Much to Discover in Beautiful Paris, France

Trip Start Apr 03, 2009
Trip End Apr 14, 2009

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Monday, April 13, 2009

With our walking shoes on and a light breakfast of strawberries and chocolate croissant to get us going, we started on our way to visit the Louvre, a masterpiece in architecture and one of the largest museums in the world.  A few twists and turns through the streets of Paris on a lovely Easter Sunday morning led us first through the Montparnasse Cemetery.  What fun is a journey if you don't make a few unexpected stops along the way (see the video)? 

Further along our walk, we ventured down the wide downtown city streets where the shops and restaurants are closed, then discovered that we were near Luxembourg Park, one of the places Michael mentioned he wanted to visit.   It's amazing how we keep finding these beautiful places serendipitously. The park was already filled with families, tourists and lovers enjoying the sculptures and statues, just strolling along or relaxing in chairs.  Children played with small sailboats in the pond as their parents watched on.  People snapped photos here and there. Some people were even exercising amid the park's tall trees and colorful flowers.

After leaving Luxembourg Park, we walked through what seemed to be a high-fashion district and I had to take a few pictures of the latest Paris fashions. No doubt we will see them in the States soon.  Further along we are surprised to come upon Le Deux Magot, a restaurant we had heard about from Samantha Brown, host of "Passport to Europe" on the Travel Channel.    We would have liked to sit a spell to enjoy a cup of cafe au lait, but the place was packed--most likely due to the Easter crowd--so we decided to forgo it for now. 

A few more twists and turns down ancient streets with equally ancient buildings, and we arrive at the Seine River with the Louvre just across the bridge.  Again, I am speechless at the size and artistic beauty of this place (and we haven't even entered the building). At once it is historic and contemporary with its castle-like structure and then the glass pyramid at center court. I see why the people of Paris were up in arms when the pyramid was constructed almost 20 years ago.  Its modern architecture is in such opposition to the antiquity and royalty of the original buildings that it's almost an insult.  However, this pyramid has now become one of the landmarks for which Paris is best known, and I doubt that many Pariseans could argue its relevance and value to the city.

For just 9 Euros each, we get tickets to view the extensive exhibits -- from Greek statues to Egyptian burial crypts to religious paintings.  Of course, we had to see the painting of the Mona Lisa and the statue of Venus de Milo.  Along the way, we passed expressionist depictions of the beheading of John the Baptist, the conquering of the giant Goliath by little David, and numerous other elaborate paintings and sculptures. The Louvre, like the Castle of Versailles, is so enormous that it would be extremely difficult to visit all of the rooms and experience all of the art in one day ... so we didn't even try. I love to visit museums whenever we travel, but I've found that my time limit is usually about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, and then I'm done. So, about 2 1/2 hours after our visit,  we were back in the streets of Paris and on our way to Notre Dame Cathedral.

We passed several street vendors selling used books, trinkets, original art, post cards and other souvenirs. As we approached the Cathedral, the bells began to toll, a deep resounding melody that makes you want to stand at attention (see the video). Amazingly, we found ourselves entering Notre Dame just in time for mass.   As reverential as I am for other people's places of worship, my legs and feet were so tired from all the walking that I melted into the seat and dozed off to the melodic organ music.  That is so rude! Okay, but it was only for a moment. 

Dinner was delicious.  We found a small restaurant just down the street from Notre Dame, that had on the menu another of my "must-have" French delicacies -- crepes. I had the mixed crepe with ham and cheese while Michael enjoyed a seafood salad with salmon and shrimp. I, of course, had to follow it up with creme brulee  (I am in Paris, after all), and Michael enjoyed blackberry sorbet.  Everything was delicious, and it was very nice to sit and watch the people walk by. 

One thing I've noticed about Paris is that everywhere you go, you will find people doing one or a combination of the following:

1. Eating: it seems that no matter what time of day or where you are, you will find people walking the streets eating, usually some kind of bread, either a croissant, a sandwich of jambo and fromage (ham and cheese), a gauvre (waffle) covered in powdered sugar or chocolate sauce, or simply a baguette (loaf of French bread).

2. Smoking: this pasttime is still fashionable in Paris. You'll find people smoking in the park, in restaurants, cafes, everywhere. From teenagers to oldtimers, they love their cigarettes. 

3. Kissing: I do believe that kissing has to be a Parisean's favorite pasttime, even more popular than smoking. I haven't seen so much PDA (public display of affection) in a very long time, and it does my heart good to see lovers openly, genuinely and tastefully display their affection for one another.

Sitting at the restaurant was a nice rest for my weary feet. Michael had his second wind, so we walked a bit more and somehow found ourselves in the Latin Quarter.  What a lively area with streets packed with people, shops and restaurants.    Michael said it reminds him of Bourbon Street in New Orleans. We passed a variety of restaurants, and Michael spotted someone with a steaming pot of mussels, one of his favorite crustaceans.  His mouth began to water and I knew we would have to go back so he could get an order for himself. Yes, more eating even though we just had dinner an hour ago.   Oh well, this gave me a chance to taste another local delicacy that I wanted to try -- French onion soup. 

It was about 10:00 by the time we made it back to Le Meridian. It's been a very long day. I'm sure that we have walked at least 20 miles to day, not to mention the 20 plus miles we walked that last two days.  Paris is so beautiful and there is nothing like seeing it by foot. Except for the fact that my feet are aching and my legs feel like they're about to give out. So that puts a wrap on this amazing day.
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