I had dreamed of visiting Paris since I was a little girl. Movies, TV shows, novels, and even non-fiction textbooks read in high school had filled my mind with images of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame Cathedral. Paris is a long (and expensive) way from Panama City; it took me exactly twenty-two years to find myself strolling through the romantic streets of the city of lights, and I felt completely enamored with the culture, architecture, and gastronomy of this place.
One of my best friends studies in Paris, and I stayed six fantastic-yet-short days with her. Helena lives in the most charming apartment in the 6th arrondisement. Down her street, Rue Mazarine, is the world famous École des Beaux-Arts de Paris (National School of Fine Arts). A quick twelve-minute walk across the Seine, and you’re at the Louvre. From her living room window, you can see the tip of the Eiffel.
I WAS IN HEAVEN. There is truly just something about Paris. From Helena’s window, the chimney pots that adorn the gray rooftops of the city were simply iconic, and truly made me feel like I had arrived somewhere so historical and elegant. The November days were cold and gray, yet the city was magical, sophisticated, romantic… So, let’s start from the beginning.
CENTRE POMPIDOU + MAGRITTE EXPO
My first stop in Paris was the Centre Georges Pompidou; a huge, futuristic steel and glass building with bright tubes and pipes. Helena had classes on my first full day, so my other friend Sarah (who also lives in Paris, and is obtaining her masters in a different school than Helena) told me she was going to Pompidou with her friends and that I should tag along. Of course I said yes, I wanted to spend every second exploring this city… even though I had never heard of Pompiduo before.
We visited the Musée National d’Art Moderne, which is the largest museum for modern art in Europe. Sarah knew the current exposition was on Reneé Magritte, her favorite surrealist, and someone who I happened to have studied as well in college (“Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”) The museum was absolutely fantastic, with works from modern to contemporary art including some pieces by Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Marcel Duchamp, and Andy Warhol. We ended up spending nearly half a day in the museum, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
After the museum we headed to the Eiffel Tower. It was my dream to see it at night, all lit up. We took the metro, changed a few stations, and arrived at the tower just in time for the sparkling lights, which happen on the hour for five minutes. It was of course way more beautiful than pictures can do it justice.
VILLE DE VERSAILLES
The next day, Helena and I woke up early to begin our commute to the Ville of Versailles. Oh, and I must mention, we had croissants each morning because Paris has THE BEST CROISSANTS EVER. Upon arriving to the Chateau, I could instantly see why the palace is a symbol absolute monarchy. I could not stop thinking of the movie Marie Antoinette, and how she – and her husband – lived a luxurious lifestyle despite the struggle of the masses. The palace was truly extravagant from the outside – the interior tour was closed, but we did enjoy exploring the gardens, which were simply breathtaking!
Upon returning to the city, we went to Champs Elysees and walked all the way up to Arc de Triumph. The streets were incredibly busy; the Christmas markets had just begun a week ago and in the rows of wooden chalets, you could find the most perfect Christmas decorations, hand-made crafts, and obviously delicious sweets and warm wine.
Awaiting at the apartment were two bottles of wine, a baguette, foie gras, various marmalades, olives, tomatoes, and ratatouille…