Saturday, April 21, 2012

My First Visit to Paris

I still vividly remember my first trip to Paris, France in 2007, which was  for a technical conference in May there.

This conference was my favorite conference. I was very interested in the conference programs and in fact I would present a paper at the conference. I would not want to miss any interesting presentations. I would not want to miss the opportunity to see Paris in person either.

My conference buddy Jonathan and I decided to tour Paris together every afternoon right after the last session was over. We would leave the conference hotel around ~ 4pm and got back ~ 10pm or so, except the last day of the conference when we took a whole afternoon for a visit to the Louvre. We would take subway to a major location, and toured around on foot for blocks and blocks.

Arc de Triomphe

The famed Arch is only two blocks away from the conference hotel. I walked there by myself on the first day of my arrival at Paris - the afternoon of May 20. There were not too many people there. I visited there again the next night with Jonathan - it was a totally different scene - the streets were full of people, locals mixed with tourists, diners spilled out from restaurants into side walks. The Arch itself looked differently as well.

Eiffel Tower

We went straight to Eiffel Tower after our second day session at the conference. Eiffel Tower is only two subway stations away from the hotel. When we got there, it was still bright day time - instead of waiting in line for an elevator lift to the viewing deck, we climbed stairways from the other side of the tower. The Tower is right by river Seine. The view from top was beautiful - river Seine on one side, the sprawling white concretes on the other sides. We purchased some french sandwiches and water and had a picnic in the green lands surrounding the tower. Afterwards we walked toward Ecole Militarie direction to see surrounding architectures and the city a bit more. When I looked back at the tower again, I realized that I could have Eiffel tower in my hand - at least the illusion of it. Jonathan did a great job to record the illusion on the picture. When we got to Ecole Militarie, the tourist entrance, however, was closed already.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

The Cathedral is bit farther away. It is actually on an island in river Seine. When we got there late in the afternoon of the third day, it was closed already. We could only look at it from outside. So we walked along River Seine a bit and wandered into local neighborhood by the river to look for a restaurant - we had a dinner in a small compact French restaurant. It was quite a fun experience - the waitress could speak little English, we had to point to pictures in the menu to order, and using gestures to communicate.

River Seine

On the fourth day we attended the confererence banquet on dinner cruise on River Seine. We boarded the cruise near Eiffel tower, and the boat cruised a loop on river Seine, with Nortre Dame as the run around point. There are so many history along the river, seemingly every building along the river has a story behind it. Jonathan and I shared a table with two other conference attendees - one of them was a Frenchman. I had a good time chatting with them while enjoying the food. The night view of Eiffel tower concluded a wonderful night on River Seine.

The Louvre

The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world, and the home of the famous Mona Lisa painting. A full day's time would not be enough for a slow walk through it.We chose the last day of the conference to go there - because the conference ended at noon and we would have the whole afternoon to visit the massive complex.

We got there by subway and immediately impressed by the huge square, grand sculpture, the glass pyramid and the immense complex. We did not know much about art, and not very familiar with European histories. When we were inside, we were still amazed - the paintings, the sculptures from various period of histories and from various places around the world, gardens, fountains.....  Following the museum map, we went to every section of the museum that was open to public, and stayed inside for over 4 hours.

When we left the Louvre, it was still bright day time. We walked around the Louvre - northwest side to be specific - Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Tuileries Garden ... there were so much to see.

Paris fascinated me with its landmarks, vibrant streets, rich culture and history.

I believe that I will enjoy Paris even more with preparation and planning. I want to go to Paris again!!

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