B&A’s Benelux Journal

November 1, 2016

[insert clever song line or movie quote about Paris]

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 3:42 pm

Yes, yes, yes, Paris. Or should I say… Oui, oui, oui, Par-ee. We spent a couple days in the City of Lights/City of Love. It was a whirlwind, but much more a whirlwind of guided talks and museums and churches than a whirlwind of love or even lights. Quick rundown of the major sights we saw: Sainte Chapelle (small, old church with beautiful interior), Notre Dame cathedral, Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, that bridge with all the locks, Sacre Coeur, Montmartre neighborhood, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre’s “Greatest Hits,” a good chunk of the Pompidou, two Michelin star restaurants, Arc de Triomphe, and Versailles. There was other stuff, but those are the ones most likely to resonate with you, gentle reader.

For me, the Eiffel Tower was more impressive that I remembered it. (Friendly reminder that I had traveled to Paris before. Brandon had not.) It’s latest assortment of lights that turn on at night is truly beautiful; so sparkly and breathtaking! But I also did not remember the sheer size of it and the sense it leaves you of the marvels of modern humanity and our engineering. It really did impress me quite a bit! Best word I can think of it “breathtaking.” Which I’ve already used, but I’ll use it again.

I must also confess that another one of the most touristy sites in Paris really surprised me, and this was one I had NOT had the pleasure of seeing before. It was…… (drumroll…….)…………. the Mona Lisa! Or La Joconde. I’d been told, “She’s smaller in person than you think,” but I found her to be just the size I’d imagined she’d be. I think it was something about he warmth of the colors Da Vinci used and the ease of her posture and her smile… I felt so drawn in and so comforted by it. Like slipping on your favorite hoodie and slippers on a snow day and indulging in the most perfect cup of hot chocolate. It was that kind of comforting for me.

Other Louvre highlights for me were Venus de Milo and — centuries younger but meant to imitate the same style — Micehangelo’s The Slaves. Something about the expressiveness and the balance of strength and delicacy in marble sculpted into the human form… It forces you to focus on the shape the body occupies in space, rather than its colors or details or facial expressions, like in painting. I am blown away by how those sculptors can breathe life into stone like that. Amazing.

Let’s see… what else in Paris impressed me…. Oh! Michelin restaurants! Okay, yes, I know it makes us sound so frou-frou and fancy-pants. And I really did feel like my pants increased their fanciness by at least 50% as soon as we walked into these places. The food was amazing, as was the service. I also was impressed by the actual restaurants themselves. By that I mean, the dining spaces, d├ęcor, place settings, etc. It’s like the atmosphere made the food taste better. I think that’s kind of a country-mouse thing to say, but I’ll own that.

Though I had had one or two experiences in the past of snooty Parisian interactions, I will have to say that I was particularly impressed by the friendliness and politeness of everyone we dealt with in our few days in the fair city. Hotel staff, restaurant staff, touristy site employees, etc. People were very patient and kind with my broke, terrible French, and very few had any issues switching to English, if my French couldn’t get us through any longer.

On the “less than glowing review” side of things, Paris is still a city: dirty, smelly, crowded, etc. Though I’ve lived in a European city, it was a small one, and it was only for a year. I would have to admit, if pressed, that I really am a laid-back, slow-paced kind of person, and while I can grit my teeth and survive a day in the big city, the effort leaves me exhausted and overwhelmed once I flop back down on the hotel bed at night. I’m not cut out for it. And to be honest, this whole trip is kind of a variation on that same theme: we really are focusing mostly on cities on this trip, so it requires that I be in a different head space and energy space.

Ah well. I think those are enough Paris highlights for now. Since Paris, we spent a couple days in Antwerp (back in Belgium), and we arrived today in the bustling city of Amsterdam. Each leg of the trip will warrant their own posts; I’ll try to get caught up on those the next couple of days. Thanks to all of you reading back home (probably mostly just our parents, haha; love you guys). I’m thinking about all of y’all a lot and how all of you are part of making me the laid-back country mouse I am! (Also, I tell myself that every time I eat an extra pastry or piece of chocolate, it’s “for so-and-so back home.”)

Final thought: If any of my phrases or sentences seem off, there has been some crappy hip hop/rap playing in our hotel lounge the whole time I’ve been writing, so if I ended up typing any song lyrics while writing about travel… SORRY!

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