The Brighter Writer





THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2013

Notre Dame, The Louvre, and
the Place de la Concorde



So, I'm putting my scrapbook together, and I'm going through all the odds and ends that I picked up along the way in Paris.

I've kept every brochure, every ticket, every receipt.

I've kept little leaves I picked up off the ground.

I even kept the French sugar packets off the cafe' tables.

I literally kept every souvenir I could get my tiny little hands on.

I didn't really have enough time to do a travel log while I was there, but I found on the back of one of my receipts some scribbled down notes. They aren't like "today I went to the Louvre.." kind of notes, but instead they're of the "Why do all these beautiful fountains smell like dead fish?" variety. Just a few very unfiltered thoughts about the way I felt about Paris while I was there in the moment. So for whatever reason, I'll share.

*My tour guide just told us about our meeting place for the afternoon and then repeated it in 3 other languages for everyone on the bus. Impressive. Everyone here seems to be bilingual except me.

*This city is clean, CLEAN, CLEAN!! I haven't seen a piece of litter in 3 days.

*I had no idea Paris was divided into quarters.

* Everyone is very polite here. I wonder where the "Parisians hate Americans" stereotype came from?

*Every single building looks like a castle. Even the public toilets.

*How can a city smell so sweet like crepes and also like piss at the same time?

*Even the graffiti is gorgeous here.

*It's true. French people really stink.

*I wonder why there are virtually no fat people here when all they eat is cream filled pastries. I haven't seen any joggers so...?

And there you have it. Those were my intimate thoughts about the City of Lights.

My family literally did 5 million things in our 4 days in Paris. Our plane landed at 9am, we dropped our luggage off at the hotel and we hit the ground running. By noon on the first day we had already walked from our hotel, down the Champs-Élysées, to the Grand Palais, to the Petit Palais, to the Pantheon, to half a dozen bridges, and then here to the Louvre. We literally walked for miles with our heads looking up at all the architecture and our jaws open. And I'm so glad we walked and didn't take a cab ride to all the main places we wanted to go otherwise we would have missed all the details along the way.

But anyway, the Louvre! Talk about grand, this place is gigantic!

It was originally built as a fortress by King Phillipe-Auguste to protect Paris from a Viking invasion but when that never happened, it was turned into an enormous royal palace. After decades of use through the middle ages, Louis XVI decided he would rather live in the palace of Versailles with his wife Marie Antoinette so they kept all the spare stuff here kind of like a storage garage. In 1793 it was opened to the public as a museum to show off all the royal paintings and sculptures.

The Louvre is the largest museum in the entire world and houses over 1 million pieces of artwork, the most famous being the Mona Lisa. I heard a tour guide saying that if you spent 30 seconds looking at every single piece of art, and you never took a break to eat, sleep or pee, it would take you just over 9 months to see everything.



We didn't go inside, the line was hours long and I didn't want to spend that time waiting to fight with a million other tourists to see the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo, so we just hung out in the courtyard for a while.

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel was also designed for Napoleon's military victories but in comparison to Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, this one only took a couple of years to build instead of 30, and it is only half the size.



The Place du Carrousel is the courtyard just outside the Louvre. It is home to the Roue de Paris which was installed in 2000 for the millennium celebrations. We didn't ride on it but I'm sure the view from the top of the wheel is outstanding.





So, right down the street is the Place de la Concord and it has a seriously creepy vibe to it. It's the largest open public square in the city and it happens to be where the main guillotine was during the French Revolution. The guillotine beheaded over 1,300 people in just one month during the summer of 1794's "reign of terror," with a total of just under 3000 people total being killed there including Marie Antoinette and her husband King Louis XVI. There is an old wives tale that a herd of cattle once refused to cross the square because the smell of blood was so strong.

The tall pointed obelisk in the middle of the square is called Cleopatra's Needle. There are three of them in the world, the other 2 in New York City and London. All three are original ancient Egypt stone monuments but they don't really have anything to do with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt.



From there we headed to a little Gothic cathedral called Notre-Dame.



Notre-Dame de Paris, French for Our Lady of Paris, holds some of the most first class pieces of Catholicism history including the Crown of Thorns, one of the Holy Nails, and a piece of the True Cross.



The detail in the stone is like nothing I've ever seen before. To think about the fact that the ground breaking for this cathedral was in 1163 to be "completed" in 1345 blows my mind.



Obviously, there have been many changes and restoration done throughout the years, but the main structure remains the same. My favorite parts of the additions are the gargoyles which are actually functional water spouts used for drainage.





There was a mass going on while we were there with bleachers set up out front for everyone to sit. There was a large projector screen and a giant camera and boom microphone to broadcast the ceremony to the people outside. It was extremely hectic.



Roman Catholic Saint and French heroine Joan of Arc has a great statue right as you're exiting the church. I think it's great that there are so many fantastic women in French history and that they are celebrated the way they are.



There it is; our first morning in Paris. I've been trying to blog as much as possible so that I have a reason to go through all my pictures and remember everything I learned. If I don't write it down now, I'll forget all the details. Since The Brighter Writer is kind of a melting pot of my ideas and experiences, all of you have to sit through every vacation I ever go on! Ha!

Seriously, I appreciate all the love lately and thanks for reading!

Next week, I'll start writing about my trips to the Palace of Versailles and Claude Monet's house. Have a great weekend everyone!