What are the people like who live in the old mansions overlooking the Seine? Do they still appreciate their view? Or do they take it for granted after so many picture-perfect sunsets? Do they know they’re living some sort of fairytale; up there in those classically Parisian Haussmann-style mansions, whose full-length windows with ornately carved boarders have balconies that would be envious everywhere, but are especially special on the Ile Saint-Louis, a little luxury island in the middle of the Seine, in the middle of Paris?
Does living in a building that beautiful ever get old?
I’m not sure I have the words to describe Giverny. It’s a Monet painting come to life; which is fitting, considering it was Monet’s home. Claude Monet and his family settled in Giverny in 1883, and he set to work bringing his vision to life. There are two parts to Monet’s gardens: the flower garden in front of the house called Clos Normand, and the Japanese-inspired water garden on the other side of the road. You can also explore the house, to see where the artist lived. Monet spent about 40 years here, building, planning, and perfecting his gardens. O, and painting them of course.
It’s an easy hour-ish trip from Paris to Vernon. Then I took an adorably touristy little train through the town. Dumb? Yes. But it was a good way to see some really, really old Norman architecture. Obviously being THE gardens used as inspiration for THE water lilies, Giverny is a very popular destination.
I walked around the Clos Normand first. At first glance it was a sort of visual shock – in the best possible way. The garden is sort of beautifully organized chaos. Nothing is overly manicured; it’s a planned sort of wildness. Walking through the garden was like walking through a forest of color. When the wind blows the right way the air is a beautiful blend of scents.
July in France is probably the peak-est of peak travel times. It was so beautiful I didn’t even mind the crowds. I’m sure being there alone, surrounded by peaceful solitude and every kind of flower you can think of is something akin to a religious experience. But my fellow floral worshippers didn’t bother me. Yes-kind strangers, I will share this paradise with you…and the bees of course.
After wandering through Monet’s house, I took the underpass to the other side of the road for the main event, what everyone comes to see: THE WATER LILIES. It wasn’t water lily season, but it’s still a beautiful sight. After waving hello to the cows grazing on the other side of the fence, I walked along a path that takes you around the pond. The pond is lined with flowers and bushes, and those weepy trees (like green curtains of leaves). A man in a tiny rowboat was skimming pond scum. He’s famous now because he’s in at least 100 people’s photos from the day. I’m sure it’s not an easy job, and might not be very glamorous, but gliding across that pond with his skimmer, looked like a very peaceful way to spend an afternoon.
Standing in that garden, absorbing the beauty of the famed water lily pond, I thought in a place like that, maybe anyone can be a great painter. Maybe all the rest of us ordinary people need are better inspiration.
Contrary to the title of my blog, I probably am lost, but I’m also exploring. I always find my way eventually, and when it’s actually important I look up directions before I go. But so often, especially when I’m traveling, getting lost is half the fun.
When I was in Seoul I followed something shiny down a side street and ended up drinking dandelion tea in a teahouse that was over 100 years old. Ever time I stepped foot in the old city in Jerusalem I got lost. EVERY TIME. On my first day of an internship in 12th grade I got so lost that my mom had no idea where I was when I called asking for help. She had to look at Map Quest. Remember Map Quest? Remember when we didn’t have GPS in our phones? Yes I still get lost sometimes even though I have a smart phone.
Apparently while I was in Paris I looked like I knew where I was going. I also apparently looked Parisian. I was stopped several times by people asking me for directions in French. Yes you read that right, people though I could help them find their way, and IN FRENCH. Ha! Not only did I not understand half of what I was being asked, I usually had no idea where I was let alone how to get to wherever they were trying to go.
Probably the best instance of being asked for directions in French happened in Père Lachaise Cemetery. Bwahahaha. No I do not know where Edith Piaf’s grave is. Every “road” looks the same and I am super turned around and the clanking pipes sounds like people are trying to get out (I think I’ve seen too many zombie/vampire movies).
I always took it as a compliment that dressed in my sweaty, wrinkled, Old Navy outfits, I could pass as Parisian and that I looked like I knew where I was going.
I spent a week in Paris. Some of the things I did, saw, ate deserve their own stories; but here are just some random bits while I wandered and got very lost (the title of my blog really is an accurate description of my life).
Walking along the Seine, heading towards my evening river cruise: An older man on a bicycle tried to pick me up. He told me I didn’t look American. He thought I was French or Italian. Thank you? Of course it was an old man and not one of the hundred attractive, (seemingly) age-appropriate men I’ve seen just in the last 2 days. Of course.
Walking through Les Jardins de Tuileries on my way to Le Louvre: I walked past old men playing pétanque and people lounging under trees. The sun is shining and the park is full of people enjoying the day. My journey to the museum was delayed. My feet took on a mind of their own and I began following the smell of fresh crepes. I became one of the people happily lounging under a tree, eating perfection on a plate. (And over-priced water because I forgot to specify tap, not bottled…oops. I guess it had to happen at least once.)
Le Lovre: Did you know that if you stand in front of every piece of art in the Louvre for 2 minutes it would take you 3 months, day and night, to see everything. Last time I was in Paris I came to the Louvre because I thought how could I not go to the world’s most famous museum on my first ever trip abroad. My plan was to skip it on this trip, the Mona Lisa didn’t impress me. Then I read about the apartments of Napoleon III (France’s 1st ever elected president, and then he became emperor because he didn’t want to give up his position), tucked away in the oft-overlooked Richelieu wing. Built during the Second Empire between 1852 and 1857, the opulent, Versailles-esque rooms haven’t changed much. Opulent doesn’t really begin to cover this place. It was extravagant, lavish, ostentatious, palatial, and sumptuous too (yes I did look up opulent in a thesaurus, no I don’t fee bad, if you want better writing go elsewhere). I didn’t make it to Versailles this time around but visiting Napoleon III’s apartments at the Louvre was probably pretty close.
Sitting outside a café with une piscine du rosé, aka a large glass of rosé with ice. (La piscine is swimming pool in French, which is definitely an accurate description of the size of my glass.): After too much walking (because I got lost again) I finally found le Canal St Martin. This neighborhood is a good destination if you are looking to get away from the fancy city center, le Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, and the hoards of tourists. This area is more laid-back than the area around the Seine. Siting by the canal with a large glass of chilled wine, a pastry, and A Moveable Feast (despite really not being impressed by the book or Hemingway in general), is a perfect Parisian afternoon.
This is how I watched the Bastille Day fireworks: Sitting on a wall in the Tuileries with the Louvre behind me and the Eiffel Tower straight ahead, with a personal-sized bottle of wine and the best raspberries I have ever eaten. At 10pm the setting sun turned everything pink. And at 11pm when the sun had finally set, the fireworks were set off from the Eiffel Tower.
Everything I read before leaving for my trip said I should watch the sunset from the steps of Sacré-Cœur. Sounded like a perfect way to spend my first evening in Paris. Wander Montmartre (I’m an expert wanderer), find some good food and good wine, check out Sacré-Cœur, sit and watch the sky change colors over the city of lights. Great plan in theory. In practice though, unsuccessful. Taking an overnight flight is a great way to save sightseeing time…if you actually manage to sleep on the plane. If you’re like me and are incapable of sleeping for more than 20 minutes at a time, taking an overnight flight just means you’re tired when you get to your destination.
Did you know that sunset in July in Paris isn’t until at least 9 pm! I learned that nugget when I found myself getting drowsy while the sun was still high in the sky. While there was no way I was going to make it to sunset, incredible views and delectable treats were still had.
The whole of Montmartre is photogenic, and every restaurant/bakery/bistro looked delicious. Choosing lunch was not easy.
Le mur je t’aime. The wall of I love you. Found in an unassuming park in Montmartre, the wall says “I love you” 311 times in 250 languages. From the website: “In a world marked by violence and dominated by individualism, walls, like frontiers, are usually made to divide and to separate people and to protect them from one another. On the contrary, Le mur des je t’aime…is a link, a place of reconciliation, a mirror which reflects an image of love and people downtown Paris Montmartre, in France.”
Being my father’s daughter I could not walk past a shop called Grenouilles (frogs in English) without going inside. The frog did not disappoint! I sipped 5 euro wine while listening to a French version of the song Cecilia.
Always climb to the top; even if you have to climb 300 steps up an extremely old, extremely cramped, extremely spirally, spiral staircase. I’ve climbed to the top of a lot of things and have NEVER been disappointed.
Being on a hill, Montmartre offers a great view of the rest of Paris. Climb to the top of Sacré-Cœur, and the view is even better. Haussmann likely destroyed a lot of stunning, unique, old buildings but the ones he put up in their place are very pretty.
I ended my first day in Paris lounging on history (the steps of Sacré-Cœur), a little buzzed from my 4 o’clock wine, listening to the church bells, while gazing at la Tour Eiffel, wearing black and white stripes. A successful day Jodi, well done.