Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Trip to Paris 2/7

For our second day in Paris we had planned to go to one of the largest and most infamous museums in the world - Louvre!

Today was Bastille Day, which is the French National Day (The French call it 'Fête nationale' from what I know). Since we are 'poor students' we figured today would be a great day to go to Louvre since the entrance would be free (for normal prices see HERE) and in the night we knew there would be some sort of fireworks. We wasn't sure where so our plan was to head towards Avenue des Champs-Élysées since that's the place to be.. apparently. At least Maria said so. She was the one who took French classes after all.

Anyways, we headed out and decided that, to not waste any time, we'd find breakfast on our way there. 
The streets were filled with people but we left no thought as to why. However, it became more and more apparent to us that they were all heading the same way so it must have been something special. It wasn't before our path was blocked by the police and army guys that we considered following the mass. 

In the end we came to yet a blocked intersection at Rue Royale x Rue Saint Honoré but there were actually people here and it seemed like they were waiting for something. Curiously we decided to stay and got ourselves a nice spot to stand in, almost in the front. As people moved, we ended up in the front of everyone and had the best view! An elderly British couple behind us were talking about events and mentioned something about the President and a parade that was supposed to take place here.. we grew interested about the fact that we might get to see the President and in the end we stayed.

And thus, the Bastilly Day Military Parade began.
First were the planes spitting out coloured smoke, creating the French flag and afterwards countless of other different planes flew over our heads! They were all very alike so I didn't want to take too many pictures since we had to save space for Louvre too.

When the planes has passed by, the interception went quiet and singing could be heard far off.
Soldiers, orchestras, police folk, and firefighters all came by. Their clothing was very special and some had weapons while others wore the funniest hats! Some also sang like in the video above while some stayed quiet. People were clapping for all but the ones that received the greatest round of applause were the ones dressed in what we believe were the uniforms from WWII. There was a certain "feel" about them in the way that they showed no emotion and there were absolutely no people talking when they walked by.
Maybe you can sense it in the video?
The soldiers were followed by firetrucks with their obnoxious sirens turned on and a whole bunch of military vehicles. Even tanks! 

While we were standing there, a young boy (whom we think was Italian) around maybe 15-16 years old stood beside us and would casually snap pictures and videos of us when he thought we weren't looking. It was a little strange but he was such a little cutie! And he just stood there by himself.. We both really wanted to hug the little guy but decided it would probably be weird. Instead we decided to take an awkward selfie in hopes of catching him but sadly we missed. He was standing RIGHT beside me though. I could feel his sweater on my arms the whole time.
2 hours later the whole thing was over and our stomachs were growling. We were behind schedule due to the parade and sa if that wasn't enough, the blocked streets had caused us to take a HUGE detour. At this point we weren't even sure where to go and it was so hard to navigate with the many people. Look how squished we were!
L'église de la Madeleine
As people split up, the little Italian boy kept walking right behind us and we thought maybe he was lost. We lost sight of him though and figured we had taken a wrong turn. He had gone the way we were supposed to go in the first place so maybe he had gone to Louvre? If so, we agreed to run up and hug him if we saw him and then answer questions as to why afterwards. 

We had brunch at Crêperie framboise at
Crêperie Framboise                                               I'll leave addresses in case any of you would be
2 Rue de l'Échelle                                                  interested in going too 。^‿^。
75001 Paris
The waitress was very nice and handed us a menu card.... in French(!!) but quickly gave us a new one in English when she figured we had troubles what to order.
I ordered the Noisette and a pineapple juice = 11.8 €
The crepe was super good and very filling - especially with the whipped cream. The juice was also really good and I'm personally a big fan of juices more exotic than with apple and orange. It was a bit pricey though (especially the juice) which was a minus.

Then we headed to Louvre! 
The buildings were just drop dead gorgeous! Maria told me how it had belonged to royalty back in the days
 First picture of the Eiffel Tower!
 Thank you, random Asian man, for taking this wonderful picture!
Okay so Louvre was ginormous! If Charles de Gaulle Airport wasn't large enough to be its own city, Louvre was! 
Even though there were many people, it didn't take us long to get in. Once again we we lucky! The security men opened an extra queue when we were about 1/3 from the opening and we ended up being in the front. Talk about good timing! ¨

So Louvre was just incredible. Maria said that she had once watched a program and they said that you could wander around for a month inside Louvre and still not have seen everything. Woah!

Everything inside Louvre was breathtaking, even the buildings itself! And to think people have actually lived here before.. unbelievable
Look at the nicely carved details
I was really happy when I recognized Venus de Milo! I didn't even know she was here but I'd heard about her in my Greek Mythology class which was one of my favorite classes. I'm so going to show this picture to my old teacher.
Again such details. This was the ceiling in one of the rooms
Athena was also a beautiful statue and there was actually a small section just for her right beside Venus. She looks about human size here but she was actually 2.3 meters tall!

I'm not sure who this man was but c'mon, you can't go to a place like that without having at least one goofy picture
Moving on to the Italian paintings... there were so many!
After a long long long search we found Mona Lisa! She was MUCH smaller than I had thought and it was almost impossible to get a picture of her. 
I snapped this picture through a window. Isn't the building beautiful?
Yet a window shot

Imagine walking up those stairs in a beautiful old dress *0*
The Egyptian section was one of my favorites and I finally got to see a real mummy! It's a bit grotesque to think this was a real person some 330 years B.C.
The Great Sphinx of Tanis is one of the largest sphinxes outside Egypt. Majestic indeed.
The last part we went to was the old medieval section. Not much was left of it and I didn't really understand the whole thing about it. Across the walls were French sentences lit up but I didn't understand them. Maybe Maria caught something I didn't?
While we were admiring the floor (I'm not sure why), a pretty French guy bumped into me from behind and we both instantly said sorry before Maria and I walked on and we heard his friends go "Uuuuuh" in the background. I swear it was planned and Maria kept teasing me, telling me she had never seen my face so red before! Aaah how embarassing ( /) - (\ )

When we were done we went outside and over to a little park where people sat down and enjoyed the weather. They did not seem to have a single worry in life. It was wonderful
Yay for random sand everywhere!
After a short rest we went on and walked through a large area where people had dressed really old. There were tents and old cars and many people gathered there. I guess it could have something to do with WWI? This year it's been 100 years since it broke out.

We skipped that part and kept walking straight ahead until we came to a large road. Once again the police had been there to close it off and people were now walking where there would usually be cars. 
French flags everywhere! 
In the end we reached Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile at the end of Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
We had a quick stroll and a pit stop at Starbucks before we decided to head towards the Eiffel tower.

For dinner we found a restaurant called Le Grand Corona 
Le Grand Corona
3 Place Alma                                                                            Once again, here's the address in case
75008 Paris                                                                              you want to stop by
From here we could see the Eiffel tower and a looooot of traffic.
Our waiter was a guy around our age and he was cuuuuuute! For reasons Maria and I had been gawking about how well people in Paris had been dressed up until now and then we end up having a guy our age in a suit as our waiter! I swear he had the cutest French accent! 
Buuuuuut a waiter isn't all! We came to eat - not gawk over some guy.
The food was no good! We both ordered one of these sandwiched with "chicken". But the bread was dry, the fries were cold, the "chicken" was incredibly thin and tasted like air, and the cheese was the kind of cheese you buy with the pieces already separated. Ew. 
A Chicken sandwich with fries and a water = 19.5 €

We had walked right into a "tourist trap". And looking at the quality of the food compared to its price it was very pricey. Don't eat there.

Our waiter had told us there was going to be fireworks at the Eiffel Tower that night so we decided to move closer. Although we could see the Eiffel Tower from the restaurant it wasn't a very good view and we walked closer. When we came to a bridge we stopped and enjoyed the view. A bunch of people were already there so the fireworks would probably start soon.... we thought.
While waiting, Maria and I were talking and at some point I tried to suggest we went to stand on the bridge (Pont de l'Alma) instead because it looked like we might get a better view. I use my hands and arms a lot when explaining things and soon realized a man was mimicking me(!) and laughing! I went over and all four of us had a chit-chat (Maria and I, him, and his friend). However, it was short due to their limited English and our limited French. They did tell us when the show would start... but because of their French accents (and them messing up the first time they tried saying it) we weren't sure if they said 20.15, 20.50, 22.15, or maybe 22.50.
Our legs and feet were so sore after all the walking and it was still darn hot outside.
At some point two elder woman had sat down behind us on a thin piece of cloth and I guess they could see how tired we were because one of them suddenly started calling me over and asked us to sit down.
Thank you elder Vietnamese ladies for giving us a place to sit although we were total strangers and thank you for the pistachio nuts! ( ^▽^)ノ ♥

And FINALLY, after 3 hours of waiting, the show started!
It began with the Eiffel Tower starting to shimmer with a few lights here and there. The many small bulbs lit up the towers and it went faster and faster. Some few fireworks appeared to the right and suddenly everything escalated! French coloured fireworks lit up the night sky and the light flew back on us, making caricatures of the people in front of us. Fireworks went up and down the Eiffel Tower and exploded at the top, making it look like a palm tree of glitter. 
It was extravagant! People clapped and went "Waaaah!" and cheered. It was a great feeling to be part of it all. I had wanted to take more pictures but my camera doesn't work well in the dark and I wouldn't want to ruin the moment just to take pictures I'd probably never wind up looking at again.  
If you want to experience yourself you should go! Don't let yourself miss out!

When the show ended we were set on getting home as soon as possible but we were standing right in the middle on an ocean of people walking in different directions. We didn't walk. We SWAM in people!
In the middle of the confusion I had a small chat with a very well dressed and quite good-looking French/Indian guy before our ways parted for eternity.

Originally we had planned to walk away from the mass and then take one of the expensive taxis home but ended up walking the rest of the way.
[NOTE: One week before Paris I had injured my foot during a photoshoot and used crutches all up until the day we left because I had been in great pain and unable to walk. So when I complain about my foot hurting in any of the posts about Paris, please bear with me]
Pont de l'Alma was 5 km from our hotel and after the first 2.5 km I was literally limping behind Maria, slowing down our pace and leaning on buildings. 
I have never looked so pathetic before in my life but Maria is so sweet and even hear healthy legs were shaking so she understood. We made it safely back to the hotel no later than 01.30. 

Tips and things to know:

  • French people seem veeery open. We were literally stopped in the street by a guy who stuck out his phone and wanted us to give our numbers!
  • Avoid eating near attractions and places with too many tourists - These places tend to be much more pricey although the quality of food is about the same.
  • If you are in Paris on important days like Bastille Day, follow the crowd! Chances are there is something they know that you don't and you might end up finding yourself standing in the middle of a big event.
  • Don't be scared of asking for help or directions. Although they can be hard to understand, Parisians seem very friendly and certainly don't mind talking to foreigners. (But be polite)
  • If you plan on visiting Louvre, make sure to bring good walking shoes and not dress too warm. The roof works like a greenhouse so it can be very hot in there. Also, make sure to grab a free map from the               counters below the stairs. The place is HUGE. Trust me, you will need a map. 
  • In Denmark we are very aware of the red and green men at crosswalks (I found a great entry about it HERE). However, Parisians seem to not mind it that much and they actually continue walking even when the man is red(!!). Beware of following the crowd here and look out for cars!
  • It's clear that Champs-Élysées is the nice part of Paris! There was absolutely no trash in the streets but a few pieces of gum here and there.
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