September 15, 2010

A Whirlwind in Europe - Paris (Day 1)

Paris was one city I never had real intent to visit in the past. The image of corny romance, fashion divas and wannabes and less-than-friendly Parisians was not my choice destination. However, I was ecstatic to be proven extremely naïve.

My first impression of Paris was not exactly pleasant though. I arrived at an airport with numerous armed forces on foot patrol. Later, I found out that France was under a terrorist threat. There was the congested train station where the lack of properly functioning English option at the ticket booth spawned many frustrated tourist and chaos in general.

Add to a 2-hour delay at the hostel since their luggage storage was stuffed to the ceiling (literally) with no room for new arrivals, I was not enjoying my first 4 hours at Paris.

To further mar my impression of Paris, there was a 1-hour long line at Sainte-Chapelle where my highly anticipated visit to the stained glass decorated church had to wait for the next visit. After all, I only had 6 hours to acquaint with Paris - and time was ticking away.

Slowly but surely though, Paris revealed her beauty. In fact, “beautiful” was recited continuously as I hurried along the bank of the Seine to Notre Dame.

A very stunning church with intricately carved archways is most deserving of numerous photographs!

Sometimes, getting lost in a new city is inevitable. However, getting lost may also lead to surprising new discoveries. On my misguided way to the Louvre, I stumbled upon Église Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois.

And Institute de France…

And the side entrances to the Louvre…

Getting lost certainly has its merits! If there were more time to randomly stroll down streets and lose myself intentionally in Paris, it would be an even more enjoyable experience. Getting lost would soon be a recurring theme over the course of the trip.

I did finally reached the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre…

…and Le Caroussel.

Rushed as I was, I took the time to stroll down Jardin des Tuileries to take in the Parisian atmosphere and the amazing sculptures…

…until I reached Place de la Concorde.

It would have been delightful to stroll along Champs-Elysees as well, but the sun would not wait to set and time was a diminishing commodity, I hightailed it to Arc de Triomphe via the very convinent Metro of Paris.

By now, it was about 4:30pm. There was a fishing store near Musee de l’Armee that I wanted to visit. It was a nice little shop called Les Poisson Si Grande. Unfortunately, you need a cheque to pay for the fishing license fee. My dream of fishing in Paris was dashed. Who in the world would have personal cheques on demand for the purchase of fishing license anyway???

Wasting no time, I hurried out of the fishing store to find the magnificent golden dome of Musee de l’Armee.

Further down the streets, I arrived at École Militaire.

Of course, that meant the Eiffel Tower was on your backside! Walking up to the Eiffel Tower and under its massive steel structure was astounding! But what a view it was from Le Palais de Chaillot.

The sunset was less than magnificent, so the decision was to forgo the dusk photographs of the Eiffel Tower in exchange for an extra hour at the Louvre.

Partly by design and partly by luck, my day in Paris was on a Wednesday allowing extended hours of visit at the Louvre (also on Fridays). Lady Luck followed my every step on this trip…or more likely God wanted the best weather for me to visit his holy places of pilgrimage.

Before dusk, I arrived at the Glass Pyramid and finally had the chance to go inside it.

With only 3 hours at the Louvre, it was a whirlwind tour to visit some of the most highly regarded pieces of art.

Winged Victory

David and Goliath (front)

David and Goliath (back)

The Mona Lisa…

…and massive The Wedding Feast at Canna to your back.

If anyone know what this piece is called, please let me know!

An entire hall full of sculptures, some Greek, some Roman and some Egyptian…

There were just too many pictures of beautiful sculptures to share them all.

No time to waste, it was time to walk down to the Egyptian exibits...but I got lost and found the Sphinx

...and the Medieval Moat instead.

After some back tracking and navigating, the Colossal Statue of Ramesses II was finally found!

I finally ran out of time :( They started asking visitors to leave at 9:30pm…

You know I just had to take a few shots of the Louvre at night…

…and Institute de France.

It was a suitable end to my day in Paris. I had no time to experience a night in Paris since there was a 9am flight to catch the next day. However, I did meet a couple of nice young ladies from California and Pennsylvania on their foreign studies back at the hostel. If only we were not traveling to opposite ends of Europe…and if only I had the liberty to follow them along…

The art and architecture of Paris won me over. I can honestly say that I am in love with Paris; maybe not a deep romance but there is certainly some infatuation. The Metro station was convenient, fast and safe. It could use a fresh coat of paint, some deodorizers and a few more escalators for luggage dragging visitors. Parisians were actually fairly friendly but some of their bad reputations do manifested in some people. Paris left me with so much to desire and so much to experience that I will anticipate to return again. A couple of days at the Louvre is definitely in order.

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