"Europe Day 8, or How To See The Entire City of Paris In a Single Day." Yes folks, we only had one full day in the City of Light and we made the most of it. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. In one day we saw the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Louvre. I do not recommend this. For one thing, you should take an entire week (or more) just for the Louvre, but since we only had the one day I guess we did pretty well.
We began by retracing our steps from the night before, walking through the courtyard of the Louvre (much different in the morning light!) and continuing onward to l'Arc de Triomphe. It's really magnificent! I can't state this enough, but I'm soooo glad we went during November instead of high tourist season. There weren't many people there at all, it was great! It happened to be France's version of Veteran's Day, so while we were there a solemn ceremony was taking place. It turns out that the Arc de Triomphe is the location of France's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, so that makes sense. I tried to get some pictures without being obnoxious about it.
After the Arc de Triomphe we decided to break for lunch. As we walked around looking for sustenance we caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the distance and it was so beautiful! The image I captured from that vantage point ended up being my favorite picture of our entire trip. Just amazing, the light in Paris.
Soon we found a promising looking cafe/restaurant, where we ordered a la carte. They had the most amazing dessert too! It was some kind of ridiculously delicious flan. I don't know how the French don't end up weighing ten tons because the food there is just insane. We ate our lunch al fresco, which was very nice. Sitting at a cafe and watching the people go by was a big one on my list of things to do in Paris, and this was the closest we came to fulfilling that wish. Afterward we started wandering in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. We came upon it from the Trocadero. Wow. It's the classic view. There was a group of people dead center at the rail, but the second they moved out of the way I ran to claim the spot like some kind of touristy vulture! I had to get a shot from exactly that vantage point, it's absolutely timeless. We spent quite a bit of time on the Trocadero before we headed down to the Tower itself. As we approached it grew more and more spectacular. Yes, you've seen pictures of it but you just have to see it in person to take in how awesome it is! Of course we spent as much time as we could there, snapping pictures and wandering around. We didn't go up to the top (there was a bit of a line) but I was content to stay at ground level and admire it.
Kind of a cool thing happened to me while walking around taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower: a woman carrying a camera similar to mine walked up and with an American accent said, "You look like a photographer, can you help me out?" Her name was Adine Sagalyn. It turns out that she's a professional photographer too, based in Paris for many years now, and she wanted a unique photo of the Eiffel Tower. Apparently you can't use an image of the Eiffel Tower for commercial purposes without paying the City of Paris a large sum of money, so she thought that maybe the Tower reflected in my gigantic sunglasses would be a way of getting around that little rule. Always happy to oblige! I let her shoot as many frames as she wanted to with the glasses perched on top of my head. (I'll post an image below, she e-mailed it to me after I got back to the States.) Adine, I hope the pictures worked out for you!
By the time we left the Eiffel Tower we were getting pretty tired of walking all over the place so we grabbed a taxi to our next destination, la Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris. What a beautiful structure! I was pretty much in awe the entire time. It is a functioning church and there were services going on, so it was important to be quiet and respectful. Notre Dame is a truly wonderful example of French Gothic architecture. It took two centuries to construct and I'm sure many lives were lost (they didn't exactly have OSHA in the 12th century). I won't say much more about it except that it was breathtaking and I'm so happy I got to see it. I'll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.
Next was our final stop for the day, the Louvre. This time we didn't linger outside, we went right in and Pat made a beeline for the Mona Lisa. We all decided to go our own ways and meet up at the Winged Victory at a certain time, so I had a wonderful time looking over all the Italian art by myself (that is, until I inevitably bumped into Pat again). I love Caravaggio, and to see so many of his works actually made me a little teary eyed. And Michelangelo! Words cannot express...! And of course da Vinci. Sigh. Yes, I saw the Mona Lisa (not allowed to take pictures of it though), the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory. There were also numerous masterpieces by the likes of Tintoretto, Carracci, Titian, Botticelli, Raphael, Bernini, Brunelleschi, Ingres, Delacroix, de la Tour, Corot, Poussin, Boucher, Rembrandt, Rubens, Durer and so many more, plus countless antiquities from Greece, Rome, Egypt and other ancient cultures. You get the picture. It's way too much to see in just one afternoon but I sure did the best I could! I didn't take too many pictures because in certain galleries it wasn't permitted, but I did my best to capture what I was allowed to.
By the time we reconnoitered at the Winged Victory we were all pretty much dog tired. We decided to hit the Louvre gift shops before heading back to our hotel and dinner. There are a number of gift shops and some are interconnected, so while Pat and I wandered from one to the next we somehow lost track of Gene. Seriously, he disappeared. It was like a bad dream! Chuck, Pat and I looked everywhere for him but it's a huge area and there were a lot of people milling around (there was some kind of poetry reading or free film screening going on, so suddenly all these Parisians had shown up and were swarming the place). We couldn't find Gene anywhere so we decided to sit down and wait -- maybe he would show up after a while. No dice. He had vanished into thin air. The only thing we could think of was that he had simply gone back to the hotel on his own, so we started hoofing it back there. Bear in mind that we were by then quite exhausted, not to mention extremely worried, so it was kind of a grim walk. When we finally made it back to the hotel, voila! There he was, waiting for us in the reception area. Gene, who speaks no French [other than the three things I taught him: s'il vous plait ("please"), merci ("thank you") and degagez ("get lost")] had somehow managed to navigate the unfamiliar streets of Paris and walk back to the hotel on his own. He explained that he had gotten confused when we disappeared into the gift shops and didn't come out. He thought we had left! So he took matters into his own hands and walked back to the hotel by himself. I was just happy to see him!
It was our last night in Paris, so we went in search of a good restaurant. We ended up in kind of a touristy place but that's okay. I even had French onion soup (which incidentally wasn't nearly as good as what you can get right here in town at La Baguette), then we walked around and enjoyed Paris by night one last time.
The Louvre by morning light. Another great picture by Pat!
And yet another of Pat's wonderful pictures -- this is one of the reflecting pools in the courtyard of the Louvre. He took these awesome photos with a little point and shoot Olympus Stylus (on film!). Good job Pat!
Please enjoy this fine picture of the Arc de Triomphe because I nearly got flattened taking it. I do not recommend stopping in the middle of the Champs-Elysees. Let's just say the natives don't appreciate it.
It was France's version of Veteran's Day so there was a ceremony going on at the Arc de Triomphe while we were there.
First glimpse of the Tour Eiffel by day! My favorite photo of the trip.
Pat took this fantastic photo of the Tour Eiffel from the Trocadero, using only a little pocket camera! C'est magnifique!
Here is the photo of the Eiffel Tower reflected in my sunglasses, taken by Adine Sagalyn.
Pat took this amazing photo of an allee right behind the Eiffel Tower. The light in Paris is outstanding.
Interior of Notre Dame cathedral
This woman was adding her candle to the many others. I bought a candle to take home to my mom but didn't light one myself.
Ah, Paris is so romantic, right? Look at these lovers!
Maybe not so much. Take a closer look at her body language compared to his!
I had to take a picture of these two tourists. I think they were Italian. She's wearing red Gucci sunglasses to match her scarf and stiletto boots, and he's got ponyskin pockets on his jeans. Chic, or fashion victims? You decide!
This guy was soooooo French, sitting there at a cafe nursing his espresso, a Euro note tucked under the saucer and a cigarette between his fingers.
Back at the Louvre. I normally don't like to put things right smack in the center of a photograph, but this for some reason worked. Love the seagull perched on her head.
The Winged Victory of Samothrace
The Venus de Milo
La Liberte by Delacroix -- who knew Abraham Lincoln fought for French freedom?!? Just kidding. But I don't know who the dude with the stovepipe hat is.
Michelangelo's slaves. I never thought in my entire life I'd get to see a Michelangelo in person. They were breathtaking. I couldn't stop looking at them.
A statue of a veiled woman. I think it's amazing that the artist could articulate something as delicate as a veil from stone.
She has one of the best views in Paris, if only she could turn her head and look over her shoulder!
The view going up the escalator in one of the wings.
Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. The placard was in French but I was able to translate it: this is a painting of two sisters. The one on the right is pregnant with King So-And-So's bastard child. The nipple pinch is supposed to communicate this little tidbit of information to the viewer. Keep in mind that most people were illiterate at this point in history, so things were communicated in a more visual way! BTW as Pat and I stood there admiring this lovely painting, a little Japanese guy walked right up to it, held his cell phone about two inches from the area in question, snapped a picture and walked off.