tee-eff. We were still able to walk around the outside of the palace and see the gardens but it wasn’t the same, especially since it was winter and the gardens and greenery weren’t all that magical…
YET, although many things didn’t go according to plan, here are some pictures showing the beauty of the palace:
Next time I am in Paris, I’ll go during the Spring or Summer and make sure Versailles is open to the public!
After our attempt to visit Versailles, we went to see the Bastille (a monument) and then had lunch. Afterwards, we went on a free walking tour (love thoseee) through the Left Bank of Paris (the Latin Quarter) where all the bohemians and students live. We walked through medieval streets, learned a little bit about the history of Paris and this particular area of Paris, saw La Sorbonne (famous and prestigious university in Paris), and ended the tour at the Pantheon. We also walked to a square where literally the BEST cheese-maker in France sets up shop (he actually has the title of best cheese-maker in France. What a baller). Here’s some of his/her very expensive cheese in photo-form since I am not forking over 40€ for cheese 😀
Then, we met up with our friend, Irís, also a student at the Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, who is from Mexico. We walked around a bit and then went to the Trocadero where we got a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower at night:
From the Trocadero, we walked down the stairs and then through one of the Christmas markets and finally ended up finding a place to have “le dîner”.
And THAT, folks, is the story of my trip to Paris.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I love Europe so much because there is just SO MUCH HISTORY here. Yes, I love the United States and it will always be my home, but seeing architecture and other things built centuries ago that still stand to this day is something else. For example, take the Mona Lisa… yeah, I might have not actually gone to the Louvre to see it, but who needs the Louvre when you can see a great representation of the masterpiece on the street? 😀
Paris is beautiful and I would love to return in the future. The Parisians I met were all very nice so maybe the stereotype about Parisians being snotty and rude to foreigners isn’t totally true… although I’m pretty sure the French still hate Americans… oh well! I can’t change their feelings on the United States all by myself!
Anywayyyyyyyy, Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année! Bissous!
And don’t forget: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité!
P.S. Paris has got style because it has this store: