Sleek and Chic and Magnifique… It’s Me, It’s Me, It’s Absolutely Me

The non-stop action in London paired with the sinus nightmare that ensued after the incense incident left me feeling pretty worn down on the Eurostar trip to Paris. We had a delay en route but made up most of the lost time, so we arrived at Gare du Nord in Paris a bit after noon once we accounted for the time change. I had written down my subway directions ahead of time, but still needed to buy my ticket. The New Yorker in me passed up the Tourist Information line for the ticket kiosk, but even after choosing English, a lot of the prompts were in French. I managed to navigate my way through it, anyway, though I was self-conscious about moving slower than I thought I should. I got to the payment screen and my credit card wouldn’t process… twice. Having done this song and dance on more than one occasion when my bank turned off my debit card after I used a subway kiosk in NYC, I was sure that my card had just been flagged and I was going to have to jump through a lot of hoops to get it reinstated. I had been using that card for just about everything, and while I had other cards and cash to back me up, my exhausted state left me a little overwrought and more frustrated than I should have been. The tourist line I had snubbed was now four times the length it had been at the start, but I had no choice other than to stand in it. When I got to the front, I ordered the three-day pass, and the price had a comma instead of a decimal, so I had no idea how much it was, but I handed over my just-declined card praying it would work this time. Luckily, it did, and I was on my way, though utterly confused by the two different prices separated by a comma on my receipt. It’s funny how thrown off our brains can be when something normal looks even slightly amiss.

I found my subway with no trouble (other than the trouble of lugging my 30-pound luggage up and down stairs) and wiggled my way onto a very crowded train. I had to switch trains once to get to my destination, and the doors opened on the opposite side from where I was, so I nearly missed getting off despite my pleas of “Pardon! Pardon!” and trying desperately to squeeze myself and my suitcase through the sardine can subway car. Luckily, the second train wasn’t as crowded and I was able to observe that the subway doors had to be opened manually in each car for anyone to get on or off the train. If I hadn’t taken note of it, I probably would have been standing there stupidly waiting for the doors to open when I got to my destination. It turned out to be a non-issue, because several people disembarked at that stop, so I was able to follow behind them.

A lady waved to me wordlessly, no doubt seeing “American” written all over my face, and motioned for me to follow her down a particular corridor. I complied, we rounded a corner and then she turned back to me, threw her hands up in an apologetic shrug, and walked away. I realized what had happened when I saw that there was an escalator ahead, but it wasn’t working. She was trying to be helpful, though, so I was thankful even though it came to naught. When I started ambling up the stationary escalator steps, a man tapped me on the shoulder from behind, made more silent motions at me, picked up my suitcase, and carried it to the top of the escalator. He put it down at the top and took two steps to the right before turning back with the same shrug I’d gotten from the woman, picking up my bag again, and walking up the next non-working escalator.

I was so grateful to him for his help, but my brain completely froze and I couldn’t remember any of the French I had learned. All I could say was “thank you” and make a dorky face at him with my hand over my heart like that would somehow effect the proper emotion. I could remember the sign language for thank you, but I never use that because it looks quite similar to some very insulting sign language, and that would be an awful thing to do to a man who’d just carried my luggage up two long flights of stairs.

Up on the street, I looked around and realized I was standing at a roundabout with about 7 streets off of it. Roundabouts had become a familiar sight by this point, but I needed to figure out which road to walk down to get to my friend’s place. I had my map in hand, but that wasn’t much help when I couldn’t find a single road sign. In Paris, road names are on plaques on the sides of buildings instead of on poles at the intersection, and sometimes the signs are set several feet into the street. So, basically, you’d have to start down the street before you could read the sign to know if it was the right one. I was feeling tired and defeated by the realization that I’d have to walk perhaps as much as half a mile just to figure out which direction to walk. So, instead, I stood right there at the top of the subway stairs, suitcase at my side and map in hand, looking like the lost American tourist that I was. I still couldn’t remember any French. Even “Pardon” had left me. So, when I saw a guy walking in my direction, I started flailing my hand at him in a pathetic, “Over here, over here! Yes, you! Come here!” He obliged my crass greeting, and I thrust my map into his hand, pointed at the road I wanted, and furrowed my brow in confusion. He looked at my map and started looking around the circle, like he, too, had no idea which road was which. He looked back at me, pointed at where I had marked on the map, and said, “You go here?” I shook my head. He walked forward several steps and I followed. He peered around the corner, looked at my map again, handed it back, and pointed down the street nearest to us. I rubbed my heart again and said “thank you,” and congratulated myself on being the goofiest American cliché in the book as I started down the street, finally noticing the road name that told me I was going in the right direction.

I found my friend Celine’s building without any further incidents, used the key code she gave me to get through the first door and then rang her unit at the second. She came over the intercom, “Hello! Last floor.” I really wished that meant “bottom floor” in France, but I knew it meant the top one. I stared at the spiral fire-escape-esque staircase with narrow steps and wondered if I’d make it to the top alive. I never mastered how many floors it was, to be honest. At least 5. Less than 8. Enough that I was far too tired to keep count as I walked up every day, slinging my ill-functioning knee off to the left as I hobbled up one stair at a time. Carrying my luggage up the first time was a trial by fire.

I did eventually reach the top, at which point I collapsed on Celine’s couch and she revived me with an Orangina and I caught my breath while catching up with her a bit. I gave her a copy of my itinerary for my three days in Paris, and she gave me a copy of her key. Finally ready to move again, I headed back down the stairs (significantly easier in that direction) and back to the subway station to make my way to Montmartre. Its manual doors notwithstanding, the subway system was a familiar comfort. I couldn’t remember any French, but I am fluent in public transportation.

I had planned to make a large circle around Montmartre, starting and ending at the same station. I had mapped that route before I’d taken a single step on vacation, but I quickly decided on the train that a one-way trip was in my best interests. Apparently, while any thought of speaking French had my tongue stymied, my brain still managed to translate the French on signs around me. That’s how I managed the quick decision about which stop to make on the train without time to pull out my map and look.

So, I started my tour of Montmartre by walking in sporadic drops of rain with a herd of tourists up a street of junk joints toward Montmartre’s crowning jewel, SacréCoeur. No picture can do justice to the immensity you feel when you walk into view of the basilica perched atop the highest point in Paris. It’s magnificent.

Montmartre is a quaint neighborhood for wandering and lingering in cafes. Having toured Sacré-Coeur, I also stopped into some less-famous churches like nearby Saint Pierre and this one, Saint Jean.

 

I stopped for a late lunch in Un Zebra a Montmartre, where the menu was written on various chalkboards that they’d perch on a nearby chair when you were seated. Luckily, they had these in English, too, but the menu was fairly limited and they had mostly fancy options that didn’t appeal to me. I may have tried elsewhere, but I’d already been seated, and I felt enough like a fish out of water as it was. So, I elected to have a Caesar salad, which I was happy to learn came with bread. The French feel passionately about their cheese, apparently, because I still had nearly a half block’s worth of parmesan in the bottom of my bowl when I had finished. This was all a pretty adequate precursor to what it was like for me trying to eat in Paris.

Just around the corner from the café was the apartment building where Vincent Van Gogh lived with his brother Theo in the latter part of his life. That was cool enough to merit walking by.

I also dropped into Café de Deux Moulins so I could get a postcard to send back to my friends Josh and Deidre, who’d hosted a “French night” for me before I left, which included watching Amelie, a movie that largely took place in that particular café.

That isn’t the only place in Montmartre made famous by film. It is also the home of Moulin Rouge, where visitors can still take in a show.

After leaving Montmartre, I took the subway to the Arc de Triomphe, which is situated in the middle of – you guessed it! – a roundabout. This place is basically a death trap for tourists, because it’s not clear how one could possibly get to the middle where the Arc is without trying to run across four lanes of perpetually circling traffic. The answer, which I knew from scouting it online, is an underground tunnel that connects at two of the TWELVE intersections. So, I had to circle the Arc for a while before reaching a point of entry for the underground tunnel.

Unfortunately, the Arc was under construction or renovation or restoration or something that had left a bit of the view obstructed. Still, its intricate details had all of the tourists – this one included – craning our necks to look up as we walked underneath the arches.

Rather than circle the Arc back to the subway, I decided I’d just walk the two miles to the Eiffel Tower from there. I stopped along the way and re-upped my energy with some chocolate mousse and a nice waiter who responded to my request for water with ice by bringing me a glass, a repurposed wine bottle filled with water, and a bucket of ice. There wasn’t a drop of water or a cube of ice left when I was finished. The chocolate mousse was pretty good, too.

My walking path also took me by perhaps the saddest sight I saw across four countries. I really hope this lost bunny was eventually reunited with its person. Someone before me had hoisted him up here to get him off the dirty street. In a city of tourists, I had my doubts about his chances.

I approached the Eiffel Tower from the Trocodero by design, so that I could round a corner and have the tower come suddenly and gloriously into view. It was as breathtaking and magical as I’d ever dreamed it would be, and my expectations had been high. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it, so I have many, many copies of the same picture from the same angle, like nudging my camera over and over again with, “Are you seeing this, Camera? Look at that, Camera!”

Now I am going to enlighten you all about the single worst part of traveling alone. While I can never fail to find someone who can take my picture, people do not naturally take pictures well. I take it for granted because I got the photography gene from my Mom, and while I’ve never taken a class and am by no means a professional, I know how to frame a shot. The tourists that asked me to take their photos are having those pictures framed for the living room as we speak. I, however, am presenting you all with the following photo series: Awkward Tourist-Taken Photos of Me in Vague Proximity to the Eiffel Tower, Apparently, For Some Reason.

And here’s the big finish, wherein I make a *subtle* gesture to clue the photographer into the fact that I am not actually the most important thing in this picture.

As I was walking along the side of the fountains, taking the following set of pictures, a group of guys motioned to me to take a picture for them. So, I took their picture, and when I handed the camera back, each of them, in turn, asked me to be in a picture WITH them. I was pretty sure this was a ploy to pickpocket me or at least try something inappropriate, so I was prepared for either scenario, but neither took place. They all just seemed really, really excited to get a picture taken. I was fairly certain I didn’t have chocolate mousse on my face or anything terribly embarrassing like that, so maybe they were doing a scavenger hunt and needed a picture with an American girl. Frenchmen on the streets would say “I love you” as I walked past (not creepy at all, French dudes), but these guys were all Latino, so I don’t know what their deal was. In any case, that’s probably the strangest thing that happened on my trip. But back to the Eiffel Tower…

When I walked down underneath the Eiffel Tower, it had begun to drizzle rain a little bit. The sky still seemed pretty clear in spite of it, so I decided to go ahead and queue up for tickets to the top. There was a couple behind me with a little girl who was eating an ice cream cone and chattering away in English. I got tickled by something she said and that struck up a conversation in which I learned that they were from Maryland and had turned the father’s business trip into a family vacation. We continued to chat all the way through the line, which was probably almost 45 minutes by the time we neared the front. At that point, we spotted a scrolling marquee that said that the top observation deck was temporarily closed. We couldn’t figure out the reason, but thought it was possible that there was lightning somewhere nearby. The little girl declared, “But I want to go to the top!” Her parents very diplomatically said, “We may not be able to go to the top right now, but we’re going to go up as high as we can.” The 6-year-old (complete guess) accepted this much better than I did. I didn’t want to set a bad example, though, so only in my head did I say, “But if I can’t go to the top, then I’m not going!”

We were three people from the front of the line when the closure notice suddenly disappeared from the sign. I eavesdropped on the folks ahead of me and heard that the top was open again, but that “drenching” conditions were possible. I stepped up and bought my ticket to the top quickly before they could change their minds, and the Maryland family followed suit. We proceeded through security and went to get on the elevator to go up. The guy letting groups onto the elevator stopped me to wait for the next one, but my new friends piped up and said, “Wait! She’s with us!”

They were at the end of their trip, so they were able to point out several of the landmarks I’d be going to see in the next few days. Also, there was no “drenching” at the top at all. The rain (which had barely been noticeable in the first place) had stopped entirely.

The little girl told me that at 9:00pm, the lights on the Eiffel Tower were going to twinkle. Her parents confirmed that this occurred on the hour. That was about 20 minutes away, so I said farewell and headed back down so that I could walk out onto the Champ-de-Mars to see it when they flipped the switch and lit up the tower, and then also watch the twinkling light show when it got dark.

Once again, I took way too many pictures. I tinkered with these a bit.

After a while, I decided I should probably head for the subway, but I still turned around and took more pictures about every 10 feet that I walked. I encountered a family from California sitting on a blanket on the lawn and talked with them for about 15 minutes and one of them took a few pictures for me. Of course, I am just a dark shadow in front of the Eiffel Tower, but it’s really me, I promise.

I walked a bit farther and then had to turn around again to watch the spotlight.

I also found more Americans willing to take my photo, and this time I put on my goofy tourist hat.

My exhaustion was all but forgotten as I made my way back to the subway. I was nicely distracted by the splendor I’d just witnessed. Even Celine’s stairs weren’t too terribly daunting.

The next morning, Celine let me sleep in and I never heard a peep from her until she came back into the apartment from making a bakery breakfast run so I’d have some delicious croissants to eat. My throat was still sore from sinuses, so that was a nice excuse to have some tea with my croissant.

Celine translated the weather forecast from the radio for me, which predicted rain starting around midday and going throughout the afternoon. I figured I’d just set out along my planned route and adjust as needed. I had some indoor plans for the afternoon, anyway.

I started my day at the Panthéon, but its dome was covered for some kind of restoration, and that detracted quite a bit from the beauty of the place.

The trip was well worth it, though, when I saw what was behind the Panthéon. A gorgeous church: SaintÉtienne-du-Mont. It was spectacular inside and out.

I couldn’t choose between these two pictures, so you get both:

I walked through the Luxembourg Gardens around the palace and examined the sky for any sign of a rain cloud, but couldn’t find one. The weather was absolutely perfect, so I counted it a blessing and soaked up the sun.

My next stop was the Saint-Sulpice Church, which had a very photogenic courtyard.

Walking toward the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, I spied this store that made me laugh.

My walk also took me past Les Deux Magots, a café frequented by many notable historical figures like Simone de Beauvoir, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and others.

I read that it was important to eat macarons in Paris, so I stopped into the non-tourist location of the most famous place, Ladurée. I wasn’t really sure I’d like these, so I didn’t opt for the dozen that seemed to be the popular choice, and just chose two individual ones. I made a safe choice and an adventurous one and got the chocolate and the “Marie Antoinette.” I intended to eat lunch first at a nearby restaurant, but having looked over the menu on the board outside, I went ahead and dove into my dessert. So, these spent a few minutes in my purse before I thought to photograph them. I have no idea what the flavors were, but I did prefer the “Marie Antoinette.”

I passed by a brasserie that had some prepackaged meals in cases as well as people dining at tables. I jumped at the chance to peruse the offerings and then just point at the one I wanted. I took it to go and walked toward the river figuring I’d eat on a park bench. I kept thinking the blue skies and fluffy clouds that I’d been enjoying for hours beyond their supposed expiration date were going to suddenly race off and leave me in a downpour, so I thought I should keep enjoying the weather while it was on my side.

I found a nice spot to stop and eat my lunch and walked through all of the parks on the Right Bank with the sun still shining. I decided to let go of anticipating the rain and just proceed on with my day, so I hopped on the subway to get to Palais Garnier, renown as the setting for The Phantom of the Opera. The outside was nice, but the inside was absolutely stunning.

This room was my favorite.

I had some fun with the detail in this picture – I’ll let you observe the difference for yourself.

Doors off of that room led out onto this porch with its lovely columns.

I had an abundance of time, the weather was still content, and I didn’t feel wiped out, so after touring the opera house, I took the subway to the Hôtel des Invalides, which is a military museum and the burial site for several of France’s war heroes – most notably Napoleon Bonaparte. I didn’t tour it, but was content to just walk around outside of it.

My walk from Les Invalides to Musée d’Orsay took me by the Basilique Sainte-Clotilde, which was a gorgeous piece of neo-Gothic architecture. With as many churches as I actually planned to go see, it is a wonder that I was still able to stumble upon so many spectacular ones.

The line to get into Musée d’Orsay was monumental, but I got in it anyway. By the time I actually made it to the door, the rain clouds were moving in, so my museum stop was well timed. Photography wasn’t allowed around the art, but I adopted the mob mentality and decided it must be fine to take pictures of these gorgeous clocks.

I wouldn’t claim to be an art expert, but even with my limited knowledge, I have a soft spot for the Impressionists that line the halls of the Orsay museum. I surprised myself with my ability to guess artists correctly just based on their unique styles. (I have probably picked up quite a bit from Neal Caffrey without even realizing I was learning it.) It was an incredible feeling to stand right in front of paintings by Degas, Monet, Manet, Renoir, and so many others. There was a special exhibit on Van Gogh: The Man Suicided by Society, so some additional pieces of his art were on display as well.

I was inside the museum until it closed, and when I left, the sky was beginning to clear in the west, but I was walking with the rain, blue sky trying to catch up behind me. I was suddenly ravenous, but it was “only” 6pm, which isn’t time for dinner in Paris. In fact, it is time to starve, because none of the restaurants I passed could provide actual food. Some were closed entirely, but most just had some staff member lingering near the front to let all the potential customers like me know that we were crazy if we thought we were getting anything to eat before at least 7pm. This was very bad news for me, because if I’ve actually noticed I’m hungry, then I’m way past the point of negotiating on what time to eat. I want to eat NOW. (Next time I go to Paris, I will have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in my purse at all times.) I finally managed to find a place that was open, where I ordered a hot ham and cheese sandwich. Luckily, it came with fries and a salad, because that’s what I actually ate for dinner. The sandwich was bizarre. I assumed that since this place was open when nothing else was, the food must have been sub-par, but later learned that what I had was a popular French meal called a Croque Monsieur. I was expecting something like a Panini, but I got one slice of deli ham (not even good deli ham) in between two pieces of white bread (?!?) that had cheese toasted on the top – on the outside of the sandwich. I took one bite and the rest sat there.

At least I’d gotten something in my stomach while I dried out and so did the streets. So, I walked back to the river and crossed over the Pont des Arts, where couples commemorate their love by adding a lock on the sides of the bridge. There are so many locks now that they’re latched on top of each other and hanging off of the light poles.

The sun was beginning to make its descent, so I got a ticket to take a sunset cruise along the Seine via the Bateaux Mouches. While I waited for the next boat to arrive, I sat down on a bench on the dock and was shortly joined by two English women. They were chatting away and I was just sitting quietly, but a tour bus pulled up and a group of middle school students disembarked and were making their way toward us. One of the women said, “Oh, lovely. A bunch of children” in a tone that was dripping with sarcasm and disdain, and that attitude paired with the English accent was too much for me and I cracked up laughing. She smiled wryly and said, “I forget that some people can understand me.”

When the boat was ready to board, I picked a spot in a far back corner and succeeded in my quest for solitude briefly until some probably-college-aged kids decided that behind my seat was the prime place for their photo ops. They got bored eventually and went elsewhere, so I was able to tuck in along the edge of the boat to beat the cold wind and still pretend I was floating along in a boat made for one except when we’d pass under a bridge and all the aforementioned middle-schoolers would “Wooo!” to let their voices echo around them. I chose to find this an endearing bit of whimsy instead of an obnoxious display.

We passed by Musée d’Orsay with its clock windows peeking out on the river.

And then by Notre Dame, formidable against the darkening sky.

The end of our journey took us beyond where we’d started for a night view of the Eiffel Tower.

I was taken by it once again and decided to stop by there on my way back to Celine’s to catch the 10pm “sparkling.”

Wednesday was my last full day in Paris, and therefore the last full day of my grand European adventure. I was utterly exhausted and still hadn’t bounced back from my sinus woes, but I could do nothing other than seize the day. I got a little inspiration from this poster in the subway station.

I first walked to Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, built by Henri IV beginning in 1605. The house fronts surrounding the square were designed to match one another, adding to the perfect symmetry of the truly-square plaza.

As I was walking out, this artwork painted onto the stone caught my eye because it was in English.

My walking pace had slowed to meandering, but it was a nice day for it. I didn’t have a lot of ground to cover, so I actually needed to “waste” some time. Exploring the islands was first up on my plan, so I made my way to Île Saint-Louis and walked right down the center road that runs from one side of the island to the other. I spotted a church, where of course I stopped. It was the Paroisse Saint Louis en l’Ile, and it wasn’t much to look at from the outside, but it had a gorgeous interior.

At the island’s tip, I stopped for breakfast at Le Flore en l’ile, where I took an outdoor table and watched cyclists, tourists, and locals going back and forth over the Pont Saint-Louis to Île de la Cité, where Notre Dame is located. I ordered an omelette which came with French fries and a salad. I would be fine with breakfast always being accompanied by these sides.

After breakfast, I got some macarons to squirrel away in my purse for a snack later and then joined the throng of tourists bound for Notre Dame. There was a long line to get inside (unlike the many other churches where I’d slipped in and out unnoticed but for a few other quiet patrons), but the line moved quickly as the mobs of people were merely herding in the door, circling the building in a U, and exiting on the other side of the cathedral. I found this a bit off-putting, especially when I got inside and found there was a service going on amidst the constant hum of not entirely respectful tourists. My eyebrows nearly raised off of my face when I headed toward the exit and saw a line of those vending machines that flatten pennies (or their Euro equivalent, presumably) into tourist trinkets. These oddities aside, Notre Dame is indeed quite beautiful.

I crossed a bridge from the island back over to the left bank of the Seine and continued my church tour by visiting Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, the only remaining 12th-century parish church in Paris, and the Église Saint-Séverin, which featured an odd combination of traditional stained glass and then several rather ostentatious windows that didn’t fit the style at all. I was so perplexed that I had to look it up and discovered that those seven windows were added in 1970 – a modern artistic interpretation of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church, done by Jean René Bazaine.

 

Following my map, I walked in search of my next “church,” and didn’t put together until I was standing in front of it that I wasn’t looking for a church at all. Rather, the Fontaine Saint-Michel was a fountain (you get it now, don’t you?) built during the reconstruction to fill the space left by the addition of a large new boulevard and to hide the less aesthetically-pleasing building behind it.

From there, I crossed back over to the Île de la Cité to see another church – Saint Chapelle – at the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie, a former prison and most notably the place where Marie Antoinette spent her last days, is itself available to tour, but my level of interest was low compared to my willingness to walk around a sad building for hours thinking about famously guillotined folks.

Instead, I skipped straight to the line for Saint Chapelle, which was a TWO HOUR endeavor. If I hadn’t heard the place was magnificent, there is no way I’d have stuck around for that. They had one person selling tickets – presumably very, very slowly – so I was exasperated when I finally got inside and saw this room:

Nothing against it, but seeing as one side of the room was basically a gift shop, I could not believe that people had lined up for hours and paid an admission to see only this. Finally, I spotted a spiral staircase through a small opening in the corner of the room and climbed several dizzying levels up to discover what all the fuss was about. There was only enough wall as was absolutely necessary to support the towering stained glass windows, so looking up gave the impression of being engulfed by colorful glass. The sun was bright outside, which helped to illuminate the windows even more.

These were fun photos to ply with effects, too.

When I walked back outside again, I knew what to look for and finally took notice of what those windows looked like from the outside of the building.

Crossing back to the right bank, I saw a gorgeous building peeking up over the trees and walked in its general direction to see what it was. When I got there, I realized it wasn’t part of a larger building at all, but was just a free-standing tower. At that point, I pulled out my map and realized that it was Tour Saint-Jacques, and I had intended to visit it all along. I learned that it had been a church in the 16th century, but all except the tower had been leveled after the French Revolution.

I had seen everything I knew to see and had several hours remaining before Celine was going to meet me to tour Le Louvre. Therefore, I stopped in another café that had food in cases so I could do the point-and-smile ordering system, so I got a sandwich on a baguette, which came with my choice of a pastry. I saw two pastries that I thought looked good, but I wasn’t sure what was in either of them, and my lack of French met by the staff’s lack of English meant I was never going to find out. So, I decided to get them both. I found a table by the window and it felt good to sit down and drink some water. Shortly, my sandwich arrived, and to my surprise, it was about a foot long. Granted, it wasn’t very wide, but it looked like a terrifying lot of sandwich next to the two additional plates that held my pastry purchases, both roughly half the size of my head. I was immediately self-conscious about how American I looked with all of these plates of food in front of only me. The feeling was quickly reinforced by an elderly couple who were sitting two tables away. The man had his back to me, but the woman tugged on his sleeve and pointed at my table, eyes wide with astonishment (see: judgment), as if she thought that because I didn’t speak French, her body language would also go over my head. At her urging, the man turned around to look as well, but didn’t seem as interested as his wife, who continued to stare. She was only deterred when I waved at her, which seemed to finally clue her in to the fact that I was witnessing the whole scene. As it would happen, I didn’t like either of the pastries, so one bite of each was all that ever went missing. The other half of my sandwich that I thought would be saved for later ended up serving as my dessert. (The macarons, if you wondered, never made it out of that long line at Saint Chappelle.)

I walked back along the river toward the Louvre, and paused every so often to lean on the wall and watch the boats passing back and forth. When I got close to the Louvre, I saw yet another church, Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, so I went to check it out as well. The architecture is a hodge podge of styles, having been rebuilt a number of times through the centuries. Its bell tolled on the night of August 23, 1572, marking the beginning of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre against the Huguenots.

After sitting in the church for a while, I still had two hours until Celine arrived, so I spent most of that walking around the plaza at the Louvre, featuring the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, and exploring the edges of the Tuileries Garden, where I got an ice cream cone and laid down in the grass to “rest my eyes” (and my feet, and everything else) for a while.

The Louvre was not terribly easy to navigate, even with the map, because you couldn’t see everything on one floor without going down a floor, walking to a different area, and then walking back up to the same floor in a different “wing” of the building. Luckily, Celine was more motivated to get to all of the sections, so I was happy to let her lead the way, and I only chimed in periodically when there was a painting I wanted to find.

Some of the rooms inside the Louvre were works of art on their own, which is usually the primary thing I look for in museums of any kind.

Of course, I went to see the Mona Lisa (because you just have to), and it seems like 90% of the people in the museum were in that room, hovered around her. It was neat to see the originals of some famous paintings that are so prevalent that everyone has seem them even if they don’t know that they have, like The Turkish Bath or The Cheater.

Perhaps even more than seeing such famous paintings, my real takeaway from the Louvre were the numerous times that I found myself standing in front of a painting, reading Raphael or Michelangelo or Leonardo da Vinci on the plaque beside it, and then trailing back to the painting, and back to the plaque, mesmerized by the idea that I was standing next to a painting actually done by the hand of someone with such renown. It was my White Collar “the last person to mix these paints… was Picasso” moment.

Other than that, I mostly just cracked jokes about how apparently none of the women ever wore any clothes to go anywhere, and entertained myself with ancient paintings that resemble people today. My favorite two were…

Noah Gundersen

 27-og

…and Paul Bettany

pbet4

Uncanny, right?

Speaking of look-alikes, I would have forgotten all about this one if we hadn’t strolled by it on our way out of the Louvre. It’s the inverse pyramid, which has entertained many tourists posing like this guy:

We had some farewell photo ops in the courtyard before heading in search of dinner, where you better believe I sat there like a kept woman and let Celine do all the ordering for me. I didn’t have to point awkwardly at anything!

It was somewhat early (by comparison to the two preceding nights) when we got back to Celine’s, so we sat up chatting while I dumped everything out of my suitcase and carefully repacked it for the journey home. We also ordered a taxi to pick me up the next morning, because I just did not have it in me to drag my suitcase (and myself) to the airport on the subway.

Luckily, the journey back to the U.S. was a breeze compared to the horror of the flight out, and I was extremely grateful that, when I landed in D.C., Adam was there to pick me up, so I didn’t have to worry about driving anywhere. I was tired, but got a second wind when we got back to Richmond and I started to tell Tracey about my trip. I actually stayed up until about 11pm, at which point it was 5am the next day in Paris.

I thought I did a pretty stellar job of getting back on Eastern Standard Time after my trip abroad. Apparently, it really just takes a while for the jet lag to catch up. Now that I’ve been home for over a month, I am exhausted… all the time. That darn jet lag finally got me.

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