May 23, 2014

Paris Part 5: The Eiffel Tower!

#tbt to this photo from this previous post

This was the day! After some more church-touring in the morning, we made our way to the majestic majesty overlooking the entire city. La Tour Eiffel is just as beautiful and gorgeous in person as she appears in pictures. 
Sur la Tour Eiffel

This was the place my family's compulsive planning really came in handy. I strongly suggest getting your tickets waaay in advance of when you plan to visit because A) The ticket sales vary in price and availability the closer you get to your date and B) You do not want to stand in the longest. line. I've. ever. seen. to buy tickets/get a chance to ride up. Also, it's completely freezing even in April. Seriously, I was wearing gloves the whole time: it was that cold. 
In one of the elevators on our initial ascent to the 2nd level: the first is restaurants and a clear bridge that is currently under construction

The views the Eiffel Tower affords are honestly one of a kind, you can see the entire layout of the city and the beautiful architectural styles that give you something new to look at with every blink

The Champ de Mars is the Central Park of Paris. It is a very long lawn in front of the Eiffel tower with lots of lounging room for the Parisians that like to picnic there (not to mention the tourists trying to lift the tower, ah iconic). Our apartment was one street away from the Champ de Mars and mother and I enjoyed very lovely strolls down the manicured lawns in the morning. (Our tour guide was right though, that is one ugly brown tower in the background)

You gotta respect the wind-blown hair the top of the tour afforded me

A Pixar-worthy sky

The even tinier Champ de Mars after we ascended to the 3rd and final level of the tower

If we thought it was freezing on the ground, we were in for a rude awakening as we made our way to the 3rd, and highest, level of the tower. It was freezing! But the views made it worth it. 

Once you reach this height, they are not taking any risks with your safety: there are bars and a big fence with plenty of camera-worthy gaps separating the viewing platform from the huge drop to the pavement below

A (slightly) better look at my outfit for the day, and yes, I'm wearing gloves and holding my mother's purse

The Seine was a gorgeous Mediterranean-like color, winding its way through the city

We weren't far from the top!

After we'd had enough of the freezing wind chill and breath-taking views, we made our way down to the pavement below the tower…just to head back up again for our lunch reservations. See, we had reservations at the very famous, very expensive Jules Verne restaurant that is actually in the tower. 

Jules Verne is a very fancy-dancy restaurant inside the tower. You enter through one private elevator at the Jules Verne tower, emerging hundreds of feet above the ground into an expansive dining space that is gorgeous

The food, however, was really the sight to see. It was an absolutely exquisite meal, I still well up thinking about it. The head chef of Le Jules Verne is the über-famous Alain Ducasse. (He's famous enough to have his own Wikipedia page)His dishes are masterpieces, good enough to hang in any museum in Paris. (Although it'd be a shame to waste the food like that, they were just as delicious as they were pretty)

My grandmother's appetizer, some sort of meat with vegetables and potatoes with cream

The menu gives you two to three choices of a set course meal. There were many duplications in our orders, but they were all delicious. (And shhh, don't tell Alain, but his champagne wasn't as good as the one we had at Paul Chêne)

The wonderful appetizer both my mother and I chose, lobster and caviar mixed with greens on a bed of mashed peas and lemon-y drops making the colorful border (gorgeous, non? And just as delicious as it is picturesque)

My grandmother's main course which was (I believe)…lamb? Or pork or something…

My main course; I don't know what it was but it was pure heaven on a plate

Throughout the entire meal we were quite aware that we were dining next to British aristocrats, Parisian politicians, foreign Prime Ministers, and rich Parisian ladies. #NoPressure

The dessert we ordered: a rhubarb trifle that was sour and sweet and oh so good

The desserts that are present on every table (we had two trays of these) during the tea/coffee service

Our little band of misfits dining with Kings

(Read Paris Part 6 here!)
May 19, 2014

Paris Part 4

The next day we made the trek up a giant hill to the Pantheon. It was a brisk morning in a quiet corner of Paris. Not many shops were open and there weren't very many people on the streets. 

Paris absolutely full of gorgeous old churches like this one we passed on our walk. Finally we made it to the giant building and wouldn't you know, it was under construction! (As is everything else in Paris it seems)

The outside of the Pantheon is gorgeously crafted with giant marble columns and ornate carvings on the roof. The Pantheon is a grand memorial that houses the graves of many a great Parisian including Marie and Pierre Curie, Robespierre, and Victor Hugo. It was an incredible feeling to walk amongst the graves of people who literally changed history and created the world as we know it today.
A nice close-up of my grandparents and I in front of one of the giant Pantheon doors

We spent a solid two hours wandering around the giant Pantheon and the catacombs underneath it. This place is the center of Parisian history and I highly recommend visiting it if you're a history buff, architect fan, ancient/slightly religious art major or even a "governmental shaping" fan as the main honchos of government are all buried here.
Silence follows you as you walk around the main floor of the Pantheon, a nice silence that makes you wish you could live in a house as huge as this place (sometimes)
The grand foyer is just that: grand
The ceiling gave me a happy attack: it's unbelievably gorgeous!

The center focal point of the main floor is a giant shrine to the patron saint of Paris: Saint Genevieve. That's right, you heard it here first folks. The Parisians know the value of a kick-ass woman.

After we gaped at the monuments of the Pantheon, we hopped on the subway and rode it back across town to visit my favorite place: Angelina. Not only was the line out the door, but people kept squeezing in to buy pastries from the little shop they have in addition to the restaurant. There were several Gypsy street artists selling wonderful paintings of Paris, one of which I purchased as the perfect souvenir of my trip to this magical place.
My outfit for the day: 'posh' raincoat, red reverse-collar blouse, polka dot skirt, leggings, boots

After waiting in line for what seemed like ever but was really only 30-40 minutes, we were seated upstairs. We ordered our food and I am telling you now, I should have listened when the waiter warned me I was getting a lot of chocolate when I ordered the hot chocolate that Angelina is famous for and a chocolate pastry that sounded just heavenly. 
Our entire table ended up looking more decedent than Kaley Cuoco's upside down wedding cake/chandelier thing
My hot chocolate came in it's own tiny pitcher with a largish mug next to it…lemme tell you, that hot chocolate was the best I've ever had as in EVER: it was thicker than tar and richer than Betty Crocker and Paula Deen's blood mixed together! I was in sheer chocolate heaven. I couldn't even FINISH the hot chocolate, that's how rich it was. 
My chocolate dish that was absolutely indescribable…seriously I don't have words. 

After basking in the richness of our "meal", we continued on to La Madeleine--another long subway ride away. 

The outside of the church is reminiscent of the Pantheon actually. La Madeleine is a Roman Catholic church that was originally designed as a temple to "the glory of" Napoleon's army. Nowadays, mass and church services are held everyday. Funerals and weddings can also be held in this glorious chapel.

What I found really interesting was that because of the set up of the church, the big shrine at the very front (or middle or back whichever way you look at it) meant the ornate pulpit had to be placed at the side of the congregation. Also, as with many grand churches in Paris, the massive pipe organ was a site to be seen. 

(Read Paris Part 5 here!)
May 12, 2014

Paris Part 3

The Eiffel Tower at night

After our visit to the Louvre, we relaxed at home before making our dinner reservation. This was, by far, one of the most interesting nights we spent in Paris. The restaurant is quite small and cozy, tucked away in a corner of Paris.

My wonderful Grandparents and mother at dinner

The man who is the manager of the small restaurant (by small I mean small, it was only one room with a bar and an adjoining kitchen. There was also a really small staircase that opened down that you reached by literally climbing inside one of the cabinets behind the bar), he is also the "waiter" of the restaurant that brought your food and checked on you constantly, was charming and very nice. As with many French men and women, he was naturally charming and flirty--we forged a wonderful friendship during the course of our 3 hour meal.
A gorgeous-looking cheese plate next to me

We were the only diners at the very beginning of our meal, eventually three business men showed up as well however the rest of the fully-booked restaurant wouldn't show up for hours yet. Parisians eat much later than we're used to so we were the select few diners at the beginning of the dinner service everywhere we went.
They clean up nicely…at least I think anyway

The meal was exquisite, amazing, fantasmagorical. I nearly rolled out of the restaurant I was so stuffed after it was over. The entire evening was wonderful, our host was funny, flirty, and great at what he did and overall I would definitely recommend this restaurant to everyone and anyone traveling to Paris. Paul Chêne is the name of the restaurant, you can find their website here. (Just a little hint, the house champagne was the absolute best that I had the entire trip!)
Ma mère et moi dans le restaurant Paul Chêne
Selfie game a solid 5.6

The next morning we were all up bright and early to meet our walking tour that started at the beautiful Palais Garnier. Our guide was very funny and personable, perfect for us. Her company is Discover Walks and they work completely off tips, you don't pay unless you like the tour. They also only hire native people from the city so they know all the small nooks and crannies you wouldn't see on a conventional tour.
One of the musical-ode columns on the side, this one is for Bach

We met our guide on the front steps of the Palais Garnier, named after the architect of the grand opera house: Charles Garnier. To us, this building was grand and breathtaking and we were awestruck. But our guide let us in on a little secret…the Parisians aren't so fond of the setting of Phantom of the Opera, mainly because of the huge mix of architectural styles. "It's too much!" She explained. 
Another behind-the-scenes secret: that giant square part of the building to the left of the picture? There are five floors in that building just to hold the scenery needed for the operas held here.

I appreciated all the nods to different architectural styles and was itching to go inside, however our tour did not pass through the grand doors but instead continued down the busy street. This was definitely the loudest street we had come across in Paris, cars zoomed by and bicyclists rang their bells and walkers chatted on their cellphones in the concise French, very little of which I could understand (no matter what I told my grandparents). 
Très jolie, non? 

I was very glad when our large party turned down a side alley and came across a hidden square with a beautiful statue in the middle. She explained that it was an ode to a man who used to host infamous prostitute parties for important men before Queen Victoria heard of this man (who went by an important and presumptuous code name) and demanded to be invited to his "parliament sessions". That'd rather be like inviting your grandmother to an orgy…not exactly good for British-French relations. So…the man faked the meeting and Queen Victoria was completely fooled!
The architecture of Paris really struck me as gorgeous, as does the architecture of Washington D.C. (still)

We continued along our tour, down across a very famous and very expensive shopping street housing the likes of Cartier and Tiffanies. We also spotted the shop where Coco Chanel got her start and the hotel Ritz-Carlton(currently under construction)where our guide and her brother had a run-in with Beyoncé.
Napoleon's Needle: impressive and yet also overbearing

We moved on down the street to these huge gardens in between the Louvre and the center square of Paris, with the Eiffel Tower always visible in the distance. 
The symmetry of the garden really spoke to me

Once used only as the Royal gardens, people would pass by and not be able to enter the giant gates. But now the gates are open and the park is flooded with pigeons, coffee stands, playgrounds, and strolling couples. 
The obelisk in the center of the roundabout "square" with the Arc de Triomph in the distance

After our wonderful, wonderful tour we explored some churches and cathedrals that, sadly, I was unable to photograph. However, we stopped in the biggest wine store/café in Europe (my mother's personal Disneyland) and I ate a chocolate éclair for lunch. 'Twas delicious. 
Don't know if that's real gold but I do know it was real good

Stay tuned for my next installment! (Hint: it includes a spiritual experience, and lotsa' chocolate)


(Read Paris Part 4 here!)