How much butter is in a single piece of croissant? The answer: ignorance is bliss. Sitting in Paris’ la Maison Angelina, the question is not ‘to eat or not to eat’? It’s how many do I eat? But the real treat of the visit is Angelina’s hot chocolate, so rich, decadent, and internationally acclaimed, that many have said it is the best in the world. Yes, one does not go Paris to lose weight.

This indulgence in a cup, however, is too indulgent, that I would recommend moderation. And I’m an avowed chocolate lover. Sharing is ok, in this case. The main message from this café girl is, stop by Angelina if you’re in Paris. It’s quite an experience. Decorated like the inside of some palace and lit by a sunroof, the ambiance is perfect for a brunch-type of outing, although I’m sure dinner there would be just as delightful.

But by all means, France is a pastry heaven, so walk in to the ubiquitous boulangeries.

Musée du Louvre is obviously famous because of that lady in the painting. Tourists visit by the droves to take endless snaps of paintings and statues, which quite frankly, mean very little after the exit door. But if you go southwest from the Louvre, across the Seine River, there’s another splendid museum that will give an entirely different experience, guaranteed.

Located on the bank of the river, Musée d’Orsay is a brilliant transformation of what used to be Gare d’Orsay, a train station operating in the early 1900s. But the edifice is a mere treasure box that houses a most impressive collection of impressionist paintings. It is currently my absolute favorite place in Paris. Standing in front of masterpieces by Monet, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh, Cézanne… it just does something to your soul. They were truly, truly brilliant. I wonder what it’s like to live inside their heads for a day. I love Edgar Degas’ ballet paintings in particular.

Cameras are not allowed inside, which, I think, elevates one’s appreciation of the arts. All you do is look and be awed. The classy atmosphere created by this restriction is particularly enjoyable. On a side note, the éclairs on the 5th floor café are also very good (the chocolate ones).

Quite serendipitously, I read this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer just last night in a book I’m reading, which eloquently captures the essence of artistic experiences.

Interpreting is generally one of the most difficult problems. Yet, our whole thinking process is regulated by it. We have to interpret and give meaning to things so that we can live and think. All of this is very difficult. When one doesn’t have to interpret, one should just leave it alone. I believe that interpretation is not necessary in art. One doesn’t need to know whether it is “Gothic” or “primitive,” etc., persons who express themselves in their art. A work of art viewed with clear intellect and comprehension has its own effect on the unconscious. More interpretation won’t lead to a better understanding of the art. One either intuitively sees the right thing or one doesn’t. This is what I call an understanding of art. One should work diligently to try to understand the work while looking at it. After that one gets the absolutely certain feeling, “I have grasped the essence of this work.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Eric Metaxas, Bonhoeffer, p. 51-52.

I came away with this: the art is a crucial component of humanity.

Looking out from the clock on the 5th floor of Musee d’Orsay.

Vaux le Vicomte to Versailles is like d’Orsay to the Louvre. Less tourists, smaller in size, but just as grand and classy. Château de Vaux le Vicomte is somewhat of a precursor to Versailles. It is the castle that inspires the architecture of the royal palace. Located an hour outside Paris in the countryside, the castle stands in front of an expansive garden, all lit by candle lights on Saturday nights. It was simply gorgeous.

Of course, social class divisions are evident in the architecture, with the separation between the “upstairs” area, where each room is ridiculously decorated, and the “downstairs” kitchen, 18th century equivalent of a humungous garage, and even jail cells to detain, perhaps, trespassers or criminals. Also, with no electricity, the place is dark. I wonder how life was there centuries ago.

If you have a lot of money, you can have a wedding there, like the formerly married Eva Longoria and Tony Parker. Please invite me.

The Eiffel, the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Sacré-Cœur, and Notre Dame are all grand and magnificent, but this time in Paris, I was struck by these three.