Friday, July 25, 2014

Travel like you're 30- Paris is always a good idea

"This is what you do on your very first day in Paris. You get yourself, not a drizzle, but some honest-to-goodness rain, and you find yourself someone really nice and drive her through the Bois de Boulogne in a taxi. The rain’s very important. That’s when Paris smells its sweetest." -Sabrina Fairchild played by Audrey Hepburn 

My photos from Paris leave a lot to be desired, but, I think that Sabrina Fairchild would approve of the reason why. Our first, and only, full day in Paris, we had an "honest-to-goodness" rain. I didn't come home with iconic photos of the Eiffel Tower and Arc du Triumph. In fact, I barely saw the Tower and didn't see the Arc at all! Nonetheless, I thought my time in Paris was enchanting. Rainy, cold, and enchanting. 

We took a mid-afternoon train from London and arrived in Paris near 5PM. We got ourselves to our hostel, which, though the accommodations were very nice (maybe the nicest of any hostel on the trip), the location and ambience was a bit of a let down after our cozy, friendly, perfectly located digs in London. Since we were so far from the city center, I suggested a jaunt up to Montemarte to see Sacre Coeur that evening. We took the trip by foot, and saw a different side of Paris than the average tourist sees- the side of Paris that rioted just days later. That foot journey was less than enchanting, but was nonetheless valuable to me. It doesn't suit me to just see what's beautiful. I like to see and feel what's real, if only for a moment. 

The church itself was just as I remembered it from ten years ago, but the neighborhood surrounding it seemed different. I have these magical memories of eating dinner underneath strings of lights and seeing the city sparkle in the distance. I'll keep those because this time we were cold and though the city stretched out before us, I don't think that I saw that same sparkle the night we went to Sacre Coeur. Tired and cold, Chandler and I took the metro back to our hostel, and Robin and Nicole braved the drizzle but managed to get twisted around on their way back. Thankful for warmth and the hostel's washers and dryers, we spend the rest of the night doing laundry and watching the World Cup. 
The next day, I woke up early and made my way to Rue Dauphine, pain au chocolate in one hand and metro ticket in the other. Why Rue Dauphine? Because my friend from BSF, Emily Harding, and her husband are spending the next few months in a a great little apartment on Rue Dauphine while Josh is in Paris on business.   Here are some pics of their apartment. 

I didn't want to be super nosy and take tons of pictures of their place, but this is the guest room I stayed in. The address is great and the apartment is so nice- very modern and spacious. 

View of Rue Dauphine from their living room window. 

Stairs up to their place
Emily and I spent a few minutes catching up before meeting up with the rest of my group for a city walking tour. One of the best things that Robin and I did was take the free walking tour in London, Paris and Madrid. We learned about the tours from our hostels, and we had great guides for all of them, but our guide in Paris, a Mexican man named Alberto, was the best of them all. It was raining, but not hard at that point. I was wearing multiple layers of clothing to fight the chilly wind, and so we set out. 

I can hardly believe this is the only picture I took of Notre Dame. Maybe it was the rain, or I was just caught up in listening to our tour guide. I thought I would come back later and take more shots, but I never did. I did walk by Notre Dame later in the evening, with Emily and Josh and her cousins, who were also in Paris for the evening. I stole glances of the flying buttresses with street light and rain splashed on them, but never got a photo. 

I took pictures of this bridge because I loved all of the stories associated with it, it's called Pont Neuf, but there's some fun folklore associated with the bridge, including a story about the king who commissioned it. Apparently the faces carved into the sides are the faces of his drunk friends. It also happens to be the bridge I walked across to get to Emily and Josh's place, so another reason to find it a little special. 

Then, of course, there is the famous lock bridge, the Pont des Arts, which is just across from the Louvre. Even though they cut through the locks, and even replace whole sections of the bridge regularly, you have to appreciate the symbolism when you're there. I mean, it's Paris. Who doesn't get caught up in the romance of it all? 

I didn't go into the Louvre this time. I had my sights set on the Musee d'Orsay, but who doesn't love walking through this plaza and encountering the famous glass pyramid. I was glad our tour guide took us through. I couldn't help but think  about Robert Langdon.

After the tour, I went by myself to grab a bite to eat before heading to the Musee d'Orsay. I went to a corner cafe and ordered French Onion soup, which couldn't have been more perfect. I expected to just sit by myself and listen to the traffic and the rain, before scooting over to the museum, but I was pleasantly surprised when that plan failed. Instead, I began to chat with the woman seated next to me in the cafe- she was from Dallas, of all places, and had come to Paris alone to listen to jazz. We talked about traveling- she's been all over the world- and Paris and Texas and then even headed over to the museum together. My only regret is that I got to the museum so much later than I would have liked. We arrived at 4 and it closes at 6, which gave me just enough time to get through the Impressionist gallery, but it just wasn't enough. I guess I'll have to go back! ;) 
The Impressionist Gallery is on the top floor of the Museum. I don't take pictures of art when I'm in museums. In my mind, taking snapshots of art defeats the purpose of going to a museum. I don't mind taking pictures of relics or the museum itself, but art, in my very humble opinion, should just be experienced, not caught on camera. I love seeing art in person. The experience is so different from what you see in the pages of a book or on a website. The Impressionist gallery brought tears to my eyes. I love Impressionist art. And I loved being in the Musee d'Orsay. This clock is at the end of the Impressionist gallery. 

Sacre Coeur and the Ferris Wheel in the Jardin Tuileries

The Louvre and a tour boat on the Seine

After the museum, I went back to Emily's and got cleaned up. The timing of my visit coincided with the timing of a vist from Emily's aunt and uncle and two of their daughters. They live here in Austin, but have been in South Africa for about six months, and they stopped in Paris on their way back to the states. I can't tell you what a blessing it was to get to spend an evening in Paris with that sweet family. Emily's family reminds me a lot of my own extended family and I couldn't have been more blessed that evening in Paris than to spend dinner with them at an amazing restaurant, where I ate veal and creme brulee. Before saying good-bye, Emily's uncle prayed over me while we all stood together on the street and rain fell around us. 

The next morning, I was determined to see the Eiffel Tower, which is a short enough distance from Rue Dauphine that I was able to run there and back before saying good-bye to Emily and Josh and rejoining my travel crew. On the way there, I ran through the drizzle, watching street sweepers and business people on their way to work. I said a "hello" to the Eiffel Tower, and then ran along the Seine on my way back to Rue Dauphine. 

On the way to rejoin my group before catching our flight to Madrid, I wandered, again through the drizzle, through the Luxembourg gardens. 

I had to take one photo of the Eiffel Tower. Like I said when I started the blog, much to be desired, right? But still, Paris was wonderful. I'm beginning to agree with Audrey, not only about the rain though, but just in general. I think Paris really is always a good idea.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Meredith. I love that I can picture everything you write. What a blessing to have such a gift!