Tuesday, June 11, 2013

{European Travels} Paris Day 1

And the trip continues...

After spending our first four days in London (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4), we were a little sad to say goodbye, but Paris was beckoning. We had to get up at 5:45 to catch to the train to Paris. The actual Chunnel which passes underneath the English Channel was nothing memorable, except I became a little motion sick. After arriving in Paris at the Gare du Nord station, we navigated through the metro easily, despite the language barrier. We met our host outside our apartment and he showed us around the loft, which happened to be much more spacious (and cheaper) than our London place. 

After settling in, we were eager to see the city. The city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements (kind of like counties with independent governmental jurisdictions). 
We stayed in arrondissement 3 called The Mariais neighborhood, a more eclectic, avant-garde part of the city with tons of great boutiques and restaurants. We were on the southern border, close to the historic core and only a 10 minute walk from the Notre Dame and Louvre.

Since it was so close, we decided our first stop was Notre Dame, but 100,000 other tourists had the same idea. The line to get in was insanely long, so we decided to come back early tomorrow in hopes of shorter lines.

We strolled west along the Seine River, which cuts Paris in half, with the Louvre as our destination. On the way we stopped at a visitor's center to buy the Museum Pass which let us skip long ticket lines and get into all the places we wanted to see.

Views along the Siene

Over a mile later, we arrived at the beautiful Lourve, Europe's oldest, biggest, and greatest museum. Formerly a royal palace, the Louvre was built in stages over eight centuries. The glass pyramid was built in 1989 by a Chinese-born American architect. Of course, the French were not thrilled by the addition.

We started with the Greek statues, seeing Venus de Milo and my personal favorite, Winged Victory of Samothrace.
(blurry) Venus de Milo
The Hellenistic Winged Victory: She once stood on an island hilltop to commemorate a navel victory. Isn't she epic?

Sadly, we were not in the Louvre for all that long. After only seeing the Greek sculptures, we were told the museum was being closed early because it was a "holiday". Good thing we had the Museum Pass and knew we could come back without paying another entry fee.

Only being in the city for a few hours, we realized that the Parisians love their gardens. In front of the Louvre is the Tuileries Garden, which is a long stretch of beautiful fountains, flowers, statues, and trees.
We even saw a drunk superman taking a stroll along the garden paths. He insisted on taking a picture with Josh.

After relaxing and people watching in the Gardens, we decided to walk up des Champs-Elysees, home to big business, celebrity cafes, glitzy nightclubs, and high fashion shopping. In 1667, Louis XIV opened the first section of the street as a short extension of the Tuileries Garden; it was the place to cruise in your carriage.

And two miles later we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe, a 165-foot-high arch who's construction began in 1809 to celebrate the emperor of "New Rome," Napoleon. People gather here to celebrate World Cup triumphs, the final of the Tour de France, and the end of wars. A pretty historic place.

After the long walk and briefly gawking at the arch we decided to hop on the metro and get a first glimpse at this metal beauty.
Built on the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution by bridge-builder Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower was the centerpiece of the World Expo in 1889. It stands at just over 1,000 feet tall and was once the world's tallest structure. 

After admiring this iconic French monument, we grabbed dinner at a nearby cafe. This started the 3-to-4 course dinners and nightly bottle of wine we would continue to have throughout the trip. To say the least, we ate and drank very well during our time in Europe.

Feeling full and happy, after dinner we walked past the tower on the way to the Metro and got to experience it in a whole new way. Seriously, this thing was so amazing.

And thus ended our first day in Paris. As much as we enjoyed our first day, our love for the City of Lights only grew over the following days.

Come back tomorrow for day deux in Paris!

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