Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Paris Blog (Finally)

I'm finally getting around to writing about my trip to Paris with my Dad... it's been a busy month with friends visiting and big life decisions... more on that soon!

But back to Paris - the trip with my Dad confirmed what I've long suspected: Paris is truly one of my favorite cities in the world. For starters, the Luxembourg Gardens this time of year were even more spectacular than when Andy and I visited in February. The flowers were all in bloom and people enjoyed sitting around in lawn chairs all over the garden - including Dad and me. We returned more than once to sit at a certain corner of the lawn that attracted little hopping birds (and bumblebees too, which luckily didn't bother us too much). The various fountains in the park were also made more beautiful by the warmth and sunlight.

Our visit to the Louvre was one of the highlights of the trip. I have to admit, having heard rumors that the Louvre doesn't live up to the hype, I was a bit skeptical; but the rumors couldn't have been more wrong. The Louvre is every bit as impressive as you could imagine - with huge marble hallways, gallery after gallery of Greek and Roman statues, and of course paintings galore. (Their cafeteria was also fantastic - Dad tried a panna cotta for the first time and it was great!). The Venus de Milo was beautiful in person; I didn't expect to be impressed but I actually stood for a long time staring - it's one of the most graceful sculptures I've ever seen.

The Mona Lisa was also striking, and even though it was crowded, it wasn't the mob scene I thought it would be. We also came upon an unexpected treat - Napoleon's house. They've set up replicas of Napoleon's many living rooms, hallways, and dining room in the Louvre so you can actually walk through them. Many of the items were authentically his, down to the carpets, the staircases and the moldings, so it feels like stepping back in time as you're making your way through each room. Maybe it was the mood of the place, but Dad and I liked it so much we walked through twice and spent a long time just soaking it in.

Napoleon's salon

... and his dining room

The dining room was opulent and spooky at the same time - there were 8 foot high paintings on each wall of predatory animals on the attack (no kidding) - including vultures, tigers, and wild boar. The room was also darkly lit, which added to the creepiness.

Finally, I can't post a Paris blog without a mention of food. On our first afternoon, a thunderstorm rolled in and we ran into Cafe Tournon, where we had a delicious lunch of meat, bread and cheese. All of the doors and windows were open so we sat and watched the rain - we were the only ones in the restaurant at 4pm so it felt like the place was all ours.

The best food we had was by far at L'As du Fallafel, recommended by our friends Alice and Jon. Dad and I had the standard falafel which was both delicious and a good bargain, and the atmosphere was casual and friendly. After returning home and doing some research, it turns out The New York Times reviewed them a few years ago and raved about them too. We didn't take pictures but luckily their photographer Richard Harbus did.

L'As du Fallafel is in the Jewish part of town called Le Marais, and afterward we walked around the neighborhood and stumbled upon a memorial to the people in Paris who sheltered and aided Jews during World War II. We found out there was a huge underground railroad movement in Paris that included over 75,000 people. The names of families and individuals involved were engraved on the memorial - it was so moving to see how many people stood up for human rights in the face of Hitler's attempt to terrorize the world.

That's the thing about Paris - every time you go, you find new incredible bits of culture and beauty, and you realize there's so much more to do. Even as we were leaving, both Dad and I started planning our next trip there - I can't wait to go back.

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