Thursday, October 29, 2009

Paris: The Good, The Bad, and the Smelly

Okay...the laundry is done. The mail is read/filed/recycled. On to the Paris recap!

First, the Good Stuff (and with Paris, you know "the good stuff" is REALLY good!):

My hotel was across the street from not one, but TWO chocolate shops. I didn't know this when I booked the room, so talk about a pleasant surprise! Needless to say, I popped right on over, taste-tested--yum!--and left with a sizeable bag of goodies:

After that, we made a beeline for the Eiffel Tower. The line was so long--over a three-hour wait--that we decided to try another day. We crossed the Seine to the Orangerie, a fabulous little museum containing Monet's famous water lillies. The eight large paintings go all the way around two oval-shaped rooms that are otherwise white. I wish I had photos, but I was too afraid of screwing up, accidentally having the flash go off on my camera, and being escorted out and/or arrested on my first day in town. (As you might guess, no flash photos of Monet's masterpieces are allowed, and with good reason!)

"Stunning" would be an understatement when used to describe the water lillies. I could've remained parked on the benches in the middle of those two rooms for an entire day, staring at the layers in those eight paintings. (The husband, however, was done faster than that.) If you have the chance to go to Paris, do not miss the Orangerie.

Other good things?

1) People watching at the Trocadero (best done at lunch, panini in hand) or under the dome at the Galleries Lafayette department store:

2) Music in the Metro. I've always loved going on the Metro in Paris for this reason. You never know when you'll turn a corner and hear a cello or a steel-drum band, or find yourself sitting across the tracks from a guy with his harmonica and guitar:

3) The views. (Okay, Views. They're so good in Paris they should be capitalized.) First, the indoor views. I have lots of shots of Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, and other cathedrals. But my fave is tiny Sainte Chapelle:

Being inside Sainte Chapelle gives you the sense you're walking around inside in a glass jewel box. Surreal.

And I love looking up at the Louvre from inside its glass pyramid:

Then there's what you see when you're outdoors. For instance, from the top of the Arc de Triomphe at night:

Or alongside the gargoyles atop Notre Dame:

Of course, those views are where the Bad Stuff of Paris comes in. There are a LOT of stairs! Over four hundred to get to that perch atop Notre Dame. And this was the staircase at the Arc de Triomphe. (No, it's not just the photo, you CANNOT see the bottom when you look down!):

Though maybe stairs are a GOOD thing, since they help balance out the accumulated chocolate shop, crepe stand, and bakery excesses?

Finally, I must mention the Smelly. If you're in Paris, hold your nose and take the Sewer Tour. It takes less than an hour, and you'll learn more than you ever thought possible about the history of Paris sanitation (trust me, it's more interesting than it sounds.) We climbed down into the sewers near the Pont de l'Alma to see how the system works now, and learned about what Parisians did with their--stuff--way back in the Middle Ages, then through King Louis XIV's time and Napoleon's. Believe it or not, we found it fascinating (though vile.) Fun observation: There were a ton of kids and teenagers taking the tour. I got the sense most of them liked it more than the museums.

So...what would you tour if you had the chance to visit Paris? Or if you've been there, what was your fave part? What didn't you like? Comment away!


Maureen Child said...

Great pics, Nic! My daughter and I took a 'chick trip' to Paris and had a great week! My favorite part was the Rodin museum...and sitting in the park with a bottle of wine and panninis waiting for the Eiffel tower to light up!

What a great place.....

Nicole Burnham said...

The park near the Eiffel Tower (Champs de Mars) and Trocadero are BEST places to park with food and people-watch, even at night. Sounds like you hit it at the right time!

We missed the Rodin museum (this time!) but I'm hoping to hit it on the next trip, whenever that may be.