Castillo San Marcos

Castillo San Marcos
13th-century castle, El Puerto de Santa Maria. That WAS our house to the left and behind the tree!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ahhh, Paris, La Ville-Lumière!

Paris.  How can you do justice to the City of Light?  Pictures can’t capture it, words can’t draw the sweep of skyline and detail…now I’m waxing poetic.  Paris does that to you.  How could it not, with detail like this jumping out at you at every turn?

Paris bridge

While still not my favorite city (Granada, San Francisco, or my own little Puerto lay more claim to that title), Paris is amazing.  We stayed in a sweet little apartment on Rue Rambuteau, next to the Georges Pompidou Museum, making nearly everything in Paris easily accessible by foot or Metro.  Down the street was the gorgeous Notre Dame, a frescoed parable for the 13th-century illiterate masses. 

La belle Notre Dame

What happens when you are good, or when you are bad, is obvious

Paris has a texture, a color, a hue, a luminescence that showed up in nearly every picture I took.  The sky in particular, mottled with clouds that exuded the occasional rainshower, gave the most beautiful pictures in the Louvre a run for their money:

Paris Sky over Notre Dame

Impressionist or Photo?

After Notre Dame, our next stop was the Eiffel Tower.  Sasha raced me up the stairs and WON!  What an amazing landmark, built for the World Fair in 1889 and slated to be taken down in 1909, but since it was useful for newly developed radio communications, it was allowed to stand—and is now the most-visited paid monument in the world.  Not bad for a temporary structure.

Ode to Gustave Eiffel

The next morning we sauntered off to a Seine River cruise.  Departing from Notre Dame, we leisurely motored upstream to the Eiffel Tower and back, ducking under numerous gorgeous bridges on the way.  

Touring the Seine

Seine bridge

One of the beauties of Paris is the amazing detail in so many corners, rooftops, overhangs, and eaves; the city drips with them.  Tia and Sasha were particularly delighted with the scary faces.

Next we hit the Louvre, with its intense crowds and art and architecture.   I longed to have a quiet afternoon there to myself, but July is not the month.   But still, the Louvre enchants.

Louvre entrance

C'est magnifique!
Tia and Sasha were remarkably engaged, taking pictures of everything that fascinated them, from Egyptian sphinxes to outrageously painted and carved ceilings.  And of course, we saw the famous Mona Lisa.

Detail, detail everywhere

Tia was impressed

We ended up at sunset visiting the Arc de Triomphe after a moto-scooter ride for 7 people up the Champs-Élysées.  I had not paid much attention to this monument in previous visits, nor had I realized you could travel to its rooftop.  It is now my favorite Parisienne monument.

Parisienne splendor

Atop the Arc

It was there we had the most amazing views of Paris old and new, from the Seine to the Eiffel Tower to the stunning financial district, all bathed in a silken sunset.  Again, the sky was perhaps the most amazing feature here, but the modern Arc de Triomphe of the financial district came a close second. 

Modern Arc

Spiraling down the Arc staircase

And of course, we had to pay tribute to the Sun King.  Louis XIV, King of France and Navarre, supporter of the arts, and profligate spender, built Versailles from a hunting lodge kept by his father, Louis XIII.  The sheer opulence made Tia’s and Sasha’s jaws drop.

Entering Versailles

Just ONE corner of Louis's dining room

The Sun King himself

And it was also here where one of our favorite French figures, Marie Antoinette, did NOT say, “Let them eat cake!”  But one day at Versailles will help anyone understand why the peasants were mad nevertheless.

Marie Antoinette's bedroom mirror

The famous Hall of Mirrors in Versailles

Four days is simply not enough time to see what Paris has to offer.  We missed the catacombs (a two-hour wait when we stopped by), and many museums, along with the outdoor markets and free concerts.  Lucky for us, Paris—with its 6,000 year history—will most likely still be there when we return.  Next stop:  Intro to Scandinavia

Gare d'Orsay, now the Musee d'Orsay, home to the Impressionists

Hotel de Ville--Tia would like a vacation house like this!

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