Ah, Paris! What can I say that would adequately capture the adoration that grew for you in three short days? I first met Paris 12 years ago on a weekend visit while studying abroad in London. After two days I was convinced I would never return for all the wrong reasons. I had missed my flight, gotten lost in the city for several hours looking for a cheap, run-down hostel, didn’t speak a word of French, and just went on the assumption that everyone would speak English and jump at the chance to help an ill-prepared American girl. To put it lightly, I was young, still afraid of travel, and somewhat ignorant. So, when the chance to visit Paris a second time presented itself I had a brief moment of hesitation followed by excitement and a firm commitment to give Paris the chance it deserved the first time around. I now completely understand why so many people are in love with this beautifully romantic city of light. After three of the most action packed days of our journey, I couldn’t be happier with all the things we were lucky enough to see and experience. My son has a new favorite city now as well. So, who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be visiting him there!
I knew our stay in Paris would be nothing short of a dream once we reached our apartment, a bohemian style flat in Montmartre, the artists’ district and former home to Victor Hugo, the author of my favorite book of all time, Les Miserables. Our flat was ideally situated with a direct view of the Eiffel Tower and across from a former pub where artists Monet and Picasso would have drinks. With so much art surrounding us it was impossible not to be inspired. Montmartre invokes the classic mental image of Paris that most people probably have before arriving…accordion players on the sidewalk, artists drawing portraits or capturing the surrounding scenes in watercolor, cafes with outdoor terraces providing a view of the night while patrons eat mussels, escargot, and sip French wine. Think of any romantic French movie scene…that is Montmartre.
As soon as we arrived in Paris we hit the ground running and made our way to the city center for a long walk around the Musee de l’Armee and then to the Champs-Elysees for some window shopping and people watching. Champs-Elysees is basically the Rodeo Drive of Paris, with all the top designer shops lining the street. Ferraris and Lamborghinis are kept waiting for people willing to drop 120 euro for a test drive. In one word…posh. Very, very posh.
At the end of Champs-Elysees is the Arc de Triomphe, which is totally worth visiting for the gorgeous views of the city and Eiffel Tower. In case you don’t already know, the Arc de Triomphe is exceptionally tall at about 50 meters and I climbed all of about 1000 spiral steps (ok, maybe only 284 to be exact) to get to the top, despite my extreme disappointment that there is not, in fact, an elevator built within this 180 year old structure to get you to the top. After a brief rest break about half way up due to thinking I was going to die otherwise, we reached the top and were rewarded with a perfectly gorgeous 360 degree view of the city.
No trip to Paris would be complete without visiting some of its remarkable churches. In my travels I’ve come to find that there is scarcely more beautiful a structure to be found than a Gothic or renaissance style church. The architecture alone is awe inspiring. Combine that with intricately designed stained glass windows and ornately decorated statues and you really can’t find a more lovely place. And you certainly don’t have to be religious to enjoy or appreciate the beauty, serenity, and solace that a church provides. While in Paris we visited Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacre-Coeur, and Saint-Chapelle. While Notre Dame holds unparalleled history, the beauty of Saint-Chapelle, in my opinion, cannot be matched.
Who goes to Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower? Anyone? However, unlike the Arc de Triomphe, this time we had an elevator to take us almost to the top with only a couple of flights of stairs to reach the summit. A moment of thanks and silent reverence is warranted for the Eiffel Tower elevator alone. There really isn’t anything I can say about the Eiffel Tower that hasn’t already been said by a million others. The size is completely overwhelming and the view from the top is incredible. The fun fact I found most interesting was that at one point Gustav Eiffel had an apartment at the top of the tower where he would have exclusive parties inviting guests like Thomas Edison and other scientific geniuses of the time.
Next on the list was a visit to the Louvre. Having gone to the Louvre during my previous visit, and being pretty exhausted from our nonstop foot action, I enjoyed a relaxing break by the grand basin pond in the Jardin des Tuileries while my son went to take a selfie with the Mona Lisa. While there, I was reminded of sitting in the same spot 12 years earlier also taking a break from the busyness of the day. Only, this time it was much more enjoyed and appreciated.
We made our way to Les Catacombs for an eerie walk through the Parisian underbelly of more than 6 million nameless, bony remains. After a lengthy descent down a narrow, claustrophobia inducing, spiral 130 step stair case, we walked for about a mile through winding underground tunnels before reaching the areas where the remains were housed. I have to be honest here…I’m not sure what I was expecting other than bones. Maybe I thought I’d see a tortured ghost or two moving along the corridors, or that a restless skeleton would jump out to give us a spook. Either way, after about two or three rooms of bones, I was done. The only problem was that there were about 20 rooms of bones and another mile of underground pathways followed by about 200 more narrow, spiral stairs to climb (ok, again, maybe only 83 this time) to get back out. But my motto for any attraction is this…if you don’t go you won’t know.
Overall, our time in Paris was absolutely remarkable and, perhaps, my favorite of our European stops. The people of Paris were welcoming, helpful, friendly, and appreciative of even the slightest attempts to use the French language. Never underestimate how far a simple “bonjour” or “merci” will get you. We made the most of every moment, being out of the house early every morning and never back until after midnight. We left Paris completely exhausted and absolutely in love! Nothing shines quite as brightly as this lovely city. I’m certain that the last words of our Parisian love story are not “the end” but, “to be continued”. Until next time, y’all, thanks for stopping by!