Day 5: The Louvre, le Musee D’Orsay, and Norte Dame Cathedral
We woke up early to grab breakfast at a bakery and were on the metro by 9 am. Today was our museum tour and it was going to be a long one. First stop was the most famous museum in France if not the whole world the Louvre; knowing the museums reputation we made sure to get there as soon as the doors opened. As an art teacher, Reagan knew all the finest works to check out. It was kind of like having a personal tour guide, but none of us were prepared for the sheer size of the Louvre. This place is massive! Six stories of long grandiose corridors lined with fine pieces of art. It was like a fortress.
The number of specimens was overwhelming; from paintings to sculptures to furniture and antiques. We had to shove our way through the crowded hallways before long, people talking pics everywhere, but come on…there’s only one painting that comes to mind when you think of the Louvre and that’s the Mona Lisa.
Trying to find her was like navigating a maze but we knew where we were by the huge crowd around her. There was a six-foot radius around the display itself, guards, then a couple inches of protective glass between us and the painting. After snapping a photo, it was time for the next gallery. Four hours and a few thousand steps later it was time to find the next museum but not before lunchtime.
While looking for a café we got whisked away again by some bold servers except this time the food was worse than last time and there were a ton of tourists. After lunch it was time for the D’Orsay, a lesser known but still very impressive gallery. It was smaller than the Louvre but equally awesome, in fact its located in an old train station. Van Gogh and Picasso lined the walls of the D’Orsay which was a refreshing break from the Louvre’s Renaissance paintings. Outside the museum we enjoyed some live street music, caught our breath for another 30 mins, then proceeded to Norte Dame.
The walk to the cathedral was gorgeous. We strolled down the Seine while sailboats coasted by and couples picnicked in the grass. We arrived at Notre Dame and as expected the line was out the door. Although the hunchback didn’t greet us as we were hoping, we were still in awe observing the building’s gothic stylings. Once inside you could walk around the loop of the Cathedral where you could light prayer candles, learn about the building’s history, and listen to a service.
Soon it was time for dinner. We struggled to find an ATM so we let Google maps do the searching which led us to one right to a nice restaurant with outdoor seating under some trees. After eating it was time to head back across town. The streets of France had us beat. Once back at the Air Bnb we packed up and passed out. Tomorrow we head to Amsterdam.
Day 6: Amsterdam
Next morning, we left our Air BnB for the train station and boarded a four-hour ride to Amsterdam. It was the first time we’ve traveled by train and we didn’t quite know what to expect; turns out the rails are our new favorite way to get around. Compared to the cramped cabin of a plane or the tight tube of the subway, the spacious coaches of the train were a nice change. The ride was amazingly enjoyable as was the food and the beautiful European scenery that streaked past our window. It was an idyllic experience. Our train chugged through Brussels, Rotterdam, and finally our stop in Amsterdam. Once again, we were strangers in another country…and once again we were also kind of lost too.
We read the notes our Air Bnb host left for us and got our bearings straight again. We found a tram that winded through the busy streets, canals and shops of the city. We hopped off the tram at our stop and noticed that the streets of Amsterdam kind of look like that videogame Frogger. Our tram stopped in the median of the road sandwiched by two lanes of traffic on either side and a constantly busy bike lane on each end. By my count, Amsterdam must have more people than bikes! The Dutch love their bicycles more than their cars. Wherever there is a road there is a bike lane alongside it.
So, after making our way through the maze of traffic we arrived at our host’s house. We rang the bell, and oh man were we in for a surprise. The neighborhood granny greeted us at the door and showed us around. First was our room, which was the most unique ones of our entire trip. Imagine a tiny home inside a house; bed, bath, toilet, sink, coffee maker, fridge all stacked on top of each other. You could step out of bed and directly into the bathroom to use the toilet—which was also where the shower was located. As tiny as it sounds it was convenient living if just for the one night.
Next our host showed us the way to get into town and pointed out some grocery stores, restaurants and some nice parks to check out. Reagan and I were getting hungry so we asked where we could grab sandwiches and maybe some coffee. Our host immediately shook her head and said “No, no. You won’t find any food at a coffee shop here.” That’s when Reagan and I realized that coffee shops in Amsterdam do not necessarily serve coffee or your favorite latte; they were marijuana dispensaries. Bottom line, in this town coffee shop is code for weed! After a good laugh with the host we headed to an appropriate ‘cafe’.
After lunch we got back on the tram and headed towards the Van Gogh museum. The place is located outside of a big park filled with markets, a main pond/seasonal skating rink, and of course the famous ‘I Amsterdam’ sign. On the way there we ran into a Banksy exhibit that we couldn’t pass up. It was cool learning about the reason behind his work, like the time he wanted to throw counterfeit British pounds off the roof of some building until he figured some poor folks would probably use them as actual currency.
Next, was the Van Gogh museum of course. His work is absolutely amazing, but boy was he an absolutely erratic if not crazy guy. The definition of a starving artist, Van Gogh even ingested some of his own paint; his brother, Theo funded his entire career.
After the galleries we took a quick nap in the Museumplein Park before heading back to the apartment. One thing we observed was how casual people were after the legalization of different drugs. Walking through Vondelpark on the way home we saw scores of people lounged out enjoying their food or a smoke, but it was very calm and relaxed. Afterwards we found a nice café along a canal and strolled the neighborhood before turning in for the night. Amsterdam had given us a warm, relaxing welcome.
Be on the look out for Chapter 4 of our adventure and don't forget to shop some favorites on our store!
Story by: Jeremy Lux
Written by: Eric Gasa