Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Very Parisian Christmas

When I was in second grade, our class did a unit on French art and culture, with a special focus on the Impressionist painters. I couldn’t have cared less about the historical context at the time, but I was mesmerized by the images of the paintings we studied, especially those by Monet and Renoir. My teacher brought in baguettes and brie cheese several times, which we ate in the garden outside, listening to her read Madeline and dreaming of picnics along the Seine. Ever since then, I have dreamt of visiting Paris during the springtime, strolling in the in front of the Eiffel Tower with the coolest beret ever perched on my head. Well, I finally made it there, but not during the spring. It's the most beautiful city I've ever seen.

I spent this Christmas in Paris with my friend Elise, as I had put off buying a plane ticket home until prices were at the point where I could have taken two trips to Paris for the cost of a round-trip flight. We flew in on Christmas Eve (myself at 9 AM, Elise at 8 PM), and left the morning of December 28th. It was a strange Christmas, but a very good one all the same. My trip to Paris was by far one of the, if the, best trip I have ever on. I’ve been to some pretty amazing places in the last few years, but those trips never went as smoothly or were so relaxing.

I was really nervous about being in Paris by myself for a day, although I have no idea why. After my passport fiasco in Prague and the ensuing craziness until arriving in Budapest, I thought could no longer be fazed by travel nerves, but I was wrong. Maybe I was just anxious about being away from my family on Christmas for the first time? Anyway, I was kind of a mess when I arrived at de Gaulle, mostly cause I was so excited I couldn't fall asleep, then overslept and took a taxi to the airport looking like a hot mess. After a train ride into the city, I wandered around Montmartre a bit with my huge backpack looking like a confused version of Dora the Explorer before arriving at our hostel, aptly named “Le Hostel.” That is only one of the reasons why I loved it so. Located one block from the Anvers metro, our window had a spectacular view of Sacre Coeur that took my breath away when I drew back the curtains for the first time.

After freshening up a bit -this is Europe after all people, you can’t wear sweatpants in public here and get away with it! – I made my way toward to the Louvre for some quality time with the world’s art treasures. The Louvre was perfect to see alone, because it is really, incredibly huge and I kept getting lost. I can’t imagine trying to keep track of someone in it, especially if you like to look at artwork at your own pace. In short, I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon, especially on Christmas Eve. I’m not sure if the reason I enjoyed the Mona List so much was because it is truly a great work of art or because I had built up so much anticipation, though.

I won’t go through the trip in too much detail, so here are some highlights...

Coming out of tunnel while on the Metro and seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time. Thought process: like wham BAM hey EIFFEL TOWER WOW. Eating the most creamy, smooth goat cheese I’ve ever tried at La Coupole on Christmas Day. Coming around the corner at Trocadero and seeing the Eiffel Tower light show - then having a mini-picnic with champagne with that as our dinner entertainment. Accidentally tagging along with a French tour group at Versailles into off-limit areas...then getting escorted out of the room while 250 + tourists look on. Trying to get a picture of yourself in the Hall of Mirrors without a bunch of other tourists walking in front of you (which is impossible, btw).Gazing at the different brushstrokes in Monet’s paintings at the L’Orangerie. Biting into a multi-colored macaroon at Laduree, and testing numerous French perfumes I can’t possibly afford at Guerlain and Annick Goutal. The smell of decades of old books at Shakespeare and Company; biting into a Nutella and banana crepe while gazing up at Notre Dame. Waking up to the sun rising over Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. Eating at least two more crepes, because hey, why not? It’s Christmas after all. Completing the ‘Tour de Chocolat’ dessert tray with a pear topped with Valrhona white chocolate whipped cream. Exploring a new city with a new friend and feeling so lucky that you have the opportunity to do so!

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