Friday, June 10, 2011

paris

bonjour! je m'appelle maren. je ne parle pas francais. parlez anglais? no? hmm...

well, this post will be in english. my apologies.

we heard rumors that the french - parisians more specifically - are not known for their kindness. we were warned of this multiple times in the united states as well as in london. but we went with willing attitudes and, i think, no preconceptions. we decided we would all try our very best to communicate as much as possible in french. that's kind of a high standard when the four of us combined went in knowing not much more than moi, oui, parlez-vous francais {la ri la ra la re}, bonjour and pardon. 

and i'm happy to report that the french blew those rumors to shreds. i didn't come across one person who was impolite when asked if they spoke english. some did - and were eager to help us improve our french. some didn't - and we did our best to communicate with our fingers scanning our guide books.

i loved, loved, loved almost everything about paris. i already want to go back. we saw and did so much in just two short days. we arrived tuesday morning via the eurostar from london. our hotel was in a good location - just a few short stops on the metro from most of our desired attractions. but the metro has no elevators. just lots of stairs. and that just plain stinks with luggage. but we made it. 

and then we jumped right back on the metro and hit the ground running. we started off with a boat tour docked at pont de neuf to get the lay of the land. 

and after that, in just two days we saw 14+ major sights and ate a lot of good food. when i say a lot, i mean a lot. and when i say good, i actually mean so-out-of-this-world-good-i-can't-even-begin-to-describe-it. i never thought myself a foodie, but after eating parisian food, i'm beginning to reconsider. rest assured that will be in a post all its own. 

we even saw the french version of my library - or should i say librairie - sign!

it was just as i imagined. there really were musicians performing on the metro and on the streets - the kind of music you imagine in your mind when you think of french music. the kind with accordions. speaking of accordions, i chatted with my mom while i was in france. i mentioned the accordions {she used to play!} and she mentioned she was finally selling hers. yup. the same accordion she promised me she sold years and years ago when i asked her if she could play for me or if i could learn to play. the same accordion she is now giving me so i can learn to play once she re-realized i had wanted her accordion for years. so yes, i thoroughly enjoyed the accordion players. i'm cool like that.
one of the strangest things {to me} about paris is that you have to pay to use a restroom. they charge you! there are something like 400 free toilets in the entire area and the rest you have to pay for. we did find one of the free toilets at the cemetery. its cleanliness rivaled that of china's bathrooms. but the ones you pay for? they're nearly elegant. someone cleans the "stall" {which is actually an entire room with a personal sink inside} after each use. i guess you get what you pay for.


parisian sites rival the food in their sheer awesomeness {is that a word?}. pictures and words could never do them justice, so you'll just have to go yourself. really, you should. it's worth the years spent saving your money. but in the meantime you and i can both look at these pictures and wish we were there.

in no particular order {okay, in alphabetical order this time}, we saw:

arc de triomphe
{probably four times larger than i thought it was. i went knowing it was something i knew i should see and left completely amazed. it was beautiful!}

cemeterie du pere lachaise
{going to a cemetery was a recommendation from the daughter of a friend who just spent a semester abroad in paris. i do enjoy going to cemeteries in different locations and this one did not disappoint. there are lots of cemeteries in france, so we just picked one on our route. just so happened to be huge and awesome. and i got to see chopin's grave while i was there!}

champs elysees
{an incredible beautiful walk from the arc de triomphe to the louvre. if you have some vacation spending money - which we didn't since we're preparing to be students - there is some amazing shopping on the way.}

conciergerie
{a former palace and prison. i'm glad i went as a tourist, not a prisoner. it probably wouldn't have smelled good back in the day.}

eating 
{yes. i consider this an attraction. a very delicious one. more on that later.}

eiffel tower
{a definite highlight of paris for me. it's beautiful in pictures, completely stunning in person and offers an incredible view of the city. we arrived with the sun up, climbed to the top and stayed until sunset. we descended after dusk and took pictures the entire time. of course my camera battery said it was going to die just as it came into view, so i used my last few pictures wisely - for the feet shots, of course. the lights came on - and twinkled for a bit, which was amazing to see. and yes, we will be framing one of these shots to hang in our home. loved. loved. loved.}

hotel des invalides
{originally a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, it is now a group of buildings with monuments and museums that all have to do with the military history of france. we went to the musee de l'armee, the military museum, and had a great time. i saw, among other things, armor, uniforms, hats, taxis, weapons, gas masks, wartime signs, a bbc microphone, german enigma cryptograph machine, a combat parachute, wwii camera and typewriter and phone and printing press. it includes a beautiful chapel - decorated with flags hanging that were all captured in combat. it's also the burial place of napoelon bonaparte.}

ile st louis
{a beautifully quaint island next to the island that houses notre dame. the metro does not go here, so we walked. the shops were wonderful, the food delicious and life was just a little slower paced. it was a highlight for me.}
 
a true french laundromat
{we were quickly running out of underclothes and decided to try our hand at machines with instructions we could not read. we washed our clothes before it closed, but didn't quite make it to the dryers. so our hotel room was a sight that night.}

musee du louvre
{at the risk of sounding completely ridiculous, i'm going to say the louvre was not all that impressive. not that it wasn't impressive at all - it was - but it was a bit overwhelming. the feel was different - it was loud and crowded and a bit unorganized. i just felt lost! we saw some amazing things - the few things we came to see - and we were done. if i go back, it will be with a full day dedicated for that purpose and possibly with someone who knows the ins and outs. ridiculously amazing palace, though.}

marches des fleur
{a beautiful flower market smack in the middle of the city. i found a few treasures here, but i can't reveal what they were because they're christmas presents.}

musee d'orsay
{hands down, my fav. when i was finished with this jam-packed hour of incredible works of art located in an old train station, i just felt like my insides were smiling. i think i enjoyed it more than my three traveling companions, but that probably has something to do with my ap art history in high school and multiple art history classes in college. impressionism is a favorite of mine. i love the unique brush strokes and having to step back to see the whole picture. they had an entire section dedicated to monet, manet, matisse, cezanne, renoir, degas and more. i saw original van goghs, sculptures by rodin, a daguerreotype exhibit featuring julia margaret cameron and george frederic watts. even the frames were works of art. it was simply magnifique!}

notre dame
{again, we walked to the top - the bell tower - and got an amazing view of the city from the opposite end of the eiffel tower. well worth the hike. plus, we got to see linds do her best hunchback impression. also well worth it.}

sacre coeur
{a beautiful white cathedral atop a hill with, again, a beautiful view of the city. no pictures allowed inside. and perhaps a sketchier area of the city, but a good place to visit in the daylight.}
 
sainte-chapelle
{a.ma.zing. the stained glass windows are indescribable and the pictures do not do them justice. it shares an entrance with the legal departments of france and the security was worse than an airport. but still, a.ma.zing.}

and that, in a nutshell, is paris. at least what we saw of it. wonderful and beautiful and incredible. and definitely left me wanting more.

7 comments:

Shannon said...

absolutely breathtaking pictures, Maren! Love them all.

Hannah said...

all of these posts are making me want to go back to europe asap

Morgan said...

so glad you guys had such an awesome trip! all these posts are making me want to go back to all of these places so bad. i remember being surprised by how much i loved paris. i guess i didn't have very high expectations for it. :) i also remember thinking that the louvre was totally overwhelming too, and that musee dorsee was awesome. LOVE the pics of the eiffel tower!

Kristen said...

Thank you for the second-hand tour of Paris. So much to look forward to... someday. sigh.

Love all the pictures. I still want a slideshow!

ed and kelli said...

i wanna go. love the eiffel tower pictures!!!

Lindsey Harman said...

WHEW! Paris was so so busy and jam packed!! Glad we got to see all we did! Even though it was a whirlwind! Musee d' Orsay was definitely mine and Ed's favorite museum (of the many we saw) as well and Versailles was another one of my highlights! Where is your Quazi pic? ;)

AJ said...

You are so funny, and stylish, and gorgeous, and smart. Can I be you when I grow up? :)
And you are really making me want to go on a trip like this. Like right now.
I love these posts.