|Bro & Sister-in-law reunited|
Paris. The very name still seems a bit magical to me. As a child, it was always London that enchanted me—the accents, the grand architecture—but in the true spirit of irony, Paris was to be the first of these cities that I would see.
On the 30th of January I received an email from my brother-in-law indicating that he had an upcoming meeting in Paris, and would I be interested in meeting him? By the first of February, I’d purchased a ticket Paris-bound for the weekend of February 18th and 19th.
Being occupied with trip preparations and work, Chad delegated the planning to me. I considered museums, metros, and the expert advise of friends. For those considering such a trip, I can tell you a bit of what I planned below.* Friday night, I left my city for Prague and stayed the night at a friend’s, and five AM had me out the door en route to the airport. Paris’ airport was overwhelming at first, but soon I figured out the transit and boarded the city-bound train with my two-day pass. I had acquired a transit map, but unfortunately it was for the train lines and not really the metro lines. This resulted in our navigating the Paris metro with a bit of a limp our first day. Prague boasts of 3 metro lines. Paris has 10--a bit more overwhelming.
|Inside Sainte Chapelle|
At the end of the day, however, a metro is still a metro. So after a brief reunion, my brother-in-law and I were out on the town, navigating successfully both by metro and foot. Saturday contained Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame, the Pompidou, some random church, and the Arc de Triomphe. Intermingled was Panini, espresso, an da lot of walking. We retired to the hotel, located near La Defense in a complex of modern buildings, and while Chad put in a work-out, I charmed the man at the front desk into giving me a map and some dinner recommendations.
Saturday night landed us in a part of Paris northeast of the river and the island which houses Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle. After being amused by some pigs randomly adorning a window sill, we realized the restaurant was called the three little pigs (in French of course). However, don’t let the name deceive you; it was one of the best meals of my life. I started with a salmon and avocado tartar and Chad ordered some delectable soup with some sea creature in it. The latter was delicately seasoned with the perfect texture. For our entrees, I ordered an anglerfish curry and Chad ordered some beef stew of sorts. Matched with some wine, it was absolutely delicious.
We then managed our way out into the rain for the end of our first day. Sunday, armed with a useable metro map, I was a bit more strategic. We made our way first to the Eifel Tower, and took our obligatory pictures. The lawns surrounding were nice, especially after pounding pavement and cobblestone. I then guided us to our one site not covered by the Paris Pass—the Opera House. After seeing photos of this gilded and ornate building, I couldn’t help but be curious.
|Inside the Opera House|
Exiting the metro, it was immediately behind us, and the entire experience was a sensory overload. Both the outside and inside were replete with various kinds of marble, relief sculpture, busts, curlicues, and—of course—gold. I believe my poetic verbal response to the entryway to the grand staircase was, “I feel like I’m going to vomit.” Perhaps we should have made our way there on Saturday, for our next destination was to be the Louvre.
The Lourve. How to even begin. I had hoped to go to the Musee d’Orsay on Saturday, but inconvenient metro transfers and sore feet prevented us. In retrospect, maybe I wish I’d heeded a wise friend’s advice and chosen the Musee d’Orsay over the Louvre. The Louvre is such a dense collection of important works that I feel that it lowers the splendor of it all. Yet I couldn’t help but be moved standing before things like the Law Code of Hammurabi or the grand sculptures which used to adorn the kingdoms of Babylon and Assyria.
|Outside the Louvre|
The Mona Lisa was what I expected—an interesting painting ruined by impenetrable glass and crowds of people who want a photo and not an art experience. I enjoyed the awkward over-the-shoulder conversation I had about the work with Chad as eager people swarmed about—taking the obligatory photo and making an about face. Don’t let this sour your opinion of the Louvre. Magnificence abounded. It ravaged our appetites, our feet, and our energy. You could tell how long people had been inside based on how much fatigue littered their faces. Perhaps it would have been nice to see Ingres and some other artists’ works, but I might have just as easily dismissed his works as the countless paintings and sculptures I disregarded en route to other works or wings.
So, out we went, dragging our blistered feet back to the metro. Fatigued for two full and enjoyable days, we shared some shrimp at the hotel before I grabbed my things and went through the arduous journey home. An 8 PM flight, a 10 PM bus and metro ride, and a 3 AM wake up time to get me on a 4:17 train. By 10 AM Monday morning, I was in the school teaching.
Overall Paris was beautiful and absolutely worth it, both for the sites and for the lovely experience of seeing some of my family after 5 ½ months here. I mentioned to Chad that I didn’t know if I would ever be in Paris again. He replied with a simple, “I think you will.” I hope he’s right.
*First, I made the decision to purchase the Paris Museum Pass. It can be purchased at tourist information centers in the airport or at any of the sites featured on the pass. It covers some of the major museums/sites (the Louvre, Versailles, the Musee d’Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame crypt and towers, the Pantheon, etc.). Individually, many of the sites charged about an eight-euro entrance fee. Furthermore, many of these sites have long lines and having the pass gives you priority entrance. Secondly, I decided to go with a two-day transit pass. It was much more convenient than buying individual tickets—especially if you make errors in your route. As for cost, taking a train from the airport into the city center was going to cost about 9 Euros one way, so about half the cost of the pass covered just what it would cost to go to and from the airport.