The Eiffel Tower
I love Paris. It is the most amazing place. I was there for 3 days and I did not even get to do half of the things I wanted to do, and I was busy the entire time. I went with my Art History class, so obviously I got to go to many of the museums, but because the museums took up so much of my time I did not have time to do much of the other stuff I have always wanted to do. I have decided that I am going to go back, and I am going to go back by myself. I want to go by myself because they I can do what I want, when I want, and I don’t have to worry about pleasing other people, and vise versa.
We all met at the train station at 7am.
I have not been up that early in a very long time. Luckily the train is fairly comfortable and I was able to fall back asleep. The train ride is 5 hours long, but it does not seem that bad when you are asleep. In June the TGV is coming to Strasbourg. For those of you who don’t know of the TGV, it is a super fast train that will go from Strasbourg to Paris in only 1 ½ hours. That is less than ½ the time it takes now. I am sad that I am not going to be here to ride on it. It would be awesome. When we got off the train we took the Metro to our Hostel. We stayed at a fairly nice hostel, and I would stay there again. The only problem with it is that it is outside of the city and it takes about 10 to 15 minutes by Metro to get into the city. It is just a little inconvenient. We got to the hostel but our rooms were not ready yet, so we left our luggage in a storeroom and ate lunch.
The hostel had a very nice cafeteria. Then we left for the Musèe d’Orsay.
Musee De Louvre
The Musèe d’Orsay is amazing. It is much bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside. It used to be a palace, then it was a train station, then it became a museum. We had a tour from our teacher. I am amazed at how much information this woman has in her head. It boggles my mind. She knows everything there is to know about art and the events that happened to inspire the art. She knows people, dates, the things they liked to do in their spare time.
It is almost ridiculous. I will put a paragraph in here about the teacher later. She deserves to have a whole section dedicated to her. Anyway, in the Musèe d’Orsay we spent 2 hours in only 4 rooms on the first floor. Each room is not very big. There were only about 5 or 6 paintings in each one, and we did not talk about all of them. I am not usually very interested in art, but seeing these famous paintings in person gives you a whole new perspective on art. The only reason I took this class was to go to Paris, and because it would take care of my fine arts general ed requirement. After the tour finished Amy and I wandered around on our own for a little while.
That was all we had to do on Friday.
After the tour our teacher left us and we were on our own for the evening. There are 13 people in the class. Other people from the school bought their own tickets and joined us at the museum. That would not normally bother me, but because they are not in the class they did not understand a lot of what the teacher was talking about. Most of the paintings we saw we had been studying in class. And because they did not understand they would stand in the back of the group and talke. No one was forcing them to go through the tour with us, they could have left, but no they decided to hang out in our group and make it difficult for us to concentrate. We were graded on participation here so they were very distracting. Anyway, enough complaining.
The Arc De Triomphe
After that we met up with Kelly and Shalyn. We went back to the Hosetl. We had to get our key and baggage and take them up to the room. We all decided that we wanted to go to the movies. We wanted to see Marie Antionette. It was playing at 6 theaters, but not everyday, so luckily we found the only theater that had a showing on a Friday. However, it was raining, and when I say raining I mean pouring. Even with our umbrellas we were soaked. The entire bottom half of my pants might as well have been dipped in a pool. We got to the theater early to get tickets, but they would not let us so we went back up the street to find somewhere to eat. It was here that we hit the jack pot. We found a Japanise restaurant. Everyone else was really excited because they had been craving sushi for a very long time. I just figured I would have rice or something. As we went in the host took our umbrellas and coats to hang them up to dry and when we got to our seats they brought us nice warm cloths. They had a very nice menu. I got the chicken and beef kabobs. They were amazing. I could have eaten more even though I was full. For only 10 euros, about $13, the meal came with some kind of fruity wine, salad, soup (I don’t know how to spell the name of the soup, miso or something like that), rice, the main course, and A warm shot of alcohol at the end (I believe it is called Sacki, but I don’t know how to spell that either). I must say that I was very impressed with this restaurant.
When we left the restaurant it had stopped raining. So we went to the theater and saw Marie Antionette. It is a new movie with Kirstin Dunst. The movie is only playing in Paris. It has not even been shown in the United States and it is an American film. It was in English with French sub titles. It was a very good movie. Usually I do not like Kirstin Dunst, but she did a wonderful job. Kelly has an obsession with Marie Antionette and has read many biographies on her and said that the movie seemed to follow the facts that she knew. I was only disappointed in the ending. You did not get to see her be beheaded. It ended as they were fleeing from Versailles. You just know that she dies.
The movie got out just before midnight so we decided to just go back to the hotel. I took a really warm shower because I was freezing, but it was very difficult. In order to keep the shower on you had to keep pressing the knob. If you let go it would turn off. It is very hard to rinse your hair with only one hand.
We got up early and had breakfast. Breakfast at the hostel consisted of a roll, croissant, cereal, and really great hot chocolate. I really need something more in the morning though. I would kill for some bacon or sausage and a waffle. Our first stop of the day was the Louvre. The Louvre is amazing. It is so huge that it is almost overwhelming. We spent 4 hours in there. It was, for me, too much time in one shot. I felt like my brain was on overload. I could not keep everything straight in my head. It was amazing to see many of the paintings that we have been studying in class in person, especially the Mona Lisa. I have always heard about what a let down the painting is. Everyone kept telling me how small it is, and because it is behind bullet proof glass, and you have to stay 10 feet away from it. I really liked it though. I don’t really know what it was, but I think because I went in with such a low expectation that it was better than people had let on. I don’t know if that makes any since to you. Hopefully it does.
After the tour was over we had about an hour to find lunch and then meet back at the Metro entrance. As most of you now know, you can not get lunch in an hour. It is almost impossible. On the side of the Louvre that we were let out on there were not many restaurants or places to go. It was mainly little shops and furniture stores. Luckily we were able to find a boulangerie. We grabbed a sandwich and a cookie, took them to the Rhine and sat on the wall overlooking the river and had a nice little picnic. It was very nice. The sun was shining, though it was a little chilly, and we just sat there and watched the people go by on the street and on the boats. It was a very relaxing time. I very much enjoyed myself.
We all met up at the Metro and took it to another part of the city where we had a tour of the Musèe de la Vie Romantique. It was a nice museum, it is an old home that was converted. It was not very exciting though. I think after the Louvre most anything could be a let down. I also think that by that time everyone was already worn out from standing that we just did not have the energy to concentrate on everything the teacher was telling us. Luckily, we are only graded on participation and not on a quiz, because as long as we could make ourselves look like we were concentrating we get points.
After the Museum we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We were let out near Sacré Coeur so that is where we went. We had to climb up about a billion stairs, but it was worth it. I think it is the most beautiful building I have ever seen. Eventually you will all get pictures of it. We did not go in. I wish that we would have, but there was so much else that we wanted to do that I decided not to and I will come back and do it then. If you put your back to the building you look out over Paris. It is beautiful. Sacré Coeur is on the biggest hill in Paris, known as Montmartre. It is a breathtaking view. I could go back and bring a picnic lunch and sit on the steps and just look out on the city. It is peaceful except for all the people around you, but it is not to hard to block them out.
After Sacré Coeur we got back on the Metro (I swear we spent more time on the Metro than we did seeing the sights of Paris) and went to the Champs Elysées. The Champs Elysées is basically a huge strip full of shops. It was not what I was expecting though. I had originally thought that it was more…actually I don’t really know what I was expecting. Most of the shops were big name brand stores. They also had my type of shops like the Gap, and the Disney Store. I had to restrain myself from entering the Disney Store. I love Disney and I wanted some more CDs, but I don’t know if their CDs are compatible with my CD player. I did not want to waste my money if it did not work. The Champs Elysées was not as big as I though either. It was not very long at all. It was only about 2 or 3 blocks. I did buy some perfume. (Jenny I still use the oil you gave me, but in that container it is not really able to travel. I needed something for here, and it is France, lots of perfume.)
After shopping my friend Amy left us to go meet up with one of her friends who is living in Paris. So that left Kelly, Shalyn and me. Our feet were really hurting and we were hungry. So we went right across the street to a place called Pizza Pinos. We decided it was not going to be worth it to go searching for a restaurant that would be inexpensive and would take us forever to find. Luckily Pizza Pinos was not very expensive. We just beat the dinner rush too. A couple minutes after we were seated all the tables started to fill up. The food was alright, nothing really exciting, but the service was horrible. Horrible to the point that it was almost funny. We ordered a caraff of water, and he brought it, but he did not bring us any glasses. We had to ask him twice for glasses. The people at the table right next to us asked him for olive oil, and he picked ours up off the table and handed it to her. He did not even ask us if we were using it. The lady gave it back when she was done, but our tables were so close that all through dinner she kept picking it back up, using it, and putting it back on our table. It was very weird. Anyway, it was just things like that he did all night long. I think we shared our parmasion cheese with 5 other tables.
Once we were back outside it was completely dark. We were walking up the street and saw the Louie Vuitton building all lit up. It was beautiful, ice blue. It looked like an ice castle. Then up the road at the end of the Champs Elysées was the Arc De Triomph. It was gorgeous all lit up. I took pictures, but without a professional camera it is really hard to get a good picture. I took about 50 of them though, so I know that at least some of them will have to turn out. We sat down across the round-a-bout (The Arc is in the middle of the scariest round-a-bout I have ever seen.) and waited for Amy to find us. It was nice sitting there and looking at the Arc. It is amazing. After Amy caught up with us she took us to the Centre Pompidou. Amy came to Paris on her own two weekends ago and fell in love with this museum.
We came to Paris on the perfect weekend. Saturday was the famous Nuit Blanche, or “White Night.” This happens one night a year. Everything in Paris is open until about 4am, and all the museums and attractions are free. So we got into the Centre Pompidou for fee. That was great because it is not normally a place where I would want to spend my money. I think I am just not a fan of modern art. I just don’t understand it. Don’t get me wrong, there was some amazing stuff in there, but when the first thing of “art” you see is some 2x4 boards holding up gold spray-painted paper that looks like someone ran through it to put a hole there, I am not impressed. They did have some nice stuff in there. I liked the photography section. There was one presentation where the photographer went out and took pictures of everyday things and put them next to old paintings, and they looked a lot alike, even though the photographer did not make the scene. I don’t know if that made any since, but I can’t explain it any other way. Here is an example. One of the pictures taken was of a homeless man sleeping in an awkward position on the ground, and the picture next to it was of one of the bodies found in Pompii. The Centre Pompidou also has a very nice lookout area. There is a balcony that runs along the entire building on every floor, and you can see all of Paris, or at least that side of Paris. Sacré Coeur is beautiful at night, especially from that view. There was nothing obstructing the view, and it was all lit up. I tried to take a picture, but it was just too far away for a night picture to turn out. You could see the Eiffel Tower from there also. It is also beautiful lit up.
By this point it was about 12am. I know it is really sad that we are college students and we feel like this is really late. We were really tired and our feet hurt. So we made the plan that we were going to go buy a bottle of wine and go sit out by the river near the Eiffel Tower. However, we never made it out there. None of could figure out the map that we had, and we kept getting ourselves lost. We somehow stumbled across Notre Dame. I don’t know how we did not figure out how we got there. I would have liked to spend more time there, but because it was the Nuit Blanche there were so many people out that it was almost scary. The entire island that the Notre Dame was on was covered with college students and almost every one of them was drinking out of an alcohol bottle. I saw people drinking Vodka straight from the bottle. None of us wanted to hang around that. That is just not my scene. We walked around the city for another long while. Our feet were hurting so bad at one point that we just decided to go back to the hostel.
We got on the subway to go home and an announcement came on that all the tracks are now closed. So we had to go back up, after wasting one of our subway tickets, and get a taxi back. We stood in line for a taxi for 20 minutes. It was ridiculous, but really fun to watch the woman in line behind us who was getting really upset at the taxis and, from what I could understand of her telephone conversation, her boyfriend. I think it is kind of fun to listen to peoples conversations when they are in French because they don’t think we can understand what they are saying and we catch them talking about us all the time. We just give them a look and they turn all red.
We got back to the hostel at around 2am. That was pretty good for us though. I think that is the latest we have stayed out the entire time we have been in Europe. However, when I got back to my room my roommate was already there and one of the guys was there and they wanted to talk about what I did all day, and tell me what they did. I just wanted to go to sleep. I was nice though and answered all questions. The next morning we got to sleep in an extra half hour than normal. It was nice. I still didn’t want to get up though. We had breakfast and we were out the door for another museum. I, along with many others, did not want to go to another museum. I was museumed out for the week. 3 in 2 days is a lot. I can’t keep that kind of information in my head, especially when it is all coming at me at once in a short amount of time.
The museum was the Musée Jacquemart-André. It was by far my favorite. I liked it even better than the Louvre. It is an old home, a huge home, but a home nonetheless. The couple who originally owned it (I can’t remember the dates, but somewhere in the 1800s) were the richest people in France. They had more money than the Louvre. They married for common interests and not love, and began to collect art work. They would buy a painting and loan it to the Louvre when the Louvre could not afford it but wanted it. They did not have any children so when they died the home and everything in it was given to the city. I think what I liked most about this tour was that our teacher was not lecturing. We had an audio tour. This made it easier to walk around while listening, because my feet really hurt that day and hurt less when I was moving. What I also liked was that it was not all about art. We learned a lot about the lives of these people and about the home itself, along with the paintings.
After we finished the tour we had the afternoon to ourselves, but we had to be at the train station at 4:30 and we still had to go back to the hostel and get our baggage. So the first thing we did was get lunch. Everyone was in agreement to go back to the Japanise restaurant. It was so good that we all wanted to eat there one more time. By the time we got out of the restaurant it was 2:30. We went to another part of the city to see what was over there (there was not much) and we found a Starbucks. We were surprised that it was open because it was Sunday, and almost nothing is open on Sundays. We all got something and found a cute little souvineer shop. I just got postcards but we spent a little bit of time there looking around. Then we decided to go to the hostel and get our stuff. It took us over an hour to go from that shop to the train station. That Metro moves really fast, but for some reason it takes forever. We almost did not make it in time. Luckily we did and we made is safely home.
I loved Paris, but there was so much more that I wanted to do but did not get to. I think I am going to go back by myself, this way I can do what I want, when I want and not have to worry about pleasing anyone but myself. I was bumbed that I did not even get to go to the Eiffel Tower. I only saw it from a distance. I want to take one of those open air bus tours of the city, and I want to take a tour down the Seine. So much I want to do. Now that I have done the whole museum thing I will have more time to do all the other things I want to do. This trip was a very good introduction to Paris, now I need to do all the other touristy things.