Paris Pt. 2
Which really starts at Versailles!
Quick sidenote: I know it’s been exorbitantly longer than I said it would take me to finish the second half of my Paris trip. I’m sorry about that. Sometimes I just, you know, get very very lazy. Sue me.
Between the gin and tonics and The Offspring, I’m sure the wheels of writing have been sufficiently greased to grind this entry out. (Notice that alliteration–I have just proved my aforementioned point!)
Anyway, let’s get this over with.
Saturday, Feb 20th
Claudia and I planned this whole day out. We set our alarms for 6:30 in the morning, planned on leaving the house by a realistic 7:30, after the obligatory quadruple-S. Ah, to stay young forever.
The only problem with that plan was that we didn’t end up leaving until past 10AM. Ah, to stay young forever.
I took Dad’s immortal advice and picked up a pseudo-picnic lunch for the trip. It consisted of Henriot, and other food that is of little consequence when listed after champagne. Don’t worry; you’ll see photos of it later.
After boarding the RER to Versailles with all the other tourists (I thought tourism was bad in Beijing, but after having visited the tourism capital of the world, I hate European tourists even more). Good thing we pre-purchased our tickets at heavily-reduced prices, and were able to walk past the lines of people waiting to buy their tickets at full price. SUCKERS!
Simply walking through the main gates gave me the first taste of the decadent
beauty extravagance that Versailles has to offer.
Gold plated everything, fancy marble everything, and a fireplace big enough to burn ten French people in at the same time. How much more pompous can it get? I love it.
Even Caesar had a “Not too shabby” smirk on his face.
Believe it or not, Claudia didn’t have the headphones on purely to drown me out—she also loves her audio-guided tours. Blocking out my verbal diarrhea is just a welcome plus for her.
I find it funny that Claudia probably got more attention in the Hall of Mirrors from her man than Marie did from Louis XVI. The French.
Here’s a snap of the ceiling and the exquisite chandeliers hanging from it, just to break up the monotony of Claudia’s face in every one of these pictures.
This, I think, was the Queen’s bedchamber. Honestly though, the interior of Versailles did not impress me in the least. I had my fill of religion-themed portraits of royalty during my two and a half weeks in Italy.
The outside of the palace—much nicer on the eyes.
Finally, Lunch!!! Henriot, imported Italian salami (it’s much less impressive when you know that it doesn’t have to cross the Atlantic. Still just as delicious, though.), Roquefort cheese, sausages, sauerkraut, potatoes, oranges, bread, and Claudia. My favorite things to eat.
This is what happens to her after half a bottle of Champagne. You should see her after two bottles of wine. It’s fearsome.
Generic cool bronze sculpture.
I know you’re rolling your eyes at this point, but this is one of my favorite photographs from the whole trip. The whole PARIS trip, not just the trip to the palace of excess.
After lunch, we took a nice stroll down to the Petit Trianon. All the way down that man-made-cross-shaped lake behind Claudia. I’ve never heard a grown woman complain so much about walking before.
This was taken in Marie Antoinette’s cube-shaped little cottage. I know it’s famous for its architecture, but I don’t know a thing about architecture, so I can’t provide any snide commentary on it. I can, however, provide you with what I can only assume is a portrait of Marie Antoinette carved into her own wall.
Or maybe that’s Medusa? Eh, same difference.
This, if I’m not mistaken, is one of the last photos I took of Claudia that day. Shortly after this, we got into some bullshit argument about something, and split up for a bit. It was probably her fault. What that does mean for you, however, is that you don’t have to worry about her face obscuring my otherwise gorgeous photos of one of the most beautiful pieces of land in Europe.
Marie Antoinette was neglected by her husband, and filled her days and her masked her sorrow by building a childhood for her adult self. Sound familiar? I’m sure most of you know this already, given that most of the people who read this blog grew up when American schools still gave a shit about France and French history. Part of her childhood memories were of these quaint little cottage farmhouse-type buildings.
One of the things that strikes me every time I look at these photos is how beautiful the sky is. I think I have been living in Beijing for far too long—it catches me completely off-guard every time I see blue in the sky.
Here’s a similar shot of that lake, without Claudia.
The Palace at sunset.
We finally got the hell out of paradise and back home to Paris. Claudia and I made up over dinner and wine (three bottles of it):
Pop, you’re going to be disappointed in me, but the best bottle of wine I had in Paris was that Rioja in the picture above. I guess I just cheaped out too much, but oh well. Claudia doesn’t know the difference, and I am willing to forgo the quality of one vice to attain another.
After waking up at 8:30 and wiping the drunk out of our eyes, we got a relatively early start and headed out for Invalides at 12:30, but not before picking up sustenance for the road.
Invalides is where Napoleon is buried. Napoleon was a pretty badass general, despite our American perception of him as a three foot tall pissant with a chip on his shoulder. Unfortunately for Napoleon, that did not impress us enough to shell out the EU10 it cost to see his tomb. Instead, we opted to take pictures of the cannon set up all around Invalides, which were both more awesome and more free than seeing Napoleon. It also provided a great opportunity to finally break out the 70-200L for some nice DOF play.
National Pride? Donation for the hungry? Kindling for burning down the church? Either way, I’m thinking of turning this one B/W.
After we left Invalides, we headed to the Rodin Museum to see one of the most famous (and in my opinion, one of the most fascinating) sculptors in France. Auguste Rodin had a unique ability to capture the human body, to capture emotion and action in stationary medium.
The Thinker. ‘Nuff said.
Rodin’s work really has to be seen in person—photos simply do not do it justice, but I think these can give you a sufficient example.
After Rodin, we decided to take a walk down Avenue des Champs-Élysées. You know, that Champs-Élysées.
I really liked this piece of graffiti. Thought I’d share it with you.
We headed towards the Arc de Triomphe, but not before we succumbed to our fatty tendencies and stopped off at Laduree for some more world-famous French stuff. This time it was macaroons. They were so delicious that I didn’t even remember to take photos of them until after we ate them all. Fail.
After ensuring that our waistlines would continue to be pressed tight against our pants, we waddled down to the Arc.
Then we waddled up the Arc. This was here to greet us at the top. Pretty cool.
View of Avenue des Champs-Élysées from the top of the Arc. I know that horizon’s not straight—believe me, it bugs me more than it does you.
After that, we headed to the Jewish quarter of Paris to get some falafel. It was well worth traveling to one of the seedier parts of the city with $3,000 in camera equipment. Too bad it was another occasion of too-delectable-to-remember-to-take-photos.
After dinner we decided to buy some wine and call it quits for the night.
Woke up, and decided today was the day I was going to waste seeing the Louvre. I remember seeing the Louvre when I was a kid, and being fairly unimpressed. I was sure that this time would be very different.
The famous inverted pyramid (which I didn’t even know existed until reading The Da Vinci Code.)
This is Hercules laying the smackdown on the Hydra.
This is when I started to not like the Louvre. This French guy was giving tours in the Louvre. To Chinese tourists. In fluent Chinese. I lost so much face in so little time.
One of the sphinxes that was stolen from Egypt and stuck in France. Imperialism for the win. Made for some cool photos, though.
This is supposedly one of the few pieces of original Louvre architecture left in the building. I’m not quite sure what about it is so important that it wasn’t restored, but it eh, the lighting was cool.
This is what they say is the original inscription of Hammurabi’s Code. You know, Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. I used to think that was such a cool law when I was a kid. It’s also fitting that it’s inscribed on this decidedly phallic stone.
Claudia and I got so turned on being surrounded by all this priceless art that our next stop was Pigalle, home of Paris’s red-light district. I should have gotten photos of the way she looked at those dildos they had for sale.
Snapped this while Claudia sat down to take a rest.
Pigalle is home to the (yet again) world-famous Moulin Rouge.
Didn’t look nearly as awesome in real life as it did in the movies.
After fulfilling our baser instincts, we decided to re-purify ourselves by heading to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
We also decided to brave the strong winds, as well as burn off a few calories, and climb to the top of the basilica.
Almost getting blown away by the wind.
We then got a pre-dinner dinner of Moule frites, or mussles and French fries, which is every bit as delicious as it sounds. I didn’t get a photo of this either, but I got some more interesting graffiti on the side of the restaurant.
A lot of the graffiti in Paris is very cerebral, very thought provoking. It contrasts starkly with the graffiti I see in Beijing, which basically consists of mock-ups of 90’s skateboard cartoons and gang tags. Pretty boring stuff.
On the subway home. Again.
Grandma, I promised you I’d post more pictures of myself, so here’s a self-portrait.
This is what I had for breakfast. That Malheur is the second best beer I have ever had. The first was this:
Both of these bottles of ambrosia were bought for me by Claudia when she went to Belgium. I need to go to Belgium. I need to get more of this beer. It is literally the best beer I have ever had.
But back to the travel re-cap. Claudia finally went to class, so I screwed around and edited photos for a bit till she got back. We had exactly ONE mission for this day: find the perfect steak frites.
This is Claudia’s FEED ME face.
We took the bus to Opera, but I honestly don’t remember what we did there, because the only thing that mattered that day was food. We found our prize at La Bourse ou La Vie, this weird little restaurant that was very obviously a regulars-only type of place. The owner was possibly the most eccentric man I’ve ever had the pleasure of dining in the same room with. He was bald, with a great mustache, and this booming voice, drowned out only by his deafeningly gregarious personality. Unlike before though, I didn’t end up getting a photo of him, but I DID get a photo of the steak frites that he made so perfectly.
This was another addition to the list of “Best Meals I Have Ever Eaten” Almost all of those meals were eaten in Paris. And I tried so hard to hate the French….
After lunch, we headed to an outdoor market by the Bourse to walk around, check out what they were selling, and buy more food, because obviously when you’re stuffed the only natural(ly American) thing to do is see just how stuffed you can get before you throw up.
We went to the stall next to this one to get some cidre and some sausages, and then made a beeline for Laduree for some macaroons! I again failed to take photos of said macaroons, but I’ll strike a deal with you—the next time you go to Paris, go to Laduree, pick up four of each macaroon, bring them back to the US, and I’ll sample each and tell you which ones I had.
We found our way to the outside of the Louvre, which is pretty cool when you don’t actually have to go inside.
Then we went to the Notre Dame, which is much more striking at night.
Finally packed it in and went home for some well-earned food coma.
This day was my last full day in Paris. Sad. Good thing it was a beautiful day.
Until I saw this lady.
As we walked to what would be the first or second on the list of best meals I’ve ever eaten ever, we saw this awesome sight one the sidewalk. I’m not sure what exactly it was, but according to Claudia it’s a modern art fountain of some kind. Looks more like a subterranean septic tank in mid-explosion.
Claudia and I spent my last day in Paris like any other day we spend together anywhere–constantly striving to satisfy our hedonistic sides. We went to lunch at what is reputedly the oldest restaurants in Paris–A La Petite Chaise. It was founded in 1680, is 330 years worth of delicious. Especially because the whole meal, including aperitifs, entree, plat, dessert, wine, bottled water, and coffee cost about $75 USD for the both of us.
Revel in how delicious the food looks. I can guarantee it tasted better than you think it did.
WIld Boar Terrine:
Duck with Pear Sauce:
Rabbit in Lemon Cream Sauce:
The only thing sweeter than Claudia–Creme Brulee:
After our unforgettable lunch, we walked to the Bastille, and on the way saw even more remarkable graffiti:
And the infinitely more interesting graffiti adorning the surrounding apartments:
And one more photo of mobile graffiti. Unfortunately, this is the last photo of Paris I will show to you. I honestly got quite sick and tired of constantly taking photos of Paris at the expense of attention paid to Claudia, and I didn’t take many other photos worthy of posting on this blog after this one. In fact, whatever photos I posted were the best ones I chose out of the 1500+ photos that I actually took, so you do the math to calculate how much time it took me to convert, sort, edit, and export all of these.
For our last meal Claudia and I had fondue, which sucked. Which is why, as I like to remember it, that meal at A La Petite Chaise was the last meal we had together. After that, we went home, and once again did nothing except enjoy one another’s company until we both succumbed to the food coma once again. Then I woke up, Claudia left for class, and I left for Charles DeGaulle for my 12 hour flight back to Beijing.
All in all, my trip to Paris was one of the best trips I have ever taken. Many thanks go out to Grandpa and Grandma, who made this trip possible, for Dad and his recommendations on where to eat and what/how much to drink, Mom for not kicking my ass for spending money on a trip like this, and Claudia, for putting up with sharing a single bed with me for ten days while cutting school to hang out with me (although I know she enjoyed every second that I was there more than any single hour that I am not). I love you all. More than I show, and much more than you know.