Tuesday, August 16, 2016

paris: day two

I started my second day in Paris with the group bus tour, which took us all over the city in about three hours -- we saw the Eiffel Tower up close (photo here!) drove past the Arc de Triomphe and The Lourve, and along the Champs-Élysées and the Seine. Each tour or excursion had a different local guide, and the Paris guide was my favorite. She was so funny ("Why is Napoleon buried in five separate tombs? To keep his bones apart!" lol!) and informative and her tour route covered enough area that it helped me feel comfortable with direction when I was walking around on my own later.

The tour ended around noon at Notre Dame, and our tour director helped everyone plan out their individual itineraries and gave us instructions for how to get back to our hotel via the Metro. At this point I made a bee-line for The Musée national du Moyen Âge, or The Museum of the Middle Ages.

The Middle Ages are my favorite historical time period, and, of course, being from America there isn't really much in the way of Medieval structures in my neck of the woods (with the exception of The Cloisters in New York which is comprised of elements of Medieval structures that were brought over from Europe. It's one of my favorite places to visit on the East Coast.) So I was beyond excited to visit this museum! It's a 14th century monastery built on top of a Roman Bath that dates back to around the first century. It was turned into a museum in the 19th century, and it has some of the most beautiful artwork and relics from the Middle Ages.

In many of the rooms they had literature you could read about the artwork, available in multiple languages (including English.) There was also an audio tour available at the front desk, but I chose to just wander at my own pace. According to one of the flyers, the sculptures pictured behind me in the photo above were originally part of Notre Dame. They were discovered in 1977 and donated the museum -- apparently they had been used in the 1700's to shore up the foundation of a rich man's mansion @_@

I'm really glad that I didn't bring my DSLR with me -- I felt like I was already lugging around enough photo equipment and I only had my point-and-shoot and instax with me -- but in this moment I really wished I had a wide-angle lens to capture how massive the Roman Baths were. This space was cavernous... it might be the first time that I've ever felt the scale of ancient structures. The oldest European structures in America tend to be of Colonial design, when doors and ceilings were impossibly short. When I think of the "grandest" buildings I've been in in America -- Grauman's theater, Radio City, the US Capitol Building -- even then nothing compares to this. I felt so small, physically but also historically.

Okay, don't make fun of me. I went to McDonald's. In Paris.

I had to go to the bathroom (ironically though I actually forgot to go while I was there) so I ducked into the first McDonald's that I saw. They had computer screens for ordering, where you could select your language. I got pommes frites (!) and a coke and then noticed that they had a second floor seating area. I popped in my headphones, took out my notebook, and sketched for about 45 minutes while overlooking the street. I think I paid something like 3 euros for this view. While obviously I wouldn't recommend eating American fast food while you're overseas, this was undeniably an awesome and super affordable experience for me, and I would definitely recommend it. On Day 3 I grabbed a coke at a different McDonalds' location with an equally pretty view (I don't have photos from that one, but someone was moving into a fifth story apartment across the street, and having their furniture delivered through the window. It was a fun people-watching moment!)

My next stop was CineCorner, a little DVD shop in the Latin Quarter. It can be very difficult to find foreign films in America unless they're released by Criterion, so I was REALLY looking forward to visiting this shop!

Just a tip: If you're a film fan and decide to stop here while you're in France, make sure you have a region-free DVD player at home. French DVDs will not play in a regular American player. I got my region-free player on Amazon here. Honestly if you're a fan of foreign films, you should get one regardless of whether or not you'll be traveling abroad. There are tons of foreign films available online in Region 2, and more often than not they usually have English subtitles. (In French look for "sous-titres: Anglais" on the DVD box)

Anyway. This was definitely the highlight of my day! I stocked up on films, and when I was about to check out I noticed a giant Alain Delon (my favorite actor) coffee table book on the shelf behind the register. I just about squealed!

My last stop of the day was at a little cafe situated right across the river from Notre Dame. The owner was incredibly sweet -- his sweetness only rivaled by the INCREDIBLE chocolate mousse that I ordered there. It was the best chocolate mousse I've ever had in my life. This was also the first time that I attempted to speak French (outside of "Bonjour!" and "Merci!") I apologized for my poor French and then said "C'est formidable!" (It's terrific!) and he understood what I meant! It was one of those moments you hope for when you're going to be traveling to Paris for the first time -- something very unique and special and, well, French!

outfit details: dress - asos | shoes - blowfish | bag - vintage