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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