“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” -Ernest Hemingway
I’ve been putting off writing a blog about my spring break. Not that I didn’t have an amazing time – I went to Paris with Sarah to visit our friend Alex, who has been studying there since September.
But seriously, how can anyone summarize Paris?
I’ve decided it is about as impossible as scaling the side of the gorge with your bare hands. This, for those of you who have yet to buy an “Ithaca is Gorges” shirt (aka you’ve never been to Ithaca since everyone who comes here gets one) is like trying to climb – well – the Eiffel Tower.
And now that I’ve seen it in person, I can vouch that is pretty hard to do.
Besides some hairy travel situations (the experiences on Air India are worthy of a best selling novel) at minimum five modes of transportation each way (I lost count somewhere in the Newark airport) and really working the social network to get to all of our locals, the trip was everything I could of asked for and more.
What was great about going to see Alex was that I felt I was able to experience Paris, not just visit. Yes, I dutifully made sure we saw the top ten sights according to the guidebooks (you can probably name most of them from memory). And yes, they were all amazing – although at times, pretty crowded.
To experience Paris is not to do all the hustle bustle top ten though – one must lounge in cafes talking for hours about the practical to the outlandish with good friends. In fact, this can be repeated several times a day and is actually highly recommended. Spending less than two hours on a meal (unless it is a crepe or a panini purchased on the street – oh, do I ever miss that kind of fast food) is sinful and saddening.
This is how one must experience Paris. Alex encouraged us to get lost in the neighborhoods and winding streets of the city. We took her up on this advice – and the language barrier helped us achieve it not so purposely once in awhile. So many sections of the city have a unique charm and attitude that makes for never ending adventure and great people watching. This seems to be a favorite pastime of the Parisians too – we actually had a pretty chilly week there, but Alex pointed out how the outdoor venues were still packed with people huddling under heaters while cuddling their cafes.
I can’t start to summarize our incredible week, but I definitely want to mention some of my favorites.
- Art Museums l’Orangerie and the Centre Georges Pompidou. Don’t get me wrong, the more famous Louvre (think Mona Lisa) and Musee d’Orsay (lots of impressionists) are great, but these two less crowded museums were more to my liking. And no doubt, both have some phenomenal pieces of art. l’Orangerie is a small gallery that has 360 degree Monet water lily pictures – one of the few things in life that has made me speechless. The gallery is a very manegeable size, with several other works of art; as Sarah said, they were, “Less famous pieces by famous artists.” Meanwhile, the Pompidou is home to modern art, and has one of the best views of the city from the top two floors. The building itself is quite unique in that it is built inside out (the elevators, escalators, pipes etc. are exposed on the outside).
- Montmartre For some reason, this neighborhood was one of my favorite in the city (the Marais was also extremely endearing). The highest area in the city, Montmarte was historically home to windmills, a reason today we see the red windmill on top of the Moulin Rouge (which is also located here). Traditionally home to artists, Monmartre has retained much of its charm, although it is also a bit of the red light district. However, one of my favorite sights was Sacre-Coeur, which translates to Sacred Heart. Sarah and I hiked to the top of this memorial for soldiers in the Franco-Prussian War. We were well rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city.
- Food I think this pretty much goes without saying. Whether we dined in or splurged on meals out, this was probably the second best eating experience of my life (after your cooking of course, Mom!) And I am officially addicted to Nutella.
- Friends Another great thing about Paris was that I was able to experience it with so many wonderful people. From nights out on the town to breakfasts in bed (which is pretty much all we had room for in Alex’s adorable but very efficient apartment) I shared this great place with friends from Hudson to Cornell, old and new!
So there’s my two cents. Over hundreds of years, many more notable authors have tried to take on the challenge of describing this amazing place. I hope you get your chance too.