January 25, 2011

“A Hillary in Paris” IMDb (2011)… Pt. 2

I woke up the next morning fully rested and eager to see more of Paris. I ran to the window to see if the Eiffel Tower was still there or if I was just dreaming. To my delight it still stood strong, all 980 feet (300.51 meters) of it. I showered, dressed, and put my aching feet back in my big, black, heeled boots.

Breakfast was free at my hotel and consisted of bread, cheese, a croissant, jam, yogurt, coffee, and orange juice. Très français. Très délicieux. The bread even cracked the way Colette says the best bread is supposed to in Ratatouille. I took out my tourist map and decided I'd walk to the Musée D'Orsay. The receptionist told me it was over an hour walk, but I was feeling ambitious and rested (plus my feet were not about to hinder me from experiencing Paris the way I wanted to).

About a block away from my hotel I ran into a couple taking individual pictures of each other against a scenic background. Before planning my trip, I had briefly thought how sad it might be going to ‘The City of Romance’ alone. I wondered whether I'd be able to conquer it without feeling something was missing. I asked the couple if they wanted me to take a picture of them together, and not entirely to my surprise, felt grateful I was alone. I guess “We'll always have Paris” worked just fine for Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca, but for me "I'll always have Paris” seemed more than perfect. I got to discover the city the way I wanted to and at my leisure. Paris will never be tainted with the thought of someone else. For this girl at least, Paris will always be mine.
Hôtel des Invalides chapel dome

I walked to the L’Hôtel national des Invalides, an enormous building complex built in request by Louis XIV in 1676, which housed over 4000 disabled French soldiers. The gold on the top of the chapel dome glittered and demanded my attention for a good half an hour. I read the signs, looking around the garden, noticed the everyday joggers running their routes (lucky them to see buildings like these everyday!), and then made my way towards the Musée D'Orsay walking along the Seine River. 

Hôtel des Invalides cannons & the Eiffel Tower
Once I arrived, I saw there were metal detectors and people searching bags right inside the museum. I momentarily panicked and wondered if maybe I hadn't thought Bertha entirely through! Knowing I was carrying all of my aforementioned belongings with me, I prepared myself to be judged. I thought for sure my rice cakes wrapped in tin foil or my aluminum water bottle filled with water would be goners for sure. Lucky for me, the security guards were preoccupied and didn't check my bag or stop me from entering after I'd set off the metal detectors twice in a row (I honestly have no idea what was on me that was making it do that; also I questioned the safety of the museum).

The Musée D'Orsay was, in a word: inspiring. I kept thinking about what an amazing job my elementary art teacher did; I remembered vividly Mr. Harlan bringing out his print of Seurat’s “La Cirque” and explaining impressionism to my class, then letting each of us try to create a picture using little dots. Although I once drew an incredibly recognizable pinecone that encompassed three dimensions on a two-dimensional piece of paper, I couldn’t help but wonder when Cézanne, Manet, Van Gough, or Monet decided a piece of art was finished? Was it one specific stroke that made Van Gough’s self portrait a masterpiece, or an extra orange in Cézanne’s “Apples and Oranges?” What if Van Gough hadn’t used the curved strokes or if Cézanne preferred bananas and mangos? Then I reflected on my own life: which strokes or dots of my life are making me complete? If I omitted any singular part would I fall short of who I am? I also couldn’t help but think how fascinating it is how people figure out their talents. I stood stunned as I looked at Edouard Manet’s use of pastels, and wondered if I had seriously studied art, could I have ever used pastels like he did? I then thought that if Edouard Manet ever came to one of my basketball games he might have questioned if he could dribble or shoot a basketball like me. I guess for better or worse a basketball and a hoop is my version of pastels on paper.  

Seine River
While I was walking around the various rooms of Musée D’Orsay and stopping to look at each piece of art, I couldn't help but notice that my feet were starting to feel like they were going to fall off. I sat down on one of the benches and admired the different sculptures around me. I realized I had three hours left until I needed to make my way back to the Gare de Lyon to catch my train. I felt I could physically no longer stand (sitting down was not the right decision however; I couldn’t stay there forever after all), I was hungry, and still hadn’t seen the Louvre or Arc de Triomphe. Shockingly, I told myself it was time to move on, enjoy a lunch along the Seine, hit up the Louvre, and if I didn’t make it to the Arc de Triomphe, I would live (we’ll officially mark this moment in time as when I veered away from my ‘stick to the schedule’ personality and became flexible). 

As I felt my toes start to break and skin start to tear off my feet (I know this is a disturbing image and I apologize), I crawled my way to a restaurant across the Seine from the Louvre. I ate a Salade Champonarde and housed the basket of fresh bread (I unzipped my boots underneath the table and let my babies breathe too ;)). Refreshed and rejuvenated I headed into the Jardin de Tuileries and towards the pyramid that led to the entrance of the museum. The Louvre architecture, like every other building in Paris, is amazing…the different wings stretch out across the park and command admiration. 

I’ll be honest; my feet really prevented me from loving the Louvre, as did my time limitation. I had enough time to check out the Denon wing, where I saw Divinci’s “Mona Lisa” and “Virgin of the Rocks” along with a few other paintings that I personally wanted to focus on. The Louvre was very different from Musée D’Orsay (which since I talked about so much I’m guessing you realize was my favorite part of the trip and that I’m slightly in love with it). People were taking pictures and knocking into each other to see the Mona Lisa, none of which was permitted in Musée D’Orsay. I wanted to yell,“HELLOOO THESE PAINTINGS ARE OLDER THAN AMERICA, HAVE SOME RESPECT,” but nobody working there seemed to care (I’ll also admit that once I read the rules of the museum and saw that photography (without flash) was allowed, I snapped a couple pictures myself). I took one last moment and tried to soak in all the beauty and talent surrounding me and then made my way to the Metro station. 

At the metro station, a younger guy asked me if I had two minutes and wanted to go to the bar with him (all of this he said in French and I actually understood - sooner or later I'm not going to be able to use the 'I don't speak French' excuse anymore). Needless to say I declined his offer. Sitting on the train heading back to Switzerland I looked through my pictures and thought about my favorite parts of the trip. The first sight of Notre Dame, successfully utilizing the metro station, jumping around my room, falling in love with Musée D’Orsay, admiring the details of the buildings and statues, trying new foods, speaking French, and surviving my boots all made my trip worthwhile. Just like in Anastasia, Paris really did hold the key to this girl’s heart.


  1. Since you were at the "Horse Museum" would it be too much to say about the security..."don't look a gift horse in the mouth!"...? Too soon?

  2. I LOVE your paragraph about the strokes that make up our lives...very profound and beautiful.

    I like also how you have to mark the point in time when you became flexible...debatable?

    I'm glad your Paris experience will always be just yours <3