On my second day in Paris, I saw all of the major (outside) sights that I wanted to see. Most of them I saw accidentally, because I still didn’t have a map to the city. Instead, I took the Metro to Les Halles and walked around looking at things until I ended up somewhere. The first place that I ended up was Notre Dame. I took some photos, then went across the river to Subway to get a sandwich. This turned out to be the best sandwich I would have in Paris and the cheapest. (I have unbelievably bad restaurant luck, apparently. more on this later). I ate it on the bridge, looking at Notre Dame and marvelling at what might have been the famous flying buttresses. (note: I have no idea what a flying buttress is, but I know I have heard about them being one of the more famous things about Notre Dame) An old French man walked by and said a sentence that ended in pity, so I can only assume that he thought I was homeless or he thought that I should be ashamed of myself. Either way, I am pretty okay with it, because I was within fifty meters of Notre Dame and I was pretty damn excited about it, thankyouverymuch.
After that, I walked up the Seine, and I was surprised to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Like a good tourist, I took a picture of my first view, and it will always remind me of the time that I was so surprised by one of the most famous monuments in the world that I was laughing a little hysterically to myself on the banks of the Seine. I was near the bouquinistes, which was pretty exciting for me. It would have been more exciting had any of them been open, but I guess that is the price you pay for being a tourist in the winter. On the way to the Eiffel Tower, I passed the Louvre, and I am a little ashamed to say that I didn’t even know it. It wasn’t until hours later, when I got off the boat on the Seine that the giant building I had passed was actually the Louvre. To say that I wasn’t prepared for the trip might be a bit of an understatement.
So, I took a little detour on my trip toward the Eiffel Tower when I realized that I was looking at the obelisk that marks the beginning of the Champs Elysees. I was pretty excited to see something that I had heard of, so I continued from the Tuileries garden all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. The Champs Elysees is pretty boring if you don’t feel like buying a Citroen or investing your money, so the first day I just walked it, took some pictures and then headed in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower, which kept appearing among the buildings. (the second day I totally bought some things. I might be against consumerism, but I am not a damn machine after all)
Eventually, I found the Eiffel Tower. I knew I was getting close when I found myself in a park with three men jangling giant key chains full of miniature Eiffel Towers at me… It was pretty exciting. I got picture fever. It was the first time I had ever seen a monument being guarded by soldiers in full dress with machine guns. I am still not sure if that made me feel safer or more frightened. I mean, wouldn’t a pistol or two be enough? Are automatic weapons really necessary to watch the queue to get onto the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Apparently the French government thinks they are good for guarding all monuments, since I saw more of them in the yard of the Louvre. And they say Americans are obsessed with guns…
At this point, I thought that my back was going to snap in half from the stress of hauling my fat ass the length of Paris, so I decided to take the easy way out and get on the “Batobus” cruise to get back to the Louvre. I think that the two-day pass for the boat was the best tourist money I spent in Paris, because it allowed me to get a ton of pictures that I otherwise wouldn’t have, the trees were bare so I could see everything, and it took me to all of the major places that I wanted to see.
The Louvre was insane. In keeping with my tradition, I ignored the complimentary map and headed for the Richilieu wing first. I can say after seeing the little bits and pieces of the royal furnishings that I really get why people were so in awe of the king. It still puzzles me that a person is just born and then they are told “oh, you are going to be the king, this is your house”, but I can see better why people were so willing to buy into it. It’s the same feeling I get when I am in a particularly ornate church; just for a moment I feel like I can understand how much people believe in God, and I get a fleeting moment of understanding of why.
Then, I tackled the Denon wing. The wing where people sprint past Botticellis and Titiens to get a picture of the Mona Lisa. I tried really hard not to succumb to the Mona Lisa fever, although I did make it a point to go see it. Seeing the photos of all of these masterpieces does little for your understanding of the art that they represent. I wish that I had the words to make a piercing and accurate commentary on each of the works, but unfortunately I am only a simple Literature nerd. I can only say, wow, I liked that. So there it is.
After the Louvre I went to a cafe, got a 20 Euro hamburger that was reasonably good, got to experience the typical French wait staff (read: grade-A arrogant fucking bastard), and I went home to the hostel. I only got lost twice on the way home, so I counted it a victory.
Next up: more museums!