Bonjour! My arrival in Paris also marks the halfway point in my unbelievable journey through Europe. Traveling has been fulfilling, enlightening, and exhausting in that every day I see, taste, hear, smell, and discover something new. I’ve opened myself to absorbing the world around me so when I leave, Rome, Florence, Paris, and Barcelona will all be a permanent part of me. This blog has helped me to take time at the end of every day to sit and reflect upon how my day affected me. It has made me acutely aware of my surroundings and increased my appreciation for all forms of art. Here in Europe, it seems everywhere I look I find art. The intricacies and details prevalent in every day items (such as balcony railings, building facades, church doors) were the first thing I noticed about Italy, and likewise the first thing that inspired me in Paris.
Thoroughly relaxed and rested from the slower pace of Florence, I made my way to Paris. Leaving Florence I also left my first wonderful travel companion (my mom). But my first day in Paris also brought my second incredible travel companion and friend Denae. At first I was overwhelmed by the somewhat jarring change of pace between cities. Paris is full of busy life at all hours of the day. It has bustling cobblestone streets, overflowing cafes with happy patrons spilling onto the sidewalks, sporadic laughter echoing from passing groups of friends, and the constant hum of traffic always present in the background.
After a short time, I came to appreciate the liveliness of the Parisian world. Under the same beautiful blue sky, the sun still soaked the buildings creating the most startling contrasts. Together, Denae and I were able to stop and find small examples of the essence of the city. We walked to the Arc de Triomphe and marveled at the level of detail present in such an enormous structure. It triumphantly stood at the center of the étoile, with linear streets radiating from it like spokes of a wheel. This monument, commissioned in 1806, stands as a symbol of French patriotism. An uninterrupted roundabout constantly filled with cars surrounds the arch, and this isolation provides an extra level of prestige. Because it is entered from underground, standing on the surrounding sidewalks the Arc de Triomphe seems untouchable and regal.
We took time out of the day to sit in a cozy bar for coffee, with exposed brick walls and smartly dressed waiters in classic black and white uniforms. Sipping our coffee in plush chairs next to a big open window, we remained incredulous that we were in Paris. Rejuvenated, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower stopping to snap pictures of the neon restaurant signs and the colorful flowers decorating balconies.
The signature Eiffel Tower was first visible peeking out above vibrant green trees. While crossing the Seine, we paused to admire the Eiffel Tower as it soared to its full height above the trees. We sat on the Champ de Mars amid amorous couples, posing families, and picnicking friends, all casually lounging in the shadow of the grandiose metal tower. We watched the individually connected iron pieces change color with the passing hours but always remain an elegant contrast against the bright blue sky.
While a stroll through the streets of Paris does not include seeing ancient structures built in the early 100s AD as in Italy, the detailed artistry remains rooted in the designs. Adapting to a new city and a new culture is an enlivening experience. Not only was there a switch in the language spoken, but the cadence of the language also changed with the new rhythm of the new city. I can’t wait to continue exploring all that Paris has to offer!