Where to start with Paris? The "City of Lights" is romantic, sprawling, dirty, historic, bustling, energetic and fashionable. Paris has so much to offer, not just in the city center.
This week we went to many of Paris' iconic monuments and museums, as well as a few sites outside of the city. I had been to Paris once before, but this visit gave me a more in-depth look of the city and its people.
We visited the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, which were both fantastic but extremely crowded. At the Tower we walked up the stairs to the second floor and took the elevator to the top, where we were greeted with a fantastic view of Paris.
I didn't realize how big the city was until I went to the Tower. Paris stretches to the horizon in every direction. Looking out over Paris almost 1,000 feet off the ground I felt strangely alone, even though I was surrounded with jostling tourists. It was very peaceful and oddly a great place to think.
The Louvre, on the other hand, was packed in an obnoxious sort of way, and I was in the mood for some peace and quiet. There's a small wing with art from Africa and the Americas that was unique and interesting, especially compared to the endless portraits of European nobles and religious subjects. One African sculpture even had a human skull in the place of a carved face. I also enjoyed the courtyards in the Richelieu wing, which are full of sculptures and trees under a glass roof. It was a very relaxing place to sit back and contemplate the art.
After a few days in such a busy place, I was ready to escape for a little bit. We took a trip to Giverny to see Claude Monet's house, which had beautiful water gardens and flowerbeds. It was quiet and calm, and you could imagine the Impressionist painter relaxing and sketching there.
As for the food (which is, of course, very important) it has been fantastic. I've tried escargot, raw beef (steak tartare), veal, various types of crepes and chicken liver (not as bad as you would think, although it looked like cat food). The weather has been, if anything, too hot, but very comfortable for walking leisurely and relaxing.
I also caught a glimpse of Paris' underworld when I visited the catacombs of Paris Wednesday. Thousands (or millions) of skeletons stacked neatly under the streets of Paris in winding corridors. The bones were transferred hundreds of years ago after a charnel house and cemetery were declared bad for public health. The bones were stored in rows of long bones and skulls, and it was a very eerie, but different, experience.
Paris seems to have something for everyone. Art aficionados, loving couples, history buffs, college kids – everyone. The city has plenty of attractions for every interest, but I most enjoyed taking time to sit and enjoy a good baguette with Nutella.
Tomorrow our group heads to Lille, where we will be staying at the Universite Catholique de Lille. Au revoir, and thanks for reading!