A Versaillian in Versailles: Paris Days 3 and 4

Is it possible for jet lag to hit a week late? I felt totally fine during my first week back in the States, but during the second week I was more tired than I can remember being in recent history. I put these recap posts on the back burner to get some rest, and I’m still struggling to find the time to write them, but I’m committed to documenting this trip before the memories slip away!

I also attended my five-year college reunion last weekend, and I couldn’t believe how many of you told me you’d been reading these posts. Making my heart happy, people! I’m going to squeeze Monday and Tuesday of the trip into one post because they fit together well, and then I’ll still break the rest of the trip into individual posts, so there are two more to come after this.


Parisian neighborhoods

Our first stop Monday morning was Rue Crémieux, which is a whole road lined with pastel houses. We went just to marvel at its cuteness. It looks like Instagram and Anthropologie had a street together. I imagine its homes are inhabited by life-size Polly Pockets who keep My Little Ponies as pets.

After admiring (and maybe envying) the colorful homes, we made our way to Place des Vosges, which is cute but in a different way. It is the oldest planned square in Europe and was also once the home of Victor Hugo. (Going to France really made me want to re-watch — maybe even read!?!? — Les Mis.) Place des Vosges, as far as I can tell, is like the 17th-century version of a subdivision. Not only were the houses perfectly symmetrical, but the trees were trimmed into rectangles. There was something very Alice-in-Wonderland about it. 

Because we couldn’t visit two places in Paris without stopping to eat again, we then stopped for some sandwiches at a boulangerie and for some gourmet (another French word!) eclairs from L’éclair de Génie over in the the Jewish quarter.

I like my eclairs like I like my palaces: dusted in gold.

While en route to pick up our eclairs, a man said something to me in French. When I looked at him bewildered, he accurately pegged me as a tourist and said, “English?”

Want to know what I answered? 



There is something about being spoken to in a foreign language that always makes me revert to Spanish. One day I need to visit Spain. I will be in good shape. 


A mere 800 years old

After we ate our lunches, we headed to Sainte-Chapelle. If you have one day to spend in Paris, make sure this is on the itinerary. It is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. Louis IX had it built in the 1240s (!!!) to house the purported crown of thorns and other relics. The chapel’s upper level is walled in stained glass, each section depicting a Bible story. Twelve statues punctuate the room, one for each apostle. The crazy part is that the relics cost more than three times what the chapel itself cost, and though I’m no expert on the rates of 13th-century building materials, I’d estimate that the chapel was pretty expensive. Yet again, while in Sainte-Chapelle, I found myself wishing I knew more about French history and church history. Was the glory of the stained glass supposed to reflect the glory of Jesus or the glory of the Catholic Church? I would love to know more.

Musée de l’Orangerie

Get on my wall

After Sainte-Chapelle we headed over to Musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens. The highlight of the museum was eight of Monet’s massive Water Lilies paintings. Apparently Monet had given them as a gift to the French government but, in doing so, had provided stipulations about how they must be displayed: in oval rooms with natural, filtered light. Maybe Monet was a little high-maintenance. (I imagine he stipulated this like a pop star stipulates which amenities should be backstage, but I could be wrong.) That said, everyone in the gallery looked amazing. So from here on out, you guys are only allowed to view me in natural, filtered light.

After a French lady shuffled us out of the musée (it was closing, unbeknownst to us), we made our way back over toward Notre Dame to try what’s been called the BEST ICE CREAM IN THE WORLD from a little shop called Berthillon.

Baby ice creams.

You know how in the U.S., “one scoop” is more like three scoops? In France, one scoop is more like a rounded tablespoon, which was somewhat disappointing. The ice cream was good, but I’m pretty indiscriminate when it comes to ice cream. Whatever ice cream I’m eating at the moment is the best in the world. We ate ours in the garden behind Notre Dame and then started the trip back to our apartment, stopping by a boulangerie on the way to pick up more baguettes for another French dinner of bread and cheese in our apartment. It never gets old.


Riding in cars in Paris

The metro: our main mode of transportation

Tuesday morning we met up with Marie’s parents to drive to Giverny to see Monet’s home and gardens. They had a rental car, and other than the cars that took us to and from our apartment on our first and last days, this was the only time we rode in a car in France. We used the underground metro system almost exclusively to get around the city. (Culture shock #6: Transportation.)

French cars are tiny, and they’re not all tricked out like American cars. At one point on the way to Giverny, Marie asked her dad if the car had air conditioning, and I thought about what a funny question that would be in the U.S. It would almost certainly be a passive-aggressive jab to get someone to turn on the air. Not so in France. For the most part, the cars we saw were not even brands I recognized, although there were some familiar European brands like Audi and BMW. We rode to Giverny in a Peugeot. Who’s ever heard of a Peugeot??? Not me. 

How do you know where one invisible lane ends and the next one starts?

Riding in a car in downtown Paris was an experience in its own right. Intersections often had little squares in the middle of them through which you could go underground to access the metro. Everyone was zooming around these squares to turn down different streets. Sometimes it felt as though, rather than merging strategically, the cars were just mushing together toward their destination. (It was as though the city of Paris had developed long before cars or something.)

Once we got into the French countryside, however, the ride felt much more like America (and the landscape looked much more like America). A notable exception was the cute villages we passed. You know how when you take a road trip in the U.S., you end up driving through a bunch of sad little podunk towns whose only notable structures are rundown gas stations and sketchy motels — and it kinda makes you sad about being alive? Well, this is not the case in France. In France, you also pass little towns in the middle of nowhere, but they are the most PRECIOUS, delectable little villages. They look as though they were built by a gingerbread architect who had only stone at his disposal. We passed a few such villages on the way to Giverny, and I wish I had taken pictures of them for you guys! (Just Google image search “French village,” and you will get a pretty good idea.) 

Monet’s house

The pinkest house I have ever seen

Claude, I'm gonna need you to hold each of these paintings in your hand and tell me if they spark joy.

We made it to Monet’s house, and I was surprised to find that it was PINK AND GREEN and covered in artwork. I’ve never been much of an art buff, but I’ve always liked Monet because I think his stuff is genuinely pretty. His paintings make my eyes feel relaxed. That said, the interior of his house did not make my eyes feel relaxed, what with its wall-to-wall artwork. I couldn’t figure out how much of the artwork he’d always had displayed like that, and how much of it was on display for the visitors. He particularly liked Japanese artwork and had multiple rooms full of it, but I got the feeling that Marie Kondo would not approve.

Though I didn’t love the interior of his house, I found his garden magnificent. From the number of gardeners present, I think it must be several people’s full-time jobs just to maintain it. Most people have plain old grass behind their houses, but behind Monet’s house are rows upon rows of different types of flowers and, here and there, archways covered in vines. Beyond the backyard garden is the pond with its famous water lilies and Japanese bridges. You can walk the perimeter of the pond in total shade because the tree branches create a canopy. I kept bending down to marvel at the enormity of some of the leaves.

One random and amazing thing about France is that there are very few bugs compared to the U.S. (Culture shock #7: No bugs! We slept with our screen-less windows open every night.) In the U.S., there would’ve been bugs crawling all over a garden that size, but as it was, I saw only a few bees and one mosquito. I didn’t even get any bites. I would be polka-dotted in the U.S. I don’t know why they don’t have as many bugs there — something about the climate — but it makes me jealous.

We stopped in the gift stop at Monet’s house before leaving, then lunched with Marie’s parents in Vernon before they dropped us off Versailles. 

Château de Versailles

So many peasants at the palace

There’s something so surreal about driving into what appears to be a quaint little town (not too unlike Versailles, Kentucky, where I am from) and then seeing on the horizon, BAM, the Palace of Versailles. It looks ornate even from a distance, its golden gates glistening. We walked around the town of Versailles just a bit before making our way up to the palace/château. We had to pop into a Starbucks to fuel up before braving the line, and we also went to nearby tourist shop to purchase a laughably ugly backpack for 12 euros just to get our rain jackets out of our arms. We’d prepared for drizzle but instead received a hot, sunny day. (The backpack ended up becoming a running joke throughout the rest of our time in Paris. The laughs it provided were well worth 12 euros.)

Selfie at the chateau 

After we got through the line to enter the palace, we toured its rooms at our own pace. If we’d had more time, it would’ve been fun to do the audio tour, but we had a lot to squeeze in that day. The Palace of Versailles is just as ostentatious as everyone makes it sound. Gold accents, billowing fabric, huge paintings, canopy beds. This makes Donald Trump look modest, I thought while walking through. Actually, a lot about Versailles reminded me of Trump. Apparently King Louis XIV — or the Sun King (LOL) — had a daily ceremony during which his courtiers would crowd into his bedchamber there at Versailles and watch him wake up. That sounds like egotism of Trumpian proportions.

This was, in fact, probably my primary takeaway from the tour of Versailles and its grounds: that ridiculous rulers (and even ridiculous wannabe rulers) are no new thing. The Palace of Versailles puts Hillary's $12,000 jacket to shame. (And the Grand Trianon palace, which is also on the Versailles grounds and was built specifically for the king’s mistress, puts Hillary’s tolerance of Bill to shame. Just saying.) 

Touring Versailles really made me want to get my hands on some books about the time period. If you’ve read any good ones, let me know. I’m so curious about the drama that undoubtedly went down within those walls 400 years ago. 

Marie enjoying Marie Antoinette's hamlet

After making our way through the chateau, we took the mini-train (i.e., a glorified golf cart) to see Petit Trianon, which had been Marie Antoinette’s private palace for a while, as well as her hameau (or hamlet), which has a much more quaint and cottagey feel to it. I love that these rulers needed palaces to get away from their palaces and cottages to get away from their secondary palaces.

We also saw, as I mentioned before, the Grand Trianon, which was my favorite palace because it was just the right amount of over-the-top. It’s made out of light pink marble, so it’s ostentatious but in a subdued way, if that makes sense. It’s hard to believe that humans actually lived in these structures. They seem other-worldly, like a Disney movie come to life.

Let it be known that even on the grounds of Versailles, food abounds. When we were about halfway back to the palace, we stopped for a breather — a.k.a., chocolate crepes. 

With Tay in the Temple of Lurve

I’m happy to report that my knees never started to hurt until the day of Versailles. Many of my readers know that I dealt with chronic leg pain for years, so this trip would’ve been an impossibility for me in high school and college. My legs never could’ve handled it. During this trip my legs were total troupers — despite the fact that, according to my FitBit, we walked more than 60 miles over the course of the week. My old leg pain didn’t flare up at all, and though my knees gave me some trouble this day and the next (London!), they were amazing overall. I wore these Tevas every day and would HIGHLY recommend them if you want something comfortable, cool, and easy to clean.

After our crepes, we passed the grand canal and the Le Bassin d'Apollo before reaching the palace again, taking a few more selfies at the gates (all the other tourists had finally left), and then hitting up a French McDonald’s in downtown Versailles before catching our train back to Paris. I’d heard that McDonald’s is way better in Europe than America, but it would be hard for me to compare them because, in America, I’m gonna pick Wendy’s over McDonald’s 100 percent of the time. That said, French McDonald’s is not better than American Wendy’s, so let it be known that France may blow us out of the water when it comes to architecture and gardening and art and history, but we’re holding our own when it comes to hamburgers. (It’s the little things.)

We got back to our apartment pretty late and had just a few hours to sleep before we were to get up and head to ENGLAND the next day. No big deal. I’ll detail our Anglo-adventures in my next post.

The Eiffel Tower, the self-cleaning bathroom, and other French marvels: Paris Day 2

Paris, I was surprised to find, is much like the cartoons portray it. For instance, in the week we were there, I repeatedly saw men playing accordions on street corners. (I know, right?) In these moments, it felt as though Paris was caricaturing itself. 

If you thought (like I did) that the cute little Parisian pastry shops were just a cartoon stereotype of the city, you’d be wrong. There’s a boulangerie (bakery) and a pâtisserie (pastry shop) on practically every block of the city. Pastry shops are to Paris what Walgreens are to Chicago.

So we took full advantage of them. On Sunday, our second day in the city, Taylor and I started the morning by running to the boulangerie around the corner from our apartment to get some pain au chocolat for breakfast and some baguettes for lunch. (Because when you’re going to be exploring a new city for 12 hours straight, it’s a great idea to fuel up on sugar, butter, and refined white flour first.) 

Dessert for breakfast! It's the French way.

Dessert for breakfast! It's the French way.

Basically as soon as we stepped out of the apartment, we were approached by a Frenchman who wanted to talk to us. I have absolutely no idea what he said because I studied Spanish for 11 years and French for zero. I know what I said to him, though. I meant to say, “Je ne parle pas français,” i.e. “I do not speak French.” But all that came out was “No parles,” i.e. “No talk.” Killing it on the tourist front already.

Exploring Montmartre

After that embarrassing encounter, we got our bread, packed some lunches, and headed to Montmartre to see Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur. (The French even have letters we don’t have!) Montmartre is a little hilly village filled with tourists — and artists trying to sell art to tourists. But it’s also ADORABLE, so it makes sense that tourists would want to go there. And it makes sense why artists would want to go there, too, because it puts them in the company of Dalí, Renoir, Degas, Picasso, Van Gogh, and a bunch of other famous artists who lived and/or created in Montmartre. After exploring the village a bit, we nommed on our sandwiches before heading to see more art at the Musée Rodin on sculptor Auguste Rodin’s estate.

Rodin’s estate

"The closest we'll ever get to the gates of hell." — Taylor #PTL

"The closest we'll ever get to the gates of hell." — Taylor #PTL

The Musée Rodin offered the first of many sculptures and pieces of artwork that we would see over the course of the week. I’ll probably reflect more on the overall experience of seeing artwork when I write about our trip to the Louvre later in the week, but I’ll still share a little now. 

Rodin is probably best known for The Thinker and The Kiss. (As someone who’s not particularly knowledgeable about art, I was familiar with only these two pieces.) That said, I found his Gates of Hell to be the most interesting piece we saw on his estate. He worked on it for 37 years, all the way until his death. This sculpture, inspired by Dante’s “Inferno,” is of a pair of doors decorated in human bodies that appear to be in various states of distress or distraction. The longer you look at it, the more figures you see (many of which he created in larger form as well, and many of which were on display throughout the rest of the museum). The piece is haunting to say the least.

Hôtel des Invalides

I can imagine a mom here being like, "Honey, hon, honey, DON'T PLAY WITH THE CANNONS. CANNONS ARE DANGEROUS." 

I can imagine a mom here being like, "Honey, hon, honey, DON'T PLAY WITH THE CANNONS. CANNONS ARE DANGEROUS." 

From Rodin’s estate we walked to the Hôtel des Invalides — a military hospital turned military museum that’s also the burial site of Napoleon. (Culture shock #3: This was the first place — of a handful — where I saw French military men walking around with machine guns. They were just checking bags like security guards at an American football game … with machine guns. This would be so weird in the U.S.) We lingered at Hôtel des Invalides only briefly before heading toward a slightly more famous attraction in Paris: the Eiffel Tower. (But not before stopping at Starbucks again and, duh, a meringue shop.) 

Modern marvels

I see you, Eiffel Tower.

I see you, Eiffel Tower.

I was so intrigued by all the little French shops around us that the Eiffel Tower had been visible to us for some time before I noticed it. All of a sudden it was like, bam, Eiffel Tower. My observations about the tower itself are probably not all that profound. It was really freaking tall, way taller than I pictured it, and it was swarming with tourists. (This surprised me several times throughout the week. It was as though I had expected to be the only foreigner in France.) 

Maybe you've heard of it. 

Maybe you've heard of it. 

Though I don’t have much to say about the Eiffel Tower itself, I do have some things to say about the public restroom at the Eiffel Tower. (Culture shock #4: Bathrooms. Everything about French bathrooms.) 

As we were leaving the tower, I had to be the person in our group who was like, “Sorry, guys, I need to use the restroom.” After a brief hunt, we found one. But this was not your typical public restroom. No, this was a self-cleaning restroom — like a self-cleaning fish tank or a self-cleaning oven, but a BATHROOM. In between each use, the bathroom closed its doors and rinsed itself from top to bottom. I still don’t fully understand the mechanics.

Not only was this bathroom self-cleaning, but it was also a single stall — and a single stall for both men and women, at that. (Which meant twice as many people got to line up outside it.)

I don’t have any experience in planning public parks, so maybe this is the wisdom of the childless, but I’m pretty sure that if I were planning the park around what's arguably the biggest tourist attraction in the world, I would plan for a public restroom that could accommodate more than one person at a time. 

Actual sentence on the Wikipedia page for these bathrooms: "Sanisettes carry a warning that young children must not be allowed to use the toilet alone as the weight sensor may not detect a small child, allowing the cleaning cycle to run with a child inside." ! ! ! 

Actual sentence on the Wikipedia page for these bathrooms: "Sanisettes carry a warning that young children must not be allowed to use the toilet alone as the weight sensor may not detect a small child, allowing the cleaning cycle to run with a child inside."

! ! ! 

A self-cleaning bathroom is great in theory but bad in practice — not unlike socialism, France’s form of government. Both sound great until you consider how humans actually function. Because if 10 people are in line in front of you and each person takes one minute to use the restroom and the restroom takes two minutes to clean itself between each use, that means you’re waiting 30 minutes to use the restroom. I guess a country that is willing to wait two hundred years for Notre Dame to be completed has the gall to assume that American tourists are willing to wait two minutes for a bathroom to clean itself, but THEY’RE WRONG. Americans will never stand for this. (Plus, two minutes in French time converts to approximately a thousand years in American time.)

At least this bathroom was free though. A few of the bathrooms we used throughout the week required us to pay them like vending machines. What good is socialism if you have to pay to go to the bathroom!?!? (What’s more of a basic human right: health care … or peeing? Answer me that.) Additionally, because space is at a premium in France, buildings expand vertically, which means that if you’re using a bathroom in a public building, you’re probably going up or down a spiral staircase to get to it. All that to say, I missed American bathrooms more than almost anything last week: big, brightly lit, complimentary American bathrooms. Land of the free, indeed.

Winding down the evening

Anne Hathaway's phone wuz here

Anne Hathaway's phone wuz here

This has been around for three times as long as we waited at the self-cleaning bathroom.

This has been around for three times as long as we waited at the self-cleaning bathroom.

After waiting a millennium to use the self-cleaning bathroom, Marie and Taylor and I started heading across the city to meet Marie’s parents for dinner. They also happened to be visiting France while we were there, which was quite convenient. Along the way, we stopped at both the beautiful Pont Alexandre III bridge and the Place de la Concorde in the center of Paris. The Place de la Concorde is home to multiple historic monuments including the 3,000-year-old Luxor Obelisk, which Egypt famously gave to France in the 1830s, and the Fontaines de la Concorde, which Anne Hathaway famously threw her phone into at the end of the Devil Wears Prada in the 2000s. Important history, people. 

(When I learned that the obelisk was 3,000 years old, my first response was to blurt out, “That’s older than Jesus!” before I realized that was heretical. France’s own Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for lesser heresy.)

How we should all do salads.

How we should all do salads.

We soon arrived at the restaurant where we would eat dinner with Marie’s parents. Marie’s dad kindly read the menu to me. (Culture shock #5: Menus. Why did I always try to read the menus? There were only a few words I ever recognized. Tomate, for instance. Mozzarella. You might even think I’d recognize the word entree, but you’d be wrong because it means something different in French. SURPRISE.) I could really get used to the French way of eating — long, lingering meals with multiple courses and lots of time to talk. I could also get used to the way French do salads, or at least the one I had because IT HAD BREAD AND CHEESE ON IT, people. They might be bad at bathrooms, but the French certainly know how to eat.

After dinner we strolled around the Jewish quarter before heading back to our apartment and calling the day … a day.

See you soon for my recap of Day 3!

Three Americans in Paris: Day 1


As you may know if you got bombarded by my pictures on Facebook last week, I just got back from my first international trip — one to Paris with two of my friends from college, Taylor and Marie-Claire (the second of whom grew up in France and so knew the language and how to get around). We also spent one day in London, my new favorite city.

I’ve decided to blog about this trip by breaking each day into its own post because so much happened. If you want all the deets, join me here as I recap the experience. (This will also be a good exercise for me in writing speedily.)

Paris Prep and Day 1

Pre-trip fears (i.e. typical Kate)

My go-to emotion in just about every situation is fear. So to me, the idea of traveling to Paris is exciting and romantic until you’ve actually booked a ticket to Paris, at which point it becomes terrifying.

(I know this isn’t healthy, people. I’m working on it. So is Jesus. I also know people go to places a lot scarier than Europe, but again, it was my first international trip.) Travel is particularly difficult for fearful people because there’s so much you can’t even pretend to control. Leading up to this trip, I worried about everything from whether my bag weighed more than the limit of 50 pounds to whether I’d get taken, Liam Neeson-style. What if I lose my passport? Will a pickpocket be able to get into this purse? How long does it take rescue helicopters to get to the middle of the Atlantic? 

I read on one site that you should make photocopies of your debit and credit cards and IDs, so I proceeded to make six — six photocopies. When the lunacy of photocopying my debit card occurred to me, I proceeded to worry about whether I could destroy the photocopies sufficiently. (I have scattered their ashes in a place I will never reveal.)

All that to say: I was scared, people. I was reminded of Psalm 139 on the day we booked our tickets, and I read and re-read it leading up to this trip:

“You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.”

You are not inherently safer in the U.S. than you are outside it, Kate. That’s what this chapter reminded me. The Lord is with me in Louisville and with me in Paris and with me in the middle of the Atlantic, if that’s where I end up.

Crossing the pond

Sleeping on planes is a big LOL.

Sleeping on planes is a big LOL.

Despite my fears, our actual flight from Atlanta to Paris (8ish hours, Friday night to Saturday morning) went without a hitch. We flew Air France, so all of the attendants were French and spoke French, which made me feel as though I’d entered a foreign country as soon as I stepped on the plane. I wonder what the forefathers of our country — or those pioneers who spent months in ships sailing to the New World — would think if they knew that one day, you would be able to cross the entire Atlantic Ocean so fast that you wouldn’t even need to get up to use the bathroom in the middle. I want to make a joke about poop decks here, but I’m struggling to come up with one.

I sat with MC and Taylor, and we desperately tried to sleep for much of the flight. I accidentally watched the movie Chocolat (about the first black circus performer in France) for 15 minutes thinking that it was actually the movie Chocolat (about the lady with a chocolate shop in France). You can see why that would be confusing. And after the rough night, we woke to the smell of warm croissants because this was Air France after all, and Air France does it French.

We landed Saturday morning at 11ish, got our bags, and grabbed a taxi. I asked Marie why we didn’t have to go through customs, and she said that we had gone through customs. So, yeah, the Paris airport maybe needs to get a little bit stricter if customs is so lax that you don’t even know you’re doing it. We taxied to our apartment, which we rented on AirBNB, and we plopped our bags down and cleaned up quickly before we hit the city.

Exploring the city

Getting crepes, duh.

Getting crepes, duh.

Because we are Americans (and Americans who’d just flown overnight), our first stop in France was Starbucks. Sue us. Marie later explained to us that France does not have a culture of convenience in the same way that America does. Getting to-go coffee is not that much of a thing to them, which is why it’s not easy to find a French coffee shop. (Culture Shock #1: I’d always figured love of convenience was a Western culture thing, not just an American thing. I was wrong.) Because we were Americans in Paris, our second stop was the creperie en route to Notre Dame Cathedral. (Are you impressed by all the French in that sentence?) The crepes were good, but Notre Dame was amazing, one of my favorite places we visited all week.

Quasimodo's crib

Quasimodo's crib

The idea that anyone could’ve built such a structure eight hundred years ago is mind-blowing. I don’t know what’s more amazing: that the cathedral took two centuries to complete or that people back then were willing to take two centuries to complete something. That said, it feels as though it’s taking approximately two centuries for the construction workers in Louisville to build the new bridges downtown, and they’re not nearly as glorious as Notre Dame. (I’m from America, and I want my coffee now.)

One of the two rose windows of Notre Dame

One of the two rose windows of Notre Dame

Everything about the cathedral is awe-inspiring. It is both vast in size and intricate in detail. The stained glass was undoubtedly the most impressive part. Scratch that — the fact that much of the stained glass is still the original, 800-year-old stained glass is the most impressive part. The cathedral also houses the purported crown of thorns, among other relics, although we did not see them (and who knows if they’re legit anyway). Being there made me wish I remembered more about the history of France and of the Catholic church. Despite its magnificence, there were things about the cathedral that saddened me. It was the only church building I'd ever been in (until we visited Sainte-Chapelle later in the week) that was built before the Protestant Reformation and before the printing press put the Bible in people’s hands. What did the earliest worshippers in this cathedral believe? What about the current ones? I feel like I have a lot of reading I want to do now that I’m back from this trip.



After we left Notre Dame, we walked up the River Seine (which was flooded, as you may have heard) — past the oldest bridge in Paris, the Pont Neuf (French for the New Bridge), and the Louvre Palace, which we would explore later in the week. We hopped on the metro again and headed to the Champs-Élysées where we saw the Arc de Triomphe, which is part of the Axe historique, along which lie many of the most famous structures in Paris. While on the Champs-Élysées, we stopped at the famous macaron shop Ladurée for some treats (already succeeding in our goal of eating our way through Paris), then took the metro back to our neighborhood where we stopped at a little grocery store. (Culture shock #2: Most of the stores in Paris are small specialty stores. You can buy your meat at one store and your fruit at another and your bread at another.)

Being Parisians

Being Parisians

We picked up baguettes, goat cheese, and sausage and made a dinner of it in our apartment that night before crashing and getting up early to explore the city again. 

As fun as it was to see the sites, I often found that the best parts of the trip were the simple ones, like the evenings we spent eating cheese and white bread for dinner (guilt-free because it’s France, after all) in pajama pants on the couch in our Paris apartment. 

Join me next time for my recap of Day 2. Still to come: Rodin, Monet, L'orangerie, Versailles, London, and more.