Trip Start Jun 10, 2012
Trip End Aug 17, 2013

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Flag of France  , Île-de-France,
Thursday, April 25, 2013

I love Paris. It is such a beautiful city that has a lot of history yet is very modern. It is definitely tied with the Galapagos (which I like because of the nature and animals) as my favorite place so far.
We arrived from our train around 6pm, dropped our bags at our apartment and took a subway to the Eiffel Tower. My first sight of it was when we were crossing on a bridge over the river. We didn't get off at the first Eiffel Tower stop, but a different one that my mom said had a great view. I forgot to mention, it was her 13th time (give or take a few) in Paris because my aunt used to go there every year for her birthday. We got there when it was light and stayed until the light of the tower reflected on the fountains in front of it. Then we walked up to the tower. The lines were really long to get to the top of the tower (plus we had to get up three levels), but the view was amazing. It was nighttime so all of the city lights sparkled. I had been to the top of the Empire State Building at night but this was much better. There were searchlights going out right above our heads. There were people down at the bottom with laser pointers that they were pointing up, and they reached far enough to momentarily blind me (906 feet from the ground, might I add). There was Gustav Eiffel's old apartment at the top level, complete with wax figures of him, his daughter and Thomas Edison from when he visited. When we got back down to the bottom, it was about a minute before midnight. Every hour during the night the Eiffel tower sparkles with a bunch of lights. We just had enough time to get far enough away to see this one. We got some delicious banana nutella crepes (Paris is a crepe heaven. There's probably around 5 stands every block!) and just stood there and admired the tower. Until we realized we were tired, our feet ached and we wanted to be back in our cute little apartment.
The next day, we went to the Arc de Triomphe and walked the stairs to the top. The arc is like a big arch-shaped structure that is right at the center of the biggest roundabout in the world. The roundabout has 12 streets that lead off of it, one of them being Champs Elysees. I could see all of them from the top of the arc. It was built to honor the people who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. There is a "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" from World War I that has an eternal flame on it (well, it was extinguished once by a drunk Mexican football supporter). That day we also went to the Musee de Louvre. There was a huge line but we got to skip it because we got passes. We got audio guides that were Nintendo 3DS's (which are actually 3D!). I was going to say the Louvre was by FAR the biggest museum I've ever been to, but I looked it up and the Smithsonian in DC and the Met in NYC (both of which I've been to) are bigger. The Louvre seemed extremely huge anyways. I don't think we could have gotten through the whole thing in a week. Of course, we saw the Mona Lisa. It was much smaller than I'd imagined and there was a huge crowd gathered around it. But even through the double layer of bulletproof glass, I saw how her expression changed. When I looked into her eyes, she looked like she was smiling. No, she looked like she was grinning! It made me feel like grinning myself. But then when I looked at her lips, her face didn't look happy anymore. She just had a neutral expression. When I looked at her overall she seemed peaceful and very content.
We went to a few more museums the next day; Musee des Egouts de Paris, Musee d Orsay, and Musee d Quai Branly. The Musee des Egouts de Paris was something really strange and really smelly. It involves underground tunnels. It's REALLY smelly. Can you guess? If you thought the sewers, then you are correct! As I have mentioned before, it was really smelly. I've also never heard of a museum stranger than that. Those sewers stretch for hundreds of miles underneath Paris. Les Miserables was based off of them, as they used to be home to many orphans. They've been in lots of other books and I'm pretty sure the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles went to them, too. In the museum we walked on platforms right above the bubbly, stinking sewer water. There were lots of things floating in it. It was a really gross experience, but in my opinion, fascinating also. We learned about how they cleaned the water and what the sewer workers had to do. I really think that would be the worst job in the world. The smell of the sewers was similar to that of a porta-potty only 50x stronger. I'm just glad we weren't there in the summer, when the heat makes the sewer water evaporate into the air. I heard you're pretty much suffocated by the smell during that time. Towards the end of walking around in the sewers, I went to the bathroom and I don't think it had to go very far!
The other two museums were art museums. Musee d Quai Branly was a place that had lots of interesting African art (also shrunken heads and detached scalps). Musee d Orsay is in the building of an old train station. I think the building is beautiful, and the museum has impressionist art which is my favorite.
My mom and I went to the Catacombs and Champs Elysees on our last full day in Paris. Soph stayed back at the apartment and worked on school. We got in the extremely long line for the Catacombs at around 2pm. There are only 200 people allowed per hour so it takes awhile. We thought we would definitely make it in (the Catacombs closes at 5pm but they cut off the lines at 4), but after waiting for an hour a security guy came up and told us we wouldn't. I really wanted to see the Catacombs, so we waited anyways. When I was in line my mom went to a nearby cafe and got a huge macaroon (I had been talking about them but had never tried them). It was coffee-flavored and I thought it was really good. Right at 4pm we were at the front of the line. The guy told us we would be in the very last group of 10 he was letting in! I was so glad, especially since we had been waiting for 2 hours.

As I walked down the dark spiral stairs, each step brought me further from the earth's surface. Closer to the mass grave below me.
We passed through a mini museum and then then continued into a tunnel. This tunnel was really small but went on for a long ways. I'm sure it would be a nightmare for people with claustrophobia. The only lights were dim bulbs. We passed crumbling walls and dripping ceilings. My mom mentioned to me that it would be a scary thing to have a power outage if you were down there. The tunnel went on for around 1.5km, and I kept thinking "when will this end?" until we ended up in a small room. An arch door on the side had an inscription above it. "Arrete! C'est ici l'empire de la mort." it read. In English, that means "Halt! Here lies the Empire of Death." Of course, I was already nervous after thinking of the possibility of a power outage, and that did nothing to calm me. I took a deep breath before stepping through the doorway. Nothing happened when I entered the Empire of Death, except that I was now surrounded by bones. There was a large bone wall in front of me. I quickly turned around, and they were on the other side of me too. Rows and rows of neatly stacked femurs, tibias, ulnas, humerus's, and perfect lines of skulls. To welcome us, there was a nice heart made of skulls. They all appeared to be grinning at us with their gaping mouths, and watching us with their empty sockets. I was so surprised at how many bones there were. The catacombs continued for a long time, the entire trail lined with bones from floor to ceiling. We passed the remains of 6 million people. I felt chilled at the presence of so many dead all right in front of my eyes. Lots of times the skulls formed patterns, usually crosses. The solemness was interrupted by some really annoying guys down there. They were leaning against the bones, smoking and drinking. One of them was moving skulls around, and I'm pretty positive they were drawing graffiti on some. I really wanted to express my anger about the way they were treating the bones (I mean really, these are the ancient bones of ancestors. And they draw graffiti on them?), but I wouldn't have solved anything anyways. Besides, the workers were coming in behind us to check everyone was out so they were probably better to handle it than me. I still made my point by glaring at one guy for several seconds. He just grinned, and while he was still looking at me, picked up a bone. Besides them, I thought the Catacombs was an amazing experience. However, I was glad when we finally emerged from the musty, dark, bone-filled tunnels into the sun.
After the catacombs, my mom and I went to Champs Elysees. We got some nutella crepes and walked from one end of the long avenue to another. It was pretty much filled with every expensive designer store imaginable. There was a macaroon place called Laudree that was supposed to be the best in the world, and we were going to get some but the line was super long. The outside of the place was really cute though! I got a shirt from Zara before we decided to head back to our place.
We were sad to leave Paris the next day. I wish we had more time there! I really like that city a lot. But we've decided that next summer we'll most likely go there for vacation... Then we'll be able to visit Laudree.
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