Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Paris, Day Three - 6/27

To start our third day in Paris with a delicious bang, we came croissants for breakfast. Yum. The trains were (again) running late, but we eventually made it into town. Once we go there, we got off at our trusty Saint Michel/Notre Dame stop and searched for a bolangerie for an early lunch. It's actually more difficult to find them than one might think--not because they're not there, but because they look so much like everything else and it's all squished into the same general area.

Once we'd bought our baguette, we found a good spot at...Notre Dame and ate. Have to say, it was a pretty spectacular view.

After our lunch, we walked across the street (ish; it felt like nothing in France was ever direct) to Sainte Chapelle. We managed to sneak in just before they closed the line for lunch, because in France, most things/some exhibits in museums, close for a few hours in the middle of the afternoon. Awesome if you like long lunches/naps...not so good if you're trying to tour. While we were standing in line, we started talking to the American family in front of us (the family behind us was Portuguese; it was so much fun listening to them talk!); turns out the girl was a senior at UNC! UNC Encounters in France: 2. CRAZY. There was a whole lotta school spirit happening.

Also, we noticed a little pigeon nest in the ledge above the waiting crowd. Mama was across the walkway, calling to them and trying to convince them to fly. Little moments like totally what make trips so special. (:


If you've never been/heard anything about it, Sainte Chapelle is known for their stained glass. As we overheard one of the (British! Squeal.) tour guides saying, "Sainte Chapelle makes Notre Dame look like a tiny little country church". Oh my, was that true.

The ceiling of the Lower Chapel
The Upper Chapel

Closeup of one of the rose windows


Even the floors were gorgeous.
 After Sainte Chapelle, we Métroed (is that a verb?) our way over L'Arc de Triomphe. It's pretty funky--because of the ridiculous traffic around it, you get off on the Arc d'Triomphe Métro stop, venture up from the depths of Paris onto Champs-Élysées...and then go immediately back down again underneath the street and, after buying your ticket in this giant tunnel, emerge in the middle of the Arc. I guess I'd just never thought about how to navigate 100 lanes of traffic.


There are 284 steps, that spiral just like this, to the top.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Paris from the top
After the Arc, we stopped (read: spent three hours) at the Musée d'Orsay on the way home. The museum itself is really cool--it's in a renovated train station. Also cool is the full-scale model of the Opera House they have. Weirdest award definitely goes to their model of Paris though; it's embedded in the floor underneath panes of glass. I saw more than one person walk on the glass floor to get to the Opera model, notice the lights, look down and jump. Too funny.

Graffiti in the Métro station
It definitely seems like there's always something new to discover in Paris; like, you can do so much and see so many things and hear so much history...but there is always something else, some little tidbit you missed. Loving it all.

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Four Posts and Counting...

Hey everyone,

Just letting y'all know, we are still alive and loving France. I'm working on four posts to upload, but I have pictures in about three different places and sporadic wi-fi, so I'm hoping they'll be up soon...but making no promises. (:

We've been busy sightseeing after arriving in Paris Sunday night. Details will follow (in these posts that I hope to have up soon, haha), but the places have included Notre Dame (multiple times), Arc de Triomphe and more!

For lunch two days in a row, we've had baguettes, cheese and fruit. It's a hard life in Paris and I love it.

A little teaser of what's to come:

It's almost 11 here (oh...just kidding, it is 11...crap.), so as the French say: bonne nuit!

More tomorrow,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Paris, Day Two - 6/26

On our second day, we got a bit of a late start because the trains were running half an hour behind. Of course, this also meant that they were 10,000% more jammed (obviously, this number was based on lots of research).

We got off at the St. Paul Métro stop and set out for the Carnevalet Museum. The museum is actually spread out between two old mansions right in the center of town. We followed a sign into the edge of the neighborhood, wandered around...thought we'd missed another sign, turned back, ended up on the main street, turned back around. We eventually found it and I wish I'd nabbed a picture of the outside because, honestly, I could have totally walked past it without knowing there was a beautiful museum inside.

Louis the XIV 

I know I'm short, but that fireplace was huge

Don't quote me on this, but I think this was one of the faces from Pont Neuf. Either way, I adore it and want one for my room.

The courtyard in the center of the two houses

Half of the courtyard

We wandered around the museum with our trusty friend, Ricky Steves (seriously, for anyone considering European travel, Rick Steves is the way to go). After we were done, we went to the courtyard for a snack--we're like Boy Scouts; we travel prepared--before winding our way back to the Métro station. We got a baguette and had lunch in front of Hotel de Ville.

Saw this on the way to the Métro. Amen.

Our lunching spot.

After lunch, we headed to Les Halles--an indoor market that Sylvie had recommended to us. It's a huge underground mall--so huge it has it's own Métro station. We looked around, stopped in one of the stores. Mom spoke French to the cashier and they chatted for a minute, then when she went to pay with her credit card, the cashier saw it and switched to English. Even though Mom continued speaking in French, the cashier stuck to English. It was very sweet.

We headed home and I went with Axelle to her riding lesson at the local pony club. One thing I noticed: many more boys ride there than they do here. I firmly believe that should be fixed here. (:

Even though it was late when she and I got back (8-ish or so), we had dinner with the family and all headed to bed. It was the perfectly wonderful kind of exhausted. (:

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Monday, June 25, 2012

Paris, Day One - 6/25

This morning, we woke up pretty early and went with Axelle to get our Metro passes and to see her school. After walking around, she went to class (they're only just now doing exams here!) and we took the train to Paris. We got off at the Saint Michel stop, because we really didn't know what we wanted to do.
(After we saw Maylen's initials as graffiti on the train. It was fun to see them and think of her!)

We saw the fountain (partially to get our bearings, since neither of us especially knows the city real well), stood by a tour group led by a guy with a wonderfully strong British accent and learned some nifty facts about the fountain before walking over to Notre Dame.

It was a couple of blocks away, so we also ate chocolate while we went. (: (Sylvie is the best and put a bowl of Ruchard chocolate in our room.)

We also stopped at one of the bridges before the cathedral and took pictures. 

When we got to Notre Dame, we decided to go on in and stood in line. Fortunately, since it's free and they let in big groups, it moved pretty fast. We were there right as the last Mass of the day began. It was  incredible.


This picture is one of my favorites. Something about seeing the priest kneeling in front of the window just...totally got me.
I am a ridiculous romantic who notices crazy juxtapositions like...old historical buildings  in front of skyscrapers.

We were there for three weeks and I never got used to seeing soldiers with semi-automatics patrolling the crowds.
After we toured the cathedral, we found the line to go up to the North Tower and followed it...and followed it...and followed it. After we found the line, we stood there for two hours. I'm not even kidding. They only let 20 people in at a time, which makes for a very slow going. Eventually though, we did make it up. All 402 steps up!

Most people use the Eiffel Tower as a landmark; Mom and I decided to use Sacre Cœur.

Then we ventured over to the South Tower to see the bell (all 13 tons of it!).

 After the South Tower, you keep going up!

View from the top

The Seine, the Tour Eiffel...

In front of the cathedral

The spire and the groups of apostles

The red circles show the first and second levels
After we climbed all 402 steps back down, we decided it was time for food. While we were in line, Mom had ducked out to get Nutella crepes, but our group went into the tower right after, so we shoved it in my purse. Bad idea. Warm Nutella ended up speckling the inside (although it could have been much worse; hooray for wrapping!). Instead of leaving it, we rescued it and put it out of its misery. Yum.

While we sat there and ate our crepe, we noticed this guy feeding the birds (cue scene from Mary Poppins here). I moved closer to get pictures and he handed me a piece of bread and showed me how to hold it. It was wonderful.

It was so sweet. He wouldn't even let us pay him -- and took pictures for us! After feeding the birds, we decided to walk back to the other end of the island, but not after I saw some guy walking across the lawn with a UNC hat on. There was some intense school pride happening on my part.

After we literally walked down to the end of the island, we walked back and ended up at Shakespeare's!  For those of you who don't know, Shakespeare and Company is this wonderful little English bookstore that's been around since the 1920s (although this isn't the original location) when the Lost Generation occupied Paris. The woman who opened it, Sylvia Beach, offered cheap rent for American authors and published Ulysses when James Joyce couldn't find anyone else. Hemingway used to borrow books--and maybe not return them. Now, it's touristy, filled to the brim with American books and offers free rooms to struggling writers who need to be inspired. I was in love. They don't allow pictures inside, but upstairs are these wonderful reading rooms with comfy leather chairs and books galore. Shakespeare's is everything a bookstore should be.

The above apartments
After we left Shakespeare's, we walked all the way down the Left Bank and passed the Pont Neuf (the "new bridge"...and also the oldest standing bridge in Paris). This bridge was constructed under Henry III and the faces (which are absolutely hysterical) are supposedly either nobles and courtiers, Henry III's friends, or the city's pickpockets and criminals.

To get to the Tuileries Gardens, we crossed the Pont des Arts, which is the famous "love" bridge. Apparently, if you put a lock on the fence and throw the key into the water, your love will last forever.

I love street musicians and they were marvelous.
We ate our lunch at the Tuileries Gardens (even though it was late). 

And then we rode on this sucker. Hooooly crap. 

The Tuileries are right behind/next to the Lourve and this was the view of it about half way up.

Sacre Cœur

The Tuileries
After we got off the Ferris Wheel--and I double-checked to make sure that I hadn't died--we took the Métro home and had dinner with our host fam. During dinner, host papa told us that Paris is the #1 tourist destination, which definitely explained all of the other nationalities we saw. It's easy to realize how the tourist industry has completely changed the city, which was definitely a perspective that I hadn't considered (seeing it from the view of the "old" "real" city).

Altogether, it was a really excellent first day in the City of Light. As if it could have been anything but perfect (obviously, it couldn't). (:


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