In the city of Lights and Macarons

I haven´t had the chance to “properly” visit Paris until I met my brother for New Year. I had my doubts about it because of all what it’s said about Parisians being quite rude, and the city itself being ridiculously expensive. I change my opinion about the first one (really nice people, I must say!) but I shall maintain it about the second one (too expensive place). When I arrived, I was gladly received by my brother (Francisco AKA Pancho) and his friend Gregoire (a gentleman and a wonderful host who did not hesitate in giving us the best attention possible, together with his lovely family) at the airport. Soon enough Pancho introduced me to the itinerary. As I haven’t been in Paris I was very excited and looking forward the great things ahead of me in this trip.

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Eiffel Tower seen from the bottom

Writing about my visit with details will probably take me forever (well, not really) but here is my 5 days experience in the city of lights and Macarons: Paris.

The first day,  december 29th we visited the Chateau de Versailles (20km south from the capital and in the suburb of the same name), which was the center of political power when the king Louis XIV moved his family from Paris – then forced to return during the French Revolution – , and was the place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28th, 1919.  The Palace is a glimpse of the opulence and extravagance of the French nobility back in the day. It is said that most of the palaces that were built – in Europe –  in the 1700′s were, somehow, inspired by Versailles’ architecture and design. With beautiful gardens, infinite chambers and paintings, and even a state where Marie-Antoniette used to spend most of her time, the Chateau de Versailles is definitely a great way to start the visit in Paris. I could have enjoyed more, thought, if it wasn’t for my “awesome” idea to wear flat ballerinas in winter and without stockings.

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The Palace of Versailles

The second day I was more ready for the day that was ahead of us. I had bought a pair of boots, so I was confident that this time I would pay more attention to the beauty that was constantly surrounding us,  and not to “how cold my feet were”. The 30th we woke up late – as usual – and after preparing our paninis we went to the conquer of the Musee du Louvre. We knew that we were running out of time because it seems to be one of the most massive museums in the planet, and you would normally need a whole week to make a descent tour around it.  Anyways, our plan was to literally run and see the most important things. But, wait a minute! How to do that in just 4 and a half hours? Well, we sort of did it and at the end we were pretty exhausted from the tour. However, and despite the short time we managed to admire Rembrandt’s paintings and most of the Northern European, and Velazquez and most of the Southern European artists; the Mona Lisa from afar (trying to see the Mona Lisa was like trying to beat a mass of paparazzi waiting to photograph Obama) and most of Da Vinci’s work; Hammurabi’s Code, Venus de Milo; and the biggest panting I’ve ever seen in my entire life: the coronation of Napoleon. After that visit I was so tired and hungry that I was ready for my first Parisian coffee and the true Macarons, which we got at Laduree, a fancy and very old (1862) pastry shop… I must say I got addicted to Macarons, they can make you feel better and relaxed if you need to.

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Another look from the Louvre Museum crystal pyramid

Finally the 31st has come, again we were very late for all the things my brother and I wanted to see. This time we walk, a lot and admire  the kind of symbiosis and harmony between history and modernity existing in Parisian art and architecture. This characteristic is everywhere, and very few cities in the world has it (in my humble opinion), Paris being one of them. Our first stop in the day was the Eiffel Tower.  I did not know how huge this monument – of modernism and innovation – is. When we were arriving in Trocadero (the best to admire the Tower in its full glamour) I was feeling hesitant. Then I was speechless and so amazed by it. The  tower was build by Gustave Eiffel to welcome world visitors to the World Fair in 1889 and  show them how wonderful and futuristic Paris was, at that time. Nobody wanted it; newspaper wrote angry articles about the building, calling it “eyesore”. The authorities were supposed to put it down 20 years after the fair, but they did not do it due to communications purposes. The Eiffel Tower has been such a magnificent master piece that even Hitler had a picture with it in the background.

After admire this huge structure, we kept walking. We wanted to go to Champs Elysees, but to get there we walk around the most expensive street in Paris (something like the 5th Avenue in New York): Avenue Montaigne. Walking further we got to Champs Elysees and from very far we could see the Arc de Triomphe (the second and bigger one). The place was all ready for the New Year’s celebration, all illuminated and beautiful waiting for all the turist – and also residents – to enjoy the fireworks and the music while saying good-bye to 2011 and welcoming 2012.Finally we got to see the Arc de Triomphe and I must say – just like with the Eiffel Tower – that I wasn’t expecting it to be so big. But what caught my attention –  and still I am asking myself how they do it – is the was Parisians drive around the Arch. There are no signs in the pavement or traffic lights. It is like driving in a gigantic roundabout without signs  in all directions possible. So either the Parisians are crazy, or are excellent drivers, or just don’t give a D@&% or all the previous ones.

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The Grande Arche at La Défense

At night we celebrated the arrival of 2012 in company of new friends dancing to the rhythm of 70′s and 80′s French disco and new wave music, to Brazilian Lambada and Samba and then more French pop music until January 1st at 5am.  We did not sleep much, just a couple of hours before going with our host family to a wonderful brunch near the Louvre. After that we just walk a bit around the center, because we were really tired.

As January 2nd was my last day, we did a great tour around some other very important places. We first arrive to La Defense, the modern face of Paris. Again I was impressed by the modern architecture, and by its Grande Arche which looks like a fourth-dymentional cube or a tesseract. This arch is the modern Arc de Triomphe, but instead of signifying glory during the war, its meaning is rather about humanitarian and social ideals. Later we went to Boulevard de Clichy, and waited for some friends.

We were going to visit Sacre-Coer in Montmartre. I must say that it was my favorite place in the city with its narrow streets and alleys, the artists, the public market and the terrific view of the whole city.

My visit in Paris ended there with a delicious coffee and warm smiles surrounding me. My brother and his friend Gregoire were excellent tourists guides and thanks to them we made the most of it, despite the not-so-nice weather. Macarons, coffee, pictures, lot of light and music. There is no way people can get bored even being a Parisian, surrounded by history, battles, love and romance everywhere you go.

That was my visit to Paris in a nutshell. I could be much more specific but then this entry would have never ended. My soon-to-be next adventure/trip will hopefully be somewhere very warm outside Europe. By then I will have a new camera – because my old Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T70 is dead. It was my loyal companion and unfortunately said farewell in Mallorca.

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