July 18, 2014

Paris Day 3: Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Musée d'Orsay, Musée du Louvre

My last day in Paris was definitely one of my favorite days of the entire trip. A small group of us (Jess, Cyle, Jordan, Will, Quinn, and I) grabbed some hotel breakfast and jumped on the metro. Eager to use our 2-day monument pass, our first stop was Notre Dame.

This gothic cathedral has one of the most impressive facades of any church in Europe. I found the detail on the outside more impressive than the inside of the church. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that these architects and builders created something so magnificent without modern technology.

After taking a peek inside we also headed down to the crypts underneath the church and learned about the different stages of building over the course of its 200+ year completion.

We weren't able to climb the tower so we said goodbye to a couple friends who had other plans and met up with others from our group as we walked along the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay. We jumped the line with our life saving monument pass!

I have to thank my high school English teacher for instilling a love and appreciation for art in me. The Orsay museum was easily my favorite museum. Not only is the building incredible, but it houses hundreds of pieces of art that I had studied in school. It was jaw dropping to see Renoirs, Van Goghs, Degas, Manets, Monets, in person. 

This museum trumps the Louvre for me simply because the types of artwork displayed are from my favorite artists and time periods. 

After browsing the museum for a couple of hours we had worked up quite an appetite so some of us took to a typical Parisienne lunch on the go and stopped in a Boulangerie-Pattesserie. Instead of a baguette sandwich this time I went for a tasty flatbread and was also sucked into the desserts!

I snagged some macarons, which are only a must when in Paris! My favorite flavor? Espresso!

A food coma quickly settled in so Will, Laura, Jess, Quinn and I took a break in some nearby gardens just before hitting the famous Avenue de Champs Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe. We had to regain our strength for climbing the 284 steps to the top of the arc!

After making it down the street pass the massive luxury stores like Louis Vuitton, we started our accession up the spiral stair case to the top of the arc for an incredible view of the city. A highlight for sure!

The climb was free with our monument pass unlike climbing the Eiffel Tower. I think this vantage point is extra special because it includes the Eiffel Tower in the view.

The most entertaining bit about being on top was watching the chaotic traffic in the famous roundabout beneath the tower. Cars simply work their way into the traffic circle and maneuver as best they can back to the outside edge when it comes time to exit.

Did you know that costs from any accidents in the circle are split by both parties' insurance companies because it's too hectic to decide fault? Our bus driver took us 'round during our city tour and let's just say once is enough for me!

After enjoying the fresh air at the top we headed back down so that Quinn, Laura, and I could make it to the Louvre before the museum closed.

After a few daring snaps in the middle of the road, we hopped on the metro to the Louvre!

As if I couldn't love my monument pass anymore, instead of entering through the main entrance (under the glass pyramid) we went through a pass only entrance that had NO LINE! It was about an hour before closing as well so the museum itself wasn't crowded at all.

We stayed on the path following signs for the statue of Aphrodite and of course, the Mona Lisa.

We almost walked past the famous lady--that's how sparse the crowd was in front of the Mona Lisa!

She is of course exciting to see, but being behind glass a few feet out from a rope you don't get a chance to see the detail of the original work up close which is what I enjoy about seeing famous art in person.

The Louvre is massive and there is no way you can see everything in one trip. Hitting the highlights and enjoying no crowds was enough for me.

For the rest of the evening a large group of us enjoyed each others company full of laughter and bubbly! We tried to go dancing later on but only a few of us made it in before the cutoff. It was fun while it lasted!

Next stop? A pass through Belgium and onward to Holland!

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