Monday, June 6, 2011

Brekke and Kristin's Excellent Adventure, part II - Paris

Dear friends,
This post has been an absolute age in coming to you, but here it is! Paris, oh the city of Lights. The city of Love. The city of delicious wine and fine art. Ever since I was a little, a tiny little thing listening to my Dad's stories of being stationed in Paris a mere 16 years after the end of WWII, I have wanted to visit. It's the scene of sweeping romance films, and the home of the world's best art. And, with my trusty side-kick, we made our way with almost no French, and sore, blistered feet.

A video montage of the trip - complete with organ music from Notre Dame! :)

We went to Mass in La Notre Dame the Sunday that we arrived. And - don't worry - we arrived in style, making it without any hassles for the first time in our entire trip! To hear Notre Dame filled with organ music, literally filled with sound and incense, was like moving through a dream. For a thousand years pilgrims have prayed in this church, coming from near and far to humble themselves before the majesty of God. It was incredible!

But paris isn't just about churches - although there are many of them and they are elegant and inspiring. We were on the prowl, looking for Shakespeare and Co, and English-speaking book shop which had been the local hang-out of delightful ex-pat writers like the Fitzgeralds. So after a mad search (in which we passed by the little ally-way where it's tucked away about 15 times) we finally found it. It's crammed with books, piled and stacked all across the store. But, it's homey and seems to fit perfectly into this cosmopolitan city.
 Kristin and I geeked out, taking pictures and she even bought a copy of The Great Gatsby for her boyfriend who is a dedicated Fitzgerald fan.

Then it was a day at the Louvre! We barely made it through 1/3 of the museum before we gave up to exhaustion (we'd seen lots and lots of paintings and had been there 5 hours). I saw Botticelli, and Da Vinci (the Mona Lisa is much less impressive in real life), and paintings from the 1200s and so much more. There was the Winged Victory (above) and Venus Demilo, and the graces in one of the sculpture rooms. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of paintings I recognized (thanks to my dad's plethora of art history books lying around over the years!). It is truly amazing - everyone should have the opportunity to see so much wonder and talent.

We walked up the Champs Elysees, to the Arch D'Trumph, and watched as a ceremony took place honoring French veterans. There were school children and lots of flowers over the tomb of the unknown soldiers. It was sweet and reminded me of similar traditions back home in the States.
  French veteran, waiting for the ceremony to being. 
The Eiffel Tower - doesn't disappoint! It's gorgeous and inspiring. You can see in my video how it lights up - shimmers and sparkles - at night. It's magnificent and more than lived up to everything I had imagined.
It's a masterful piece of engineering, and despite being metalic it is gorgeous the way it sours up toward heaven.
I had such an amazing trip. It's hard to put into words all the things that happened - the crazy room with the exposed electric wiring and the door that wouldn't open; the crazy subway system; the amazingness of the Musee D'Orsay and realizing that had I been alive in the 1880s, I could have been a Renoir muse. To be surround by such profound works of art - art that moves you and makes you feel something - it takes your breath away. It is the feeling of being so supremely human - finite and bundled up with feelings and emotions - and being so bigger-than-life, like we are going to outlive these little bodies. It was wonderful!

San Chapel - a Medieval church with spectacular stained-glass windows!
If you ever, ever have the opportunity to go to Paris, it isn't to be missed. It's an overwhelming city, with so much history and culture that it makes us little Americans blush. It's fast and frantic. It's ancient and modern. It's a little bit of everything, and classic artwork to boot.
I'd go back tomorrow if I could, because there's so much left unexplored!

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