Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Weekend Trip #5: Paris

This weekend I took my last weekend trip to Paris. While packing, I prepared by watching my favorite movie centered around Paris, Moulin Rouge. I went directly with 4 other people, but there were 10 of us total in the same hostel. The flight was about 2 hours, and it was night time when we first got there. Our hostel wasn't far from the Moulin Rouge itself, so we spent the evening walking around a bit. Call me naive, or biased because of Ewan McGregor's smooth crooning in Moulin Rouge, but I thought the area was going to be way classier than it was. I'm not going to lie, the Moulin Rouge was a little trashier than I was expecting.
However, it was still fun to walk around the neighborhood, which was very lively. The first thing that struck me was how colorful Paris is. There are so many fluorescent lights, which Rome completely lacks. The chairs outside restaurants were all different colors, the metro stops were each brightly colored, and the buildings were painted differently. I made some French friends and some British friends that were making fun of my hiccups. The French people only laughed and hiccuped back at me, but the British man told me my hiccups were "exceptional." Thank you, sir!
We got up early the next morning and first went to the Louvre. The building itself is really beautiful, even more so with a stormy sky behind it. As a fine arts major this may be considered a sin, but I didn't want to stay in the Louvre for very long. The museum is enormous. Someone in our hostel told us they "saw some of it pretty quickly in about 6 hours." Looking at that much art all at once 1) makes you sick and 2) makes you forget everything you saw. I had never been to Paris before, so I wanted to see more things and experience the city rather than staying in one building for an entire day. Some day when I'm particularly interested in certain pieces in the Louvre, I will go back to Paris and study them. Don't think you got rid of me just yet, Paris--I'll be back sometime. So anyway, I basically went to the Louvre just to say I've been there. Sue me. I saw some Renaissance art, some Mantegnas which were interesting to me right now because I've been studying that period in my art history class. I saw the Mona Lisa in person, which really isn't interesting to me right now (not that I don't hold Leonardo in the highest regard, but the Mona Lisa, to me, has more cultural significance than visual significance. Leonardo da Vinci was a genius, and the Mona Lisa helped modernize portraits of women in the time period. But he's done more impressive paintings, drawings, inventions, sketches, etc... which make Mona Lisa overrated to me.) I also saw some awesome statues, such as the Nike statue and a beautiful wooden Madonna and Michelangelo's Slaves and a veiled lady.

It was actually a very powerful building to be in. There's SO much art and history in there, much of which is incredibly monumental. My heart was beating while I was inside. Afterwards we set off for some churches. We saw Place Sainte Germain des Prés, which was a little underwhelming but it was undergoing some renovations. It did have beautiful stained glass though.

Then we saw Notre Dame, which was really beautiful!

It had this lush manger scene inside, as well as this intricate round stained glass window. Rome is mostly dominated by ancient architecture and decorations, and Renaissance architecture and decorations (which is a revival of ancient styles anyway). The Gothic architecture in Paris is so different from what I've become used to in Rome. The stained glass is a welcome improvement, in my opinion. I love the color and delicacy it adds to churches. The fan vaults are exciting, as are the added details in the facades. We saw all this again in Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel I remember seeing in my freshman year art history books. Picture don't do it justice, but it was actually breathtaking. 

After this we hiked up the Eiffel Tower. I told everyone I was pretty used to it because we have an Eiffel Tower at King's Island. (Just kidding. But it really does look the same, only a bit bigger and with a way better view). It was 704 steps to the 2nd platform (the smaller one towards the middle), from which we had to take an elevator to the very top. We were in line while the sun was setting, so we got to see the tower transform from day to night. We also got to see a nice sunset from the first platform (the big one near the bottom). From the top we could see all the colors of the city, as well as the Louvre, the river, and lots of other things I probably couldn't identify.

Although it was chillier in Paris than it has been in Rome, we didn't realize how nice the weather had been the first day until it was rainy and really cold the second day. 
We saved only the best activities (a ferris wheel ride and shopping around at the outdoor Christmas markets all day) for the day with bad weather. The ferris wheel was pretty fun, and gave us a nice view of the city by day. 
The Christmas markets were located all the way down Champs Elyssee, a fancy shopping street. We walked up and down, ate crepes, bought hats and gloves (it was freezing!), sampled cheeses and tea, and bought Christmas presents. We passed the location of a new Banana Republic opening December 8th on Champs Elyssee! I peeked inside and it looked super fancy.
At the end of the street is the Arc de Triomphe, which we walked around to look at. It's big and all, but too modern to be as cool as the arches in Rome. We stumbled upon a little restaurant (that turned out to be giant inside) that looked like a Christmas cabin from the outside. The porch was decorated with wood and spoons and christmas lights. The inside looked like a fancy garden party, also decorated with silver spoons everywhere! I had the most delicious, belly-warming meal of mashed potatoes and carrots, a pork chop, and brussel sprouts. Paris is nice because it gives you free water. Actually, everywhere except Rome seems to give you free water, which is ironic because Rome HAS free water in fountains every 5 minutes on the streets. I'm paying 3 euro for a bottle of water in a Roman restaurant while staring at the free-flowing drinking fountain outside the restaurant window.

That night all 10 of us went out to dinner at a fondue restaurant that got half of us sick. Unfortunately, we had to be out of the hostel early the next day, which made for a pretty bad Sunday. I kind of saw the Pére Lachaise Cemetery, which has the tombs of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison in it. We didn't quite make it all the way to those tombs before we were too exhausted to keep walking. However, the cemetery was really beautiful and would have been better enjoyed in more ideal circumstances! Then my friends did some souvenir shopping while I sat on the street trying not to let my food poisoning get the best of me.
We hiked up another hundred stairs to Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart), another beautiful church on top of a hill. Then I got dropped off at the hostel so I could sleep in a lobby chair until we had to go to the airport (which I ended up being at for hours and hours because they wouldn't let me on the plane. Then I had to fly home by myself and didn't get to bed for another 12 hours. I had to recover from this before I could bring myself to write anything good about Paris.)
What I found about Paris was that it's easier to love than Rome. Paris is fashionable and up-to-date. The metros are convenient and modern; the architecture is absolutely beautiful; the shopping is posh; the products are international. Paris has Starbucks and romantic towers and famous stained glass and five story Louis Vuittons. It's clean and big and colorful and fun. Paris is asking you to love it, and it's easy to say yes. Rome, on the other hand, has architecture that only appeals to certain tastes. It doesn't have international products or restaurants, save a few things. Its metro system is extremely limited. Rome isn't asking you to love it. Rome is just being itself, and accepting whoever happens to fall in love with it anyway. Paris is fun, but Rome is more genuine, which makes me love it so much more.


  1. Hey Lisa,
    It's your old Latin teacher here. I have been enjoying your blog (please don't think I'm a stalker), and this post was really great. So sorry about the bad fondue. I love what you wrote about Paris (we love it so much), but your comparison to Rome at the end was even better. Enjoy these days abroad!
    Mrs. Wilkey

  2. Hi Mrs. Wilkey!
    I'm so glad you found my blog. I get excited to hear that anyone actually reads it.

    Hope you're doing well!