Europe Trip 2010: Day 11, Paris Sightseeing

Today, we got to explore Paris by actually walking it’s streets, zooming around on the Metro, and taking in some sights in a more relaxed way, which we definitely needed after our hectic trip so far.
Highlights of the day include a trip up the Eiffel Tower, a visit to the modern art museum in the Pompidou Center, and a stroll through Notre Dame and Ile de La Cite. The full photo set is available for Day 11, but read on for explanations and stories from our eleventh day in Europe!

We started the day off right, which meant a quick jaunt to a bakery on the Rue Cler, for amazingly tasty little quiche to go.

From there, it was only a short walk to Champ du Mars, and Le Tour Eiffel.

Despite some trepidation from Teisha, who doesn’t really enjoy heights, we set out to scale the steel and cable behemoth. The elevator to the first landing was unbelievably crowded, so we opted for the quicker, cheaper, and much more tiring path: Walk the stairs. Ugh. But it was kind of fun, filled with little posters describing the construction, and Mr. Eiffel, and the tower’s role and perception in Paris throughout the decades. Once we reached the top, the view was suitably epic, and Teisha amused herself with using the zoom lens on our camera to find other Paris monuments.

Just a few panorama shots.

Here’s Montmartre.

The Arch de Triumphe.

The Orsay Museum.

One thing that very few pictures of the tower show is what the viewing platform actually looks like– it’s not just a bare metal lacework. In fact, when you’re inside, browsing the gift shops, you forget that you’re so many stories up in the air.

Once we returned to Earth, we continued the steady gorging process by getting yet another amazing Ullysses en Gaul crepe.

After sating our appetite, we set out for the next sight of the day– The Pompidou Center and the Museum of Modern Art contained within. The Pompidou is famous for being constructed “inside out”, although with the recent trends in America towards exposed pipes and such, it probably didn’t look as edgy to us as it did when it was first built in 1977.

To be honest, the museum left us a little flat. Okay, a lot flat. The spawrling first floor was filled up with an endless parade of what I would call art (though many wouldn’t). I’d just call it bad art. Art for the sake of shock and weirdness, art that shows no actual artistic talent. It was frustrating for both of us, who wanted to embrace the contemporary art. But so much of it was crudely made, poorly executed, and clearly just intended to be so avant-garde that hopefully no one will notice their lack of dextrous skill. It did have a funny (and sadly true) piece on the difficulty of being a female artist.

Luckily, the upper floor contained their gallery of art from ~1905 to 1960, which while still “out there” actually had pieces that looked like they took skill and dedication and an artist’s eye to realise. It had a lot of picasso, a lot of conceptual art, and lots of other names to drop: Chagall, Matisse, Dali, Ernst, and many more. This was actually a lot of fun, and we captured quite a few pieces.

Two famous sights down, what next? We headed to Pere Lachaise Cemetary, for the main reason any non-Parisian ever does: To see Jim Morrison’s grave. What’s funny is that, despite it receiving far more attention than any other grave, they don’t want to emphasize an American over all the French buried there. In fact, the cemetary’s guidemarkers and maps make a point of deliberately excluding his grave from their listings. Nevertheless, we found the grave (and a crowd of others come to see it), and paid our respects.

We also took a moment to honor Chopin, who is buried fairly close nearby, as well as the oldest grave in the Cemetary, containing Heloise and Abelard, star-crossed lovers and scholars who died in 1164 and 1142.

This day was full of famous sites, and perhaps the last one we visited is, in some ways, the most famous of them all: Notre Dame Cathedral on the Isle of the City. Everything you’ve heard is true– it’s so big, so ornate, so daunting, that even a non-believer feels a sense of awe in its presence. But before we touch on that, it’s worth pointing out that after capturing its iconic front, Teisha used the zoom lens once more to pick out the tiny, distant figure of the cathedral’s most famous, bored gargoyle.

Inside, the vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows just cast an elegant stillness over everything inside. That said, the thronging crowds of gawking tourists kind of break the mystique. It’s still a neat place to see, though.

Suitably exhausted after traveling this way and that across the whole of Paris, we retired to the shops of the Isle of the city, getting some excellent gelato and enjoying a charming little candy store.

Thanks for reading!

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