Day 24-28: Paris

The big finale of the trip…after relatively saving money on food everywhere else, I finally get to spend the budget in Paris. It’s one of those cities that I’d have to visit before I die. It’s been a sort of fantasy for a while, even all throughout high school when I decided to take French.

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And of course, after having such high hopes, I was scared to be disappointed, but thankfully, I was still blown away by it. At first glance, it reminded me a little of both Amsterdam and Barcelona –the winding narrow streets, the Seine slicing through the core of the city, the density. As for the weather, at the time at least, it was generally pleasant, similar to San Francisco. It wasn’t the warm and humid nor was it freezing cold, though it was a little on the foggy side of things, but still nice.

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Every morning was greeted with a trip to the same Boulangerie just around the corner from our apartment on Île Saint-Louis (one of the islands in the center of Paris – a very ideal place to stay at, by the way). Une baguette et la confiture de fraises (baguette with strawberry jam) was perfect for the morning meal. The famous ice cream Berthillon was also available along our street. After indulging ourselves with macaroons from Pierre Hermé (my favorite being the Jasmine Tea … just perfect, not too rich), we headed for the Louvre.

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Aside from seeing “Mona Lisa,” the Louvre was impressive in both architecture and artwork. The grandeur of the paintings echo their magnitude in the space. The integration between above, at, and below ground becomes so seamless that the entire museum is perceived as a large underground network. The theme of burying art/archives was also seen in the Mediacenter in Hilversum, Netherlands, where the archive is placed below ground to better preserve the content in a more consistent temperature than at or above ground level. On the other hand, Centre de Pompidou celebrated its prominent presence, from its highly-articulated circulation tunnel to its exposed guts (ventilation ducts). As I walked in, the museum felt more like a laboratory (a collection of experiments) than a museum (a display of work) per-se –from exhibition on color theories to architectural drawing techniques.

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Paris, being a touristic city, we just had to visit all the tourist spots. Montmartre is a very different, but also interesting part of Paris with views and inclined houses like the ones in San Francisco. We also climbed the Eiffel tower till the mid level (by stairs!) to see Paris lit at night! There were more people along Champs de Mars (park leading up to the Eiffel Tower) at night than I’d expected. And finally, even though we were only a five-minute walk away from Notredame, we saved this till the last day (because of the long line, though it ended up moving pretty fast). The crypts below the Cathedral were pretty fascinating as well, seeing both how the ancient civilization had laid out their city and also how the city has built up (literally over the old city states) till today.

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I’m already jotting down in my mind to find another opportunity to go back to Paris –maybe live there for a year or so…if I find an exciting job there! Paris was definitely my favorite destination throughout the trip!

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