Weekend in Paris? Yes please. Last weekend Ryan and I spent three great days in Paris with our friends Adam and Angie. It was glorious, and rainy, and beautiful, and busy. We walked a ton, we saw practically everything, ate a lot, and went to bed exhausted every night. There’s definitely more to be done in Paris, and you can spend more time, but if you’ve only got a weekend here’s a jam packed recap of what we did and saw. I’ve tried to include lots of pictures but you can also see more here on Flickr.
We left on Friday after work and stayed near the Arc de Triomphe. The weather was gloomy an unfortunately stayed that way for most of the weekend. On Saturday we woke up early and awkwardly bumbled our way through ordering croissants and coffee at a nearby cafe. Then we started off on our epic, over 10 mile, trek across Paris. We started by walking around the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champes-Élysées, and towards the Louvre. In spite of the rain, Paris is still really beautiful. The stone buildings have gorgeous ornamentation and romantic looking wrought iron balconies with flowers spilling over the side. The sidewalks and roads were so wide and lined with large trees. London streets are so narrow and crowded that all of us relished in the wide open spaces. The four of us are all also former Washington, DC residents and we could see exactly the French influence on DC’s city planning. Specifically the long streets with beautiful views ending in roundabouts made us think of DC. But, between you and me Paris does it was better. Paris has wider streets, longer roads, and amazing views. Although, to be honest it was so foggy the first day we couldn’t even see the top of the Eiffel Tower.
When we got to the Louvre the whole plaza was teaming with people all lined up to visit the museum. We looked at each other with trepidation. Did we want to wait in such a long line?! Isn’t the Louvre something you have to do? We decided to skip it for now and keep on walking. We walked over to the Seine River and crossed multiple bridges bursting with locks from couples. It was scenic and lovely, and even in the rain a bit romantic.
We arrived at Notre Dame and there was yet another gigantic line. Adam and I had been before, Ryan and Angie weren’t bothered so instead we walked all around and enjoyed the architecture from the outside. Obviously Paris is an international tourist destination, but we just hadn’t pictured such gigantic lines!
Next stop, lunch. We went to the Latin Quarter and browsed the shops and ate. The four of us shared a box of sweet macaroons, which I loved. Later in the trip we saw savory macaroons with flavors like tomato and basil and chevre foie gras. I didn’t try them, but I was curious. And after food, we went to the Musee ‘Orsay. There was yet another gigantic line but at this point in the day we felt that it was time we saw something, so we waited.
And I’m so glad we did! The museum is glorious. I love paintings that are colorful, somewhat abstract, have bold brush strokes, and great texture. This museum had everything I wanted in paintings because of their excellent collection of impressionists and post-impressionists. I was most taken with a Van Gogh self portrait. I’ve seen it a billion times in books and online, but in person it had more emotion and personality. I felt like he was staring at me. I felt sadness, and defiance, and strength all in the portraits gaze. I loved it and it just proves to me that visiting museums is important because it provides something you can’t get from a post card. For example pointillism – the paintings where everything is made up of tiny dots. I love it! I love seeing the blending of color and I love the juxtaposition of abstract color and form with really constrained order and attention to detail
.After that more eating! We shared a cheese plate, and wine, and then went out to dinner. Adam had a friend and her fiance who live in Paris and they organized for us to have dinner at restaurant specializing in food from Toulouse. They took care of the ordering and we had lots of pâté (which looked like a fatty meat cup but was actually silky and full of flavor), charcuterie, and the absolute best leg of lamb I’ve ever had. It was juicy and tender and was like steak. It was great having locals show us around and take care of us a bit. We went to bed exhausted and full.
Sunday we started the day with more pastries and coffee. Then we decided to walk a little less and wait in a few more lines. First we took the metro to see Sacre Coeur. This is one of the few places I remember strongly from when I visited Paris ten years ago. I’m not a religious person, and I wasn’t when I was nineteen either, but it’s one of the first amazing churches I’d ever seen. It was the first place that sort of astounded me with its beauty and it was nice to see it again. The church is sat on top of a hill and you can see all of Paris – and I just love views because you can imagine what’s going on in the world below. And inside the church (where photography isn’t allowed) there are some gigantic gold and blue mosaics. After touring, we then walked around the nearby neighborhood and snacked on nutella crepes.
After we decided to check out the catacombs, which is an ossuary which houses the remains of about six million people. The space itself was a mine, but became the catacombs in the 18th century. Basically because of disease and space issues, nearby church grave yards were exhumed and the bodies moved to the catacombs. Inside the bones are artfully stacked and line long winding corridors. It’s haunting and engaging. There were just so many bones, all stacked, and arranged, and staring. So many people. It was a bit intense. Adam said something which sums it all up for me: If this doesn’t remind you of your own insignificance, I don’t know what will. I didn’t take great pictures here, so please Google them, it’s worth looking up.
When we left the catacombs, thankfully the sun had come out (and decided to stay out until we left on Monday). We decided to take that opportunity to see the Eiffel Tower. It was glorious. The sun was out, the sky was blue, the grass was green, and the Tower was reigning above it all. For awhile we sat on the grass and people watched. It was one of those great moments where you feel like you’re doing exactly what you should be doing.
As with everything we’d done so far in Paris, there was a gigantic line. We stood in it for about two minutes before we decided to quit and have dinner instead. The guide book recommended a nearby place called Les Cocottes and I pushed my eating boundaries. The thing I had initially wanted to order was out, so I went with the thing I was curious to eat – pigeon. I’d never had pigeon before and was curious and nervous. Let me tell you all, it was delicious! Really freaking delicious. Small portion, but meaty and hearty like a steak and bursting with amazing flavor. I don’t know when I’ve tried something so drastically out of my comfort zone, but I’m glad I did. Both my meal and Ryan’s meal (which was lamb) came with little pieces of liver. I did try both and didn’t like either – but I’m still pleased I lived on the edge with the pigeon.
After dinner we went back to see the Eiffel Tower at night, and luckily there was no line. We went up to see the views and enjoy Paris at night. It was a nice night, not too crowded, windy, and the city looked beautiful and twinkly. However, I did try to get out of the way of a couple taking a selfie and I tripped and fell into a bolt sticking out of the tower. Now I have a giant purple welt on my leg – a unique souvenir from the Eiffel Tower if I do say so myself.
On Monday, our final day, we decided to brave the Louvre again and were delight to find a really short line (like 30 minutes long vs the original 2+ hours from Saturday). Moral of the story, try to visit these places at off hours. Angie and I knew what we wanted to see – she wanted to see the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. I wanted to see the Dendera Zodiac (which I learned about from an awesome book called Loot) and the Nike of Samothrace. We planned our route, got lost a bit, stopped to see other cool things, and tried to see as much as we could.
Tired and heads full of art, we stopped for one last delicious meal before heading to the train station. I rode home with a full belly, tired feet, and a pretty satisfied wanderlust.