May 7th – 10th 2013
When I made the decision to start travelling, I had also decided that Paris would be my first. In my mind it was perfect – that naïve perfect that a girl (or even some guy) might associate with thinking of other first times because every step is perfectly planned in their head from start to finish. I was going to start seeing the world and thought Paris would pop my travel cherry but, like many things in life, it didn’t quite work out that way.
So as we drove into Paris, I stared out the window – 3 years, 4 trips, 7 countries later – finding it hard to believe I was finally here. We started with a driving tour around the city at sunset and everything was absolutely gorgeous: the Arc de Triomphe as we drove around the crazy no-lanes-no-rules-round-about; the Champs Elysées in the middle of traffic; the golden accents on the buildings, fountain and obelisk at Place de la Concorde; the (literal) jaw-dropping magnificence of the Opera House; crossing a bridge over the Seine and the École Militaire that Napoleon attended. We were busy listening to the tour manager with the curtains on the right side of the coach drawn (to “prevent glare” he said) and I can’t think of a better reveal than when he thanked us for travelling with him and told us to open to curtains.
I didn’t think I could be any more excited than I already was until I saw the Eiffel Tower, standing in all it’s glory, just across the Champs de Mars. Staring agape at the famous landmark, I felt like the estrogen production in my body went into overdrive since every girly fiber of my being almost instantly wanted to cry. At the same time I got stupid excited (yes, stupid excited) and had no idea what to do with myself during the short drive over to the tower that just couldn’t happen fast enough for me. We got our tickets, and made our way up to the top in crowded lifts, which might be nerve-racking if you’re afraid of heights because the clear doors give you a full view of the long climb upwards. At night, when the city is brightly lit, it’s easy to make out the web-like structure of the roads and find the main arteries and major landmarks like the Arc and the Louvre. Pictures and the necessary bit of bubbly took about a half hour, then we started our descent which can be described in two words: endless staircase. It was one of the best first nights in a new place, ever.
Everything else you typically hear about this city of love and lights pretty much lived up to the hype. The people were fashionable, good-looking, dryly sarcastic and clearly appreciative if you spoke or tried to speak ‘un peu français’.
Notre Dame was without gypsy or hunchback, but was large and looming with historical gothic charm, and exuded warmth and reverence with mass just starting as we walked through.
The Louvre was impressive but was uncomfortably crowded, and it was hard to truly appreciate the works inside while people were constantly invading my personal space. I did see the Mona Lisa though, and I’m pretty sure she was crackin’ a smile at me and the rest of the pushy crowd that elbowed up to see her.
The Champs Elysées was rather grand, lined with flags, trees and stores galore. It was also lined with handsome policemen at one point, on May 8th, when it was closed for the VE/Liberation Day parade. It was quite a sight to see uniformed military troops in helmets with swords on horses, and I liked even more to hear all those horses walking down the pavement together as they slowly started to make their way up toward the Arc de Triomphe.
I was not expecting to be able to go up into the Arc, but am glad we did because there were great views and opportunities for panoramic photo ops during the day since our view from Eiffel Tower was at night.
Ladurée was my definition of dessert heaven, and it is really probably better that they do not have a location here in Miami because my inner fat kid would likely become an outer fat kid if they were anywhere near my house.
We explored the Montmartre neighbourhood a little, walking up a crowded touristy street with lots of souvenir shoppes and then taking the funiculaire up to the top of the hill. The brilliant view of Paris at sunset from the steps in front of the Sacré-Coeur, a brightly lit carousel, cozy little restaurants on winding inclined streets all added to the character of the area. We had our last dinner here at La Mère Catherine and I absolutely loved the ‘homey’ feel of the red and white checkered table cloths everywhere and was very pleased with the french onion soup, duck confit and profiteroles. And our waiter was cute too 😉
In between all that we also became pros at getting around on the Paris metro (my experience was also completed with being pick-pocketed as I got onto the train), went out to the Palace of Versailles (gold, gold and more gold), walked and had crepes at the Champs de Mars under the Eiffel (Nutella FTW), passed by the Moulin Rouge and ended our last night at a pub (O’Sullivan’s I believe).
In my three days spent here I have learned/realized the following things:
- In Paris, people watching is perfectly acceptable, especially while having a breakfast of croissants and pastries with jam, Nutella and/or cheese on the Champs.
- The French don’t so much care about where Waldo went… It’s “Où est Charlie?”
- Hold onto your belongings pretty much for dear life, because even if you aren’t being careless the pros are at work and can make you realize how much more attentive you need to be.
- Paris is not as practical to me as somewhere like London. It is very high maintenance and expensive and not somewhere I could see myself living. But it is certainly a place that brings out the girly side of me that craves all things pretty and sweet, and I wouldn’t hesitate to return for a visit.
For now though, it’s off (again) to Rome. Andiamo!