Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
9.5.12 13 °C
My train from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Paris, France left at 8:16am on the morning on Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 and arrived at 11:35am of the same day. I would be traveling by high-speed train, for roughly 3 hours and 19 minutes, and my ticket cost me €78.00. Traveling by train was an enjoyable experience, as I was able to view the beautiful scenery from nearly ground level, as opposed to flying thousands of feet above the landscapes. Luckily, I had a window seat, which meant that I had my head virtually plastered to the window of the train for the entire journey, and the man sitting next to me didn't speak a word of English (he didn't seem too interested in conversing, anyway, haha). I snapped entirely too many photos of the wonderful European landscapes, and when we arrived in Paris, I almost didn't want to get off the train.
I took a taxi from the train station to my accommodations, the Jardin de Villiers hotel, where I paid 98 Euros per night. I loved conversing with the desk attendant due to his attractive French accent, haha! The hotel is located near Paris's Arc de Triomphe, and various other sites which I planned to visit that day. I settled in to my room, which I couldn't wrap my head around it being only 3-star, due to the beauty of the interior, freshened up a bit, and then eagerly set out on what I've always thought was going to be my favourite country I'd visit on my dream trip around the world.
The first site I visited was the world famous monument, the Arc de Triomphe, only a short walk from my hotel. The minute I laid eyes on it, I couldn't help but bust into tears, as I have been studying and focusing on this piece of architecture in my art history courses since I was a young teenager. To see it in the flesh (or stone, more precisely) in absolutely indescribable. The years of history and monumental importance of this arch was insurmountable to anything I had witness thus far on my trip. I was struggling to regain my composure, as a kind local offered to take my photo in front of it. They must have noticed I was alone on the trip, and that witnessing the arch was having a profound effect on me. I was so full of gratitude, and began to understand what the draw toward Paris is; not only the thousands of famous and important sites that are found there, but the genuine people that the city also homes. I spent a decent chunk of time walking around the Arc de Triomphe, touching it, and trying get a grasp on the velocity of what I was currently experiencing. I knew I had to move on, but leaving that historic site was tough for me.. That is, until I remembered where my next stop for the day was.
Not too far from where I had just come, is the Musee d'Orsay, a world-famous museum that homes arguably the best collection of Impressionist paintings in the world. Admission to the museum cost me €14, (although I likely would have handed over my first born child to enter. Kidding.. sort of.) Guided tours of the museum were available, but again I decided that I would enjoy being able to focus on what I really wanted to see, rather than having to follow along with a group. It would probably have been a good idea for anyone without a background in art and art history to take the guided tour, but I found that I knew the majority of the pieces, artists, and generally information about the works found in the Musee d'Orsay years before ever stepping foot into it. Once again, I found myself covered in goosebumps, and on the verge of tears as I made my way through the museum, witnessing most of the paintings and works that I have dedicated a great while to learning about, and drawing inspiration from for years. I spent an upwards of 2 hours walking around in a complete trance at even being within the confines of the Musee d'Orsay, let alone the things that hung on the walls. Eventually, I had to pry myself from my enveloped state of awe, and move on to the next, equally mind-blowing site.
Before making my way to the incredible Musee de Louvre, I decided to grab something quick and simple to eat, as I didn't want to waste one moment of my time in Paris, France. I found a small, family owned restaurant, the name of which I couldn't (and didn't even try to) pronounce, and had, as far as I'm concerned, the best bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, with a side of garlic cheese loaf to be found anywhere on the face of the earth. It cost me roughly 14 Euros, a little steep, but I was anticipating the hike in prices when I arrived in France, and to be honest, I would have easily handed over my second born child for another chance to taste authentic Parisian cuisine like that, again.
After gulping down my incredible French lunch, I virtually ran to the Musee de Louvre. I couldn't contain my excitement while purchasing a ticket for only €9.00! Once again, I chose to tour the museum myself, in order to avoid the crowds, and see what I truly wanted to. The architecture itself of this world-famous museum blew me away, but once I got in to the works that are housed in the Louvre, I couldn't have been more awe-struck. At par with the Musee d'Orsay, the Lourve also homes some of the best known art works in the world, including the Mona Lisa and Venus De Milo! Photos were strictly forbidden within the museum, in order to avoid damaging the works with flash photography, but I will hold the images of all that I was lucky enough to have seen in my mind forever.
The next site that I wanted to visit while in Paris, France was the Notre Dame Cathedral, once again, only a short distance from my hotel, and the Louvre. This ultra-famous cathedral has a very rich historical significance to the city, and is another piece of Gothic architecture that I had learned a great deal about before ever witnessing it in person. It is hard to wrap your head around the intricacy of the architecture found both on the outside and inside of the building. I snapped quite a few photos, as I knew this was something I would never again get a chance to witness.
I made a short stop to view the River Seine, a world-renowned river that has been featured in a variety of art works, as well as media pieces with the coming of such technology. The river flows from east to west through the heart of the city and divides Paris's left and right banks. There were boat tours available, but I felt that it would have eaten up too much time, and even standing on the bridge above the body of water sent shivers down my spine. I still couldn't believe where I was.. The beauty of the river, and the landscape of Paris was almost too much to describe.
The next site I felt the need to visit while touring around the beautiful city of Paris was Sacred Heart Basilica, located in Sacre-Coeur, 3.4 kilometers from the center of the city. I took a short taxi ride, and discussed the beauty of the city, as well as much of the local folklore with my cab driver, who was fairly fluent in English. Like much of what I had witnessed that day, the volume of the Basilica was unbelievable. It costs me only €5.00 to enter, as well as visit the crypts, which were of equal intricacy. I thought back to sitting in class in the 9th or 10th grade, and learning all about the history of this religious site, and wishing one day that I'd be lucky enough to see it in person. I would have liked to have taken thousands of photos of both the interior and exterior of the church, but had to save room on my memory card for all the other fantastic destinations I was about to witness. To tell you all the truth, though, I guarantee the photos still wouldn't have done any of what I witnessed that day justice. Even now, my memories will never compare to the real thing.
Before making my way back toward the heart of the city, where I had a few more things to see before hitting the hay, I decided that I HAD to squeak in time to visit the Salvadore Dali museum, located a short walk from the Sacred Heart Basilica. Once again, I was unable to contain my emotions as I viewed works made by my all-time favourite and biggest artistic inspiration, Salvadore Dali. The countless drawings, sketches, paintings, and sculptures that I had seen so many times in textbooks were now feet away from me. I'll never be able to express how lucky I feel to have witnessed all that I was able to, even just within the Dali exhibition in Paris.
I then made my way back toward the city centre to visit the Pantheon, yet another site I had studied and yearned to see in person for many years. I was in awe of how beautiful the Pantheon remained despite being centuries of years old. Admission cost me €8.5, which I was more than glad to pay, and photos were permitted, so I took full advantage of that opportunity. It wasn't as busy there as I had expected, so there were no obnoxious crowds, and we were all free to explore as we wished.
It was nearing 10:30 pm when I made it to my final destination in my favourite city I had visited thus far in Paris, the Eiffel Tower. As I approached it at night, it was more beautiful that I ever could have imagined. It was light up, along with the rest of the city, to a degree that would likely make even the weariest traveler feel at home. It cost me roughly €11.50 to get a pass to climb to the very top, and I'm so glad that I did. The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower at night is something that I don't think any words will do justice to. This time, I was not the only one bawling my eyes out, as a marriage proposal was going on directly behind me. Standing at the top of MY world, trying to grasp all of what I had seen and done so far on my dream trip around the world, I realized that I'll be back one day, when the person I marry realizes that the only proposal that will suite me will be at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. Even typing this out now, I am misty-eyed. I recommend that every single human being living on Earth visits the things I was able to on my trip around the world. It will change you forever.