We took an hour’s bus ride from Oxford High Street to London Victoria, and then we took the tube to St. Pancras. Twenty minutes before we were due to depart for Paris, there was an announcement that all trains into and out of Gare du Nord were suspended indefinitely due to an incident on the rails. There was nothing left to do but wait. Just as the despair was about to kick in, they began boarding people onto the train.
All in all, we arrived in Paris 2~3 hours later than we anticipated, but at least we made it. We settled in at our hotel and went to walk around.
We were incredibly close to the Palais Garnier, which is beautiful at night.
I saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway in sixth grade (on Halloween, no less!), and then I saw the movie twice. I’ve known all the words to the songs since middle school. Seeing the famed opera house would have made younger me very excited (present me was still quite in awe).
The downside to arriving in Paris later is that almost everything is closed. We wandered around some streets admiring the architecture, while also keeping an eye out for food. We decided to eat at New Balal, one of the few places still serving dinner at 8pm.
People say that Indian food in London is amazing, and they’re right. Some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had was at Amaya. But Indian food in Paris is nothing to scoff at either. The flavors were rich and vibrant, the service was friendly, and we left full and happy.
The next day began with crepes right by the Notre Dame.
It was fresh and chewy, full of banana and Nutella (which dripped over our hands as we ate it) (which I have no complaints about).
The Notre Dame is stunning in its detail, with number of carved figurines along the arches, along with the larger statues above the doorway.
The view from the side is also beautiful.
Then we made our ways across some scenic bridges and to the Louvre.
I still can’t believe this whole place was a residence. It’s so so large. (No wonder the people revolted.)
We couldn’t resist the opportunity for some touristy pictures.
The Louvre is one of my favorite museums. I can’t imagine how visitors can spend just one afternoon here and be satisfied. This was our second trip back, and it still wasn’t enough. Last time, we spent hours on just one floor of one wing, and this trip wasn’t very different. There is so much art and so much history here, and so much to see beyond just the Mona Lisa. I highly recommend a trip here.
Afterwards, we went to a charming bistro close to the Notre Dame and across from the Palais de Justice. (We may or may not have accidentally stumbled on the verdict-reading of Christine Lagarde’s trial at the Palais.)
I went for their special that day: tender, juicy duck, served with potatoes and vegetables. Mama Teng got a sandwich with pâté (quite good), and Papa Teng had his first croque monsieur (he was impressed).
The next day was our last full day in Paris. We strolled by the Place Vendôme and admired the large trees and blue doors.
We stopped by a small cafe on a side street, where we had the BEST pain au chocolat we’ve ever tasted. The pastry was just the right amount of flaky and incredibly buttery; there wasn’t a ton of chocolate in the pastry, but it hit the perfect semi-sweet note. Two cappuccinos and two pains au chocolat, 7 euros well spent.
I, being me, was very excited to see that folded paper Napoleon hats were included with tickets. I took full advantage of the opportunity.
The museum was fantastic. It covered all aspects of the military, from medieval hilltop fortresses to seventeenth century cavalries to WWII artifacts to Cold War spies. To say it was interesting would be an understatement.
We saw uniforms from various time periods and various locations (from France’s colonial days), tanks, flags, and weapons.
But the main attraction lay in the back: Napoleon’s tomb. It is almost entirely an edifice of marble and fine wood. There were candles lighting up the various caskets (for other historical figures), as well as operatic choir music. The whole effect was quite magical.
Along the circular walls by the casket, there were marble friezes extolling Napoleon’s life and achievements, with Napoleon dressed as a Roman god. In one scene, he held the codes of Augustus and Justinian in one hand, with his code of laws on the other. I took it as a sign that he saw his empire as the third incarnation of the Roman Empire.
Outside the building, there was a small Christmas market. We got a cup of delicious mulled wine, sampled some chocolates, and bought a small apple tarts.
Armed with our tasty haul and warm from the wine, we walked over to the Eiffel Tower. (Admittedly, not my favorite area of Paris, but you can’t turn down the Eiffel Tower when you’re in Paris!) The Tower is so much larger in person; you can mentally brace yourself for it by looking at pictures, but nothing prepares you for seeing it with your very eyes.
The crowds were massive, the security was strict, and the smell of food (sausages, potatoes, paella, churros) wafted through the cold winter air. After some browsing, we shared two more Nutella and banana crepes, bursting with sweetness. It was a lovely last thing to eat in Paris.
And even after we got back to the hotel, full and happy and tired, I didn’t let the magic go. Let’s just say that I wore that Napoleon hat for far longer than I care to admit.
Paris, je t’aime.