Sunday, June 24, 2012

Paris, je t'aime!

*Warning: This post is long, but I promise it has lots of pictures.
Following my first week of classes, the other lovely ladies from OU decided they were going to spend a weekend in Paris. Deciding to not waste such an amazing opportunity, I decided to go along, too. We took the train Friday after our classes were finished, around 5pm. Which meant we got to Paris around 8. After figuring out the metro directions to our hotel from the train station, we dropped off our stuff and made our way toward the Eiffel Tower. It was just around sunset when we got to the Eiffel Tower, so we got some pretty pictures of it lit up nicely.
There were tourists everywhere! And we had a bunch of drunk Polish men trying to get in all of our pictures. So that was interesting.
Also, that night was one of the first nights of the Euro Cup, so they had a huge screen set up in front of the tower for people to watch the soccer game.

Giant screen with a soccer game. And the Eiffel Tower. No big deal.
Callie, Tiffany, and me looking pretty lovely.
After we took some pictures from farther away, we went to the tower to wait in line to climb it. Of course, it was pretty late at night, and it was freezing! Also, it started to rain pretty nicely, so we ended up deciding it wasn't worth the almost hour long wait to climb it. We went back to the spot we'd originally taken pictures from to watch the tower light up. Every hour starting at night, 20,000 bulbs light up to give the tower a glittering, sparkling look. It's really very beautiful. After watching the show, we headed back to the hotel.
The next morning, we got up early for a full day of sight-seeing! The first stop was the Arc de Triomphe.
Starting at the Arc de Triomphe, we walked down the Champs Elysees toward the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre. One of our stops on the Champs Elysees was the Ladurée Macaron shop, which is known throughout the world. Even my host family told me I needed to stop and try a macaroon there. Now, I had never had a macaroon before, but that shop has given me an obsession that has led to me buying macaroons almost every place I find that has them.
I tried chocolate and raspberry, and they were heavenly.
We didn't go into any of the shops on the Champs Elysees, because we didn't have thousands of dollars to spend, but it was fun to window shop. Next we walked across the Pont de Alexandre, the most decorated bridge in Paris.
The lady in the white dress was apparently modeling a dress, there was a photographer and a bunch of people arranging everything. And there's Les Invalides in the background.
The Seine river is gorgeous.
After some great picture opportunities across the river, we crossed back toward the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre.

I absolutely love the architecture of the Louvre. It's fantastic artwork in itself.
We spent a couple hours in the Louvre. We saw lots of really cool medieval period artifacts and, of course, lots of paintings. I'd been to the Louvre before and seen the Mona Lisa, so it was nice to see a different wing of the museum. Of course, I don't know that I could ever spent too much in the Louvre. There's so much to see!
After the Louvre, we walked toward Notre Dame! I'd seen the outside of Notre Dame last time I was in Paris, but it was getting dark, and we didn't get any time to go in.
Hooray for Catholics!

This adorable little boy had about a dozen birds flying around him while he fed them pieces of bread. It was so sweet. And he was surrounded by tourists taking pictures.

I just love the style of European churches. Why can't American churches be this beautiful?

The sculpture is everywhere in these chuches, and it is absolutely gorgeous! 
Following Notre Dame, we made our way to the highest part of the city in Montmartre. Because most of the major monuments (Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame) are all in really close proximity to each other, I'd seen all of them last time I'd visited Paris. Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur are pretty far removed from everything else, so we hadn't had time to view them last time. I was so glad we were able to go this time! I absolutely loved the entire area!
It's the Moulin Rouge! I didn't see Ewan McGregor or any elephants, though. Disappointing.

Right next to the Moulin Rouge was an O'Sullivan's Irish Pub! Of course I had to get a picture!
Montmartre has really steep streets that are super crowded, but I loved every part of it. The area had such vibrance and personality! I tried some delicious cheese from a Fromagerie and got some of the most delicious ice cream I've ever had (tiramisu flavor) along with a Nutella and Banana crepe! If I ever go back to Paris, I definitely want to spend some more time exploring Montmartre. At the very highest point of the area is the church Sacré-Cœur. It is absolutely beautiful! And apparently they've had perpetual prayer/adoration in the sanctuary there for over 125 years! Hurray for Catholics! I'm pretty sure that Sacré-Cœur was my favorite church I've visited up until this point. It had such great history and was absolutely spectacular. Also, we were there right on the hour, so we got to listen to the nuns singing their hourly prayers, so that was pretty legit.

The outside is gorgeous, and the inside is even more amazing. But no pictures inside, unfortunately. 
Being the highest point in the city affords some pretty spectacular views!
After Sacré-Cœur, it was getting toward the evening, so we headed back to the Metro to head to our hotel. I feel like I got a pretty good grasp on the metro system over this weekend, so that was extremely helpful. Being a small-town kid from Oklahoma, I didn't have a very good idea of public transportation until I actually got a good amount of experience with it.
Sunday morning, we walked past the Pantheon. Unfortunately, we were there before it opened, so we weren't able to go inside. It was still really cool from the outside, though. Then we walked around the Luxembourg Gardens. After the gardens, we went to mass at St. Sulpice, a church with one of the most famous organs in the world. Thankfully, the new English mass translation helped me to figure out a lot more of the French than I might otherwise. Mass was so beautiful, and I felt like I could follow almost everything. Yay for Catholicism being universal!
Thus ends my adventure-filled weekend in Paris. Look back soon for more tales of my travels in France!

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