Conductor Andre Previn recorded this version of George Gershwin’s famous “An American in Paris” during his tenure as principal conductor for the London Symphony Orchestra. So as you take this photographic journey with me from the first stop on our June European excursion, London, through the chunnel, to our next stop, Paris, I thought it was fitting to include this recording. Feel free to listen to the piece and read the post at the same time, even though if you do that you will most likely not pay much attention to these words. The piece demands that much attention. Hello! Do you hear me? Damn, already lost you all. Quick, Matt, think of something…uhh…pretty picture of food.
I think I am going to create a song called “Breakfast in Paris,” but instead of typical instruments the composition will be composed solely of many different people saying mmmm and salivating. I can say that for all the food in Paris. And you do not need to visit an expensive restaurant to experience fine eating. Rebecca and I stopped into a small cafe and picked out a sandwich and pastry from under the glass. The entire meal cost us less than 10 euros, and I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that on my first bite of the pastry I didn’t lust for around 50 more.
Like in London, Rebecca and I eagerly searched for unique restaurants and snacks. We had our best meal of the trip at a restaurant we stumbled into on a tiny side street that we could not find again (we tried). I had true French onion soup and a well-prepared piece of fish. For dessert we shared Chocolate Fondant and Creme Brulee. We failed in our attempt to make each bite of the meal take years of joy to complete.
Couscous restaurants are very popular in Paris and we made sure to get a large heaping of the semolina dish with soft vegetables, hot pepper sauce, and dried fruit. We snacked the following day on a chocolate-covered waffle that melted in our mouth (and on Rebecca’s bag…a casualty of war) and proved even better than the chocolate, almond, banana crepe we shared in front of Notre Dame on our first day in the city.
And, of course, the breakfast. Every morning we woke up to hot croissant, mini baguettes, and thick toast, that we dipped in butter, creamy cheese, and fruity spreads. We then worked off breakfast, much to the chagrin of our feet and legs, by walking the true walking city of Paris and making good use of the four-day museum pass we acquired prior to the trip. On to the ultimate museum, the Louvre.
The first thing you notice about the Louvre (no matter what side you approach it from) is that it is gigantic. The Musee du Louvre is the site of a 12th century fortress sanctioned by King Philip Augustus. It became a large royal residence in the 16th century and evolved from there, eventually becoming an art gallery at the hand of Louis XV in the 18th century. It grew from there and in the 1980s Egyptian aliens visited Paris and constructed the pyramid entrance to the museum. Oh, it wasn’t aliens? Never mind. The gigantic museum of 380,000 objects and 35,000 works, is, of course, most known for the 30×21-inch Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece that draws a constant swarm of visitors.
It is easy to get lost in the museum. Rebecca and I marked off what we wanted to see prior to exploring and attempted to tackle it all. I’d say we were succesful. I was probably most impressed by the museum’s extensive selection of Egyptian antiquities which includes the around 4,500-year-old Seated Scribe sculpture, a beautifully intricate piece.
While the Louvre may have been the biggest stop on our museum tour of Paris, it was certainly not our only educational experience. We spent hours in other museums, including the Orsay, Rodin, Orangerie, and several more. The collection of impressionist art at the Orsay and Orangerie was stunning. We became immersed in the world of Monet, Manet, Gauguin, Renoir, and more. If you are a fan of impressionism and haven’t visited Paris…visit Paris. Oh, and get the museum pass. You are going to be going to a whole bunch of museums.
Perhaps my favorite part of Paris was what I will label the intellectuality of the city. It was very…European. Cafes line seemingly every street on long avenues. People are always sitting, enjoying a drink and a snack, and watching the people walk by the cafe. Walking down the seine at dawn or dusk with views of the Notre Dame at your back and the scent of baking pastries and coffee in the air, it’s tough not to feel inspired. I immediately understood why many great philosophers and writers chose Paris as a backdrop to their creative works.
The picture above is of Rebecca and I on top of the Arc De Triomphe which is located at the end of the famous (and expensive) Champs Elysees. The view was extraordinary, but second best to the view we had on top of that structure off in the distance. You know, this one:
A lot of other people had the same idea. One of the elevators leading up to the elevator that brings you up to the top of the tower was broken for the entirety of our stay in Paris. You’d think that would be something that would be fixed immediately considering that the Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited attractions in the world, but, you’d clearly think wrong because it remained broken. On our last day in Paris, Rebecca and I sucked it up and waited around three hours to get to the top of the tower, and, wow, it was totally worth it, and, we had our best photo taken during the trip up at the top.
Now I cannot forget two things. We visited the palace of Versailles while we were in the area and it is an awe-inspiring structure not only because of its grand beauty, but also because of the events that took place inside the palace. It’s also difficult to move when you are there because you meet a bad combination of issues…small passageways and oodles of tourists, more than we saw at any point of our trip. The place is still something out of a Disney movie – just look at the gold gates.
On the morning of our flight to Berlin (make sure to stay tuned for the third installment of these special posts), we walked over to the second largest public park in Paris, the jardin du luxembourg, which features a palace and the famous Medici Fountain built by the widow of Henry IV, Marie de Medici in 1630, which you can see in the final picture below. It is difficult to conclude this section on Paris because there is not conclusion strong enough. Hopefully, we will make our way back there some day because there is still so much to see. For now, I will just leave it off with an until then.