I landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at approximately 7.30 in the morning. Customs and baggage claim was a bit of a wait, but there was no baggage check or quarantine. It took some time, and a little help from transit staff, for me to navigate the Paris train and metro system in my slightly sleep-deprived and luggage-laden state. It was close to 10 o’clock when I got to the hotel, where I was greeted with a big smile and hug from my friend Amy, who would be my travel buddy for the next few weeks. A quick shower and outfit change to freshen up, having been in transit for close to 24 hours, and I was all set for my first day in Paris.
Our first stop was the Musée Rodin, which is dedicated to the works of French sculptor Auguste Rodin. He created The Thinker (Le Pensevr), The Gates of Hell, The Kiss and The Prodigal Son. We had a bit of fun strolling through the garden, where bronze sculptures of his more famous pieces were displayed.
We bought a combination billet for 18€, which included entry into Musée Rodin and Musée d’Orsay. Musée d’Orsay is in an old railway station with a stunning arched ceiling and a grand clock hanging above the entry. It houses artwork by Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas and Paul Cézanne, to name a few. While it was cool to see Van Gogh’s well-known pieces (such as “Starry Night Over the Rhône”) up close, my favourite was probably the “Woman with a Parasol” by Paul Signac.
I preferred Musée d’Orsay to Musée Rodin. Probably because there was a range of works and the architecture of the old railway station was a sight in itself. Before leaving, we went up to the terrace to get a view over the River Seine and Paris, and to gauge how far we needed to walk to our next stop – the Louvre.
We only walked around the exterior of the Louvre, deciding to leave the interior for another day. I’d been told by a few people that a full day at the Louvre was nowhere near enough, let alone an hour or two. We of course took our touristy photos of us pinching the tip of the glass ceiling. It’s like at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You just have to take that photo.
The weather was spot on in Paris. So we decided to rely on our own two feet to get around for the rest of the afternoon. We walked from the Louvre through the Tuileries Garden, along the famous Avenue des Champs Elysées, all the way up to the imposing Arc de Triomphe. If we had more time in Paris, I would’ve liked to have spent a day lazing about the Tuileries, soaking up the sun and people watching. It didn’t look to have any nice patches of grass that you could sit and lie on though. Just metal chairs, which didn’t look like a good idea on a hot day.
The Champs Élysées is a busy street. Art vs. Science were right. It’s a long street too. We felt as if we were walking and walking, but never getting any closer. When we reached the top of the street, we took turns with the other tourists to stand in the small section in the middle of the road to take our photos. It wasn’t much of a wait, literally less than a minute. But apparently it was too long for some. A few boldly stood in the path of oncoming traffic to get that perfect shot.
The Arc de Triomphe was the last thing on our list for the day. Amy was feeling peckish, and I was beginning to fade. I needed sleep. We went back in the direction of our hotel, thinking we’d try one of the restaurants nearby. All were doing happy hour, which was great. But not all were serving food before 7 o’clock. Thankfully, the bistro right next to our hotel was serving dinner. Unfortunately, the salmon tartare that we both ordered was disappointing. Fishy. No amount of lime could save it. But the complimentary bread and olives were good. So I filled up on that.
It was a big first day. I ended up crashing just after seven. As soon as my head hit that pillow, I was out cold. Good thing too. I’ll need to catch up on sleep if I’m going to make it through another big day tomorrow. We’re off to Versailles!