While the food in Paris was a definite highlight, it is far from all we experienced. So here’s a rundown of our first few days in Paris.
My mom and I landed at the Charles De Gaulle Airport at the reasonable hour of 11 am. I was truly shocked and also pleased by the abundant sunlight that filled the complex architecture of the airport. Once we claimed our bags and found our way out of the labyrinth we caught a shuttle that would take us to our accommodations. I cannot tell you how thankful I was that was not driving. I don’t know that I had ever been in traffic like that. People followed all the rules, yes, but there were an amazing amount of people on the road. And the roads were huge. We saw many things along the way to downtown—a football stadium, corner stores, office buildings—most mundane, but interesting because they were new.
Once we had dropped our things off in the studio apartment where we were staying, we headed out to explore. First, we walked down the street a bit to a café we’d seen on our way in. We stopped there for lunch and some much needed caffeine. After that we wandered up to the Seine and walked along it for the bit before heading back to grab the tickets to our first attraction. We left our room again and started down Rue Saint Dominique. A couple blocks in we realized that while we had remembered to get warmer coats, we had forgotten the tickets. So we doubled back and remembered the tickets this time. Rue Saint Dominique is a lovely, if crowded street. It’s full of little cafés, shops, and people. We scouted out several places to check in on later and continued on.
Nothing can prepare you for the Eiffel Tower. Nothing. It’s massive. Even with a proper camera, it’s basically impossible to get the whole thing in one shot. However, its size it part of its majesty. When the tower was first unveiled, the French apparently hated it. But it has since grown on them, partially due to its role as a radio tower in WWII. And of course, now it’s an icon. Back in ~the olden days~ you could walk right under the tower. Nowadays, you have to stand in line and go through a light security check to get there (Thanks, terrorists attacks). But it’s definitely worth it. If walking around the tower doesn’t give you a sense of its size, then standing among its four feet will. Besides, it’s a lovely place. It’s not unlike being in a park, there are lots of people walking around, there are some kiosks and cafés around the edges, and the whole place is open, sunny, and inviting. My mom had chosen this as our first day destination because, even from one level up, you can see the whole city. And so, as the sun set (at the decent hour of 5:30) we were on the second level of the Eiffel Tower locating all the famous landmarks in Paris and drinking even more coffee to keep the wind chill at bay.
Paris is a really beautiful city. It’s the densest and largest city I’ve ever seen, also. In any case, the sunset was beautiful, the city was gorgeous, and there was a flock of airplanes leaving streaks in the sky like comets.
My mom and I got up bright and early (see how bright goes with early in France?) and headed out and down into the tunnels beneath Paris.
Allow me to profess my love of the Paris Metro: I love the Paris Metro. It goes everywhere. It’s fairly inexpensive. And it is fast. Yes, it’s busy and crowded, but that makes for good people watching. Yes, there’s lots of walking and stairs in the stations, but if there weren’t you’d miss the street performers (and leg day). So yeah, I’m a fan of the Metro. Anyway, we took the Metro to The Louvre.
The Louvre is beautiful. It’s a palatial building, who’s courtyard is occupied mainly by a the infamous glass pyramid. Both are striking in their own way. The pyramid sits in the middle of fountains and the whole thing glitters and shines in the sunlight. Meanwhile the Louvre is covered in intricate details: each wing is labeled, there are statues, carvings, and all manner of windows. And that’s just the outside! The inside is just as detailed and ornate. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. My mom and I spent roughly five hours covering approximately half of the Louvre’s galleries. We wandered through galleries of Greco-Roman sculptures, Sumerian antiquities, ancient Islamic art, the apartments of Napoleon III, a reconstruction exhibit from Coptic Egypt, and so much more. Here are some pictures:
After getting pretty worn out from walking all over we decided to call that part of our day and continue on to some different attractions. First, we found a yarn store for my mom. It did have yarn, but it also had fabric and patches and buttons and all manner of other crafty supplies. I don’t know that I have ever seen so many small drawers all in one place before.
After buying some yarn, in French, we stumbled upon a coking supply shop. It was impressive to say the least. The scale on which you could acquire things was amazing. For example, there were crepe pans that were small enough to be stashed in a purse, and there were also ones large enough for a giant to comfortably use. The place as jam packed with whisks and wooden spoons large enough to be canoe paddles, teeny tiny canelé tins, pots in steel and copper big enough for Gryla to put to use. It was so much fun to wander around in. By this time of day, it was pretty dark and getting colder. So we stopped for soup at one of the cafés on Rue Saint Dominique (it was amazing) and headed home for the night.
We were exhausted after our first two days in Paris, so we slept in pretty late before heading to the Louvre for round two. Having spent most of our first day with no agenda, we decided to be a little more organized for our second day. So we spent another many hours wandering around galleries of paintings from all over the western world, and examining more sculptures. We saw the Mona Lisa, the largest painting in the Louvre, and some sculptures that have been on my bucket lists.
We also spent a lot of time examining the Louvre itself. It seemed odd that a museum would be built to be such a palace. Many of the floors were exceptional mosaics and woodwork. There were what appeared to be servant’s passages. And all of this décor seemed to be original. And as it turns out, the Louvre was originally a palace. The first part of it (which has since been burned) was built for Catherine de Medici (Wife of Henry II, mother-in-law of Mary Queen of Scotts, for reference). Many, many, many years later, Napoleon III built another palace directly across from Catherine’s. The two were connected by more buildings (now the galleries in the museum). Until very recently, some of the Louvre was a museum, however, most of it was used for other purposes. For example, some of it was the residence of the financial minister. The whole thing was designated as a museum in the 1970’s, I believe. This is obviously a mere soundbite of the history of the Louvre’s history as a building and an institute. You can read more about it on its Wikipedia page here.
We were at the Louvre until well after dark. It was a great day.
By the way, it’s cold in Paris. But much, much warmer than Reykjavik.