Bonjour from Paris! I am absolutely in love with Paris! It is such a beautiful city, with so much to see and do. I think I could stay here forever (but I won't)! The city is very much what I expected, only better. By far the best part is just walking around the city. The neighborhoods are so quaint, with small boulangeries (bakeries), flower shops, and cafes. I even found a honey shop that sells different honeys and related products! The food here is terrific as well. I have been living off of crepes, pain au chocolat, baguette sandwiches and cafe au lait.
It is amazing to me that a city as big as Paris is so manageable. I have walked or taken the metro everywhere. The metro system is great -- very convenient and seems relatively safe. I have seen most of the big highlights here. The Eiffel tower is more beautiful than I expected. It really dominates the skyline and is remarkable when the sparkling lights twinkle on the hour. The view from the Arc de Triomphe was awesome -- it is interesting to just watch the traffic circle and see the numerous near-collisions. Notre Dame is awe inspiring, especially considering how long ago it was built. The Louvre was fantastic albeit a little overwhelming. It is just so huge with so much to see. I spent over 6 hours there and only saw about 70 percent. My favorite piece was by far the Winged Victory of Samothrace. I loved this statue when I first studied it in art history in college, but in person it was just stunning! I am always so impressed by sculptors and how they can make marble look like silk. Plus the folds of cloth are so obviously blowing in the wind that you can almost feel the breeze. She is missing her head and arms, but I think that only makes her more beautiful -- an anonymous depiction of feminine beauty and strength. I also saw the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, along with thousands of other important pieces of art. The Musee dÒrsay was brilliant for the impressionist pieces and statuary. The Musee Orangerie is the location of Monet`s water lillies installation. I never realized how big the piece actually is. It is 8 separate panels, 4 panels in the round in each room. It really is remarkable. I spent an afternoon at Versailles and the gardens. Nothing is really in bloom yet -- it is still early spring -- and the weather has been a little cool and rainy. I can only imagine how pretty the gardens are when they are in bloom and the fountains are spouting. The palace itself is so opulent, I can hardly imagine how people lived in a place like this. Today I went to Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur. I made it just in time for Vespers. Interesting to see how a place that is such a tourist attraction is still a thriving church. Although it is a little funny that there are souvenir shops in the nave.
One of the most beautiful places I have visited is Sainte Chapelle. The stained glass windows are just awesome! They are so beautiful they take your breath away.
I have truly loved my time in Paris. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful. I`m not really sure how the French got a reputation for being rude, but I have not met anyone who would fit that description. Especially considering that I only speak about 4 words of French, everyone I have met has gone out of their way to help me. Big thanks to Nicole and Rocky for all their advice and help in planning -- it definitely helped me!