Waking up in the morning, one thing was clear: the cold I had been running from since Salzburg had finally caught up with me. But I’ve always been stubborn, and I wasn’t about to let a sniffle and runny nose keep me from my trip. I grabbed my camera, and set off for the metro.
Stepping out of the metro, I crossed the street and made my way under a covered archway and into the central courtyard of the Louvre, facing an array of glass pyramids. I explored the area a little before walking through the security checkpoint inside the main pyramid. Without setting off any alarms, I was inside the largest museum in the world.
I stopped at an information desk to pick up a map, and made my way past collections of African arts, Greek and roman sculptures, and towards the paintings, pausing momentarily along the way to either read a placard, stare at the art, or to take care of my nose. Photographs of the paintings were prohibited, for a number of the usual reasons but in some cases, such as at the Mona Lisa, it wouldn’t have made much difference. The large crowd that gathered around such a small painting would’ve made it impossible to get a good photo of the portrait. The Last Supper, on the other hand, grew a smaller crowd despite being a far grander painting.
After a quick lunch in one of the museum’s cafes, I left to begin a walk along the Siene. I could’ve spent far longer in the Louvre than just the few short hours I had, but Paris was a big city, and I had more to see. I followed the river’s Left Bank towards Notre Dame, passing the small street vendors that had set up along the route. I neared the cathedral’s and crossed a bridge onto the island, a bridge I’d later learn was one of the oldest in the city.
A short walk later, I stood in front of the two large bell towers, home to a famous fictional hunchback. I headed inside and was instantly impressed by the cathedral’s grandeur, and couldn’t begin to imagine how people in the 14th century would’ve felt by it. I could only assume, that compared to their dirty hovels, Notre Dame was proof of God. I wondered for a moment what it would’ve been like to experience Christmas Mass there. I continued my self-guided tour, and noted the similarities between Our Lady of Paris and the cathedrals I had seen in Austria or Prague, most noticeably that the floor plans were all laid out in the basic shape of a cross.
I left the cathedral and wondered for a moment about where to go next, before finally deciding on the palace of Versailles. I headed for the metro.
After changing trains a small handful of times, I was nearly where I wanted to be but, after leaving the station, I couldn’t tell which way to head. With a 50/50 choice, left or right, I made my guess. The grey clouds that had covered the sky for so much of my trip had finally began to release their rains, and I was fortunate to soon see the black and gold gates of the palace.
While waiting in line at the security checkpoint, I pulled out my umbrella to use as a shield from the downpour, but it did little good against the wind. I found myself thinking about the amount of security I had seen in the city, noting it was significantly more than other European cities.
The grandeur of Versailles made North Carolina’s Biltmore Estate look like a small summer cottage. Each ceiling was painted, and most halls had marble busts of the various French royalty. One particular hall was lined with gigantic paintings of every major French victory since the middle ages, including one named The Battle of Yorktown featuring a recognizable American general named Washington.
I took a quick walk through the gardens and was disappointed none of the fountains were turned on. In fact, it seemed like a sizable part of the palace was closed for one reason or another, the central courtyard and hall of mirrors included. At least the fountains would be pointless in the rain.