Paris - A Beautiful Blur

SEPT. 3 - PARIS - The last few days have been such a blur that any attempt to write about them must surely come out blurry as well. But since I promised to write about my travels, I am obligated to at least make the attempt. But where to begin? This city has history, art, architecture, beauty, elegance…. I could fill pages on any of those themes.

Take, for example, the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Construction upon this great Gothic masterpiece began back in 1163, making it a fine example of the city’s history. In fact, the site upon which it stands was originally home to a Roman temple (and even further back, to a settlement of Celts known as the Parisii). We were only two of several hundred tourists inside the cathedral during our visit, but we might as well have been alone. The cathedral’s majesty commanded a reverent silence from its awe-struck visitors, and we were no different (photos, interior). Michelle and I could only wander around slack-jawed, dwarfed by the lofty arches and bejeweled rose windows.

We had similar reactions to the wondrous Musée d’Orsay (photo), home to many of France’s (and the world’s) great art masterpieces. It is here where you will find the most well-known works of the Impressionists. We walked through room after room chock-full of Monets, Renoirs, Van Goghs, Degas and more. At one point, I stopped in the middle of a gallery, suddenly awed by the fact that I could see a famous masterpiece at literally any angle from where I stood.

While the former railroad station which houses the Musée d’Orsay is an impressive building, no structure better symbolizes Paris' architecture (except, perhaps, the Eiffel Tower) than the Arc de Triomphe. Though he had been defeated at Waterloo long before the arch was completed, Napoleon commissioned the structure as a celebration of his armies’ victorious battles. Tourists swarmed over this site as well, but as with most other locations, the splendor of the monument pushed such mundane concerns as crowds and noise from your head. This is the largest triumphal arch in the world, and when you stand beneath it, you have no doubt. It is truly a “monumental” sight to behold.

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