Woo! We’ve finished our US/Canada roadtrip and have finally made it to Europe! I am actually writing this on the plane to Hong Kong, having left Europe, so we are still way behind in this blog, but that’s okay! Let’s keep going, we’ll catch up eventually!
Our blog left us in Toronto; from there we flew to Paris.
Both Inna and I had been to Paris before, me after college and Inna in middle and high school. With so much to see in the world, it was difficult justifying re-visiting a place we’d already been to, but we love Paris so much! Plus the flights were cheap and I missed Versailles on my last visit, and we both really wanted more French bread. So back to Paris we went!
First things first: French bread sandwiches. Words cannot describe… these are the best.
The grandest palace in Europe, second grandest in the world (we’ll see number one later on this trip). This palace, the definition of royal opulence, was built by Louis XIV, king of France from 1643 to 1715, who wanted to move outside city center (before Versailles, the king lived in the Louvre, right in the middle of the city). He did this to both remove himself from the peasant population and also consolidate power amongst the aristocrats, and as a result he became the most powerful king that France has ever had.
When I say opulence I mean opulence. This is the entrance to Versailles, and it is ridiculous.
Some of Versailles’s rooms, including the actual bed that Louis XIV slept in (lower left).
Versailles is filled with artwork, but the collection isn’t particularly notable. Except for this piece. This painting, located on the ceiling of one of the rooms, was the largest single image painting in the world when it was completed. Or at least I think it was, it was some superlative like that.
While the artwork in Versailles may not be too grand, this room is. This is Versailles’s most famous exhibit, the hall of mirrors, where French Royalty entertained guests and did business with foreign ambassadors. Also, the Treaty of Versailles was signed here.
Versailles’s other most famous exhibit is its garden, where Inna and I got bitten by the ramifications of a huge backpacking mistake. Because we both had been to Paris before, we didn’t want to spend too much time in the city, so we only allocated one full day. We wanted to go to Versailles on this day, but the day we allocated was a Monday, when Versailles is closed. Because of this, we were forced to visit Versailles the same day we flew into Paris; we had enough time to visit the palace but this view was all we saw of its gardens.
French military guarding Versailles. These guys were everywhere: airports, train stations, landmarks, crowded areas. Security checks and metal detectors were also at every landmark we visited. This was definitely a different Paris than the one I visited in 2007.
Different but also the same: the neighborhoods are still beautiful, the food is still delicious, the people are still friendly and welcoming and proud to be Parisian. Some things may change, but Paris will always be Paris, and France will always be France.
On our second day France, we left Paris for the north of France, where we spent four days at Rennes, Mont St Michel, Bayeux, and Normandy Beach. Then we returned for our full day in Paris.
We visited Sacre-Coeur the evening we returned from the north of France. This is the church during golden hour. Paris is magical.
(If you’d like to know more about Sacre-Coeur, I discuss it in detail here.)
Sacre-Coeur is located on the highest hill in Paris, and the above panorama shows the view from the church’s entrance. Unfortunately, the one thing this view is missing is the Eiffel Tower, so I included it to the right, which is actually where the tower is in relation to the panorama.
Outside Sacre-Coeur’s nearest Metro stop is the most famous cabaret in Paris. And by Paris I mean the most famous cabaret in the world.
Our Paris Airbnb was near the Eiffel Tower, so we stopped by on our way home.
The Beatles and the Eiffel Tower. Paris is magical.
Near the Eiffel Tower are two additional Parisian landmarks: the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees. The Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate France’s military victories, is located at roundabout where 12(!) streets meet. One of these streets, Champs-Elysees, is a major shopping thoroughfare and is considered by many to be the most beautiful boulevard in the world.
Our next stop was another world famous landmark: Notre Dame. This church is so incredible, can you believe there was a terror attempt here just four days before our visit?
Inside Notre Dame. I think I took these same exact pictures last time I visited.
On the same island as Notre Dame (Notre Dame is on an island in the Seine river) are two other famous buildings: Saint Chapelle and the Palace of Justice. Saint Chapelle, another famous French gothic Parisian church, was somehow completed in only six years, even though the simultaneously-under-construction Notre Dame took 182. Unfortunately, while Notre Dame is free to enter, entering Saint Chapelle cost €16; we elected to save our money and enjoy this church from the outside (but wow, the inside of this church is spectacular).
Two more notable buildings near Notre Dame. On the left is the 400 year old former city hall Hotel de Ville, and on the right is the Pompidou, the largest modern art museum in Europe.
Inna is pointing at is a Sun God sculpture, located outside the Pompidou. This sculpture was a big deal for her because there are only two in existence, and the other one is located at her alma mater, UCSD. It is the symbol for the school’s annual music and arts (and drinking) festival.
We visited a lot of history in the United States, but our history tour didn’t end when we left the United States. Here we are at one of the most important sites in all human history, for here is where modern history began, at the storming of the Bastille, the beginning of the French Revolution.
Finally, we finished our stay with a visit to Hemingway’s Paris. Hemmingway’s Paris consists of the cafes and restaurants that he and his artistic contemporaries (Fitzgerald, Stein, Picasso, Bunuel… just see this film) frequented when they lived here in the 1920s. So many artists gathered here at that time, and so much great work came from whatever was collectively inspiring them, it was inspiring to visit the area where it all went down.
With that, we finished our stay in Paris. We missed a lot, I know, but like I said, we’d been here before and this was a refresher. Now it is off to new places, and new family! For I have cousins I’d never met in Bologna, and we went to visit them next.