Thursday, January 14, 2016

Europe Trip: Day 2: The Louvre, Notre Dame, and Sacre Couer

Like every trip with my father, we started early in the morning and had a large breakfast in the hotel’s executive lounge. We walked the 5 minutes to the Opera house, following a busy thoroughfare to the tourist office.

After a quick photo session in front of the opera house, we reached the tourist office to purchase our most important item in Paris: The Paris Pass. With free admission to 99% of the biggest attractions in and around Paris (Including heavy hitters like Versailles, the Louvre, Notre Dame, etc.) and priority admission at the Louvre (skipping a 1.5 hr. line), this pass becomes worth it if you plan on visiting more then a few attractions.

Anyway, we walked to the Louvre, and after flashing our passes for direct admission, began our perusal of some of the world’s great artistic treasures. 

However, they happened to be unbelievably underwhelming; I saw no reason for the hype around the Mona Lisa (puny) or the Venus di Milo statue (same as every other). However, my sister and I enjoyed seeing many of the paintings that seem to be engraved on textbooks for as long as we remember; my favorite was Pieter Brugel the Elder's The Tower of Babel.  

This museum was the first time I had ever seen my dad actually appreciate a work of art; he was quite astounded by the level of detail in The Tower of Babel and impressed with the various Da Vinci's in the museum. 

After leaving the Louvre, we began the walk towards Notre Dame, stopping for crepes and pizza along the way. At Notre Dame, although our passes got up free admission, we still had to wait in an extremely long line in the searing heat to get in.

The interior was awe-inspiring; an iridescent sheen reminiscent of mother of pearl greeted us, along with amazing architectural work and ornate detailing. 
After finishing with the Cathedral, we rested our weary selves in a row on the Seine riverbank. After our quick rest, we began our search for the Center Pompidou, Paris's eminent modern art museum, and our first of many. 

At this point, my mom and sister headed home, while my dad and I headed out to Montmartre and La Sacre Coeur Basilica.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Europe Trip: Day 1: Welcome to Paris

After a long flight courtesy of American Airlines,  Paris's CDG International Airport greeted us through the fog. It was early in the morning, and we had 4 bags between the 4 of us; this led to us taking 2  cabs to our hotel. The Paris Marriott Opera House, is an old, historical place in one of the best parts of town; after checking in and dropping off our bags, we rode the metro to the Eiffel Tower. The best part? The metro stop is literally 1 block from the hotel door! 

We arrived at the Eiffel Tower stop, got out, and immediately scratched out heads. We appeared to be in a pretty nondescript, business-ey looking area. After turning the block, however, we got our first real glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. The approach to the tower was nice and scenic; fountains, staircases, and grassy patches greeted us, as well as a bridge. Under the tower were the entrances, and by extension, the lines.Although guidebooks scare you with horror stories of extremely long lines, we found the lines to not be too bad, even at 10-11 in the morning. Perhaps half an hour to an hour?

 My father and I decided to climb the stairs up to the second floor, while my mother and sister opted for the standard lift line. This was not a good idea, and I don't suggest that anyone else do the same thing. The 2 groups got separated for a long time on the middle layers of the tower, and eventually met at the top after hours of waiting.

The views at the top were very nice, but, more then anything else, it was nice to be finished with one of Paris’s most important sites so early into our trip.

On our way down, we spent some time relaxing on the 1st level of the tower, where there is a cafe, and for the adventurous, see through floors. After coming down, we ate some crepes at the foot of the tower while taking in the hectic, touristic atmosphere. One observation I made was that the sheer number of street vendors here is incredible; they mainly hawk selfie sticks and little Eiffel Towers models.

The evening saw us taking a boat cruise on the river Seine; the first of many river cruises on our trip. We bought tickets literally at the foot of the tower, and boarded our boat nearby. A long, lazy loop ensued, going as far down the river as Notre Dame before turning back around.