1. Paris

    Last weekend I met up with Katie in Paris. I only live a few hours away, but this was my first time going to Paris not just to pass through!

    Katie and her friend Alex were flying in from Italy and I was taking regional trains from Metz, but the timing worked out such that we figured out we could both get to the Louvre at about the same time on Friday, so that’s where we met. Since we were there, the first thing we did in Paris was see the Louvre. We sought out the Mona Lisa and Liberty Leading the People, but the latter isn’t currently there as it turns out. We did see another Delacroix painting as well as quite a few if his contemporaries. I also enjoyed the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The Louvre itself is enormous, and the Louvre Pyramid (built in 1989) is awesome. We spent several hours getting ourselves lost within the Louvre, then decided to seek out dinner.

    For dinner we went to Auberge St. Roch, which was well-reviewed on TripAdvisor. It was a nice, cozy, seemingly authentic French restaurant with a very nice waiter. We got escargot as an appetizer, which was pretty good, and then I got duck breast for dinner. For dessert we shared crème brûlée so heavenly that it rivaled my brother’s.

    Even though I had gotten a full night’s sleep on Thursday for once, we were both quite tired on Friday anyway, so we went to our “hostel”, which was actually an upstairs room in somebody’s house, to sleep fairly early.

    Despite the fact that it is now mid-March, Saturday was freezing cold and rainy. We started the day off with a walk from the Arc de Triomphe (de l’Étoile, the famous one) down the Champs-Élysées toward the Louvre, and across the river. We planned on getting a baguette and a bottle of wine for a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, but since it was so annoyingly cold we skipped that and went straight to the Musée d’Orsay. This museum was much more my style, with a gallery of wonderful Van Gogh paintings including one of his most famous self-portraits, some Impressionist paintings, and a view of the city through one of the building’s enormous clock faces.

    After getting lunch at the museum, we went to spend the afternoon at Versailles, the famous palace built largely by Louis XIV (but also by several other generations). The palace is incredible, especially the hall of mirrors, and the grounds are unfathomably vast and beautiful (although, probably more beautiful in the sunny spring). This place is so big that the royal family’s summer retreat is literally on the same property as—but not visible from—the main palace. I found the 3D graphics and models of the Versailles area at different times particularly interesting; they gave a very good impression of how the place came to be and how the scale of it just kept increasing.

    After Versailles we went back downtown to get dinner and finally climb the Eiffel Tower. It was freezing cold, raining steadily, and windy, but you HAVE to climb the tower! We only went up to the second level rather than the top, and stayed up there for a total of about 10 minutes before coming back down and seeking shelter.

    We got up pretty early Sunday so we could get in as much tourism as possible before leaving. We went down to the island and got crêpes for breakfast, but had the extreme misfortune of finding what must be some of the worst crêpes in Paris—they were cold and bland. Oh well. After breakfast we walked over to Notre Dame, which they surprisingly leave open to tourists during mass. We quietly walked around and took in the stained glass, architecture, and history. I loved the gargoyles. After seeing Notre Dame we walked around the rest of the island, discovering the Holocaust memorial and then a park on the river. We got surprisingly good street food for lunch, checked out the nearby bridges covered in locks placed there by happy couples over the years, and then we headed back to the Louvre so Katie could meet up with Alex and they could go catch their flight home.

    The weather was garbage, but Paris was still a whole lotta fun.

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