Paris: an underwater experience

Paris locks
Gillian Perry/Staff

Ah, Paris! The city of love, the city of art and museums, complete with evenings dining on outdoor patios and sunny days spent walking upon the river. But what is there to do when the city of love is drowning? I had what I thought to be the unfortunate experience of visiting Paris when the city was experiencing historic flooding. While it was kind of interesting to see what were once sidewalks completely underwater, it wasn’t fun to be told that any museum within walking distance of the river was closed until the floods went down. So, what is Paris without the Louvre? Trust me, it’s still definitely worth the trip.

Paris for my family was nothing but art and museums. After our ticket hunt in an effort to see at least one famous painting resulted in nothing but disappointment, my family decided to just walk around and see what we could find. Luckily, Paris has history and culture around every corner! We thought of going on a river tour, but all hope of that vanished once we saw the tip of the boat stop sign peeking out from the rushing river. So we walked along the banks of the Seine, shivering from the cold, just enjoying the sights and sounds of the city. With street art vendors and pop up flower shops around every corner, I was definitely content to do just that.

Gillian Perry/Staff

Gillian Perry/Staff

Our wanderings eventually led us to Notre Dame, one of the few big tourist attractions open in the flood. Gargoyles and gorgeous spires decorated the outside of the chapel, and once inside, light streamed in through the gorgeous stained glass windows. The chapel was surrounded by gardens, offering many different views of the chapel and housing lots of pigeons. Best of all, it was all free! We could have purchased audio or walking tours, but my dad definitely was an enthusiastic and adequate guide.

While the stained glass at Notre Dame is definitely beautiful, it doesn’t even compare to the stained glass at Sainte Chapelle. Doubling as a concert venue, this chapel hosts stunning wall to wall stained glass, which I found even more gorgeous as the light changed with the setting sun. My family was treated to a concert by a string quartet in this one of a kind venue, which brought new life to the classic Four Seasons by Vivaldi. As the music echoed throughout the chapel and the dusk turned to dark, I definitely felt the romantic and sophisticated aura I always associated with Paris.

Wandering around Paris also led us to L’Arc de Triomphe. Standing tall at the end of a long street of high end stores (a treat for my trendy little sister), tourists crossed into the middle of the street to get the perfect selfie distance for a picture. We huddled in with hordes of other tourists and eventually crossed over to the arc itself. Gargantuan and grandiose, the arc itself was definitely worth the shuffling around. Another tourist attraction that would always be open despite the floods was the Tour Eiffel. Decked out for the upcoming soccer tournament with a giant soccer ball floating in the middle of it, going up and down the tower offered amazing views and a classic look at Paris. It was even more exciting to return at night to see the tower shimmer and picnic among tourists and locals alike.

With no Louvre or Musee D’orsay, my family was feeling disappointed in our lack of artistic ventures. Luckily, Paris is absolutely bursting with different art-centric venues, so it didn’t take us long to find somewhere that would fill our artistic appetites. We spent a full day visiting Montmartre, the home of Renoir and many famous cabaret artists, and the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur, another gorgeous church. The mix of history concerning “lower” art such as Le Chat Noir, nightclubs and the classic Impressionistic work by Renoir was an intriguing parallel. We loved seeing the places that inspired gorgeous garden paintings and also the can can. Our day was completed with a visit to the Renoir gardens that lined the artist’s old home and workshop. A home for giant snails and butterflies and an inspiration for some of Renoir’s best work, I definitely felt my artistic cravings had been satisfied.

Gillian Perry/Staff

Gillian Perry/Staff

But, my general food craving (which is pretty consistent) was definitely not. I found Paris to be a hub for delicious desserts, rather than meals. Beignets, crepes, macarons and chocolate croissants accompanied most of our meals and, in my opinion, definitely stole the spotlight from traditional French dishes. However, there’s nothing like a true French onion soup or a plate of crispy French fries.

While we may not have been able to take a tour along the river, or wander around the Louvre for hours as my family had planned, we were still able to experience Paris to it’s fullest. All I know now is that I have absolutely no choice but to visit again; I’ve fallen in love with the city of love.

Contact Gillian Perry at [email protected].