After two extraordinary weeks around Europe on our cruise ship, it was time for me to bid the Ocean Princess adieu. My family and I disembarked on the last stop of our journey, in Le Havre, just north west of Normandy, France. A cab and the quickest train I have ever ridden brought us to Paris, which lived up to its moniker, the City of Lights.
Before arriving in Paris, the cruise itinerary allowed me to spend a day in the Centre Ville de Nice. The town square bustled with busybodies making transactions at the March aux Fleurs, an outdoor market that sold the most colorful selection of reasonably priced flowers and vegetables I have ever laid eyes on. The market was a skip and a hop away from the Promenade des Anglais, an oceanfront walkway and popular weekend spot for Frenchmen and foreigners alike. There, I distinctly remember clinging to blue metal rails where I stood in the middle of two different worlds. In front of me, the solid blue hues of the sea ran as far as the eye could see, with mats spread on the hot sand for those lazily attempting to catch some of the May day sun’s hot rays. Behind me, people hurried on skateboards, bicycles, and baby strollers, making their way to wherever they pleased.
The indoor market also caught my fancy and I went in to discover the freshest of fruits that included nectarine apricots so ripe, they were as red as apples and gigantic tomatoes almost the size of my face. The only provisions I bought were bright-colored French macarons that I thought had unique flavors at the time: Blueberry, Amaretto, and Pistachio. The authentic flavor of the famous French snack could not compare to any of the variations I have tried elsewhere.
Arriving at Nice
After checking into my hotel in Paris, I headed straight to the Louvre. I never expected such a legendary museum to have succumbed to commercialism, with numerous stores and restaurants filling its halls. In half a day, I tried to absorb as much art as I could, with each marble statue identical but with a different limb detached and each painting consisting of marvelously precise brushstrokes. The biggest clamor surrounded Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which both disappointed and astounded me. After fighting past the hoards of people, I come to discover a painting of miniature size, encased in glass ten times the size of it, although the tedious detail on the mystery of her smile made it worth the struggle. It would have taken me some months to meditate on the thousands of art pieces in the whole museum, so my family and I concentrated on the more revered works. What better way to brag about having visited the Louvre than to bring home your loved ones merchandise that have famous works, such as the Venus de Milo, plastered on pens, playing cards, and mugs conveniently located at the Souvenir store between the Pyramid and inverted pyramid. For those looking for quirkier finds, the Parisian novelty store, Pylones houses eccentrically designed but useful objects that I find delightful.
The Famous *but tiny* Mona Lisa
A blurry picture with myself and the Venus de Milo
Later that day, I found myself by the foot of the Notre-Dame cathedral, but I came too late to enter its premises for though the sun still shone, the day began to end, and so it is in that part of the world. The ancient structure aged gracefully and looked far from dilapidation. Dozens of solemn gray statues surrounded the outer walls of the stone building while gargoyles mounted the upper bell towers. Neighboring the popular attraction were some token shops that mostly sold tiny relics of Victor Hugo’s famous fictional character, Quasimodo, from his most famous literary work, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Amusing to note that the Gothic novel and Disney’s animated film brought the cathedral its fame amongst the younger generations, who, like myself, would not have taken note of it otherwise.
The grand Notre Dame Cathedral
On my last full day in Paris, I felt it my obligation to shop in the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, a mecca of luxury stores and restaurants leading up to the Arc de Triomphe. There I beheld the largest Louis Vuitton building, which made me ogle and drool. It might have been the prestigious design house’s headquarters for all I knew. Of course there were other noteworthy shops on that avenue that were more suitable for the allowance of a student traveler.
Louis Vuitton in all its splendor
A trip to Paris would not be remotely complete without visiting the splendorous Eiffel Tower. Not only did I get to see it, but I also got to go atop this iron goddess and pop champagne at the bar fixed thousands of feet off the ground, where the thick frosty air had not hindered me from celebrating the spectacular city below me. The palace across the Seine River in the Trocadero and its green fields of grass caught everyone’s eyes. Midway up the tower is an insanely romantic restaurant called Jules Verne, operated by a chef who has accumulated more Michelin stars than I have fingers.
View from the top (of the Eiffel Tower): The gardens of the Trocador
Leaving this city for my own homeland broke my heart. The 13-hour plane ride home was excruciatingly painful but I am grateful to have witnessed what I did. I only hope readers would enjoy France as much as I did and I still am looking forward to speaking what little French I know in the near future.