Frankreich – Paris – Kunst und Wahrzeichen

On Saturday, most folks had gotten a little more sleep and so we were up early enough to take advantage of the cheap continental breakfast available at our hostel. We ate a mixture of ham, cheese, and baguettes before hopping back on the metro back towards downtown. Today, our first stop was Musée d’Orsay.

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The central hall of the museum

Musée d’Orsay was converted from an old train station. The main gallery opens up with a sweeping arched roof like you’d expect from a train station nowadays. Currently, the main hall exhibits lots of beautiful sculptures, influenced primarily from the classic Greco-roman style. Musée d’Orsay is known for hosting more contemporary pieces, and here we observed Monet, Van Gogh, lots of impressionism, and other lesser-known artists. I enjoy seeing art depicting more everyday subjects – it gets a bit similar seeing just rulers and religious figures in many of the museums. Here there were depictions of everyday scenes, portraits, landscapes, and abstract subjects. I didn’t take a ton of pictures but opted just to snap some mementos of notable favorites of mine.

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We left the museum in search of a late lunch. Someone had researched a well-reviewed place on the way towards our next destination, so we walked there. Unfortunately by the time we arrived the kitchen was closed, so we searched the area looking to improvise. We settled on a pizza place and were delighted to discover a little old Italian woman was there to advise us and prepare authentic Italian pizza for us. We watched as she tossed the dough and went through the whole baking process. The restaurant also had an adorable little dog at the entrance, ready to greet customers. A few times during our meal, someone would stop in seemingly just to say hello to the dog – I suspect he has a lot of local friends.

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Our travel group in the Paris metro

We paid and left the restaurant, full, warm, and happy. We continued our journey towards the Eiffel Tower, our next destination. We arrived at the far end of the park with a view of the tower and slowly made our way towards it, grabbing pictures and doing some people-watching as we went. By the time we got to the tower base, military-looking people were clearing crowds away from the tower. I suspect there was some sort of terror threat. We circled the tower, being sure to steer away from the crowds. Due to the heavy guard presence we decided not to linger at the Eiffel Tower, though it was cool to see up-close. As we were leaving one guy decided he wanted to bet 50EUR against a street gambler, but we pulled him away before he could get scammed.

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Our group at the Eiffel Tower

(We later found out there  was rioting in Paris over the alleged police mistreatment of a black man).

We slid into a cafe nearby to warm up. I had some tasty hot chocolate – it was nice to get out of the cold for a few minutes. The weather forecast had said Paris would be around 45 deg F this weekend, but it had been hovering closer to 30. Nonetheless, we pressed on as we had one more sight we wanted to see, the Arc de Triomf. I hadn’t realized the landmark stood in the middle of a wide traffic circle, so when we arrived I was a little confused as to how we would get there. We stumbled upon the tunnel to go below the wide street and made for the entrance. We saw the entry fee was 12 Euros and opted not to go up, so we continued around the other side for more views. We got lucky and shortly after we emerged on the other side, we were treated to a view of the Eiffel Tower lit up and glistening in the background. We took in our fill of arch views, then made for the hostel as everyone was getting tired again – we had done a lot more walking today than yesterday.  

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The Arc de Triomf
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The Tower’s light show

We arrived at the hostel around 8:30PM. Everyone wanted a quiet night inside but I was not yet ready to call it a night, so I took a bit to recharge and headed back out around 9PM on my own to visit Sacré-Cœur. After another short metro ride I arrived at the hill where the basilica stands. There is a funicular available to go up the hill but I opted to take the ~250 steps uphill instead, and while I did rush the stairs I’m sorry to report I was a little winded upon reaching the top. I took a minute to catch my breath and take in the view from the hilltop, seeing Paris sprawled out before me.

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My view from the hilltop
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The Basilica stands tall over the city

Above me, the basilica loomed high with lofty domes. I entered the church to learn that a worship service has been going on there continuously for over 125 years, so I didn’t linger long or gawk. I stood in the ambiance to admire the interior while singing took place, and found some quiet serenity in taking it all in. After a short pause, I left the church and returned to the entrance, where a few street performers were playing music and lots of people hung out drinking. I didn’t stay too long before I made my way down the steps again, and returned home to the hostel for an early bedtime. Tomorrow I had an even earlier wake-up planned. Despite an early evening train to catch I was determined to fit as much in as possible in my last day in Paris. More on that later. Until then,

Best wishes and safe travels everyone,

 Ben

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