Sunday, May 9, 2010

Easter in Paris

Even though I was going to Paris 2 weeks later for the second half of my spring break, I knew it’d worth it to go for Easter. There is so much to see in Paris, that it’s nice to know I don’t have to cram it all in to a short amount of time. That being said, we did catch one of the earliest trains possible out of Montpellier so that we could have a full day in Paris Friday. The prospect of getting up at 5 am to be at the train station before 6 am doesn’t seem like a ton of fun, but once I was out the door at 5:25, I remembered that I am a morning person. Montpellier becomes even more charming in the pre-dawn stillness. My footsteps almost echoed on the marble of the Comédie because there was no one there to absorb the sound. During the 3-½ hour train ride to Paris, the sun rose over the French countryside.

I went to Paris with my friends Sarah Elizabeth and Dan. These two were also my company for Greece. We travel well together because we can compromise and make decisions quickly. We’ve also all been to Paris before, so there was no pressure to see any one particular thing. 3 is also just a good number to travel with.

Our hotel was right off one of the étoile streets that radiate off the Arc de Triomphe, so we headed there first. I pass the Arc de Triomphe in Paris everyday, but the one is Paris doubles Montpellier’s in width and height. We decided not to go up, but we moseyed around underneath it. I got to see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier again, which is one of my favorite things in Paris. Maybe I’m a sap, but it always catches me off-guard how moving that flame is.

We went to the Musée D’Orsay next because a) Dan had never been b) Sarah Elizabeth loves Impressionist paintings and c) last time I went to Paris, it was my favorite museum. This was exactly when it started to get dark and rainy. Perfect museum going weather! Our long wait to get in to the museum was worth it because we only had to flash our Paul Val student IDs to get in fo’ free. Last time I went to the Musée D’Orsay, I absolutely adored it because it used to be a train station and therefore it is HUGE! The high ceiling is a metal and glasswork structure, so it lets in lots of natural light. The museum is so big that pushy crowds don’t jostle you around. This time, they were doing some renovations on it, so the works weren’t quite so spread out, making the experience less enjoyable. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it of course. I always enjoy Impressionist art and I may not be an art buff, but in the 7 years since I’ve been to the d’Orsay, I’ve picked up a few things and therefore could enjoy some pieces more.

We hit a sweet spot coming out of the d’Orsay. The sun was shining, so we pranced around the Tuileries Gardens (well, SLiz and I did anyway), which defined “April in Paris”: bright green grass, neatly kept flowers blooming, blossoming trees, and people sitting around a fountain that faces the Louvre.

Because the sky was an alarming shade of blue, it was the perfect time to head to the Eiffel tower.

The Eiffel Tower shouldn’t be pretty. It’s just a huge tower of criss-crossed steel. But, for whatever reason, it’s so pretty. I was every bit as excited to see it this time as I was the first time I saw it. As annoying as it is to wait in line, the line will ALWAYS be long to go up the tower. The time passed quickly, as street performers performed crazy dances to MJ songs. I also listened to other people’s convos. The last time I was in Paris, I thought I could speak French so well (ha). I didn’t know a word of Spanish or Italian, but now I can not only differentiate between the 2, but I can pick up what’s being said. Looking up at the Eiffel Tower, 7 years felt like nothing. I felt just as excited to be in Paris. But really, a lot happens in 7 years.

Finally, we began our ascent. Work out for the day. Lots of stairs! As we reached, the 2nd level the clouds were beginning to roll in again. Even though I’m afraid of heights, elevators freak me out, I can only take being bumped around in a crowd for so long, and an ominous cloud was rolling in, I had to go to the top. We did get a spectacular view for a few moments until the cloud engulfed the top of the Tower. It passed again for a minute to reveal a spectacular rainbow over the Seine, and then we were again covered.

We finally made it down to ground level again, just as the sparkling lights lit up the Eiffel Tower, marking 9pm. A break in the rain gave us the chance to take the typical Eiffel Tower pics at the Palais Chaillot. Although it was 10 pm at that point, we needed to go get dinner. Luckily, 10 pm is a perfectly normal time to eat dinner. I ate what Caroline calls typical Parisian sucré/salé, which is chicken in a vinegar/sweet sauce.

Saturday, we ventured just outside of Paris to Versailles. They say the Eiffel Tower has more visitors than Versailles, but it doesn’t feel that way. It’s for sure that Versailles has stricter rules. One important lesson learned in Paris: Ask forgiveness, not permission. This isn’t quite the expression that fits what I mean, but the general sentiment is the same. An announcement told us that European Union citizens under the age of 26 with ID and visitors with student visas for at least 6 mos would get in for free. You have to bring your effing passport with visa to get in for free at Versailles?!!!? Who would think to bring your passport? SLiz asked a guard if our Paul Val IDs would work, but he got all huffy with us and said NO. But once we got to the front of the line, we just flashed our Paul Val IDs and walked on by, not waiting to see if the ticket booth worker cared or not. On s’est débrouillé! (We managed in a round about way). Versailles may be huge, but you get swept along in the huge wave of tourists and it goes by quickly. You can’t be a salmon and swim against the current. Spanish, Italian, Asian, and US tourists are harder to push against than the current to get back to freshwater.

I may be the only person in the world to describe Versailles as the Palace of Rainbow Rooms, but that’s what it is. Versailles is a series of room after room full of ornate paintings, furniture, all in the same color. You walk from a sky blue room to a sunshine yellow room. It’s happiness and rainbows.

After the palace tour, the rain discouraged us from visiting the gardens. However, by the time we finished our huge pizza lunch, the rain had let up, so we trekked back to the palace grounds to visit the gardens. We were lucky because Saturday is a day that they turn the fountains on (They don’t do this everyday because it takes a lot to pump all that water!). They also blasted French classical music for our listening pleasure. The Versailles grounds are so expansive, it’s easy to meander for a long time. We passed many manicured bushes, and lots of statues. There was a couple getting their wedding pics taken there. Talk about being a princess for a day! Once you make it far enough back, you come across some sheep and horses fenced in. These animals are used to tourists, so they scamper up to the fence looking for you to give ‘em some food.

After strolling through the grounds, it was already early evening, so we got back to Paris. For dinner, I indulged in the typical Parisian foods: French onion soup and crème brûlée.

That Sunday was Easter, so we got up to go to Mass at Notre Dame. International Mass was scheduled at 11:30 am, but we got in line to get into the Church at 10:45 am. The lined moved pretty swiftly, so we made it into the Church and saw the last half of the 10:30 am Mass. We got center aisle seats for the packed International Mass. Easter Sunday Mass at Notre Dame was quite the experience. Notre Dame is huge and gorgeous, and even though the church was packed wall to wall with people, I didn’t feel claustrophobic, because just one glance up at the huge ceiling took that all away.

After Mass, we had wanted to have an Easter picnic of ham sammiches somewhere along the Seine, but the gloomy cold weather ruined our plans. Pas grave. We headed to a really cool vintage market on the edge of Paris. To get there, we had to walk through an outdoor market of immigrants selling knock-off everythings.

Knowing that the outdoor shit show could not possibly be the place we’d heard about, we pressed forward. We finally found what we had been looking for! It was a 2 story brick warehouse. Inside there was shop, after shop, after shop of antique furniture, books, maps, postcards, fashion ads, clothing, everything. I had fun looking at the vintage Hermès scarves and old knickknacks. We pent all day there, so we were super hungry by the time we left. Luckily, a bakery right by the metro stop was selling pastries that looked like birds nests, complete with candy eggs. As we were leaving, we were pelted by hail.

Before catching our evening train home, we enjoyed a real Easter dinner at a crazy place called Chez Clément. The furniture was all mismatched at the walls were decorated with clusters of spoons and forks. I had creamy pumpkin soup and ham wrapped artichoke au gratin. I GOT HAM ON EASTER!

Successful trip to Paris. Even though the weather didn’t cooperate, I did get to see a rainbow everyday I was there. (One was technically a hailbow).

1 comment:

  1. That's a great picture of you on the lawn chair. Is that at Versailles, too?