Comme j'adore Paris! C'est si belle... si romantique... si pleine d'histoire!
Okay, I'll stop with the French, already, but after an amazing weekend in Paris, I'm just not quite ready to let go yet! So this was my third visit to Paris (well, third visit where I left the airport... lol) and probably the best so far. A beautiful language, wonderful people, incredible food, and all of the art, culture and history you could ask for. Anyway, here's a quick run-down of my weekend :)
We left Thursday night, connected through JFK and landed in Paris on Friday morning. We had a private shuttle meet us at the airport - the driver was there with a card with our name on it. I felt so cool. We drove to our hotel between the Place de la Bastille and the Place de la République, checked in, freshened up, and then went out. We walked to the Seine and then walked along it until we got to the Hôtel de Ville and stopped for lunch at a café on the corner with the Seine out one window and the Hôtel de Ville out the other. I left Dad and Nicole at the café after finishing my croque monsieur, and walked down the street to see the Pompidou center where I also ran into a missionary. We chatted... it was cool. I love the fountain at the Pompidou Center, with the Église St. Merie behind it... such a cool dichotomy. There were lots of school children running around, just a fun atmosphere.
After that, I got back to where dad and Nicole were having dessert and when they finished we walked down the Seine to the Pont Neuf where we took a boat tour of the Seine. Such a beautiful city!!! We saw all of the main sites that you see from the river, including the gorgeous Cathédral de Nôtre Dame. After the cruise, Nicole and dad were beat, so they went to the metro at the bridge and went back to the hotel. I continued walking down to the Orsay, which had just closed (grr) and then crossed the river to the Louvre, wandered around, and then started walking back towards the hotel as it got dark. It was so beautiful to see the city all lit up. I walked back to the Hôtel de Ville, which was just stunning all lit up at night. I just continued along, and ran into a crèperie on the corner where locals were lining up to get crèpes as they went home from work. The lady in front of my ordered a crèpe aux marrons, so I did the same (it's a chestnut spread). I took my hot crèpe and just wandered along the street past an area that was just full of fruit stands, flower and gardening shops, and even pet stores. I went through the Place de la Bastille at night and back to the hotel. It was 2 1/2 hours of walking, but I enjoyed every minute.
Saturday, we were going to meet up with David. I wanted to go to Montmartre, however, so I got up early and got on the metro. A fresh pain chocolate from the pâtisserie on the corner was the perfect start to the morning. I got off at Anvers and went up the rue Steinkirque, where the butte of Montmartre was in front of me, all covered in mist. It was at least 200 steps to climb the stairs to the basilica, but there was no way I was going to cheat and take the little motorized transport (funicular). I hiked the stairs and as I looked down, it was totally worth it. I went inside Sacré Coeur and just sat in the pews and let the peace and quiet sink in. It was big, beautiful, and thankfully warm, but it felt so empty. After a while I got up and walked around to look at the stained glass, then went back out and down the hill (bullying my way past some guys who tried to stop me to sell me something) and into the winding streets full of fabric and ribbon shops. One can only window shop in fabric stores for so long, however, so I got back on the metro and went back to the Marais district where I decided to go and explore the Place de Vosges. I think that might have been one of my favorite moments. A gorgeous, historical square where Victor Hugo once lived, it was full of local families taking their children to play in the park. Just sitting on a bench under a tree, watching the leaves fall and listening to the splash of the fountains was probaby one of the most peaceful times I've had in a very long time. It was wonderful. After that, I stopped for a sausage roll and a fanta (my all time favorite meal in Europe... lol) and then went to the hotel to get dad and Nicole. We left and took the train to the Château de Vincennes where we met David, who came and picked us up for the rest of the day. We had an amazing day with him! Nous avions parlé français toute la journée! J'étais très contente. We went all over the place, talking in French about anything and everything and seeing parts of Paris we would never have seen otherwise. Aside from the fact that the traffic on a Saturday afternoon caused us to dub Paris the Ville de Traffique instead of the Ville Lumière, it was perfect. We all got hungry after a while, though, so David drove us to Nation, an area in Paris, where we found a parking spot and then walked around (freezing half to death, I might add) until we found a likely looking restaurant. David said it was très typique, and the food and atmosphere were wonderful. We squeezed into a tiny table for 4 near the windows and spent a wonderful meal enjoying good food and great conversation. After dinner, we dropped dad off at the hotel and then continued a wonderful tour of Paris by night. Just beautiful! We stopped behind the Eiffel Tower and just parked there to look at the lights, and right at 11pm, a whole new set of lights came on and the tower just sparkled. We were all pretty tired by then, though, so we went back to the hotel and finished by making plans to meet for church the next morning. Church was so cool... we got to go to the stake conference (la conférence de Pieu) for the Paris Est stake. They had a wonderful choir and it was so fun to listen to the talks and feel the spirit of the people there. That afternoon, we decided to go to the Louvre where we saw Mona, Venus and a few other famous ladies :) I think one of my favorite paintings, however, is by Delacroix... Liberté Guidant le Peuple. I've loved it since I first saw it in French history at the Y. Anyway, after the Louvre, we went back to the Bastille where we had a very nice dinner at Café du Bastille facing the square. The hot chocolate is to die for!
Finally, Monday morning I got up early and took the metro to la Cimitière Père Lachaise. I walked all over there for a few hours, just enjoying the incredible tranquility and beauty of the place as well as paying respect to the many famous people buried there... the ones I could find, anyway... lol. I saw Oscar Wilde, Marcel Proust, Delacroix, Molière, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Rossini and more. It's weird to think of a cemetery being beautiful, but this one really is.
After leaving the cemetery, I stopped at a pâtisserie to pick up some pastries that David said we *had* to try while we were there. Unfortunately, all of the shops seemed to be closed when we were looking on Saturday. So I got quelques petits gâteaux de milles feuilles and some chocolate éclairs (des vrais éclairs! pas ceux de Costco...) and they are delicious! The custard in the milles feuilles... mmm... heaven. After that, we went to a little shop on the corner by the hotel to get sandwiches for lunch and then took the shuttle to the airport for the long flight home. After this, though, I'm not leaving my French behind again! I've been reading Harry Potter in French and picked up the latest in the series... I finally got a chance to watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on the plane... in French, of course ;) All in all, it was a pretty perfect trip. The only thing left is to plan my next trip to Paris!
(I took over 200 pictures, but here are about 50 of my favorites.)