Sometimes, getting lost is the best thing you can do.
Without a 4G-enabled phone (and, thus, Google Maps), getting around can be a bit tricky. Especially if all the street signs are in French and your French is just about as good as you imagine Christopher Walken’s is.
But, it means that, along the way, you discover something that’s off the cobblestone path, something that’s not on any tourist checklist. And, occasionally, you discover something magical.
But it’s hard to take a break from hitting all the sites, because you don’t want to miss anything, especially when you have a father who will mock you endlessly if you don’t get the chance to see something he has. Yes, in the Carroll family, everything is a competition.
Today, Clare and I had planned to see everything we possibly could, which can make it difficult to get an actual feel for the city outside of the crowds of tourists and the French cafes where all the waiters speak English and give you menus you can actually understand. Handy — but hardly authentic.
We started out at the Musée d’Orsay and waited in a pretty decently sized line, where the weather kept shifting from rainy to sunny. We made friends with a Canadian mother and daughter in front of us who were celebrating the daughter’s college graduation, which made the line pass faster. Plus, it was great trying to count how many “eh”s I heard come out of their mouths.
Of everything we’ve seen on the trip thus far, nothing has made me feel like the Musée d’Orsay did. It was magnificent, largely because of the absolutely incredible collection of impressionist and post-impressionist painters — people like Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, Renior, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rodin and about a million other artistic geniuses I’m inevitably forgetting.
It’s crazy to think about what it must have taken for these artists to break out of the established styles of the time to create something beautiful.
I kept looking closer and closer at the pieces (and the amazing brushstrokes), hoping that if I got close enough I might be able to get walk on into the painting. Hey, it worked in “Mary Poppins…”
It was fun to see so many of the works I’ve learned so much about over time. I sort-of-kind-of-maybe remember the Musée d’Orsay from our last visit, but, in my head, it was really just a white long rectangular building with all the artwork missing. This time was much, much, MUCH cooler.
We then strolled on over to the Tuileries and, in particular, the Orangerie, where some of Monet’s gigantic waterlilies are hung. There’s other amazing stuff at the Orangerie, but, for me, just about everything was dwarfed by and paled in comparison to the waterlilies. They were some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.
The works are all ginormous, so I have a hard time understanding how Monet knew exactly what to place where. We were able to examine the works closely, which made me want to just stay in the Orangerie forever. Monet’s trees aren’t just brown; they’re red and green and blue and yellow and purple and black and white and orange. Every stroke is so deliberate and strong.
Meanwhile, I can’t even draw a stick figure without messing it up.
After Clare and I were able to pick our jaws up the floor, we realized we were starving, so we went on another great adventure to find ourselves some food.
We stumbled across a cute place that I’m pretty sure was close to the hotel we stayed at on our last trip here with our parents. The place was lively and jovial and youthful, with the waiters messing around and joking with each other and with the customers.
One of the waiters kept singing his fellow waiter’s name — Reggie — turning it into a kind of melody. It was just a very happy place to be. As I asked for the check, our waiter told me, “But if I bring you the check, that means you leave.” Nobody says stuff like that back in the States! (He even wrote us a note on the check.)
It was after this that Clare and my day really started. We found a beautiful church that we never managed to figure out the name of but that was stunning. And, because we went to look at the church, we had the opportunity to venture around Paris.
It was the first day of Ramadan, so some of the Parisian side streets were filled with a parade with people throwing fresh food into the crowd and with the sound of cars honking, which provided a kind of music for the dancers. (I don’t think that was the drivers’ intent, though.)
After a good deal of walking, we made our way back to the same area where we ate dinner yesterday, still trying to find the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. We found a cute little shop that sold chocolate and macarons, so obviously we had to get something, especially because Clare had never had a macaron before. No surprise here, but she likes them. Hmm, Clare likes her sweets? Who woulda thunk it.
But then, the most exciting thing happened… WE FOUND THE BOOKSTORE! It’s quite literally across from Notre Dame, but yesterday, apparently, we kept coming at it the wrong way. I got goosebumps just looking at the entrance. It was so cute and so perfect — and freaking Ernest Hemingway frequented it.
I bought a copy of “A Moveable Feast,” in which Hemingway explicitly writes about the bookstore. I even got the Shakespeare and Company stamp on the chapter where he talks about the shop. I can’t wait to re-read the book.
The inside was just as cute, with lots of incredible books on the first floor, and the second floor was filled with a reading room and a group of Americans in a separate room holding their weekly meeting about writing, where they share their works and give advice to the other writers.
Mom and Dad, if I don’t make it back from this trip, I’ll still be at the bookstore. No need to worry.
Clare eventually managed to drag me out, only for us to stop again outside a sports bar at the end of the Mexico-Netherlands game (¡viva El Tri!). We only caught the end, when the Netherlands scored both its goals, so I’m convinced we’re bad luck. Maybe I’ll watch the US-Belgium game through fingers over my eyes. Or… maybe not.
We took our chocolate and ate it on the bank of the Seine. Amusingly, the tourists on the Seine River Cruises kept waving to us. It’s the red lips, I tell ya.
After “dinner,” we just wandered a bit more. We found ourselves back at the Louvre, where a cellist was playing under some of the archways, creating beautiful acoustics with the echoes. It was one of the most magical things I’ve experienced. Then, we contemplated going
to see a French movie, “L’Ex de Ma Vie,” which we’d been seeing advertisements for everywhere. But, the theater showing was a bit too late. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t go, because, when we got back, I looked it up, and it got panned by critics. Still, it’s not like we could’ve understood what the actors were saying, so I’m not sure whether critics thought it was good or bad would have made much of a difference.
Instead, we just walked around the Paris streets so we could experience the city lights at night.
It didn’t disappoint.
I’m not even quite sure how to describe nighttime in Paris. Everything twinkles and sparkles, and you can feel this mystical something in the air.
I just wanted to walk around forever and ever and ever. I felt so light and so free and so at peace. Plus, I saw the Eiffel Tower light up like a million brilliant little diamonds, which was startlingly beautiful.
Even the car lights in Paris are perfect. When we were last in Paris, my dad took Clare and me to the Champs-Élysées to have us look at all the different car lights (white one direction, red the other), and that stuck with us. So, we tried to recreate that image in our heads, but because the Champs-Élysées was a good deal away and we didn’t want to risk the Metro closing, we just walked around some smaller streets where it was hard to get cars coming opposite ways at the same time. But it was still one of the most special moments thus far on the trip.
We’re going to try to walk down the Champs-Élysées tomorrow as climb the Eiffel Tower, but that depends on how my knee holds up. I’m confident I’ll be fine, but I’m also the girl who walked around on a foot with a separated ligament for a month before I finally went to see a doctor. Oops-a-daisy!
More photos from the day: