Ah, the city of love. It is a place chock-full of art, architecture, and history. I mean, if you tried to read the entire history of Paris, you would be reading a book and not this blog post. Instead, I will let you in on some eclectic historical trivia that I encountered on my way through the city.
Upon arrival in Paris, after checking into our cozy bed and breakfast, my companions and I metro-ed over to the Champs-Élysees, which is a beautiful street populated with high-end fashion stores, restaurants and car makers. It is also the street on which the Arc De Triomphe is located. It was commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon, then emperor of France. He wanted a monument to represent the glory of France’s grand army. The Arc has been very symbolic throughout France’s history. Every time Paris is taken over, either by the Germans such as in 1940, or taken back by the French, such as in 1945, victory marches are led beneath the Arc. This occurred in World War I as well. Standing beneath it was truly awe-inspiring.
Would any Paris post be complete without the Eiffel Tower? The tower was initially built for the World’s Fair in 1889. The main architects for the project, Maurice Koechlin and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, had previously worked on the Statue of
Liberty project together. It took 2.5 million rivets to hold the structure together. If you gave everyone in Atlanta 4 rivets, you still would not have enough rivets to build the Eiffel tower. The tower was meant to be temporary, and was scheduled to be torn down in 1909. However, it was saved because officials argued that it could
be used as a telegraph tower. In World War I, it was instrumental in intercepting enemy communications.
My favorite part of the trip was my visit to the Musee D’Orsay, home to the most impressive collection of impressionist art in the world. The museum contains paintings and sculptures all the way from the classical era to post-impressionism. Walking around the arrays of priceless paintings was simply amazing. My favorite area however, was the Hall of Impressionists. Containing famous Monet, Degas, Renoir and Pissarro paintings, this hall showed lots of
priceless masterpieces. I especially love Degas because he usually paints and sculpts ballerinas as his subjects. As a ballet dancer, the way he captures the motion and fluidity of this style of dance really speaks to me.
Next, we visited the Notre Dame cathedral. This was an amazing experience for me. The cathedral began construction in the 1163, where local serfs and artists were employed to make the monument. It took 182 years to complete, and it is considered the epitome of French gothic architecture. It is also cited for being the first building to utilize flying buttresses in its design. Going inside and looking up into the vast space made me really emotional. All of the stones had been laid by hand, all of the sculptures carefully carved, every mosaic artfully decorated, by people whose memories would live on in the historic building. I, more than 500 years later, was seeing their work.
One of my favorite parts of the trip was our meal at L’Encrier. The restaurant served classic French food in three courses, and my group was the only non-Parisian group inside. We couldn’t understand the menu (none of us spoke French well enough), so we each ordered something at random. I ordered a pork dish, which came with the best zucchini I have ever had in my life. Watching us try our best with the French, and listening in to our appreciative “mmmmms” the wait staff brought us an extra dessert and wished us well on our trip. It felt like a truly authentic Parisian experience, which juxtaposed well with our otherwise touristy trip. All in all, it was an enriching weekend.