Day five in Paris was devoted to visiting famous landscapes so Ian could geek out about them. I could try and describe what exactly makes these landscapes successful, but would fail miserably. I will simply say we stopped at lots of places that seemed quintessentially Parisian and European. Plazas, courtyards, and parks, surrounded by old beautiful architecture, full of people enjoying the city.
We started at la Place Vendôme. At its center is a giant column, which apparently has gone up and down with the political tides since Napoleon. It is an imposing presence, but fits with the giant paved expanse and square of expensive shops surrounding it.
After Ian finished up his first sketch of the day, we headed on to lunch. Given our love of food trucks and Ian's love of the New York Times, we knew we had to squeeze in a meal at Cantine California, featured in a June 2012 New York Times article.
We stood in line for about 10 minutes, and a woman with a perfect Midwestern accent took our order. I asked her where she was from, and she said she was French but grew up in Texas. Perfect English, perfect French. Lucky. Soon we were at the window, watching the busy kitchen. "I can't make this burger without foie gras and shallots!" I'm guessing it's not a phrase often heard back in the states.
We took our burgers, fries, and Dr. Pepper to another plaza, the forecourt to the Palais-Royal. It wasn't the one Ian meant to find, but it turned out to be even better. What looked liked giant game pieces of varying heights dotted the plaza. People used them as tables and seats, and kids had fun jumping and climbing them. While Ian was photographing the space, he inadvertently befriended a small French boy, and I enjoyed watching the most stylish six-year-old I've ever seen make several attempts to climb up one of the taller pieces before she finally stood triumphant on the top.
After finishing lunch, we headed out a different way than we entered, and came across a farmer's market at the foot of the Louvre. The Parisian attention to design and beauty extends even to their garden beds.
We continued on to the Les Halles park, a space recommended by someone at work. Unfortunately, only a fraction of the space was open, as it was undergoing some major renovations.
We slowly walked along the pedestrian path that safely traversed the Les Halles work site. I attempted to read the description of the project. Apparently it once was the site of a thriving market, but fell victim to city modernization efforts in the 1970s and was replaced by an underground shopping mall. As I fumbled with my French reading skills, Ian analyzed the construction detailing, pointing out various features that would soon cover the giant slabs of concrete.
Our next stop was le Centre Pompidou, Paris's modern art museum. While we didn't have enough time in our schedule to spend time inside, we did take half an hour for Ian to sketch the exterior. Designed by Renzo Piano, the hallways and building systems, like plumbing, run along the outside of the building, showcasing what is often hidden. This inside-out building is showing its age, but is still a fascinating piece of architecture.
A crêpe break was the next order of business. We stopped at Breizh Café, recommended by Lonely Planet, and chatted about the day so far over strawberry rhubarb and chocolate almond crepes.
Energized, we headed out for one last landscape. Place des Vosges. I couldn't believe how immaculately trimmed the lindens were. They looked like floating rectangles of greenery, supported by evenly spaced trunks. The park was peaceful: just the sort of place I'd love to spend lazy afternoons every weekend.
We headed back towards the Eiffel Tower. After analyzing our list of places left to see and also the evening weather for the rest of the week, we decided it was now or never. We bought our tickets and headed to the elevator for the second floor. The views of Paris were breathtaking, and we weren't even at the top yet. We got into the line that wound its way to the next elevator. We watched out the elevator's glass walls as we headed up towards the very top. Those views of Paris made everything — the long line, the drizzle, the masses of British school children milling around with their teachers — worth it.
After getting our fill of the sights, we headed back down to the second floor to wait for the tower to light up. We watched as the park below began to fill up with people on blankets, waiting for the show. At ten, hundreds of lights began to flash and the whole tower glittered and sparkled like fireworks. A loud cheer came up from the lawn, as we leaned back and watched until the end.
See all our photos from Paris on Flickr, and catch up on our trip posts.
*We turned our celebrity couple name, bestowed by my brother Caleb, into an Instagram hashtag (#iannagoestoeurope) and now it's virtually impossible to refer to our trip in any other way.