This weekend was important for three reasons:
- The weather is a bit cooler now.
- I got to see my best friend.
- I left Spain for the first time to visit one of the most beautiful places in the world.
This trip to Paris was actually the very first one I planned, all the way back in September. It was one thing I absolutely did not want to miss – what could be better than visiting your best friend in Paris? I flew in Wednesday night and got to Emma’s apartment around midnight (she lives in a neighborhood near the Bastille), so we just talked for a little while and went to bed, because she had class in the morning and we both had a long weekend ahead of us!
On Thursday, Emma had class for three hours in the morning so I went to the Louvre. It was GIGANTIC. I was in there for over three hours but by the last hour or so had started to walk through the rooms, barely stopping unless something really caught my eye. I did get to see most of the famous stuff – the Mona Lisa, The Code of Hammurabi (a Babylonian code of law, one of the oldest written works, and the origin of the phrase “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.”), and the Venus de Milo. I’m glad I went to the Louvre because I couldn’t imagine having gone to Paris without exploring it, however, it was definitely the least favorite of the museums I went to in Paris. After, Emma and I met up and went to see the Palais Garnier, the opera building. The outside was beautiful, and I would love to someday return and see a show there. We decided we didn’t want to pay to go inside, and instead went to the Galeries Lafayette, a famous department store. There were actually ten whole stories of beautiful things I couldn’t afford. We spent some time drooling over the beautiful, super-expensive products while admiring the store’s elaborate Christmas decorations. After, we went to the Arc de Triomphe, but decided not to go to the top because for some reason my “But I’m an EU citizen!” thing didn’t work there as it did everywhere else I went throughout the weekend. (Side note – most attractions are free for EU residents under 26. At this point, I have not yet received my resident card from the Spanish government, but I have my University of Seville ID card. While it doesn’t have my birth-date, it worked everywhere except the Arc de Triomphe, saving me about 50 Euro on museum/monument entrances throughout the weekend!).
We walked back along the Champs Élysées, a street with (more) high end shops. It was beautiful at night with all of the Christmas lights. We got macarons at Ladurée, an amazing sweet store selling many incredible looking sweets for prices I wouldn’t even spend on a meal, famous for their amazing quality macarons. I had never had macarons before, so I got two flavors I knew I would like – coconut and coffee. They were absolutely AMAZING! On our way home, we went grocery shopping near Emma’s house. I got some brie. So good, but who knew the stereotype about smelly French cheese was true? It stunk up the apartment all weekend – sorry Emma. We then ate at home and watched a movie because we were pooped.
On Friday, we had a bit of a lazier morning with a slow breakfast and Vampire Diaries. This weekend was interesting in that there were so many things in Paris to do and I wanted to see everything, but I also wanted to spend time with Emma, and as it so happens, what we enjoy doing together the most is absolutely nothing. So there were really long days, but also most nights in watching movies. I wouldn’t have it any other way. After breakfast, we walked to the Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris. It was amazing getting to see some fall foliage as Seville, like Florida, is too warm to have a fall. We accidentally stumbled upon a museum showing an apartment Victor Hugo had in Paris for many years, and decided to walk through. Let me say, that man had some weird taste. I can’t really describe it in any other way besides “over the top.”
Ugly, right? From the Place des Voges, we walked to Hôtel de Ville, a beautiful government building, and from there to Notre Dame. I still can’t believe after all these years of seeing Notre Dame via VCR in the Hunchback or Notre Dame via stage set at Disney, I got to see it in real life. Frollo wasn’t there, though, probably because he’s hanging out in Orlando :). I think I was also so impressed because this year marks the 850th anniversary of Notre Dame. I keep encountering this in Europe – everything is so much older than I am used to! In the US, our history really starts a paltry 400 some-odd years back. I guess I just can’t even picture something being around for all that time. From there, we went to the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore and got amazing greasy street crêpes for lunch.We also saw these awesome street performers!
Street Performing… Paris, you’re doing it right.
Emma then went to class while I wandered through a few neighborhoods (Latin Quarter?) to the Musée d’Orsay – SO much better than the Louvre, as I’m a huge fan of Impressionism and discovered Neo-impressionism, a style I knew little about but liked even more. Here’s some of my favorite paintings that I saw (Van Gogh, Matisse, and Herbe), but there were so many more!
After the museum, I walked back to the Louvre via le Jardin des Tuileries (the oldest and biggest garden in Paris), where Emma and I met up again to walk to the Eiffel tower. I had seen it from a distance, but went to see it close up. You can wait in line to go up to the top, but it cost money and it was WAY too cold to wait in line for. Thank you Emma for talking me out of it! But the Tour Eiffel was beautiful at night all lit up, and every hour it sparkled! Here’s a video: please don’t make fun of me, saying Eiffel tower in proper french is hard! I was trying to say “Eiffel Tower with sparkles,” but the word “sparkle” isn’t exactly among the first words one learns in another language. Basically, watch this on mute.
On the way back home, we stumbled upon a free Dior exhibit at the Grand Palais, a beautiful building with a lot of events and exhibitions. The exhibit, celebrating the Miss Dior perfume, was really interesting and I felt more chic just by being there. It’s clear the French take their fashion seriously and have a lot of pride in producing high quality products. That night, Emma’s friends came over and we hung out for a while, talking and listening to music. It was basically like a 5 hour French test. When someone got really into a story they were telling, their French got faster and faster and with the music in the background it was really hard to catch some of it. However, I really surprised myself with how much French I knew! I know I shouldn’t be surprised because I have technically been studying French for over 4 years, but I guess I have always seen it as a secondary language to Spanish and since I haven’t been making it a priority, I guess I just always assumed my French was awful. Anyway, it made me appreciate, once again, the power of language and communication. Sorry – I feel like sometimes this blog is one big advertisement to learn a second language, but I always get so happy when I feel like knowing another language is giving me a kind of inside access into another culture. That’s just my dorky Culture and Politics major talking. ANYWAY, Emma’s friends were so nice and totally busted the rude Parisian stereotype. However, Emma totally reinforced it throughout the weekend strolling through red lights like it was her job (hehe, sorry Emma). Although the second half of our night included plans to go to an interesting club, those plans didn’t play out as the venue was small and crowded. Honestly, though, I had so much fun just hanging out in Emma’s apartment talking with her friends and listening to music, I didn’t see the night as a failure at all. Thanks Emma for considering me cool enough to meet your friends 😉
On Saturday, we went to Montmarte, a hill in Paris containing the Sacré Coeur. According to Wikipedia, “Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the excesses of the Second Empire and socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.” The inside was predictably beautiful, although in contrast to Notre Dame, I enjoyed it more for its mosaics than its stained glass. We explored Montmarte a bit, then headed to the Palais du Luxembourg, originally built as a residence for the mother of Louis XIII, but now the seat of the French Senate. Luxembourg is also known for the beautiful gardens that surround it, and even in autumn it was easy to appreciate its beauty. After a brief break for lunch, we headed to the Panthéon, originally a church but now a mausoleum. We saw some dead people! Well, the tombs anyway – notably the remains of Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Émile Zola, Louis Braille, Marie Curie, and Alexandre Dumas were all there in the crypt. Also, some of the “remains” of certain people are nothing more than an urn containing their heart – so spooky. That night we stayed in and watched another movie – it’s what Emma and I do best.
On Sunday, we woke up early to go to the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, the world’s most visited cemetery, to see more dead people. The cemetary is still used today, although recently, “Père Lachaise has adopted a standard practice of issuing 30-year leases on gravesites, so that if a lease is not renewed by the family, the remains can be removed, space made for a new grave, and the overall deterioration of the cemetery minimized. Abandoned remains are boxed, tagged and moved to Aux Morts ossuary, in Père Lachaise cemetery.” How cool and morbid! Notably, we saw the graves of Jim Morrison (which was covered in flowers, and Emma said the last time she went someone had left a glass of whiskey there), Chopin, and Oscar Wilde. It is a popular tradition to leave a lipstick print on his grave, but at a request from the family, it’s now highly discouraged.
Next, we went to the Centre Georges Pompidou, containing the Musée National d’Art Moderne. Apparently, it is the second largest collection of modern art after the MOMA in NYC. I was a little bit wary after my experience at the Guggenheim, and although the museum and a few questionable pieces, the majority of them were actually pretty cool! By this time, we had to rush back to the apartment to grab my stuff so I could catch my flight.
I realize this post is really long, but it’s only because I did so many things and I don’t want to forget a single one of them! I had an absolutely amazing weekend in Paris. Emma, thank you so much for hosting me and I’ll make sure to show you the same amazing hospitality when you come to visit me. I can’t even believe I was actually there – now it all feels like an amazing dream. Although to experience everything Paris has to offer would take months, I’m happy I got to see so many amazing things and I definitely want to go back someday (maybe when I have more money to go shopping). Paris, je t’aime!