Today, I fell in love….with Paris!
After a rocky start I have finally realized what is so amazing about the City of Love (or of Lights if you prefer). This morning I got to walk along the islands and bridges in the Seine and I got to see how beautiful Paris is. The architecture, the water, the cobble-stone paths, the romantic bridges, the street musicians…it’s something out of a novel. It was magical!
I began my day by visiting the Notre-Dame Cathedral. It is ginormous and the line to get in was just as big, though it moved quickly. It’s quite beautiful inside as well, decked out with lots of statues, but not quite up to my Westminister Abbey standards. The whole time I was in the church, I felt very conflicted. It’s clearly a tourist attraction, even I was taking photos, but it’s also a place of worship. I stopped to pray during my visit and it was strange that other people were posing for photos next to a statue of Jesus on the cross. It feels more like a tourist attraction than a church with souvenirs for sale right in the cathedral and other things to drop money on. Twas strange…
Next I walked back to the mainland to visit the Memorial of the Shoah, a Holocaust museum. I had heard that Paris has a great exhibition and it definitely did not disappoint. When you first walk in there are walls with the names of the 76,000 French Jews who died during the Holocaust. Some of the other visitors were pointing out names and buying candles to leave by the walls. I’ve studied the Holocaust a lot in school but it was never that personal. Today, I was actually standing next to people who had lost relatives to it.
Inside the main room is a big Star of David with a lit flame to represent the 6 million Jews who did not receive a proper burial. From there, the exhibit moves into a few large rooms. All the rooms help to tell the story of the Holocaust and France’s involvement. There are photos, artifacts and case studies of specific French Jewish families. There were also movies, but unfortunately those were only offered in French. I was really impressed by how much stuff the museum held. I got to see the actual papers instead of just photos in a textbook. I was also really impressed by how much responsibility the French government took for their actions. Though they didn’t officially admit involvement until 1995, they have worked hard to own up to their mistakes and create an accurate history and promote healing. On my way out of the exhibit I walked through a room with hundreds of photos of children who had died during the Holocaust. It was definitely a hard way to leave.
From there I walked to Place des Vosges and actually found the Maison de Victor Hugo! It was cool to see the place and quickly tour the rooms but I wasn’t particularly wowed by it. But hey, it was free!
After seeing where the Les Miserables author lived, I walked over to Café des Musees for their dejeuner de pierce (lunch prix-fixe) thanks to the recommendation by Mireille on this website. It was cool to be sitting down to a lunch that wasn’t a sandwich and to be eating at a popular Parisian spot. My lunch started with a soup course but it was chilled! I wasn’t thrilled with it but tried to have a little. For the entrée, I was served fish and this cucumber salad that was warm! I would have preferred if the two cucumber dishes switched temperatures, but all in all it was delicious and I got a good deal!
From lunch I took the Metro over to Galeries Lafayette. I went up to their rooftop terrace to get a great view of the city and then to the 7th floor for a fashion show! It was cool to watch the show and the models had fun with the informal-ness of it. It was even cooler to know the pieces they were modelling could be bought just downstairs. After the show, I shopped around the place a bit and discovered it is HUGE and entirely out of my price range. Some of their clothing is locked to the floor it’s so expensive! But it really was ginormous and had everything from women’s fashion, bridal, an art gallery, multiple restaurants and a bridge that lead to menswear, a gourmet supermarket and home furnishings.
To get my shopping fix I headed over to H&M (more in my budget) and then to a local café for a sandwich.
And then I walked down to the Louvre! On Fridays from 6-9:45pm the Louvre is free for anyone under 26. Of course, I raced to see the Mona Lisa first! And…it was kind of a let down. I had already been warned that her picture is behind a thick glass wall but it was still very underwhelming. The painting is tiny and looks even less impressive compared to all the other works in the room. The crowds still ate it up and I followed suit by taking a few photos.
After checking ML off my list I wandered around the Louvre. It is HUGE (everything was big today)! I was there for a couple hours and I maybe saw a quarter of the rooms, plus I was rushing. If you wanted to look at every piece you might need a week to get through the Louvre. They have all kinds of paintings, sculptures, jewelry, statues, photographs and a medieval moat in the basement! I tried to see as much as I could but my feet were starting to give out around 8:45 so I trudged home.
By the way: almost everything I did today was free! The Notre Dame, Memorial of the Shoah, Maison de Victor Hugo, fashion show and Lourvre were all free! And all my meals together were under 20 euros! I know how to do Paris cheap!
Tomorrow is my last day in Paris (tear)! I have yet to map out my itinerary but I’m hoping to hit a few other cool neighbourhoods before I head to Nice!