Europe 2012: Paris-Day 3

Back to tell you about our third day in Paris! We were up bright and early to claim our places in line at the Louvre.

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We purchased a 4-day Paris Museum Pass for our trip, which saved us both money and time in line at many places we visited. With our pass we were granted admittance to the Louvre and we also got to skip the long line and go in the very short line for those who already have tickets or a museum pass.

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Like many, after the doors opened, we booked it straight to the Denon Wing.BLOG_P1090146

The Denon Wing, you ask? Yes, the Denon Wing. This is where the Mona Lisa resides.

Everyone makes the trip.

I had another one of my gaspy, wide-eyed, huge grin moments when we entered her room. Going to Paris just does that to me.

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It can be difficult to connect with the small painting beneath the glass, but beating the crowd made it a little easier.

By the time we were finished viewing the piece, the crowd had increased!

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Eventually we went back for a look at my favorite piece in the Louvre: Nike, the goddess of victory. Gallantly she stands, atop this grand flight of sunlit stairs.

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This Greek sculpture is dated to somewhere between 220 and 190 BC, according to my Frommer’s guide. Breathtaking.

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Another famous sculpture: Venus de Milo.

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Another pretty piece:

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The Louvre was nothing short of mind-blowing. It completely exceeded my expectations. The sheer size of the museum is astounding. You could spend days here and not see everything.

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We took a break for a snack, mid-morning at the café in the Louvre. I had yogurt and a chocolate croissant. Also, everyone in Paris drinks Vittel. It’s like “the thing to do.” We paid somewhere around 4 EUR for a bottle of water, so yeah, more than 5 buckaroos for you Americans. Like I said, I swear it seems cheaper to drink wine than water, at least in Paris – and at times we found, in Italy, too. We found it difficult to stay hydrated without breaking the bank!

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We ate our mid-morning snack on the outdoor terrace, and had a lovely view of the Richelieu wing of the Louvre, and the courtyard.BLOG_P1090159

Then we headed back inside for more art. Not only were the pieces themselves incredible, but even every wall, every floor, every ceiling, was decorated beautifully in the Louvre.

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I always wondered what the pyramid looked like from the inside – and I got to see firsthand! Here is the view:BLOG_P1090165

One last shot before we left the amazing Musée du Louvre.BLOG_P1090166

Next, our plan was to take the metro to the Marais district of the city. We attempted to do a walking tour, laid out in my guidebook, through the winding streets of the Marais area, which was traditionally the city’s old  Jewish quarter, and also includes many 17th and 18th century mansions.

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The Marais is full of boutique shopping, Jewish bakeries, and falafel shops.

A friend had advised me that I must try a falafel sandwich in the Marais district while I am in Paris. My guidebook suggested the same! Also, falafel is one of my very favorite foods when it is done right, so clearly this was a done deal.

We dined inside at L’as du Falafel. There was a long, but fast-moving line for take away falafel, and the inside was also completely packed! We were seated right away, though. The café was somewhat small but had a lot of tables, all of which were about 2 inches apart each, with a narrow aisle running through the dining area. It was bustling and noisy – I loved the energy!

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We had to do some pointing and gesturing to communicate with the mostly French-speaking staff, but ordering was pretty easy since we both simply wanted the falafel sandwich, like most everyone else in the place.

When this giant falafel sandwich was delivered to me, I swooned on the spot. This was by far and away THE best falafel I have ever had. HUGE! So crisp on the outside; hot, moist, and flavorful on the inside; dripping with tahini. Just absolutely perfection in a big fried chickpea fritter, baby.

The falafel were served in a pita that was jam-packed with veggie accompaniments, including roasted eggplant, cabbage, cucumber, tomatoes, and parsley. Just so much texture and flavor.

This is probably the best thing I ate in Paris, or at least close to the top, and definitely in the top 2 or 3 best things I ate during our two-week trip. Maybe the best!? At least in my opinion. The huz isn’t typically a falafel guy, so we came here for me, but he scarfed down his sandwich too. For real.BLOG_P1090169

After lunch we perused a nearby Jewish bakery. With permission, I snapped a shot of the goodies.BLOG_P1090172

For a treat, we bought a big piece of baklava. I’m not kidding, this thing was dense.BLOG_P1090174

We walked a few blocks away to the Place des Vosges, Paris’s oldest public square, to plop ourselves down on a bench, people-watch, and gobble down that baklava.

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From the Place des Vosges, we walked to the Place de la Bastille, which today holds a column honoring victims of the 1830 revolution, and marks the site of one of the most famous moments in French revolutionary history: the attack of the Bastille prison.BLOG_P1090176

Then we hopped back on the metro and rode to the stop near the famous Opéra Garnier.

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We purchased a visitor’s ticket, which allowed us to explore the interior of the opera house.BLOG_P1090181

The Opera Garnier is, as my guidebook says, “where the Phantom did his haunting,” as the opera house was the inspiration for the Phantom of the Opera character.

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As is evident, the opera house was just gorgeous inside. So grand. I could just imagine the opera attendees strutting their stuff in their elaborate silk ball gowns and tuxedos.

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Glitz and glam at the opera.

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The theater at the opera:

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There were also display cases featuring costumes, masks, jewelry, tiaras, shoes, and more, that have been worn by performers in the past. I loved this “Black Swan” dress from the Swan Lake ballet.

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After the opera, our legs needed a rest, so we made a pit stop at: Starbucks. The huz and I split a venti iced vanilla latte, but I only had a few sips since I wasn’t sure if we’d have bathroom access again for a while. This is how the Parisians spell my name:BLOG_P1090202

Our next stop in the area was this neoclassical church, the Eglise de la Madeleine, designed as a temple of glory for Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 1800s.BLOG_P1090203

The beautifully quiet and dark interior was a nice refuge from the noisy hubbub of the Parisian streets outside its doors.

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Just around the bend, our next stop was the highly touted Ladurée Royale. The line to purchase pastries, macaroons for most, was continually out the door, but fast-moving!

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Me standing proudly in front of Ladurée with my frouffy purchase.

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More on my purchase at Ladurée later in this post!

As evening approached, it was time for a stroll down the iconic, tree-lined Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

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In the distance we could see the Arc de Triomphe at the end of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It looked so close, but it was so, so far away, for our fatigued leg muscles! I can’t complain though, the walk was lovely. We just took lots of breaks during the day. “Time to rest the dogs,” we would declare, periodically throughout the day, before plopping ourselves down on a bench for a few minutes.

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Ah, and finally: we made it!

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Well, almost. First we had to navigate the underground pedestrian tunnel to access the monument without trying to dodge the crazy traffic circle that surrounds it, and then we had to walk 284 steps to the top. Phew! From the top, we had a lovely view up the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

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The day before we had climbed the stairs to the Notre Dame cathedral, which was quite a bit higher than the Arc du Triomphe (226 ft vs 164 ft), yet seemed much easier, on our fresh legs. This climb was pretty tough for us, but we made it! The reward at the top was so sweet.

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Love this shot of us with the Eiffel Tower in the background.BLOG_P1090219

We stayed at the Arc du Triomphe for a long time, resting and enjoying the views of Paris, before hopping back on the metro and heading back to our hotel for a brief rest before dinner.

We had a tricky time deciding on dinner this night, after deciding we would stay near the hotel. In the touristy bar zone near our hotel, we had drinks at a restaurant called Hippopotamus.

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Dranks. The dinner menu here didn’t really appeal to us so we went in search of food elsewhere after chilling for a while.

A young kid (maybe 9 or 10) also tried to pickpocket Tom while we were sitting on the outdoor terrace here! Tom had his back to the street, and the kid came up behind him and I saw exactly what was happening: the punk’s right hand slipped down near Tom’s back pants pockets while his left hand held out a map and tried to hand it over to the couple next to us, to distract us. Turns out, the couple next to us had no idea who that punk was! And I starting obnoxiously yelping – ‘that kid’s trying to pickpocket you!’ Then he ran away. The joke was on him though. All of our important documents and such were safety stored in our money belts beneath our clothes.

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After wandering the lively streets for a bit, we chose to split a couple sandwiches from a take away café: a cheesy hot dog and a freshly-pressed hot panini.

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Back in our room, we busted into our box of Ladurée macaroons. We originally planned to only have one or two each, to slowly savor them but ended up eating the whole box, between the two of us!

We had purchased a box of 8 mini macaroons: 2 pistachio, 2 chocolate, 1 coffee, 1 Fleur de Sal caramel, 1 praline, and 1 rose petal. We shared bites of each kind, so we each got to try all of the flavors.

My favorites, in order: Coffee, Pistachio, Praline, Chocolate, Caramel, and Rose.

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The macaroons were really great but not as mind-blowingly awesome as I thought they might be, considering how hyped up they are! Like I said, they’re really great, but they sure are pricy. You’ve got to try at least a few though, if you are in Paris!

8 thoughts on “Europe 2012: Paris-Day 3

  1. Just stunningly beautiful architecture! How thrilling for you both! Le macaroon. I’ve never seen or tasted a French macaroon. Pastel colors are lovely, so silky and smooth looking…velvety.

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