Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Paris Part Deux.

That's part two for my French-impaired friends. That's also about all I've got in my French language skills bag. Does anyone's phone autocorrect random plural words to end in 'z' instead of 's'? It tried to make me say skillz. My phone is trying to make me sound cooler than I am.

Unconsciously, this post is exactly the second day of my quick trip to Paris with Zach. You can check up on the first day over here. This post was supposed to happen about a week and a half ago, but, you know, it didn't, so here we are now. We started the day at a much easier pace than the usual breakneck speed that I like to explore new cities with. I'm a joy to travel with. Part of it was that we had an awkward mid-morning free walking tour that we wanted to attend, and the other part was that the night before, we had slept four hours in order to make our killer early flight. I was excited because a slower morning meant I could eat more croissants. I'm all about the French patisseries. 

Zach and I joined up on another free walking tour in Paris. We did one in London and loved it. It's a three-hour walking tour over the highlights of the city, filled with history, fun facts, and local tips on where to go. Remember to bring cash to tip, because that's how the tours run. We started with a walk up the Siene River, which was picturesque. I've started to become obsessed with architecture, I've noticed, and particularly rooftops. I'm becoming my father.  I love how the Paris buildings have a definite attitude about them, but the roofs are wonky with antennas shooting all over and chimneys stacked at different heights. All of the form that went into a perfectly symmetrical three stories is topped with a unique piece of charm. 

We also learned about Pont Neuf, a bridge that could be considered the original Facebook. It's the oldest standing bridge across the river. Henry III commissioned its building in the late 1500s after realizing that the state of the bridges in Paris left much to be desired. Many were wood, had house built on them, off them, and any which way, left little room for actual crossing, and were liable to fall at any time. In fact, one did fall and killed many of the people living on it, shocking everyone. So Henry said, I got this. I'll build a bridge. Though I suspect it was more eloquent than that. So he built a real sturdy bridge made of stone and was very proud of himself. No one would cross it. They were too scared and just weren't feeling a stone bridge. I sorta get it. If a wood bridge fell, then a stone bridge would definitely sink. So Henry did what everyone does when they want to get their way - they get everyone drunk and then ask the question. Henry opened his royal wine cellars or wherever he was keeping all the booze, invited tons of his friends, and got them all good and smashed. He then paraded them across the bridge and had an artist there to paint the partygoers as they did so. If that isn't Facebook, I don't know what is. Henry went one step further though. He then had his stone carvers carve the faces of each of the partygoers and stuck them on the side of the bridge. Now he was able to say, "Come on, come all! These people crossed the bridge, and so should you!" Or something like that. 

We stopped by the love lock bridge, which is covered in locks transcribed with the names of couples. I forgot a lock. Worst gf ever.

We ambled through the city to the Jardin des Tuileries, or the Tuileries Garden. The garden epitomizes French landscaping - symmetrical, manicured gardens oozing with an OCD-level of control. The garden was the project of Catherine de Medicis after the death of her husband, King Henry II. Catherine was an interesting woman; she was responsible for the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in the midst of religious turmoil, but is also credited with being the first woman to wear a high heel. Can you see the Arc de Triomphe lurking in the background?

The misty, rainy day doesn't help, but here it is! Napoleon commissioned this as a memorial to his greatness, but never lived to see it in completion. That's a shame, really, because this has been recreated all over the world, from Wellington's Arch in London to a version in Washington Square Park, New York. I love walking up the Champs-Elysees to this past all the high-end shops intermingled with patisseries (aka croissants).

After that, Zach and I hit up the Louvre for a quick run through the highlights. We also had some time to rush through the Napoleon apartments (because the Louvre was once a royal palace), which were awesome and extravagant, and tucked away in a wing that I never would have gotten to without our free walking tour guide suggesting. They win again.

After that, and pushing our bus departure time, we rushed to see Notre Dame up close. It was raining, it was miserable, but still so gorgeous. The rain also make a cool bokeh effect without any effort on my part. True artistry.

All in all, we maybe needed one more day in Paris (we just took two). I didn't get my fill of croissants or fresh baguettes, which is really a shame because they honestly don't taste the same outside of Paris. I think it's like New York style pizza and NYC - there's literally something in the water. 
Linking up with Helene and some awesome travel stories today - check them out and escape the Tuesday :)

Helene in Between

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