August 30, 2013 (Sunny)
Louvre Area, Galeries Lafayette, Eiffel Tower
After a solid 12 hours of sleep we woke up around 9 AM (we made it a rule to minimize alarm clock use while traveling… why do people join tours that start at 6:00 am anyways? That’s worse than a work day!). Today we had our first ever Croissant from Paris from a neighborhood Boulangerie (bakery). [Tip: In France there are differences between Boulangeries and Patisseries (one which sell baked goods such as baguettes – Boulangeries, whereas patisseries specialize in pastries)]. As per my wife that croissant was the best croissant she had ever had (a phrase which would be repeated almost at a daily interval haha). To accompany my croissant breakfast I headed to a supermarket around the corner for milk (a routine maintained since I was a child) only to find milk on a normal shelf and NOT stored in the fridge… milk with a 3 month expiry?!?!?! that’s CRAZY! It tasted delicious nonetheless.
Due to the excessive heat (30 degrees Celcius) we decided to start off our day in an air-conditioned environment so off to the world famous museum Louvre. This giant museum was world-renowned for having one of the largest collection of priceless treasures from around the globe. Amongst the treasures were paintings such as Mona Lisa by Da Vinci and sculptures such as Venus. Unfortunately all these artifacts/antiquities also attracted copious amount of art admirers to such an extent where Louvre’s long queue became almost as famous as the artifacts it housed. There was an underground entrance directly from the Palais Royale/Musee du Louvre station that rumored to be generally less busy, and when we arrived the queue was virtually non-existent. However, once we reached the lobby we experienced the hoards of tourists that were notoriously mentioned by all guide books/internet forums. The Louvre was so busy (especially the Denon wing which housed Renaissance paintings and the Mona Lisa) that it was nearly impossible to enjoy each display. After a couple hours of crowd surfing (and my wife was getting tired of translating art history since most signs were in French only) we decided to revisit the Louvre at a later date. My impression of the Mona Lisa: the painting itself was way smaller than I anticipated and to be honest I didn’t like the painting at all… but the shift in artistic style that stemmed from Leonardo Da Vinci’s work is undeniable… feel free to comment on my travesty.
It was way past lunchtime by the time we left Louvre and we were on the hunt for some food. We walked aimlessly down narrow streets past countless open-air cafes and restaurants while we marveled at unique French architectures. Even though we were on the lookout for food our eyes were constantly overwhelmed by the architectural details around every street corner. Near the end of lunch service we were able to find a local restaurant that was still open for lunch (French restaurants are required by law to display their menu around the entrance) where we enjoyed our 2 course meals. After lunch we went across the street and visited the famous patisserie “Stohrer” where we bought one of the most intricate pieces of cuisine art called “Puits D’Amour” that was just as delicious as its presentation. On our way to Palais Royal we stumbled upon a photogenic traffic circle which I later found out was called “Place des Victories”. Once we reached Palais Royal we enjoyed our food art at “Jardin de Palais Royal” surrounded by local families soaking in the sunshine.
Somehow we found ourselves around the Louvre once again. More specifically, we were standing underneath the Arc du Triomph de Caroussel and we were stormed by illegal street vendors selling miniature Eiffel towers (it was hilarious how fast they flee from Police, and more humorous how fast they return after the policeman evacuated the area). As a Claude Monet fan we headed straight to the Musee de l’Orangerie which housed some of Monet’s famous panoramic water lily paintings and it was only a 7 minute walk from the Louvre. The museum was quite petite with only 2 rooms displaying the panorama paintings, but I loved this miniature museum because the quieter atmosphere allowed me to enjoy the artwork in relative peace. After hours of walking (even with new runners!) our feet were protesting from our abuse and the Jardin des Tuileries adjacent to the Museum offered a perfect pit stop with green metal loungers freely available. In fact we ended up spending over 45 minutes conversing and people watching while an amateur trumpet player was practicing in the background.
Since we did not reserve any restaurants in advance, many Tripadvisor’s top-ranked restaurants were unavailable during our trip (I was warned 1000s of times to make reservations but I was too lazy, and I didn’t want to commit to any restaurants since I didn’t know whether we would be in the area until the day before… Having a flexible schedule allows me to adapt our itinerary (mostly to weather/work closures, etc) and usually leads me to interesting travel stories that I am able to share on here). I remembered Lafayette Gourmet mentioned in one of the Parisian food blogs and it was only a 20 minute walk per Google Maps so we started our trek northwards. The reason why we tried to walk everywhere instead of taking the metro was because Paris offered so many photography opportunities that would be otherwise wasted if we traveled underground – I encourage all visitors to do the same.
By the time we reached Galleries Lafayette (which were two large buildings… one dedicated to ladies and the other one for men) we went into the ladies building to do some window shopping, and window shopping we did because the prices were 2-3X more than what we would deem reasonable in North America! The interior architecture of Galleries Lafayette was jaw dropping (it was only a department store afterall!) with gold-painted walls matched with a multi-colored stain glass dome that would rival the grandest church (I guess it was a shopaholic’s church haha). We kept on ascending the seemingly endless floors until we reached the rooftop lookout. It was sunset by the time we reached the top and since today’s weather was similar to yesterday’s, the entire city basked in a photogenic golden glow with Palais Garnier (Opera House) directly adjacent to us and the Eiffel Tower in the distance (if you want a romantic spot to take your girlfriend/fiancée/wife for some brownie points… go there). We were politely encouraged to head back downstairs around 8 PM (closing time) and since Lafayette Gourmet closes an hour or so after the actual store, we crossed the street toward the men’s building (where the Gourmet food court was located on the 2nd floor). A bottle of wine, gourmet breads and pastries later we were on the metro heading back to our apartment.
As a romantic post meal walk around the neighborhood we visited the Eiffel Tower at night (a major perk for staying in the 7th arrondissement… Eiffel Tower was only a 10-minute walk away) and to top off the night there was an organized outdoor ballroom dancing party in Trocadero!