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monday, june 8, 2015 the beauty
This morning started off with a visit to a place I've been wanting to visit for over ten years. Ever since I saw the movie Amélie back in college, I've had a slight obsession with Montmartre, which is the neighborhood where I'm staying. The way the movie depicts Montmartre made it look so appealing and like it was the quintessential Parisian quartier. Amélie, the main character, works at a café called Les Deux Moulins, and the actual café that was used in the movie is right around the corner from my hotel (that's not a coincidence, by the way). So this morning I headed there for my morning coffee. I can scratch the visit off my bucket list and feel good that I have, in fact, been there, because all in all it wasn't an exciting place to be. I'm not sure what I was expecting, perhaps something a little more spectacular. And I hate to say, but the coffee was the worst I've had yet in Europe. But if you find yourself with some time to spare in the near future, and you'd like to watch an amazing movie that takes place in the neighborhood where I'm staying, find "Amélie", watch it, and love it. It's on Netflix!

My next stop was to head to the Eiffel Tower. Once again, I figured out a quick and easy way to get to where I wanted to be via the Metro, and I have to say that I absolutely love navigating the metro stations and figuring out how to get from point 'A' to point 'B'. It's like a puzzle, and it's no surprise that I love those. It was recommended that I take the metro to Trocadéro station, which would put me directly in front of the Eiffel Tower on the northwest side of the River Seine. So I exit the underworld and didn't see anything. I saw a building to my left and a roundabout to my right. I walked forward and started to see some clear sky to my left as the building started to disappear, and I knew it would show up at any second. So I played a game. I wanted the view of the Eiffel Tower to be a surprise, so I continued to look to my right so I wouldn't be tempted to look to my left. When I felt I was positioned directly in front of it, I stopped, did an about-face, and there it was.

My first impression was that it wasn't as tall as I was expecting it to be. I should have been awed by how incredible it is, but that wasn't my first thought. Plus, I was too far away to appreciate how amazing it is—that came a little later. In any case, there were a bunch of people around taking pictures and being spoken to about the Eiffel Tower, but I just wanted to sit for a few minutes and enjoy the view. So I sat down on a concrete bench in front of some plants, and that was where I had my moment. The picture you see above is what I was seeing when it hit me all at once: the fact that I'm in Paris looking at the majestic Eiffel Tower and the fact that I'm able to have this experience right now in my life, well, it was overwhelming. Thankfully I was wearing sunglasses so no one could see the tears swell in my eyes, not that I would have cared if anyone saw. But there I sat on a bench, staring at the Eiffel Tower and the city of Paris behind it, and I let it happen. It was brief, and no tears fell, but I felt it in my heart.

After I regained my composure, I got up and headed towards the base of the Eiffel Tower, but not before stopping and buying breakfast. There was a small crêpe shop just before I got to the bridge, and I figured now was the time to try it. So I ordered a crêpe chocolat, which turned out to be a crêpe with Nutella spread on it, and the owner convinced me to throw a banana into the mix, and I wasn't about to argue that. It was a very good breakfast, and it tasted especially great since I was sitting along the River Seine and staring at the Eiffel Tower.

Once I reached the Eiffel Tower, I got in line to get a ticket to head up (there's a picture of this enormously long line below), and after an hour of waiting to get my ticket, it was time to ascend. Unfortunately, the summit (top tier) was closed when I purchased my ticket, so I could only visit the second floor, which sufficed for what I wanted to see. When I stepped off the lift to the second floor, I was greeted with a sharp blast of cold wind, and I was so glad I wore jeans and my sweatshirt jacket this morning. But the wind kept biting, and I was miserable, so I did a quick lap of the second floor, took the necessary pictures, and started to head down. I wasn't up there but maybe five minutes. Plus, I had other sights to see in Paris, and I'm only here for two days. I will say, however, that the view of the city from the second floor is stunning. I could make out a lot of buildings in the area, and I even got a long distance shot of Sacre Cœur, which is the place I visited last night upon arriving to Montmartre. So I decided to take the stairs since I just wanted to get down to the ground as fast as possible where the temperature wasn't below freezing (slight exaggeration), and fortunately taking the stairs provided for some cool pictures of the structure of the tower. There's also one of me standing on a glass floor and taking a picture of the people below me. My mom probably won't like to see that one. Sorry, Mom.

I left the Eiffel Tower and made my way to l'Arc de Triomphe. It wasn't a must see on my list, but it was on the route that I had planned this morning, and plus I knew it would be neat to see. I eventually arrived to the monument, which was actually quite huge, and I got my pictures and headed off to find lunch, which turned out to be McDonald's. I was hungry, and I wanted something fast, and little did I know that going into McDonald's would be quite the cultural experience. It's way different than in the U.S. in that they employees basically form an assembly line in order to get the food out to the guests as fast as possible. There was one woman who literally did nothing but pre-make drinks. She must have had 30 drinks surrounding her at once, so whenever someone needed a medium coke, they'd grab it, and she'd replace it. Not the freshest way to do it, but they were out to the customers so fast that it didn't really matter. I paid my 7,30 € for the Big Mac meal and headed to the second floor to eat. The Big Mac had a slight peppery taste to it, but it tasted enough like the ones I'm used to that I didn't mind it at all.

After lunch I headed down Rue de Champs-Elysées, which felt like a Parisian Rodeo Drive, as it was lined with boutique after boutique—great for shopping!! I then came to the Grand Palais, took some snapshots, and then crossed the Pont Alexandre III to make my way towards Musée d'Orsay. I was really excited to see the incredible art that's located there, but then I saw the sign on the door that indicated that the museum is closed on Mondays. Dang. Deciding that Monet's art will have to wait until tomorrow, I made my way across Passerelle de Solférino, but not before checking out all the locks that had been placed on the fencing of the bridge. There was a guy selling locks so tourists/guests could write their message on the lock and then place it on the bridge, and I debated doing it to commemorate this experience in Paris, but decided not to. I think it's very cool and unique that Paris has this cultural claim to it, as if it needed more fame, but it's intriguing that people come here and leave a lock on the bridge fence. And it's very neat to read some of the locks and try to figure out what experience the people were having at the time. It's almost like looking into a memory.

Once I crossed the Passerelle de Solférino, I came straight into Jardin des Tuileries where I found an empty chair in front of a large, green clearing, and I relaxed for a good twenty minutes. Then I continued east through the Jardin until I came to the Louvre, but not before encountering a man who literally controlled a flock of pigeons. He would beckon the pigeons to follow him if he started to walk around, and I kid you not, there was one point when he commanded them to fly to this other part of the Jardin, and then he had them fly back to him. He'd motion for other pigeons to join him, and they would. The whole thing was a little disturbing, but also kind of cool. I did manage to grab a picture of it below. The line to enter the Louvre was quite long, therefore I opted not to go in. From what I hear, the museum is so big with so many pieces of art, that if you stood in front of each piece for five seconds, you'd spend a very long time in the museum. I don't have that kind of time.

But I did have time for the Lego store. It was a little ways north off my scenic route for the day, but I planned accordingly before I left the hotel so I could find the Lego store with directions from the Louvre. I went to the place where Google maps told me it was, but it turned out to be a hotel. The woman behind the desk was very sweet and used her phone to look for directions for the actual Lego store. The conversation went smoothly in French, and that was one of the first times I felt good about speaking the language with Parisians. Thanks to her, I found the Lego store without any problems. My main goal in going there was to possibly find any of the last four remaining Simpsons minifigures that I need to complete the collection. I ended up finding three of the four, meaning I have one more left to find, and I'll let that wait until Madrid.

I then backtracked through Rue de Richelieu until I arrived once again at the Louvre, but this time I entered through Cour Carrée (the back portion of the museum) and crossed through the giant patio in order to get to the River Seine. Crossing over Pont des Arts, I saw that the bridge had the locks removed and instead had paintings of melting locks. What had happened was the weight of the locks on this bridge started to pull the fencing of the bridge down, and it was bending. So they had to remove the sides and install new ones. I continued along the southern bank of the Seine with my next destination in mind being Notre Dame. It was easy to find, as the incredibly beautiful façade towered over the other buildings on Ile de la Cité. The incredibly long line to enter Notre Dame moved very quickly, and entrance was free (it's a church still, so that made sense). The inside of Notre Dame is quite breaktaking. It's in gothic style, just like Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, but it looks completely different. I'm not going to say much about walking through Notre Dame, because the pictures below speak for themselves, but as I moved towards the back of the church, I had my second moment of the day. It was basically the same overwhelming emotion as before, and it felt good. There I was in Notre Dame, in Paris, in France, in Europe. I still can't believe it.

At 18:00, I met up with Igor in front of Notre Dame. Igor was a student at Miami University for the first semester of my senior year in college, and we met through some friends and have kept in touch over the years. The plan was to meet up with Stéphanie, another student from Miami, for dinner at 20:00. Igor showed me around le Marais (a trendy neighborhood), and we eventually went to Place des Vosges where tons of people had already gathered to relax in the sun and enjoy each other's company. That actually happens all over Paris, and I think that's a very cool aspect of the culture. For dinner we went to a restaurant whose name I don't recall, but what I do remember is how amazing the food was. We ordered a charcuterie appetizer, which was various meats and cheeses (the cheese was out of this world), and we also got another appetizer that was goat, cheese, and some sort of bread. It was very, very good. Then for dinner I had duck in a sweet and sour sauce with a side of potatoes au gratin, and it was all incredibly delicious. It was great to sit there with Igor and Stéphanie and catch up and reminisce about our time at Miami. I'm very fortunate to have met them years ago and to have the chance to see them twelve years later in Paris. It's definitely a great thing to have friends all over the world!

It was getting close to 23:00, and I was starting to feel the effects of a very long day, so we said our au revoirs, and I headed to the metro and yet again really enjoyed the underground experience. Today was such a busy day, but so much amazingness happened and I loved every minute of it. I took a ton of pictures from today, so feel free to browse them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them!

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