Paris: The City of Rivets

Dreaming of Paris? Take a peek into Lina’s itinerary this past weekend – and learn a few facts about the city, too!

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.

The Arc de Triumph is the perfect monument to show military prowess.
 
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

Pictured above: A small blonde blogger and about 2.5 million rivets

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

Here is my favorite Degas painting in the Musee D’Orsay.

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.

The most iconic example of Gothic Architecture.
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.

Tourist-ing

Sam took his first weekend trip – and went full-blown, “selfie stick, souvenir-buying” tourist. Can you guess what his first destination was? Check out his blog to see if you’re right!

Notre Dame

Although we often stick out worse than a Shetland pony in the Kentucky Derby, sometimes just being an unabashed tourist is worth it. This last weekend, I went to Paris, one of the top 3 tourist destinations in the world and we decided to just bite the bullet and go full out Hawaiian t-shirt, selfie stick, souvenir-buying mode. We saw everything from Notre Dame and the Louvre, to the Red Light District and the Arc de Triomphe, to of course, the most iconic landmark in the world, McDonald’s. I do admit to feeling a bit uncomfortable when I feel like we’re broadcasting to the world: “Stupid Americans, right here!” but these landmarks are actually worth seeing. It’s mind boggling the amount of history behind this city and France itself. I’m currently living in a continent with recorded history dating back hundreds of years before anything was really written down in the Americas. The Notre Dame cathedral in particular literally stunned me into silence. It was a profound experience being able to view this testament to sheer human willpower and ingenuity.

However, there is another side to traveling. These famous buildings and pieces of art that Paris is known for are truly awe-inspiring. However, these things only make up the superficial layer of what the city really is. With only 2.5 days I can’t say that we really got to know Paris, but did try to get a feel for what the city really was while we were there.

Me being dumb in front of the tower.

While the daylight hours were taken up with trying to see every last famous piece of history in Paris, in the evenings we tried to relax a little more and explore the less touristy side of things. Despite how great the sightseeing was, I can say with certainty that my favorite part of our visit was Saturday night when we found a tiny little French cafe to eat dinner in. You know you’ve found something a little more real when you feel very out of place. We were most certainly the only non-locals there, and I could tell the staff was not used to serving people whose French closely resembled that of a 4 year-old ostrich. However, despite all that, they treated us extremely well and were the best hosts we could have asked for. We stayed at the restaurant for the better part of three hours, just enjoying our food and relaxing after 9 hours of walking (rest in peace, feet). Having conversations in broken Franglish with the locals while eating amazing French food was a truly great experience.

Musée D’Orsay

My first time traveling for the semester was exciting, humbling, exhausting, and incredibly rewarding. After so many hours walking in the bitter French cold, anything above zero degrees Celsius feels balmy and I’m fairly certain my feet no longer work, but I wouldn’t have traded that experience for the world. I can’t wait for a whole semester filled with traveling to interesting and historic places, and how much I will grow as a global citizen through it. Thanks for coming along on the journey with me,  and I’ll see you next time!