As we set off on a new chapter of our tour in France, our group hurriedly went down to enjoy a French-style buffet for breakfast. Endless rows of fluffy croissants, warm French bread, spicy salami, sizzling sausage, crispy bacon, refreshing orange juice, and an array of cheeses and spreads were presented to us. It was as if we were pigs getting fattened for some feast.
It seemed impossible to pry ourselves away from the buffet, but we were told that we would have such a breakfast available every day for the rest of the tour so we felt relieved. As we drove to our first destination, we passed by familiar places such as the Opera House and Lafayette Gallery. From there, it didn’t take long until we reached the Museum of Perfume by Fragonard, one of two major perfume companies in France. The museum gave us a chance to learn about the history of manufacturing perfume and allowed us to treat our nostrils to different scents. Perfumes found in France tend to be of a higher quality as the French are obsessed with perfumes so many people in our tour group bought some to take home.
Our next destination was Napoleon’s tomb which is located next to the famous Veteran Hospital, where soldiers under Napoleon were treated. The tomb is located under a towering domed chapel abundantly decorated with gold. His tomb is one of a kind with its six layered structure and unique physique as well as its striking pinkish hue.
To complete our morning, we decided to take a brisk walk through the Luxembourg gardens.Â Home to more than 100 statues, monuments, and fountains, the garden is also Paris’ largest public park and its cafÃ©s, seemingly infinite rows of cookie cutter trees, and beautiful view of the Luxembourg palace, the garden is a hotspot for many of the locals. Fortunately, we were able to dodge the crowd since it was Easter so we had the gardens almost all to ourselves. After taking in the crisp morning air and relaxing in the well positioned chairs, we made our way back to the bus to go to our largest highlight for today.
Before that, however, we wanted to fill ourselves again. This time, we wanted some classic Indonesian food, specifically Sobron Aidit’s restaurant. We even met some local Indonesians (Mr. Umar Said and friends) at the restaurant including Sobron Aidit’s daughter and got to have a nice chat with her while the chefs busily cooked our meals. The dishes, ranging from Soto Ayam to Nasi Goreng, were not only prepared quickly but also very delicious and very accurate. We quickly gobbled up our food and waved goodbye to the restaurant and Nita Aidit.
So now with our stomachs filled with food and anticipation, we headed off towards the Palace of Versailles. Home to many Kings in France since Louis XIV, the Palace has somewhat retained its original state in history. The marble floors have been stolen during the chaos of the French Revolution, but the walls, statues, chandeliers, and some of the furniture remain for us to enjoy. The Palace of Versailles was a replacement to the Louvre because Louis XIV wanted to live in an even grander palace and wanted his palace near luscious hunting grounds. Each room in the palace is decorated with large amounts of gold. When you first enter the palace, you might even be appalled at how unnecessary the gold decorations were. Everything was lined with gold —from picture frames to clocks- and only the best marbles were used for the walls and when marble wasn’t used for the walls, they used very fine silk as wallpaper; this is what happens when people are too rich.Â When France suffered in poverty and famine, the people were in rage at their ruler’s luxurious lifestyle. King Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette ignored the country’s grave state, evident when Marie Antoinette answered to the plea of bread for the people by suggesting they eat cake when they didn’t even have bread available. King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were later jailed and beheaded during the French Revolution. Once we traveled to all the gold plated rooms, we finished our tour of the palace at the luscious green garden. Normal people would be satisfied with a patch of grass, but Louis XVI needed to have rolling green hills and neatly trimmed gardens. Our group then exited out through the main gates —of course, that was golden too- of the palace to go to one of the finest examples of French gothic architecture —Notre Dame.
The inspiration for Victor Hugo’s most beloved tale and the center of Paris, the Notre Dame cathedral exemplifies the rage in architectural styles back in the days. It was the first to use the support of the flying buttress and was also the backdrop of Victor Hugo’s famous tale of the Hunchback of notre Dame. After what seemed like an eternity in the lines for the bathroom, we had to yet queue up in another line to enter Notre Dame itself. After the wait, we finally entered the cathedral where we quietly walked around the area. The massiveness of the cathedral can only be understood once you step inside. Giant columns rose up from the ground while stained glass and candles lit up the room. Notre Dame is the king of all cathedrals. After walking around, we exited the building and found the “zero point” of Paris, the exact center of the town. Urban legend says that if you step on that point, fate will take you to Paris again so all of us quickly stomped on the point as much as possible. We even found the Hunchback and took some pictures with him. Our second day in France was just beginning…