Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Brave Little Illustrator Goes to Europe FINALE

The last week of our trip we spent in Paris and we made darn good use of it. France definitely seemed to be the most high-strung location on the trip - I constantly felt like I needed to actively try to not be a loud, obnoxious American. The people seemed much more reserved and mild-mannered, though Paris was the one place on the trip that we actually watched a fight break out in (it was something about a pickpocket in a subway station). The French food was pretty good but also pretty pricey so I didn't eat a whole lot. But I did get to see a whole lot.

 One of the first nights we were there, we stopped to see Van Gogh's apartment where he lived during his time in Paris. I thought I'd give him a proper Van Gogh salute.

 Just after Van Gogh's place, we stumbled upon an equally interesting Moulin Rouge. I bet the windmill is some sort of innuendo, but I didn't bother to find out.

 When we got a chance to really explore the city, we walked through some gardens near Luxemberg. There was a large pond there where you could rent toy boats to sail in the water, but it seemed like only little kids did it.

 Later in the day, we went to the Rodin museum and saw the famous "Thinker" statue.

We made sure to stop by the Arc de Triumph too, but I think it's over-hyped. It was just a big arch. A nice big arch.

 One of the last places we went to were the catacombs under the city, the giant, famous necropolis that most people have heard of before. I wish I would have brought some creepy music to listen to - it was a long walk. It was kind of funny to see weird designs made with the bones every once in a while, like crosses and hearts.

On  a completely different scale, we also visited Sainte Chappelle, a large church near Notre Dame. Not much there besides nearly every wall being almost completely stained-glass.

One of the other museums we hit was the Pompadue which had alot of modern art. Alot of it was annoying, but some of it was interesting or even mildly entertaining. They had some Picasso's, but not really the kind that I like. There was one room where you sat down on a bench and watched a screen with nothing but number that constantly changed randomly while some Spanish voice read each number aloud. For some reason, it was unbelievably funny. 

On our first full day in Paris we all went to the Louvre and spent upwards of 6 hours there (which feels like forever when you're in a place like the Louvre). I gotta say though, it felt like some kind of euphoric art mecca, like I had made the ultimate pilgrimage to the center of Western art. Mostly because I got to see this painting:

 Which was kind of a big deal for me. So much so, actually, that I made it my first priority as soon as we got inside to get up close to it and see it in person. Ever since becoming attached to Leonardo da Vinci through the Ninja Turtles way back in the day, I've kind of always thought of the Mona Lisa as the best painting in the world (which is most likely inarguable). It was like some kind of surreal dream to walk in that room and see it there on the wall surrounded by a million people - which explains my posture in the photo because there were hundreds of crazy tourists all trying to get a photo with it. After wading through a sea of people, we managed to get pretty much up front and center though. Mission accomplished.

 If you don't know what this painting is, then look it up. It's famous, trust me.

 So is this sculpture. It's probably even more famous.

 And this? Also famous. Yeah, I was in front of alot of famous paintings. That makes me famous by association, right? Yeah? Yeah. I mean, if it didn't, than why else would I take pictures of myself in front of them?

 Later on, we spent a couple of hours at the palace of Versailles. Waste of time and I'll tell you why: while the palace is a historical landmark and significant in the past ages of France, and while it is remarkably beautiful and pleasant, our visit was at the same time of a countless multitude of tourists, the most we've ever had to deal with. The visit became a cramped stinkfest of just trying to get through the dumb building without punching somebody's camera when they stopped mid-hallway right in front of you to take a picture of a curtain.

Though there were a few pleasant surprises inside the palace. Like a helicopter made out of pink feathers. I'm sure Louis XIV would have liked it.

When an opportunity presented itself, a few of us ditched out on a day of museum visits to go to DISNEYLAND PARIS! Luckily, we met a man just outside the park who was desperate to get rid of some tickets and managed to buy them off of him for almost half price (we made sure they worked to get in the park before we paid him - we're not that dumb). 

Know how you can tell I'm at the Disneyland in Paris? The castle is pink. Everything really is more girly in France.

One of the best differences at Euro Disney was that Space Mountain, which is actually "Space Mountain: Mission 2," meaning it's Space Mountain's sequel, meaning unless you go to Disneyland Paris you won't ever ride it. And it was more like a REAL rollercoaster! It had a full loop, a half pipe, and instead of only projected stars on the walls and ceiling, it had fully animated planets, a supernova, and large, fake asteroids all over the ride. Definitely the best ride there by far, and we made sure to ride it several times right before the park closed.  

Another big visit was to the Notre Dame cathedral, where you can see I'm actively imitating a specific person related to it. I had to.

Notre Dame was by far the most beautiful cathedral of the trip, or maybe it just felt like that because I felt like I was in that Disney movie the whole time I walked through it... which is probably because I had the soundtrack playing on my ipod. 

You can almost see Quazi limping around and those crazy gypsies singing songs everywhere.

 While we first went to the cathedral in the morning, we came back at night to climb the tower and get a sunset view of the city. We were not disappointed.


 We even got to climb up the bell tower and take pictures with a giant bell.

We stayed up there as long as they would let us, which was long enough to watch the Eiffel Tower light up from across the city. 

Which brings me to the end of the Paris adventures - the big hoorah was our trip to the one and only Eiffel Tower. I'm making a "T" for "tower" to emphasize that I'm in front of it.

About 8:00ish, we began our ascent up the tower, climbing to the first two floors by foot. It seemed like a lot from below, but honestly, the climb was nothing compared to the stairs at St. Paul's or Notre Dame with the claustrophobic spiraling staircases. 

 On the second floor, this was the view upwards, which we passed through by elevator. The wait for the elevator was the worst though, we were in a single file line and it was just me and one other guy, Brett, from our group and I was behind him. From way far back, a group of fat, drunk Italian women cut in front of everyone else up to where we were and constantly bumped into me from behind. The fattest and most drunk one spat on me when she talked and breathed heavily into my ear several times... She tried to give Brett seductive glances every once in a while. Near the end of the line, she was all but pressing her chest into my body to try and be funny or sexy or whatever, so as soon as we got the chance, Brett and I ran into the elevator ahead of them, squeezing in at the last second to get away. It was the worst.

 But it made the final destination that much sweeter. At the top, you could see all of Paris, and while the walls were covered with other tourists when we got there, we made sure to get a spot right up next to them ahead of time to watch the sunset.

 And what a sunset. Made even better by listening to "Paris holds the key to your heart" while we watched it.

To end the night, a group of us spent 3 more hours laying down in front of the tower and just staring up at it, watching it light up every hour.

That's the end of the trip! Epilogue to follow later along with sketches and paintings that I did while abroad

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