Song of the day: “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay
Remember all those stereotypes I had thought about our Paris experience? Well, in stark contrast to our first night here, last evening and today have met all those expectations and more.
We’ll start with the stereotype that Parisians are dicks to Americans. This proved to be true when we took the Metro to dinner and Lance got fined 33 euros for throwing away his ticket after using it to get on the subway. The asshole official was trying to get fifty out of Lance and accusing him of “not respecting French law”–which was never posted, by the way–but Doug spoke up and we were offered a discount. In hindsight it sucked but arguing harder could’ve been risky, and as we were rushed we didn’t think to contest the fine. In any case, we learned our lesson and continued onto dinner in dour spirits.
Fortunately dinner proved better French stereotypes correct: delicious food, overflowing wine, and philosophical discussions late into the night. Lance’s mom’s friend Joanne, who grew up in Florida but has lived in Europe for over thirty years, welcomed us with warm embraces and a chilly rosé, and her daughter Steph and Steph’s boyfriend Alexis pointed out some great restaurants and bars for us to visit. Our meal consisted of a whole chicken, potatoes au gratin, green beans, bread and butter, three different cheeses (all amazing), a brownie cake with ice cream, and lots more of the rosé. Somehow we got into a conversation about how to make millennials care about the planet and look beyond themselves, and the combination of alcohol, intelligence and passion for the issue caused us to chatter until almost 1am. As a philosophy major, I was thrilled to be carrying on the French salon tradition and I swear I was straight up channeling Sartre’s spirit at times. After a quick call to Lance’s mom (in which she and Joanne relived teenage memories on speakerphone) we Ubered home, washed our clothes for the first time all trip, and went to bed.
Were we worn out this morning? Yup. Did that stop us from walking probably seven or eight miles? No way. We grabbed Croque-Madames for breakfast again then went straight to the Louvre, where we spent over three hours hitting the highlights and laughing at some of the artwork. (I’ll be putting up a Caption-That-Painting! thing on Instagram later, I think.) I found the Mona Lisa underwhelming–not very big or very interesting, and I thought her eyes had this weird red hue as if she were possessed or high. The Venus de Milo was perfect, though, and I especially loved seeing the French Neoclassical and Romantic works of David, Gericault, and Delacroix. I had no idea they were so big, particularly David’s The Coronation of Napoleon, which was at least twice my height. I guess a little emperor needs a big painting.
After walking from the Louvre to Ile de la Cité and eating some delicious paninis, we checked out the Notré Dame Cathedral. Quasimodo wasn’t up in the towers ringing the bells, but there were some people praying inside. I found the stained glass windows spectacular and marveled at the fact that when the French built this Gothic masterpiece in the 13th century, a) they couldn’t keep their people alive for longer than thirty years on average and b) the tallest building in the current USA was probably a wigwam.
It was pushing 4pm when we exited the cathedral but since the sun sets so late here, we decided it would be fun to go on foot to the Eiffel Tower a few miles away. We saw lots of cool things along the way, including the National Assembly and the Love Locks bridge–which is reportedly being dismantled soon, so I’m glad we noticed it–before arriving at Gustave Eiffel’s massive wrought-iron spire. We planned on climbing all the way to the top but upon noticing how tall it was, and that we’d have to pay, we decided the free view from atop the shorter Arc de Triomphe would be better anyways. And actually the vista was breathtaking. We even got the Tower in our picture!
Now Lance and Doug are dozing and soon we’ll be going to a Moroccan place for dinner and probably follow that up with more wine. Tomorrow: to Versailles!