Our first real day in Paris was spent on an entire full day tour. Unlike the tour that we did in London, this one was all on foot and public transportation, no buses. Therefore, if you’re going to do something of this sort, I highly recommend your most comfortable pair of walking shoes, and a good night’s sleep.
Our guide, a strapping young college male, met us at the fountain at St. Charles Michel Station, bright and early in the morning. The entire tour was comprised of Korean families and the occasional couple; I stress Korean because this was a tour run by a Korean company; therefore the whole tour was conducted in Korean. Here is the link to the company site if you’re interested, but be warned; it’s all in Korean. We were handed out little devices that looked like mp3 players, but were in fact devices that would transmit whatever the guide was saying into his microphone directly into our earphones. That way, the guide didn’t have to yell at us the entire tour. Pretty nifty, huh?
Our first stop was the famed Notre Dame Cathedral! Only a couple of minute’s walk away from the fountain, the cathedral stood on a little island of its own (Île de la Cité), in front of a large plaza. We arrived early enough that there were only very few tourists and a small group of gypsy children around. Our guide explained to us the architectural style of the cathedral (pointy tops mean Gothic Architecture), the story of how during the French Revolution, citizens came and vandalized the building, and how the popularity of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” sparked and funded the restoration of the façade.
Here is a photo of the back of the Cathedral. The little arches that come down from the top of the building are there for support; they help spread the weight of the building around so that the huge stained glass windows are able to stay there without being crushed under the weight of all the stone.
A rather photogenic duck we found at the back of the cathedral. He really seemed to enjoy all the attention he was getting!
It was quite dark inside the cathedral, and the only lighting came from the candles and the sunlight coming in through the windows. The stained-glass windows were gorgeous though! They were very big, but had all sorts of tiny details on them, like people and names that I couldn’t read from the ground. Sorry about the blurry photos; it was kind of hard to take photos in the dark.
Look at the details! *gush*
We then took the RER to the Louvre. For people who aren’t familiar with the Paris public transportation system, the underground is divided into 2 types; RER and Metro. The Metro runs only in Paris, which is a tiny city, but the stops are very numerous so there’s about one stop every minute or so. Very convenient for getting around the city quickly. The RER runs through Paris, but it also takes you to further places, such as the Versailles. The trains and stations are different as well sometimes, so you have to be careful not to get on the wrong one!
So here we were at the Louvre. We didn’t actually have that much time to spend at the museum, so we just sort of rushed through the galleries to look at just the most famous exhibitions. If only I had more time…
Before we went in the museum though, I was feeling a bit peckish so I got some macarons at the McDonald’s. Yep, that’s right. The McDonald’s in France sell macarons! Om nom nom.
So here are some photos from our epic run through the museum…
Venus de Milo!
Oedipus and the Sphinx, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres!
Grande Odalisque, again by Ingres!
Liberty Leading the People, by Delacroix!
And last, and unfortunately the least, the Mona Lisa, by Da Vinci!
I don’t really understand all the hype about this painting. Sure, it’s awesomely natural and she looks almost real, but the painting is just so small and not very awe-inspiring. Apparently a lot of other people feel the same way about it as well. Still, it felt cool to have seen the world’s most famous portrait in real life.
I’ll continue with the rest of my tour photos later; this post is becoming ridiculously long. 🙂