Spring Break Day 2: March 25th, Paris

Hello everyone!

Welcome back to my 8 days of posting! Today you’ll hear all about day 2 in Paris, which was one of my favorite days in Paris altogether! I’m actually going to split day 2 into two posts, one for tonight and one for tomorrow, as it was a very action-packed day ans it’s hard to fit it into one post. Today I’ll talk about what we did before lunch, and tomorrow we’ll go over lunch and what we did afterwards.

So, on that Sunday morning we woke up “bright and early,” which for me means, like, 9, which Auntie did, in fact, laugh at. Anyways, we woke up around 9 and ate breakfast downstairs at our hotel. The cost of staying at our hotel had included breakfast, which was a very nice surprise as food in Paris doesn’t come cheap! There was a full spread of croissants, pain au chocolat, cheese, cereal, and baguettes. Yes, that’s right, baguettes for breakfast. There was also a huge juicer against the wall that made fresh squeezed orange juice that tasted delicious.

After our breakfast, Auntie and I headed out with a map and vague directions to where we could get tickets for the hop-on-hop-off tour. I made the mistake of forgoing a coat and decent shoes because it was PARIS I wanted to be FASHIONABLE, which meant repeatedly telling my aunt that I wasn’t cold while visibly shivering. I’m not always the most practical person, but my mother always said “beauty is pain,” so it’s not really a surprise that I wore a cold-shoulder blouse while on top of a moving bus in 40-degree weather just because it’s Paris.

Basically, we got to the bus stop and got a two-day ticket each, as the tour company we chose- Open Tours- had 3 different routes to explore. For our first route, we chose the basic Must-See-Parisian-Sights route, with the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, etc.

The bus drove right through the center of the Louvre’s grounds, through an unbelievably tiny passageway in a wall. Honestly, if my elbow had been resting on the edge of the bus it would have hit the wall. From there it crossed the Seine to pass the Musée d’Orsay, which used to be a train station. The initials still on the walls of the building, PO, stand for Paris-Orleans, the line that was once active there. Then, we drove through the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine was once stationed. Now there’s a carousel and a park, and the U.S. Embassy. It’s just as eerie and vaguely uncomfortable as it sounds. From the center of that square is one of the best views of the Arc de Triomphe, which stands at the other end of the Champs-Elysées. That is where the bus turned next, down the infamous street. It was much different than I expected. I guess I had anticipated more designer shops and those Parisian stereotypes of high fashion. Instead, there are several McDonalds’, a Disney store, a Gap, and a bunch of other run-of-the-mill stores. The only designer store I saw was a Louis Vuitton, which was in a 6 or 7 story building with chandeliers and gold accents. That was more of what I expected.

The Arc de Triomphe is also less glamorous for those who don’t know that it’s literally in the middle of a traffic circle. We didn’t stop there, but I still got nice photos. There’s an eternal flame in the ground at the center for the “Unknown Soldier.” A group of feminists once placed flowers at the base of it and said that the only person more unknown than the unknown soldier is his wife.

Then, stop #13, the Eiffel Tower. It’s even bigger than you think it is. No, trust me, it is. We didn’t get off to see it until that night, because it’s even better when lit up, but it’s still impressive during the day. From anywhere you are in Paris it’s easy to find the Eiffel Tower in the skyline. After the Eiffel Tower, the bus passed by the Hôtel des Invalides, which holds the army museum. It is also where you can visit Napoleon’s tomb, which lies under a golden dome. This marked the end of the first bus ride, so we decided to get on the next one to see Montmartre, the district famous for the Moulin Rouge and Sacre-Cœur  Basilica. It’s also famous for being the artist’s district, once being the home of famous artists like Renoir, Picasso, Degas, and even Langston Hughes.

Montmartre is very different from the other parts of Paris that we had seen. Wide roads give way to winding alleys with outdoor markets; mainstream shops give way to seedy adult stores and burlesque theaters. Everything is bright and loud and bustling, and at the top of the massive hill that the neighborhood is named after sits the pristine white domes of the Sacre-Cœur. It was built with a certain type of white stone that is self-cleansing in the rain, so no one ever has to wash it. We were taken aback by the line to get in, but then my aunt remembered that it was Palm Sunday, and mass was starting in 20 minutes. The inside of the church was crowded and had that very distinct Catholic church atmosphere, the smell of incense and the hanging feeling of guilt. It was beautiful; there were intricately designed chapels along both sides of the room and  beautiful statues throughout.

After we left the basilica, we decided to look around Montmartre and find some lunch. Just behind the church is a thriving neighborhood of narrow, cobblestone streets and portrait artists and caricature artists peddling their goods to tourists eating at sidewalk cafes, and that is where we found ourselves having our lunch. Each of us had a croque monsieur, or a ham and cheese sandwich. We both just took in the sights and sounds around us, deciding on what to do next, which you will hear all about tomorrow!

Until next time,