August 1-3, 2014
Everyone sees the world through different lenses – and
Ryan’s included a bit I hadn’t traveled with before: video games. In the
Louvre, from across the room he pointed at a painting and exclaimed “That’s
Joan of Arc!” I mean, sure, there are probably very few women painted in their
battle armor, but it still felt like a bit of an assumption when we hadn’t even
tried to translate the plaque yet. But he persisted that he was right because
that was her character portrait in this game. I may have very obviously rolled
my eyes at that. Later on, he schooled
me figuring out the layout of the city. I normally pride myself on a sense of
direction and strict adherence to whatever free map I’ve picked up, but Ryan
would momentarily glance at a map and then go, eh, we should go in that direction.
It took awhile for me to relinquish navigational power, but he kept being
mostly right and it was hard to argue with that. When Ryan, Nadia, and Missie
had gone to Rome, he had apparently been an excellent navigator, basing his
directions on different campaigns in some Roman version of a game called Assasin’s
Creed. He was actually slightly upset that the French Revolution version of Assasin’s
Creed was to be released in a couple of weeks, or else he would have known
Paris better too!
Our first night in Paris, we sat on the green lawn
stretching out before the Eiffel tower, bought a couple of beers from the
otherwise annoying vendors, and watched as at exactly 10pm, the tower erupted
in bursts of electric sparkles.
The next day, we got to the Louvre just after it opened and
waited in a reasonable line snaking between two glass pyramids. The gothic
buildings lining the stone plaza proved to be just the tip of the iceberg and an
escalator soon brought Ryan and I into the belly of a monstrous underground
network of treasures. We went straight for the obvious first, Mona Lisa and her
precocious smile. But then we wandered: through hallways of marble statue,
underneath the Greek muses, in between imposing Egyptian feet, and across
impressions of landscapes. I recognized some pieces, but my art history isn’t
the greatest and my ability to interpret French plaques even worse – with more
time and money we could have followed a guide. Even without the history lesson,
it was impossible not to appreciate the talent of the artists, allowing the
building’s atmosphere to transport you to a realm brimming with humanity’s
After so much walking we grabbed lunch at an outdoor café.
The pizza we split was probably over-priced, but I was happy to see our tap
water arrived in Hokie maroon and orange cups – and the location – right on the
boulevard connecting the Louvre with Notre Dame – could not be beat.
In the middle of the afternoon, the line into Notre Dame
wrapped back and forth covering the entire stone terrace in the shadow of the
western façade. But it moved steadily and entertainment was found watching one
after another Chinese couple, decked out in extravagant wedding gown and suit,
pose in front of their personal photographer clicking away – like they had
already had the wedding but flew to Paris for the wedding photos. The interior
of the church was your average large dark sanctuary with flying buttress
history, virgin Mary’s, stained glass, and offertory candles. But we stood in
an even longer line to climb the bell tower. That floored me. On a clear summer day, we got a beautiful view
looking out across the entire city. The bells boomed loudly beside us. And, my
absolute favorite part, we got right next
to the gargoyles. Gargoyles! One of my favorite cartoons as a kid! And the
three characters that befriended Quasimodo in Esmerelda in this very church. On
this very balcony.
We grabbed dinner at a small Italian place that agreed to
charge our phones in the back and tried to wait out the sudden assault of rain.
After the excitement of both the Louvre and Notre Dame both my actual camera
and cell phone had died from the sheer exhaust of capturing so many pictures.
After watching the Eiffel tower twinkle the night before, I had
it in my head that it would be much cooler to be on the Eiffel tower when the bursts of light go off. That I would
be immersed in a fairy tale, like being surrounded by lightening bugs in The
Princess and the Frog or the lanterns in Tangled. Ryan went along with my
delusion. As the sun began to set, Ryan and I began at step one of the
six-hundred-and seventy-two steps that I counted. At the second floor we then
had to wait for a glass elevator to bring us all the way to the top – during which
I realized that while I am not afraid of heights, we’re not exactly best
friends. I also learned that my beautiful glowy light fantasy turned out to be
a bright-paparazzi-flashing-in-your-face-strobe light experience. So, you live
and learn. Safely back on the ground we bought souveneirs and walked around the
city of light until our bodies couldn’t take it anymore.
The next morning we got up early and walked from our hostel
to the catacombs. We got in line before it even opened, but had only moved
halfway to the entrance three hours later when we needed to leave to catch our
train back to London. In the remaining few minutes we had, I bought a banana Nutella
crepe from a food cart and sat peacefully on a bench in some garden, my little
oasis to compensate for missing the last thing on my Paris to-do list.