Weekend 9: Beautiful Weather & Gardens

I have had so much work this past week, so I’m sorry it has taken me so long to get around to posting about last weekend! I wanted to make sure I did it before I left for Poland, but then I decided sleeping for once was more important. I am pretty much a week behind in life, but I want to be caught up with everything before I leave for Florence.

Last weekend had the best weather I’ve experienced since being in Paris. It made me love it a little more, which just goes to show that even though I don’t like living here doesn’t mean I don’t like Paris. There is definitely a difference. Paris has these amazing moments where the light will fall off a building into the street in the most beautiful way, and I don’t see how anyone could not love it, even if only for that moment. Also, I discovered these awesome buildings right down the street from the American Library in Paris. Out of all the times I’ve been there I can’t believe I never noticed them!

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Friday started off with my internship, but I had the afternoon to start shooting my final photography project. First, I went to the Jeu de Paume for the first time to see the current Erwin Blumenfeld exhibition, which I had to write a review of for class. This is the other smaller museum in the Tuileries along with the Musee de l’Orangerie. I then spent the rest of the evening shooting in the Tuileries and also in front the of the Pyramid at the Louvre. The weather was perfect and the light was amazing.

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I also got some gelato because what afternoon is perfect without it?!

Caramel, Banana, and Dark Chocolate

Caramel, Banana, and Dark Chocolate

I finished off by going across the street to the Place de la Concorde, which is filled with golden ornamentation that was highlighted by the golden setting sun. It was absolutely beautiful.

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The next morning I let myself sleep in because I hadn’t been able to since the previous week, before we went to Amsterdam. As soon as I was awake, I got ready and headed to Gare Saint Lazare, because I was going to Giverny! Since Giverny closes November 1st and I was going to Poland the next weekend, this was my last chance to go and I knew I had to take it. Once I got to the station, I spent a while trying to buy train tickets from the SNCF machines before realizing my cards wouldn’t work because they aren’t chip cards. That meant the only way that I could get my tickets was to wait in the incredibly long line of people at the SNCF ticket counter. By the time I got to the front, I had missed all the morning trains and I had an hour and a half to kill before the next train to Vernon.

I decided to go to the Fnac down the street, which is basically France’s equivalent to Best Buy and Barnes & Noble in one. The store was huge; I think it had about six floors. It was really fun seeing things I was familiar with but in French, like these:

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Les Sims!

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Star Wars AND Harry Potter

I also saw that they have this really beautifully illustrated hard cover graphic novel-esque version of Camus’ The Stranger that I think I will own before I leave Paris. One of my small goals before I left was to get a version of the book in French, and while initially I was picturing some beat-up, used version, this fits that description and is definitely unique.

Once it was finally time for my train, I headed back to the station and got on. It’s a relatively short ride, I think just under an hour. When I got to Vernon, I had to then wait another 40 minutes for the next shuttle bus to Giverny. I wandered around the sleepy little town for a bit and stopped in a lovely boulangerie to get some lunch. Initially I ordered a pizza, but only after I had paid for it and was waiting for it to be heated up did I realize it had Salmon in it. In desperate broken French I explained how sorry I was but I couldn’t eat it, and instead got a waffle. It was 10 cents more than the pizza but the nice woman there wouldn’t accept my extra payment, which was so kind after the little hassle I caused.

The shuttle to Giverny was supposed to cost 4 euros, but for some reason the driver wouldn’t take a payment. When I finally got to the bus drop-off I then had to walk though this underground tunnel to cross the street into Giverny. Immediately, it’s like walking into a little French storybook town. I’m not sure how much of this is genuine and how much has been shaped by tourism, but it is still lovely, especially in the fall! Everything was covered in rainbow ivy and flowers.

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My first priority was seeing Monet’s house and gardens. Since it was already the afternoon and I’m wary of how early things close in Europe, I wanted to be sure that if I got anything done it was at least that. I was not entirely sure of how big it would be, but it turned out to be well worth it! These are no ordinary gardens, and his house is like the one from Alice in Wonderland, but full of prints by Japanese printmaking masters and Impressionist paintings from Monet’s close friends, as well as his own work. I’m not sure that my photos fully convey the magical experience of being there, even when you’re surrounded by tourists and you can’t take a photo of the front of his house without strangers posing in front of it.

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To get to the waterlillies pond you have to go underground through this cool tunnel:

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And then you first see all this bamboo:

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And then of course, there is the pond. It was a lot bigger than I expected!

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After I left the gardens, everything else in Giverny was closing. I wandered around a little bit to see if there was anything else to do but eventually decided to take the shuttle bus back to Vernon.

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Once I got there, I must have just missed a train to Paris, because the next one wasn’t for over 2 hours. I was getting frustrated at this point but there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I decided to seek out the local church.

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I was pleasantly surprised to find that the church was open. I was the only person inside, which is sort of an eerie experience. Since the sun was setting and the church wasn’t lit very well, it was difficult to take photographs, but I loved the stained glass so I took a few of the windows.

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After the church, I wandered around Vernon a bit more, got something to eat, and then spent the rest of my time waiting at the train station and deeply regretting my last minute decision to not bring my Kindle. By the time I got back to Paris it was too late for me to do anything else. I’m so glad I went and it is something I highly recommend, but definitely plan ahead a little more than I did! Also, if you have allergies you might want to consider that before going to a giant garden. I stopped taking my medicine soon after coming to Paris since I didn’t really need it, but after Giverny I was sneezing all week so I’ve started taking it again.

To give a quick recap on this past week, I basically spent all my free time doing homework until 2-3AM every day. Annie and I are almost finished the translations for her book. I also finally found a vegetarian place by school! It’s in the one direction down the street from the metro stop I get off at that I had never been down previously. I am both disappointed that I spent half the semester spending my money on mediocre, unhealthy food, but also really happy I can spend the rest of the semester eating from there. I can’t wait to try their veggie burgers!

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So, I am about to start another incredibly busy week where I will probably not be sleeping much, but it will be so worth it because I’m going to Florence on Friday!! Also, Halloween is Thursday, but I honestly don’t even have time to think about it at this point. I can’t really go out too late since I have to leave the next morning at 6AM. But, Florence!!!!

Weekend 4: Saturday, Back to the Louvre!

Saturday I woke up with my throat feeling even worse than it did before. I did not want to have another rainy, stay-inside-all-day sick day, so I decided what better thing to do than go to the Louvre? I took a ton of vitamin C, had a mug of tea, and set off through the rain.

This time, I started off exploring the Egyptian section. The Louvre has the most amazing and extensive collection of Egyptian art I have ever seen. It’s not just typical things you see in most museums, either. They have artifacts covering the entire range of Ancient Egyptian life. Just by walking through the galleries I feel like I gained a much better sense of what life was like for them than I have at any other time. I have always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt and would love to take a class on it (hey there, Ancient Art History credit I still need to fulfill) but seeing this collection really peaked my interest not only artistically, but regarding every aspect of their lifestyle. They were a really incredible people.

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This is what it’s like to look at Egyptian art at the Louvre. Yeah.

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Their mummy is much bigger than the Nelson’s and doesn’t have a creepy computer generated face on the label.

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One of the most colorful steles I’ve seen

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I think in a past life I may have been an Egyptian. As a child, my favorite toys were things that were very small. Polly Pocket, doll houses, you name it. I was the Queen of Tiny Toys. I also love things that are colorful and shiny. And, my favorite animals are cats and monkeys. Well, guess what they have a lot of in Egyptian artifacts? Tiny, colorful, shiny cats and monkeys!!!

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They have tons of other super tiny, intricate little sculptures as well. They are amazing!

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Look at the tiny hedgehog on the far left!! I didn’t even know they had hedgehogs in Egypt…

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Also, some of the works were lit really beautifully. My phone pictures do it no justice, you’ll just have to go see it for yourself!

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One of the reasons I picked Ancient Egyptian was because I figured it would eventually lead to the Seated Scribe and Code of Hammurabi. The Scribe was almost at the end of the Egyptian collection and when I finally saw it, it actually surprised me. It’s so big and vibrant!

I looked deep into the eyes of the Seated Scribe

I looked deep into the eyes of the Seated Scribe

For some reason I find a lot of Egyptian artwork in museums to be really amusing. One of my favorite things at the Nelson is the Egyptian head that looks exactly like Voldemort. Well, the Louvre has not escaped this scrutiny either.

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This guy can not handle losing his nose

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The Louvre has Voldemorts too! But they have ears.

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Does anyone actually swim like this?? They’re like Ancient Egyptian versions of those scuba diver bath toys.

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I found the ears

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He’s so blue, he don’t know what to do

After I got through the Ancient Egyptian stuff I wanted to keep looking at ancient collections so I moved on to Greek and Roman.

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They have soo much pottery!! I was amazed no one was in there until I went in and it was a bajillion degrees. I will probably spend some quality time in there when it gets colder.

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I went in a circle somehow so I took the elevator downstairs and ended up right at the Venus de Milo.

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I just kept walking through the sculptures. They were generally either missing really important body parts or had too much of the ones that remained. Also some craaazzzy headless drapery going on.

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Those obliques are intense

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This guy reminds me of someone… (hint: Nelson)

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She has some serious issues

No, this is just a wall in the museum.

No, this is just a wall in the museum. Above a fireplace.

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After the Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, you are directly led to Northern European sculpture. The subject matter goes from ancient gods of marble to Jesus, Mary, and Popes in painted wood.

Well, except for her.

Well, except for her.

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Oh no, Jesus 😦

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There’s that Northern love of grotesque detail I learned about!

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All the while, I was trying to figure out how to get over to the rest of the ancient stuff where the Code of Hammurabi is, but I ended back in Italian and French painting where I was last time. Not that this is a bad thing, but I wanted to see new sections and I spent a lot of time there during my last visit. I finally figured out that I would need to get to the opposite side of the museum to see the rest of the ancient works, so I decided to go to Northern painting instead. It took me a while to find that, too, but when I finally did it was so worth it!

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I totally forgot that these paintings were in the Louvre until I was standing in the room looking around me and I think I audibly said, ohhhhh! It was a nice surprise.

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Look at the Louvre trying to be cute. Too bad no one follows this sign. Literally as I took this there was a woman photographing a statue using her flash. Sigh.

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Hey there Lucas Cranach the Elder. He has a very similar composition at the Nelson.

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Did not know this was here. Yay!

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I super-studied this painting in art history and I think even wrote an essay about it. It’s really darkened in person.

From one of my favorite places to say, the Studiolo in Urbino!!

From one of my favorite places to say, the Studiolo in Urbino!!

Also did not know this was here. The inside is in beautiful condition!

Also did not know this was here. The inside is in beautiful condition!

I shall end with this.

I shall end with this.

Some day I might go to the Louvre and actually bring my fancy camera. I want to experience it all with just my eyes first. Also when it’s not raining and there are less tourists. Working at the Nelson this summer spoiled me and I want museums to always be empty when I’m photographing in them!

Weekend 2: Le Marais & the Louvre

I started off my Saturday morning with the goal to run to the Eiffel Tower (and back). Ever since I realized how close I live to the Eiffel Tower, I really wanted to use it as a running goal. I hadn’t had time to run since coming to France, so I was pretty excited. However, running on the sidewalks in Paris is no easy task. You have to maneuver around pedestrians, children, dogs, street cafes, and you have to stop a lot. Plus, once I got close to the Tower, there were tons of tourists and there was a pretty bad car accident. I also went down the wrong street a few times Still, I did it!

Snapped a quick pic under the tower before turning back.

Snapped a quick pic under the tower before turning back.

Once I got back, my friend asked if I wanted to go to le Marais so I met up with her and we spent the afternoon exploring.

On our way down, we passed a photography museum we heard about (Maison Européenne de la Photographie) and decided to check it out. There were several featured artist exhibitions going on that were progressively more interesting. It’s a huge building with tons of floors and is pretty confusing to navigate at first, but once we figured it out we really enjoyed it.

An interesting way to display photograhs

An interesting way to display photograhs

Dali and cats? Perfect.

Dali and cats? Perfect.

Then it was on to le Marais. This area of Paris has lots of great shops, boulangeries, chocolatiers, and patisseries. There’s also a lot of interesting graffiti and the most Americans I’ve heard since coming here, yet it is not touristy in the way that, say, the Eiffel Tower is. It is one of my favorite areas of the city so far!

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An adorable and tempting chocolate shop.

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For some reason there are signs with DC and Marvel heroes on them. I am okay with this.

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Super amazing smelling and looking boulangeries:

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I let myself get a treat. I decided to try something new and got a chausson aux pommes. It’s basically an apple-stuffed croissant. YUM.

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They take their mopeds and motorcycles seriously here.

The end of a pretty garden street.

The end of a pretty garden street.

Terrifying graffiti

Terrifying graffiti

St. Paul

St. Paul

In a bookbinding shop

In a bookbinding shop

Later that night we went to a super cheap Chinese restaurant we heard about and then to a party at another student’s apartment. It was another fun, full day!

Sunday I woke up with the intention of going to the Louvre. I had already been in Paris for almost two weeks without going, and that needed to change! First off I had to go get a Navigo pass. These are monthly passes that allow you access to all public transportation in Paris for a flat rate. They are completely worth it if you are spending a good amount of time in Paris. I love having it and it makes me feel a little more Parisian.

On my way to the metro station, I stopped in this really amazing smelling boulangerie right across the street from where I live. It’s one of those places that makes me wish there was a way to capture smell like a photograph. I was happily surprised to find that they have sandwiches with hard boiled eggs. Hooray for vegetarian-friendly fare!

Lunch, Paris-style

Lunch, Paris-style

Then it was time for the Louvre. I entered through the shopping mall entrance, but it turned out to be a free entry day anyway because it was the first Sunday of the month, so the line moved very quickly. Once I was inside the Louvre, I realized I had no idea where to go or start or where the things I wanted to see were located. For some reason, I had this feeling that I needed to see the Winged Victory of Samothrace before anything else because that was the thing that mentally solidified being in the Louvre for me. I started to freak out trying to find it and maybe had a little panic attack. Luckily it didn’t take me that long and I was able to stare at it and get over myself enough to start walking in a direction.

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Ahhhh!

I had no idea where I was going but I ended up in the French painting area. I think most of my time was spent looking without really seeing. I needed to get an over-all feel for the museum before I started scoping out the major works. After wandering around through French painters I didn’t know very well, I came across the big ones that each had their own rooms (Gericault, Ingres, David, Corot, Delacroix, among many others). Of course, their biggest paintings were not in their individual rooms.

I kept wandering and ended up in Italian painting. I figured I should get the Mona Lisa over with, being my first time at the Louvre. I made my way to the front, got my crappy cell phone photo, and was immediately pushed aside. I wouldn’t mind it if I could actually look at the painting, but since that’s obviously not an option I got out of there as soon as possible. It’s a pretty weird phenomena to think about. One of the world’s most famous paintings, and all people want to do is take a photograph standing in front of it. I don’t think anyone actually looks at the Mona Lisa.

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I was also kind of shocked at the amount of tourists blasting their flashes away at these super old paintings. Like Leonardo’s St. John the Baptist. That painting was clearly in better condition at one point, and there are now tourists flashing it with their cameras all the time. There are signs everywhere with pictures showing not to use flash, but everyone does anyway and no one regulates it. This is definitely a big difference from American museums.

Moving on, I then found the big, famous paintings by the French artists I saw earlier. I found this especially exciting because these were works I studied a lot in my art history classes, and yet there is no comparison to seeing the real thing in person. The size makes such a difference. Having said that, here are a few photographs I took of them (for all you non-art history people).

Ingres’ Grande Odalisque

I actually thought this painting was smaller in person than I thought it would be.

This painting was smaller in person than I thought it would be.

David’s Oath of the Horatii

This was bigger than I thought it was!

This was bigger than I thought it would be!

There was also Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, which was exactly how I hoped it would be!

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Another thing I realized about the Louvre is that I found myself constantly looking not only at the walls, but the ceiling as well.

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The whole building not only contains art, but is art!

I wandered around some more and then decided to go look at the Greek sculptures. Marble sculpture will always completely blow my mind. I can’t comprehend how something that was once a huge hunk of marble becomes an incredibly life-like representation of humanity.

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At this point they were starting to close off certain parts of the museum. I don’t even know how long I had been there but it was at least 4-5 hours. I decided I should start meandering out of the museum. I was pretty tired and had seen way more than I could absorb.

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This guy is cool.

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Oh look an area of the Louvre with no people.

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Dat baby’s face.

So I definitely need to go to the Louvre only about a million more times, but I’d say this was not bad for my first time. I now can at least get my bearings when I go inside and I’ll hopefully be able to navigate a bit better. I may need to systematically tackle a small section of the Louvre each weekend. But then school is starting, and I still need to go to the d’Orsay, and the Petit Palais, and the Picasso Museum, and the Rodin museum, and Versailles, and Giverny, and Saint Denis, and Notre Dame, and Sainte Chapelle, and the Pompidou again, and the Palais de Tokyo, and an infinite list of other places. Good thing I don’t have class on Fridays.

To end my day, I went out for crepes and wandered around Saint Germain.

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Candy!

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Coolest graffiti ever?!

So there it is. Just another weekend in Paris. This is my life.

My next post will be about my first week of class! Let the craziness begin.

Day 2: Exploration

I started off my morning with a mini panic attack because I realized I would need to take the metro to the TGV station at 6:00AM the next morning. Before coming to Paris, I thought my excitement would always be greater than any fears I had about suddenly throwing myself into a strange new culture, but in this moment that was proven wrong. Anne helpfully drove me to the closest metro station so that I could see where it was and buy tickets. Once I got back and stopped freaking out, I realized the only way to reassure myself was to go ahead and use the metro. I picked the Eiffel Tower as my destination and set off. (All the following photos were taken with my phone)

It turned out to be a lot easier than I thought it would be. I soon got off at the station and headed in the direction I thought the Eiffel Tower was in. Pretty soon I realized I was wrong, but I kept going anyways.

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If I were rich, I would eat here.

I ended up on the Left Bank of the Seine, and started following it. Immediately as I went down to the bank, there was this awesome floating greenhouse/garden that followed along the river for quite a while.

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I walked along the Seine until I passed the Pont des Invalides and then arrived at the famous Pont Alexandre III, the most ornate bridge in Paris. (This is where I started taking panoramas with my phone and they get a bit funky…)

Pont des Invalides

Pont des Invalides

Pont Alexandre III

Pont Alexandre III

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Pont Alexandre III

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Stairs up to le Pont Alexandre III

I then wandered across the bridge to the other bank…

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La statue de La Fayette

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La statue de La Fayette

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La statue de La Fayette

From across the water I saw this giant domed building which turned out to be the Alexandre III Grand Palais. I need to get inside it somehow, but it’s super fancy.

Alexadre III Grand Palais

Alexadre III Grand Palais

Across the street is the Musee des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, which I will have to visit again.

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Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

Le Petit Palais/Musee des Beaux-Arts

I kept on walking through a park, which was of course beautiful. These flowers made me think of a painting, as does everything else in Paris!

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I then realized I was probably close to the Louvre, so I looked it up on my phone (Yay apps! They have been awesome so far) and started heading in that direction. I came across the great Egyptian Luxor Obelisque in the Place de la Concorde, which is in front of the entrance to the Tuileries Gardens that lead up to the Louvre.

Luxor Obelisque

Luxor Obelisque

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And of course the amazing Fontaines de la Concorde. Coming from the City of Fountains, this kind of puts Kansas City to shame…

Fontaines de la Concorde

Fontaines de la Concorde

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Fontaines de la Concorde

Fontaines de la Concorde

The Two Towers

The Two Towers

I then headed into the Tuileries Gardens, which has lots of beautiful sculptures that each have a unique personality!

Librarie des jardins

Librarie des jardins

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The Pit Smeller

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At lest your day is going better than this guy’s…

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They missed the last ferris wheel ride.

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I also made my first purchase in Paris… Banana Sorbet shaped like a rose!

Yummy

Yummy

Then it was time to finally see the Louvre!

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Funky panorama

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Taking a selfie in front of the Louvre is harder than it looks…

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I thought it was funny how on either side of the pyramids there are things to stand on so it looks like you're touching the tip of the pyramid. Oookay.

I thought it was funny how on either side of the pyramids there are things to stand on so it looks like you’re touching the tip of the pyramid. Oookay.

The museum was closed today, and I actually did not intend to go in anyways, so I just kept wandering around.

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A sculpture in one of the courtyards.

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Through some windows, you can see people installing something!

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By this point I was pretty tired (I don’t even know how many miles I walked or for how many hours) so I figured I should get something to eat. I exited the Louvre through the side and crossed the street, seeing this metro immediately.

Art Nouveau Metro!

Art Nouveau Metro!

Being a super huge Art Nouveau enthusiast, I was really happy to stumble upon this metro station on my first full day in Paris. I kept wandering down the street, which is pretty much all touristy shops. I stopped to get a panini and then kept walking, trying to find a place to rest and eat it.

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This panini was way huger than it looks.

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La Madeleine

This church had caught my eye earlier, so I decided to head down to it and eat in the shade on its steps. Once I had eaten enough, I retraced my steps all the way back to the original metro station I came from and headed back to my new Parisian home. Of course, once I got out of the metro I got lost for a little bit, but I eventually found my way back.

Tomorrow I have to get up at 5AM to leave at 6AM to make sure I get to my 7:37AM TGV train to Avignon. I’m still a little nervous, but after all of my exploring today the excitement is definitely back. I still have to pack, so I’m going to do that and then go to sleep. Bon nuit!