à bientôt, paris! (pt. 2)

So day one – Eiffel tower, bridge over the Seine, Arc de Triomphe… great. LPQ lunch… meh. I’ve done better.

We decided to start our day by shopping in the little food mart by our apartment, packing a picnic brunch, and eating in the Jardin des Tuileries, right by the Louvre. And it won’t be Paris without cheese that smells god awful, right? I mean seriously. I couldn’t have eaten this in any other context, haha. The baguette was delicious though, and the people watching was top notch.

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The garden itself is gorgeous. There are lots of places to relax in the shade, there was a giant ferris wheel and carnival just north of the garden, and the flowers were postcard perfect.

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 Because you can spend a whole week in the Louvre and not see everything, we decided not to tempt ourselves and stepped away from the pretty glass pyramid. True story, some lady from deep-south US of A tried to read me the riot act for taking a picture before her kids. Really I was waiting patiently in line (yes, there’s a line to do this) and had let someone go ahead of me, and she thought it was a new line, yada yada yada. Her friend told her to sit down and hush up. American stereotypes scare me because sometimes they’re so truuuuuuue. Myself included, but still.

it felt as ridiculous as it looks

it felt as ridiculous as it looks

Next – LA BASTILLE. This has literally no people visiting it, which I don’t understand at all. Storm the Bastille? Declaration of the Rights of… oh never mind. More Paris-for-two!

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And then Place des Vosges for an ice cream break. Look at all the people here too!

PdV isn’t traditionally on the tourism radar, as far as I know, but there were lots of sweet little cafés there and a garden where people brought their kids to run around and eat. I’d go back there for lunch. We had an ice cream and shopping break, of course. Afterwards we made the decision to split up to visit museums that fit with our artistic tastes. To Museé d’Orsay! (What can I say, I’m a traditionalist.)

On the way I walked over the bridge where everyone and their lover locks a padlock as a symbol of their undying lurve. You toss the key in the Seine so there are no take backs.

Teeeechnically speaking there is no photo taking in Orsay, however I had a lovely gentleman that worked there give me the scoop. I was there within an hour of closing (oops), so I get a discounted ticket (awesome). Start at the top, all the impressionist pieces are up there (awesome). They’re going to start closing down from the top down (oops), so you can see everything on your way back down, when most people are already gone (awesome). The awesome wins. And no people meant two sneaky photos! The one from behind the clock on the top floor is one of my favorites from the whole trip.

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The second one was on my phone so the quality is questionable but it was like a fairy tale. After the museum I tried to vain to find La Durée, maison de macarons. I was told not to leave before eating their macaroons, but guess what, they need to make it easier to find because I left without eating their macaroons. I asked for directions a few times but alas. No luck.

I met up with my lovely aunt and cousin and their friends who just-so-happened to be on a Paris trip of their own! They took me out for delicious dinner and due to a sad phone mishap I wasn’t able to reconnect with FP and get back to my apartment. Or apparently take any pictures. I felt terrible but luckily we both made it to our respective homes safely and I topped up my dumb phone. I met her with a chocolate croissant the next day to make up for it.

We decided to never go splitsies again, and spent our last day wandering Montmartre and visiting the Basilica de Sacré Coeur. Montmartre was beautiful, I loved the atmosphere and the houses. We found a boat load of tourists here though, no more personalized Paris.

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Also, warning, it’s a HILL. Like, not the best thing to do on your last day when you have to, oh, carry all your baggage that you brought with you. I loved loved loved the basilica. It was also packed with visitors, and it was the kind of situation where people were getting elbowy to get in. It’s like, people. Church. What are you doing.

But look at how cool the effect is of the old gray stone church against the summer in Montmartre surroundings! It reminds of the Wizard of Oz, when things clearly go from black and white to colorful.

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We saw the Lapin Agile, a famous cabaret where Picasso used to hang. Can someone please explain to me why on EARTH Eeyore was waiting in the garden? I thought he was going to pounce or scare someone or something. He didn’t even notice me taking pictures he was so focused on his hiding.

We ended our trip with souvenir shopping (I collect postcards!) and having a charcuterie plate near the metro.

Yesterday I mentioned how awesome iDBus was for helping me get into and out of Paris? Well that’s partly because our food was so late we had to take it with us, and we had to wait for the metro to get to the far corner of the (remember, huge-normous) city, and when we finally made it to Bercy we had to RUN to the bus. It was legit packed up and nearly pulling away, but they stopped and loaded us on. Merci!! We would have had to sit in the bus station for four hours and get home to Brussels after their metro was working. So I love ’em a little.

Here’s a random assortment of other favorites from our last few hours in the city of lights. Paris, you’re trop cool for me, but je t’aime just the same.

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This whole trip could never have been organized on my own, and thank you to every little thing and person that made it possible! There are lots of things I still need to see (Moulin Rouge! Louvre! Notre Dame! those dang macaroons!)… til next time.

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bonjour, paris (pt. 1)

A couple months ago now, I posted on my blog about all the things I was/am grateful for. One of them was a surprise pair of tickets to Paris courtesy of CheeseWeb, a blog for English speaking expats living in Belgium, and iDbus. Besides the fact that they were making a nine-year dream come true, they were extremely courteous and gracious in every way… so thank you for all your help getting me to France! (And getting me back out…)

Thursday, August 15th

In addition to the miracle of free bus tickets, the friend I invited to come with me (Hi, FP!) had a friend-of-a-friend with an apartment in Paris with extra space for those days. (Thank you too, Anca!) We climbed on the bus at Garde du Midi and landed a few hours later by Bercy. It took us a hot minute to figure out the metro – I was completely unprepared for just how massive that city is. I mean really huge-normous.

After stopping off at the apartment to drop off our backpacks, we decided to waste no time and headed right for the Eiffel Tower. It felt like she became the third travel companion, she kept popping up whenever we least expected it since you can see her from pretty much everywhere on the west half of the city. Of course, a photo shoot ensued.

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We wandered around for awhile, looking for a cafe for lunch. What we didn’t realize was that we showed up on a bank holiday, which means that evvvverything local is pretty much closed. We were a bit annoyed we had to go with Le Pain Quotidien (I could eat this in the US, boo), but we were very happily surprised that each country approaches LPQ differently. So our food was far better than expected, and the waitresses were very excited to hear they had edged out NYC for food quality and presentation, haha.

After lunch we hopped back on the metro and tried to see as many touristy things as possible before it got dark.

The metro signs themselves were heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. You can tell how old they are by how simple the signpost is. The one on the left, above, came before WWII, because it still has a hint of the 1920s artistic influence and it has a lamp post attached. The newer ones just have an M, or Metro with a blue circle. The oldest posts were all kinds of fancy (on the right), but a lot of them have been replaced over the years.

Next up was the Arc de Triomphe. It was actually a pretty good idea to visit all the big, don’t-have-to-worry-about-it-being-closed sites on the bank holiday, it wasn’t even a little crowded. Unless you’re talking about Champs Élysees, which had so many people I couldn’t stay longer than ten minutes, and I couldn’t afford to even walk in half of the stores. Not worth my time.

Our fourth travel companion became the Seine. We took a lot of pictures of her, too. 🙂 (Égalité means equality.)

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But the best part of the day was the end, when we met up with a friend of FP’s who lives in the city (Hi Max!). We went all the way to the other side of Paris, near the library, where lots of people our age hang out on a bridge that goes over the Seine. There are lots of restaurants and bars lining the river, and people just bring their food and wine up to the bridge to share with new friends they make on the way. It was seriously adorable. I loved the wine I had so much I brought some home for my boyfriend for a Paris souvenir. That day someone had set up a projector and they were all watching a tv show (I think Breaking Bad, haha).

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Side note, I found this hilarious. Apparently the architects responsible for the National Library of France didn’t really design the four buildings (meant to look like four open books facing each other) for actual… books. The glass outside was all wrong for its contents because books kept catching on fire when the sun was strong. What! So now the windows have something behind them to block out the sun, and the library has lost its beautiful view of the city. Wompwomp.

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A couple other random parting shots for you, then I’ll save the second day for a new post… that won’t take two months I hope. 🙂