Family Week – April 20, 2016

Paris, Day 2, was even better than the first, combining typical tourist attractions with some special sights.

After passing countless closed cafés on our apparently early, 9 a.m. start, we came across Le Parvis.  Though it was just one of the many eateries on the Rue d’Arcole, it was the only one we found to be open.  Thankful that the restaurant was even going to serve us, we did not expect much from the meal, only craving morning nutrition.  Our breakfast, however, was delicious.  With outstanding omelettes, crispy croissants, and fresh juice, it was one of the best meals of the week.  Fueled with fantastic French food, we began our second day of exploration.

Of the many things I learned in my first years of French instruction, I have inexplicably distinct memories of discussing one of Paris’s grand shopping centers.  Based on my faint ideas and images of a beautiful building housing posh, Parisian products, my family and I set out to investigate my hazy remembrances.

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Combine the luxury of Saks Fifth Avenue with the mesmerizing appeal of stained glass to get the stunning Galeries Lafayette.  Cosmetics counters below and a glass dome above, the 9-story shopper’s paradise is worth a visit, if not for its fancy products or indoor aesthetic, then for its free, rooftop views.  With only a few sets of chairs but ample AstroTurf on which to sit, the terrace of the Galeries Lafayette was littered with lunchtime visitors soaking up the springtime sun and taking in the sights of the Eiffel Tower.  For my family and I, it served as the setting for our Parisian Macaron Matchup.

Macarons, often mistakenly identified as macaroons, have become associated with the French almost as strongly as the croissant has.  When I researched the best macaron shop in Paris, however, I found conflicting opinions. Fellow travelers narrowed the options down to two pastry houses: Pierre Hermé and Ladurée.  With a Pierre Hermé kiosk in the Galeries Lafayette, my mom, aunts, and I thought it a perfect time to try one of the best.

We ordered a cup of six, funky-flavored macarons to split, taste, and analyze.  The first flavor we tried, Imagine, of Matcha green tea and black sesame crisp, was all wrong.  Next was Infiniment Rose, which was much better, a very mild-tasting and pleasant treat.  Third, we tried Mogador, a milk chocolate and passion fruit macaron.  The tart wafers and rich center clashed, so we gave this one a thumbs down.  Fortunately, the citrus wafers and creamy center of Velouté Infiniment Orange tasted like harmonious creamsicle.  Following the orange macaron, we sampled Céleste, a passion fruit, rhubarb, and strawberry concoction, which wasn’t great.  We finished with Infiniment Menthe Fraîche, or mint, which was underwhelming too.  Overall, the sweets were made well, with soft-flavored wafers and tongue-shocking centers, but the flavors weren’t practical or enjoyable.

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After our snack, we set out to see the west side of the city.  On our way through the Place de la Concorde, we came across a Ferris wheel, which was erected to promote the 2016 UEFA European Championship, to be held in France this year.  A ride to the top offered sky-high views of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe, our next destinations.

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Walking down the Champs-Élysées, I was surprised at the luxury, scale, and commercial presence on the street.  From what I had interpreted from my classes, this was a street of quaint, albeit inauthentic, cafés and small, overpriced boutiques, not stories-high chain shops.  Nonetheless, the tree-lined route made for a pleasant journey to view the towering Arc de Triomphe.

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Skipping the tourist cafés of the Champs-Élysées, my family and I searched for a snack around the Louvre Museum, the next stop on our Paris agenda.  Settling on La Comédie, I enjoyed my croque madame outdoors, people watching, like a true Parisian.

The grounds of the Louvre were dotted with visitors playing photography games, “pricking” their fingers on the top of the iconic pyramids.  This is where my family and I waited for our museum tour guide, Georgi, who my aunt discovered via Airbnb.  A friendly and knowledgable host, Georgi led us to the highlights of the Louvre, because the museum is impossibly large to tackle without a plan.

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We saw the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace (my favorite), and of course, the Mona Lisa.  Georgi shared some of his art history expertise with us, explaining the story of the painting of the Mona Lisa.  Many years ago, an Italian man stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, creating a hype around the missing painting.  According to the story, once he was caught, investigators asked why he chose the Mona Lisa, and he replied that the work of Leonardo da Vinci deserved to be displayed in Italy, and because of its small size, the Mona Lisa was the easiest to steal.  With the excitement of the theft, visitors rushed to see the Mona Lisa upon its return to the Louvre.  The woman’s “mysterious smile” is a popular attribution to its acclaim, but Georgi pointed out that many of the other women in da Vinci’s numerous works portray a similar smirk.  He continued to explain that the Mona Lisa is, essentially, the Kardashian of paintings: beautiful in its own right, but famous for nothing.

Across the room from the little Mona Lisa hangs The Wedding at Cana, a grand painting by Paolo Veronese.  Georgi noted that the dimensions of this painting, about 22-by-32 feet, is generally the size of an average Parisian flat!  On our way out of the museum, we passed by another fun-fact art feature, the “selfie statue.”  Apollo Slaying the Python, the title of the work, clearly explains the act of the Greek god snapping a photo of himself to post on Instagram, #Louvre.

To end our spectacular second day in Paris, we made our way to the Trocadéro Gardens to see the Eiffel Tower illuminated in the Parisian night sky.  Though I was unable to enjoy the park itself, it provided a fantastic and full view of the Eiffel Tower.  Many others knew of the spot, with a street performer and local food trucks complementing the tourist crowds.  Fortunately, we arrived just in time to catch the sparkling lights of the grand tower.  Though there were hordes of people vying for the best angle of the monument, the location offered everyone an exceptional look at the eminent Eiffel Tower.

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Destination Locations

 

Paix, Amour, Paris

A.J.H.

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2 thoughts on “Family Week – April 20, 2016

  1. Pingback: Break 1 – Paris | Abroad Perspective

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