This was taken in June 2011, when Nate and I visited Paris. As a French teacher, it was super-important to me that my husband love the city of Paris as much as I do. This was my third trip there and totally different, the first having been on a study-abroad summer after sophomore year of college and the second in 2000 with my parents.
Seeing Paris with the love of my life was incredible. We must have walked ten miles that first day in the city, shunning the metro in favor of taking a promenade everywhere. Staying at an adorable little bed-and-breakfast near the Centre Pompidou, we had an amazingly central jumping-off point for sightseeing.
“All of Paris is like a museum.”
Nate absolutely loved walking the city. He often would comment on the way you can look up no matter where you are and see gorgeous architecture and art within the buildings of the city itself. The Eiffel Tower is visible from pretty much everywhere because the rest of the buildings are typically only six floors and it literally towers above them.
Getting off to a fairly late start after sleeping off the jet lag and enjoying a leisurely breakfast of fresh croissants, yogurt, fruit, and coffee, we set out to explore the City of Lights. We spent a total of six hours browsing the masterpieces of the Louvre and also managed to check out Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and enjoy everything else along the way. An absolutely exhausting day, the kind of tired where you keep moving on to another activity and then another, and your energy keeps reviving as if by magic until at last you can’t take another step and you collapse into bed.
Musée du Louvre
We saw tourists attempting to cut ahead in line outside the Louvre’s great glass pyramid (fairly pointless given that wait time was only about 15-20 minutes). We followed the stream of visitors to the Mona Lisa. Didn’t get very close to it since we didn’t care to push in front of the swarms of schoolchildren and other visitors, but you have to at least see it.
It’s ridiculous when I recall that when my parents and I were at the Louvre, we searched and searched and could not find the Mona Lisa for the life of us. This time, she practically slapped us in the face as we walked through the entrance, she was so easy to find. She is, to most visitors, surprisingly small, and so might be disappointing to those who have built her up in their minds.
I made sure to show Nate two of my favorite works, Winged Victory of Samothrace and Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa.
I am neither an artist nor an art critic. I simply enjoy art. I drink it in and appreciate the way it can make me feel. I enjoy the historical significance of artistic works. I admire painters and sculptors for their creativity and skill, which I do not possess in the same manner. So Nate and I, as we explored the halls of the former royal palace that is the Louvre, simply looked at what we wanted to see.
l’Arc de Triomphe
We pressed on to Napoleon’s triumphal arch, following the Champs-Élysées and picking up a delicious crêpe with Nutella from a street vendor along the way. A few light sprinkles came down for a little while, but they didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for this amazing city. The wind and rain subsided by the time we were ready to leave the arch, so we figured, why not walk a bit more to the Eiffel Tower?
La Tour Eiffel
The iconic symbol of Paris and of France itself, the Eiffel Tower was of course a must-see. Nate and I zipped along the streets, watching it loom ever larger on the horizon. Opting not to purchase tickets to ride up to any of the elevator levels, we took a quick look around the tower’s base, craning our necks back to gaze up at the top.
Twilight was coming, and we continued to toss backwards glances at Gustave Eiffel’s iron creation as we walked back toward our lodging. The semi-stormy weather combined with sunset colors made for some gorgeous views.
La Cathédrale de Notre-Dame
Here’s the restaurant where we stopped for dinner after the Eiffel Tower. Yep, we took pictures of our food. Mine was a croque-monsieur, basically an open-faced ham-and-cheese sandwich–they’re to die for! Nate loved and raved about every single meal we had in France. Whether we were eating a street vendor’s wares or in a real restaurant or a hole-in-the-wall bar, the food was incredible. I’m pretty sure that even if he had not had the least bit of interest in museums or monuments or culture, he would have been sold on Paris by the food alone.
One last thing to fit into our day: the home of the hunchback and the gargoyles. Notre-Dame was merely a few blocks from our hotel, so we swung by on our way back home. We are not great photographers, but still enjoyed the photo op.
Had we started our day expecting to do all of this, we might have been disappointed if it hadn’t worked out that way. We just had to take advantage of the extra energy we’d been given. We set out to tour the Louvre and ended up not only doing that, but getting an awesome tour of some of the greatest highlights of Paris.