My friend Christine chose Paris as the place she wanted to visit for her birthday. Luckily for us, we have both visited Paris before, so we got to spend the weekend focusing on being French.
First things first I should mention that I speak ZERO French, and French people LOVE to not speak English. So you would think I could speak Spanish since they are neighboring countries, UM NO. Let’s just say I had some difficulties.
In the two days that we spent in Paris, we saw sites that neither of us got to see our during our other visits. The first and most important stop for Christine was the Eiffel Tower. This tower is probably the first thing people think of when Paris comes to mind, and it is honestly the first thing you go to see. The tower was built in the years of 1887 to1889 as the entrance to the World’s Fair in Paris, celebrating the 100 year anniversary of the French Revolution (if you want to full story on that, I suggest watching Les Miserables). One fun fact about the tower is that many people protested it being built. Many “artists” felt that it would be an ugly piece of work that would damage the beauty of the other famous buildings in Paris. A letter was sent to the head commissioner of this project saying:
“We, writers, painters, sculptors, architects and passionate devotees of the hitherto untouched beauty of Paris, protest with all our strength, with all our indignation in the name of slighted French taste, against the erection…of this useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower … To bring our arguments home, imagine for a moment a giddy, ridiculous tower dominating Paris like a gigantic black smokestack, crushing under its barbaric bulk Notre Dame, the Tour Saint-Jacques, the Louvre, the Dome of les Invalides, the Arc de Triomphe, all of our humiliated monuments will disappear in this ghastly dream. And for twenty years … we shall see stretching like a blot of ink the hateful shadow of the hateful column of bolted sheet metal.”
However, the artists did not win, and the tower was built just in time for the beginning of the World’s Fair. Lucky for us, we got to go to the top level of the building and freeze our tushies off to get some wonderful shots of Paris.
Our next stop was the Musée d’Orsay which is located next to the river. It was originally built in 1989 as a railway station. Now it houses many impressive French art, and many works by Monet, Manet, and my favorite Van Gogh. To be honest, I only remember those artists…
My favorite site we saw was the Sacre Coeur, which is very close to our hostel. My friend Claire told me to go here because she heard about it in her French classes back in the day. Thanks to her, I found my NEW favorite sight. Let me paint a picture for you: You have to climb up a series of stairs (up a giant hill) and you are breathing hard because you have stuffed your face with all the eclairs you could ever eat. You finally get to the top, and on one side of the road you have the Sacre Coeur, and on the other side is an amazing view of Paris. WHICH ONE DO YOU GO TO FIRST? I chose the Sacre Coeur:
The basilica was built in 1875 and was finished in 1915. It was built to be a double monument for both political and cultural reasons. The political reason is the aftermath of the French Revolution (seeing any trends here?) and for the popular idea that Jesus’ is loving and sympathetic to everyone. The inspiration for Sacré Cœur’s design originated in the wake of the division in French society that arose in the decades following the French Revolution, between devout Catholics and legitimist royalists on one side, and democrats, secularists, socialists and radicals on the other. Here is the view inside (thanks Google images!):
And here is the view looking down at Paris:
For lunch we decided to again be very French and enjoy our French cheese, baguettes, and eclairs in the Tuileries Gardens that is near the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre:
These grounds were created in 1564 for Queen Catherine de Medicis, but were not open to the public until 1667 as a place to relax and meet people. In July 1559, after the death of her husband, Henry II, Queen Catherine de Medicis decided to move from her residence at the chateau of Tournelles, near the Bastille, to the Louvre Palace (What is now the Louvre Museum), along with her son, the new King, François II. She decided that she would build a new palace there for herself, separate from the Louvre, with a garden modeled after the gardens of her native Florence.
Next to the Louvre and the Gardens is the Pon des Arts (a bridge). It has become famous in the past years because many couples come here to lock padlocks onto the bridge and throw the key into the river.
And finally, what you all have been waiting for: THE RED LIGHT DISTRICT. Not going to lie, wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be…however a show and dinner at the Moulin Rouge costs a whopping 200 euros. Save your money and watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcJjdseb2bk (WARNING: There is a lot of gyrating butts.)
So the history of the Moulin Rouge, and no it isn’t ANYTHING like the movie. The house was co-founded in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller. Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive dance by the courtesans who operated from the site, the can-can dance revue evolved into a form of entertainment of its own and led to the introduction of cabarets across Europe. The famous Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was an avid audience member, and many of his famous pieces of art work were inspired by this place.
Here are some other memorial moments during our trip:
In the end, my trip was wonderful. However, I still don’t ANY French, and I probably will never learn any, but hey I tried (and had many French people laugh at my face.). Maybe my next trip I finally learn how to order cheese, baguettes, and eclairs.