An Afternoon in Paris



In 1973 I went to boarding school in Switzerland, my parents had moved to Nigeria and the school options were limited.  A friend of mine from grade school days was living in Paris so when our first long weekend break came up I headed to Paris.  It was my first trip to Paris.  It was November and snowed lightly the whole time I was there.  My friend was in school and her mother insisted I take a bus tour of the city to get an overview.  After that I was on my own.  I was 16.  There were two things I wanted to see, one was Notre Dame and the other was the Louvre.  I found Notre Dame with no problem.  I walked in to an empty building.  It was dark and took me a while to get my eyes used to it.  It was quite and peaceful.  I made my way down towards the apse and as I reached it,  light flooded in.  I looked up and saw the most beautiful rosette stained glass windows I had ever seen.  I sat down and meditated on them.

From there I headed to the Louvre.  It took me a while to find it and the entrance didn’t seem to be very clearly marked but I did manage to buy a ticket and start my tour.  I didn’t have much time so I decided to just see three things and then leave.  I found the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo right away but I could not find the Mona Lisa.  I walked up and down an entire wing of paintings.  I saw painters set up with their easels copying the famous artworks, something I had never seen before in a museum.  Lots of great art, but no Mona Lisa.   I wandered into a room that was full of old jewelry.  No Mona Lisa there.  I was just about to give up and leave when I happened upon a small room off to the side that had a lot of paintings all hung up together on one of the walls.  I was looking at these various, random paintings when right in the middle of them, the Mona Lisa jumped out at me.  I couldn’t believe it.  I stood there transfixed.

It was a magical day.  I have been back to Paris many times but Notre Dame has always been very crowded and stifling.  The Louvre now has a grand entrance and signs all over the place directing you to the Mona Lisa which has such a big protective case that you can barely see it. I was very lucky.


  1. I’m sure everyone remembers their first trip to Paris – I was 13 and stayed with a family in Paris – it was magical and exotic to a girl from London, those patisseries, coffee in a bowl, raw meat! I also saw the Mona Lisa in her glory like you – we’re both so lucky to have seen it up close and personal I think. Been lovely to “hop” with you today!

  2. As the mother of 2 TCKs, your “About Me” struck a chord because I hear the same sort of stories from my children. My daughter also admits to feeling “stupid” when her friends start talking about American history or politics because it’s not something that she studied in her schools abroad. Speaking of which, where did you go to school in Switzerland? My children were day students at St. George’s in Clarens/Montreux.

    Happy Expat Blog Hop Day!

    1. I went to school in Lugano on the Italian border.
      You are right, there are usually “information gaps” when returning to passport country. I have plenty!
      Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Yes, Paris and particularly Notre Dame in the “off season”. A great city to wander around and explore. Perhaps one day I will make it to Switzerland as well – no specific area in mind at the moment.

  4. How funny, my husband is working in Nigeria, and as you say school options are limited, which is why I am with my kids in France and him there earning the pennies. I have never been to the Louvre, and have no excuse since I am only an hour and a half by train. Next stop for me i think. Lovely post.

  5. I have been to Paris a few times, and will always remember it fondly. Sadly never done more than look at the pyramid on the outside of the Louvre, but maybe next time! Nice to have met you via the blog hop.

  6. What a lovely story. I’ve been to the Louvre a number of times over my (not short) life. The first time was when we stayed with cousins who lived on a houseboat moored on the Seine right by the Pont Alexandre III. Every time I go back, which is not as often as I’d like, there’s something new to discover. You have to go to the Musée Cluny – small but perfectly formed.

  7. It makes all the difference when you feel you’ve unexpectedly seen something like that at its best. I often try to go to museums and galleries near to closing time – there may not be as much time to see but it’s quality time! Found you via the French blog hop.

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