Every part of my legs, from the soles of my feet to the joints of my hips, hurts; I am beyond exhausted. I have walked over a large portion of the city today and seen so many things tonight. I don’t know how I’m going to sum this day up, because it was just unbelievably fun.

The morning started with a lackluster breakfast, though after the food we got every morning in Bayeux, anything would pale in comparison. At 10am we met in front of the hostel, made a brief stop at the professors’ hotel and then took the metro to Pont St Marie. The walk across the Seine at Pont St Marie puts you on the Ile St Louis, named for Louis IX the famous crusader king. After walking about and having Dr Coffin, our French history professor, point out cool shops and give us some of the island’s history we walked across to the Ile de la Cite for a real visit to Notre Dame de Paris.

The tour inside Notre Dame was absolutely stunning. This cathedral puts all the others I have visited to absolute shame. The stained glass, the stone mansonry, the statues, the altar, everything about Notre Dame just sings with an indescribable beauty. One of the many saints honored within is the young French heroine Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake by the English during the Hundred Years War.  I thought it was a bit tacky that people were lighting prayer candles at her feet, come on hasn’t the girl been through enough fire already? Maybe they should put buckets of water beneath her instead. Sorry, that’s a terrible joke but I really couldn’t resist. I took so many pictures inside the cathedral, though I didn’t get everything. If I had tried that, I would probably still be in the Cathedral, snapping away.

After the cathedral we walked a few blocks on the quay of the Seine up to the statue of Henry IV. Henry’s claim to fame is that he legalized Protestantism in France, which helped to settle the conflict between them and Catholics for a time. From Henry we walked to the Place Dauphine, just around the corner and Dr. Coffin honored me by allowing me to explain in brief why this was an important, though largely unknown place. The Place Dauphine is the spot on which the leaders of the Knights Templar were burned at the stake in the 14th century, after being declared heretical by the Avignon pope. There is a good deal of speculation that the pope conspired with the French monarch when the Templars were declared heretical, because both crown and church were deeply in debt to the order, which had become a large banking institution during the Crusades.

After my mini-lecture we walked to the Marais, which is the old Jewish quarter of the city and is now a very hip neighborhood. We took a short walking tour and then broke into several small groups for lunch. I went with Dr. Coffin, her daughter Zoe, Amanda, Katie D., and Katie R. to a small open air market full of food stalls of every imagineable kind; somehow I always seem to end up in a group that consists largely of women and I’m not sure how I manage it. Anyways, everyone else got couscous and tajin  at the Moroccan place, but I wandered a bit and found a Lebanese place. I had a kebab stuffed with tabouleh, hummus, salad, and lamb, it was positively fantastic!

Lunch over, we all met up at the Place Vosges to decide what we wanted to do next. Most of the students went to do their own thins, but a group of nine of us decided to go with the professors and Zoe on a walking tour of the Latin Quarter and then on a boat tour of the Seine, we chose wisely. The walk was absolutely beautiful, up and down the streets of this gorgeous city and past one of the oldest buildings still standing. Based on its style, I would guess it probably hailed from the 14th or 15th century. We stopped in several shops, including one stop for ice cream and espresso both of which were amazing. I’m starting to think I won’t be able to drink coffee in the US anymore after being so spoiled in France. The next thing was the boat tour on the Seine, which took us past several of the more beautiful parts of the city. I got some pictures of the outside of the Orsay and the Louvre from the boat. The professors and Zoe left us at the Orsay dock and went to go find themselves dinner, while we soldiered on to the dock for the Champs Elysee.

The group of us left upon arriving at the Champs Elysee consisted of me, Michael and Ali (a couple so the get one position of a comma, not two), Diana, Katie R., Jenny I., and Amanda. Unfortunately two of our classmates got stuck at the Orsay because they wandered away too long and missed the boat, I feel bad for them but at the same time,they’re adults and need to learn to be on time and not wander away.We walked past the Grand Palais, which I understand to be an art museum at this point, then we turned on the Champs Elysee towards the Arc d’Triumph. A walk that should have taken us twenty minutes took nearly an hour and a half because several of the girls wanted to go shopping. They stopped at a place called Zara and then at H&M, which was fine since I found a nice black sport coat for a really good price. We also had dinner at McDonald’s, which is no better here than at home except that you can get beer with your food. I figured why not, how often can you have a Heineken with your dinner?

The Arc d’Triumph is magnificent. The shots you see on television do not even begin to do it justice. Only Napoleon Bonaparte could have had the gusto and arrogance to commission himself a triumphal gate after the style of the Roman conquerors. I took many, many picturs of the Arc and of the traffic circle around it for my dad, who is an avid cyclist and loves watching the Tour de France every year.

From the Arc d’Triumph we began a walk of a mile or so towards the symbol of the City of Lights, the Eiffel Tower. Initially I was not that excited about seeing it, since I knew it would be the tourist trap to end all tourist traps, the most visited monument in the world’s most visited city. My assumptions were right, tourists and hawkers selling cheap souvenirs everywhere, but my lack of excitement quickly turned into giddy euphoria as I snapped away on my camera like every other person around me. The group decided we wanted to take the elevator to the top, since it was getting towards dusk and we wanted to see the city at night, again a wise choice. The tower itself is lit up beautifully every night and we were fortunate enough to catch a spectacular show of flashing lights that they do every night on the tower, it was absolutely amazing. I was also able to get many pictures of Sacre Couer and the Arc d’Triumph from the various levels of the tower. The seven of us were laughing and joking the whole time, even though by the time we got to the top and started back down we were completely exhausted, though the silliness might have been at least partially fueled by tiredness.

Upon reaching the bottom, legs screaming with exhaustion from a day in which we walked at a minimum six miles in fourteen hours, we set out for the metro and our hostel. I thought the ride would be your typical uneventful go on public transportation, but boy was I wrong. At the second or third stop, two guys got on, one with an accordion and one with a violin. They regaled our car with several French folk songs, it was absolutely beautiful. I cannot think of a more fitting end to this day, it was such an excellent time, with excellent people, in a city I have begun to fall in love with. I know yesterday I said I was unimpressed with Paris, but today changed my mind. I will always remember today, especially going up the Eiffel Tower with good friends and seeing the City of Lights all aglow, from the top of its magnificent crown jewel. Now sleep, it’s 1:45am and I am on the verge of passing out.

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