La Vie Parisienne – Partie Un
We made it. Paris, the city of lights, the city of love, whatever you want to call it. We’d made it at last, and nothing could bring us down.
Dan and I had arrived in the city the night before, done a tiny bit of sightseeing around Notre Dame, and gone to bed, happy, exhausted, and ready for more.
We awoke to the sound of a jackhammer right outside our window. Yep. Turns out, our Airbnb rental included free admission to the construction concerto next door.
The noise I could have dealt with, as we would be out of the house most of the day, but I was pretty peeved when the hot water ran out halfway through my morning shower. We waited over an hour hoping for the hot water to return, tempers flaring every time the jackhammer started up again. It got to the point where we started looking into the Airbnb refund policy and researching last-minute hotel alternatives, but the thought of packing everything up and lugging our suitcases up and down the stairs of the Metro so soon kept us in place. Dan took a cold shower, and we set out for the day, agreed that we would find a hotel if the hot water was still out when we returned later in the evening.
We walked through our adopted neighborhood in search of coffee and pastries, and wound up grabbing a bite at a boulangerie down the road.
We initially planned on buying our 4-Day Paris Museum Passes at Notre Dame, maybe climbing the towers, and going from there. The Museum Passes included admission to several spots we wanted to visit, and were advertised as available for purchase at any included attraction. Our late start, combined with the fact that we didn’t see a clearly-marked place to buy our passes at Notre Dame, was frustrating but not insurmountable. After all, we were in Paris!
There was no line to enter the cathedral, so we went inside. I’d climbed the towers in the summer of 2014, and presumably entered the cathedral at some point in my childhood visits (doesn’t count if I can’t remember it), but this trip with Dan marked something new. I finally got to see the inside of Notre Dame, something I’d been curious about for many years, and I was so happy to share the experience with Dan.
Long story short: I loved it. It was magical. It reversed my crappy morning and And yes, I was picturing Esmeralda singing “God Help the Outcasts” pretty much the entire time. Notre Dame is one of my favorite places in Paris, and I’d like to honor it properly with its own post once I’ve finished recapping each day of the trip. So I’ll leave it alone for now.
A quick look at Google Maps showed me that the Louvre was just down the road, maybe a mile or so if we followed the river. The sun shone as we strolled along, stopping frequently to exclaim over how beautiful the city is. As the river curved to the left, the Eiffel Tower came into view, and I was stunned by how big it really is.
I mean, I’ve seen it before, and of course I know it’s big. The tower itself is 984 feet tall, and the regular repainting of the structure requires more than 60 tons of paint. But reading specs like these doesn’t compare to the reality of seeing this massive monument in person. To put things in perspective: the antenna on top of the tower adds 79 feet, giving the Eiffel Tower a total height of 1,063 feet. As a result, the tower is visible from across the city, a pretty addition to any panorama.
By the time we made it to the Louvre, we were pretty thirsty. We caved and bought water bottles from one of the men selling them outside the museum, crossing our fingers that it wasn’t toilet water. I couldn’t believe how empty the square was as we approached the pyramid.
When I visited in the summer, I told Dan, the line stretched all the way around the pyramid and back down the square, and here we were, with several people taking photos, and no one at all in line!
Well, that’s because the Louvre was closed. It remains closed every Monday, and the funny thing is, I knew that before we ever boarded the plane to Europe! Several of the museums in Paris have an unusual operating schedule, so I compiled and printed a list of the closures and packed it in my suitcase. I tell you, waking up to a symphony of construction equipment really threw me off my game!
It could have been another disappointment to add to the list, but honestly, I wasn’t too upset by the closure. It’s not as though there was a shortage of beautiful streets and monuments to be explored. We lingered outside the Louvre for a while, then walked through the Tuileries, taking in the pretty statues and elegant landscaping while we decided what to do next.
We wound up visiting the Musée D’Orsay instead, conveniently located across the river from the Louvre.
Quelle chance! The truth is, I didn’t know much about this museum. I knew it housed a beautiful grand clock, making for excellent views and photo ops over the city…and that’s about it! We bought our Paris Museum Passes, grabbed our maps, and headed up to the fifth floor to have lunch at Cafe Campana.
We were expecting something simple, maybe some sandwiches, a shared pastry, and some espresso, and were surprised to find a charming little restaurant with table service and a much more extensive menu. I ordered a curry-inspired pot pie, while Dan opted for a tasty Asian beef and noodle dish. The food was a little above budget, but considering the appeal of eating in a well-appointed cafe (with a grand clock of its own) just outside of the world’s largest collection of impressionist art…well, I’m honestly surprised the food didn’t cost more! The vacation mode really kicked in here, and we enjoyed some rosé and later espresso along with our meal.
I love art and history, but I love the city of Paris more. I wanted to roam the streets of the city, to bask in the sunlight and drink wine along the Seine, and maybe…maybe check out a museum or two. I was shocked by how much I enjoyed the Musée D’Orsay! The impressionist section was grand. Seeing all those names that I’ve known since grade school was a little surreal, and seeing the art in person made me think more about how those artists felt when they made this brush stroke or that. I felt like I gained a much deeper understanding of the people behind the paintings, rather than focusing on whether I thought the art was “good” or not.
My favorite piece, which I didn’t even know was housed at the Musée D’Orsay when we bought our tickets, was the self-portrait of Van Gogh. It’s such a compelling piece of art to begin with, and getting up close and personal with all those little brush strokes took my breath away in a way I didn’t quite expect. Van Gogh was no longer just a tragic artist, someone who lived and died long ago. I didn’t just look for the sadness in his eyes. I pictured him sitting there, at his kitchen table perhaps, his hands creating the brush strokes that would make him famous well after his death.
Now that I think about it, maybe I need to write a separate post about the Musée D’Orsay as well. I could talk about it all day, and I’ve only covered one specific piece so far! It looks like we’ll be in Paris for a while, folks. Not that I mind.
We left the museum after two or three hours, half of the afternoon already spent. Our next stop was the Eiffel Tower, just a short walk up the river. I can understand why the French initially thought the tower was a blight on the beautiful city of Paris. It’s so unlike the meticulously-planned avenues and distinctly Parisian architecture, and yet it embodies the city for so many people, myself included. It’s an oddity for sure, but a very beautiful one.
We didn’t stay too long at the Eiffel Tower. All that walking and salivating over art left us tired and hungry. We strolled around the area for a while, in search of a grocery store and some beautiful views, then headed back to the apartment to give our feet a break. No blisters yet, but we decided to play it safe and find a cute place to eat in or around le Marais.
Dan found a good-looking place on Yelp, called Le Gai Moulin. It could not have been more than a minute’s walk from our apartment, and we liked it right away. The owner was very friendly and welcoming, and the server smiling and attentive. I found the whole “dining in Paris” scene a bit confusing and intimidating. Do I seat myself? Should I order at the counter? Do I pay and then eat, or vice versa? But Dan and I felt immediately at home in this little restaurant, whose clientele was a mixture of locals and savvier-than-usual tourists.
The food was very good, and we enjoyed yet another bottle of delicious wine with our meal. I wish bottles were so affordable here in the States! It really added to the romantic and relaxed ambiance of our meal, and I was starry-eyed by the time we returned to our new home.
A home which, mercifully, had hot water by the time we returned! We really didn’t want to move our things to a hotel, and despite the rocky start, the apartment itself was very cute and conveniently located. We stayed, and made do by showering before bed, for the remainder of our trip. The day’s adventures had been a wonderful introduction to Paris, and we were so happy to just snuggle down and rest up for the days still to come.