There were a number of things and places I wanted to see while visiting Paris, France, for the first time. I spent the week prior to my trip blowing up my Aunt Diane’s phone for advice because I knew she had visited before and it was one of her absolute favorite places. She gave me a list of things I needed to see and I was sure I wouldn’t make it to everything in just one weekend. But low and behold, thanks to a rainy Friday and our Nebrija student ID’s which got us in free almost everywhere, we had no trouble making it to all of the museums, Cathedrals and landmarks with little to no lines.
Our airbnb was located in Saint-Germain which made it very easy to get around the city. Our first stop was the Notre-Dame Cathedral which was somewhat of an emotional experience for me. I was born and raised a Catholic and attended private school up until my college career. I wore a uniform everyday, attended church at school and the occasional Sunday, and prayed before every meal. I haven’t really thought about my religion in awhile, as good of an idea as it is to send your kids to Catholic school, it lots of times steers them away from religion in the long-run. After having Catholicism sort of shoved down my throat with the constant religion classes and retreats, I’ve definitely grown away from it since I’ve gotten older. I wouldn’t say that I’ve grown away from God because I believe that relationship is on a far more personal level, but as I stood in this beautiful French Gothic style Cathedral, I was immediately taken back to grade school and what church used to really mean to me. It made me think just how lucky I am to have grown up Catholic and learned about morals at a young age. I understand why my parents raised me this way and I will likely do the same with my children. The sculpture of the life of Jesus from birth to agony stood out to me the most. It reminded me of the Stations of the Cross and it was so interesting to see it all laid out in sculptures on a wall. I recognized every step of it and it was very moving. The Cathedral was quiet and beautiful. It made me feel like a little kid again, interested in my faith and eager to learn more.
The next stop was Sainte-Chapelle which is famous for its spectacular stained glass windows. Around 70% of the windows are original which is amazing because they were created in the 13th century. I’ve always loved stained glass and very much respect the time and effort put into the creation of this place. I enjoyed the high arch ceilings that were filled with stars and the large number of chandeliers that hung up above.
The next museum stop was the Louvre, which is most famous for containing the original painting of the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. We saved Mona for last, and chose two other sections of the museum to hit because it would take almost an entire day to go through the entire place. I always knew it was a big glass triangle shape from the outside, but I did not realize that when you went into it, everything is underground and takes you to the outside buildings which stretch all the way around the center. I found myself enthralled in this museum which I did not expect because I have never been a huge art fan myself. One painting that I recognized right away was ‘The Wedding at Cana’ based on the bible story. I had no idea that it was going to be there, let alone located directly across from the Mona Lisa. I was warned that the Mona Lisa is much smaller in person compared to what you’d expect, but since it was not a super busy day, I was able to see it front and center. I learned all about da Vinci back in grade school art class and I never thought I’d get to see the original painting in person. Next time I visit Paris I’ll have to go back to the Louvre and catch everything I missed!
Our second day in Paris was absolutely beautiful, clear blue skies and the sun was shining. It made for the perfect day to visit the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. The Arc was so much bigger than I expected and you could see the Eiffel Tower nearby in the distance. We stopped by a store to pick up wine, cheese, meat, bread and snacks to have a little picnic on the Eiffel Tower lawn. It was a bit chilly but we were able to see it as it lit up for the first hour that night. I was mostly intrigued by the architecture of the Tower, I knew it would be cool but the intricacy of the design was truly something special. That night we visited the Catacombs of Paris which holds the remains of over 6 million people. We walked down 20 meters of 132 steps to get to the underground and we had an audio tour that lead us to the bones. It was extremely creepy to see piles and piles of bones and skulls stacked endlessly on top of one another. And only a small chunk of it is even open to the public, so we barely saw the half of it. We went down in one entrance and when we finally got out on the other side, we were nowhere near where we had started. It is known to be the largest underground necropolis in the world, holding bodies from the cemetery ‘Les Innocents’. It took the city 12 years to move all of the remains underground. This was one of my favorite parts of our trip because it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before and it was very eery.
On our last day we had reserved tickets for a tour of the Eiffel Tower including the second floor and summit. It was a bit scary riding the elevator up to the tippy-top and it was extremely windy up there. The view from every side was spectacular and it was cool to see almost all of the attractions we had visited that weekend. It was the perfect way to wrap up our trip! As for the food I ate in Paris…so far the best I’ve had while being abroad. I ate multiple croissants and macaroons everyday which is a necessity. I tried fouie gras which is made of the liver of a duck as well as escargot. I had the best French onion soup I’ve ever tasted and I had to try a few crepes too. I would have to say Paris is a close tie with Morocco to being my favorite place I’ve visited so far. And everyone tells me I’ll enjoy the food in Italy even more, but this is definitely a trip I will take again one day. This week I am going with Audrey and Madison to Pisa on Wednesday, taking a bus to Florence on Thursday and ending our trip in Rome for a day and a half. I cannot wait to feast on way too much pizza and pasta!