Friday, November 9, 2012

Bonjour, Paris!

Paris is wonderful.
It has so much history, is devastatingly romantic and is classic.
I felt incredibly under-dressed everywhere we went, but everyone we met was kind.

We arrived in the afternoon and started off Paris right with a picnic nearby the Louvre.
Our apartment was just down the street and the people watching was world class.
The PDA was also out of this world. I often didn't know where to look.
We toured the heart of Paris by visiting Notre Dame Cathedral which houses famous gargoyles and a mesmerizing stained-glass windows. In front of the facade, is "Point Zero" which is the center of France. The point from which all distances in France are measured.
Dinner was incredible: boeuf bourguignon and crème brûlée.

We strolled through the Latin Quarter (fun neighborhood) visiting little shops like Shakespeare and Company bookstore.
So pretty.

Our apartment was hysterical.
We grabbed it last minute and it was an incredible deal ($66 a night!) AND it was a few minutes walk to the Louvre.
Along with a teeny elevator and darling courtyard, our apartment was akin to a closet.
Barely livable for one person, let alone two for six days.
Our bathroom was down the hall which consisted of just a toilet and a timer light that often went out too early. (Above right: tiny water closet.)
No, your eyes are not deceiving you. I can touch both walls with my arms.
Our sleeping situation was the saddest funniest part of the trip.
A previous renter called the room a capsule.
This was our version of a hostel.
Sleeping on a twin bed.

The room extended to include a small sink, shower and microwave.
It still gives me giggles just thinking about it.

In its defense, the location was killer. (The President of France had a parade down our street!)
But wow, it was cramped.

Les Puces de Saint-Ouen is the largest flea market in the world.
It had knick knacks of all kinds, including vintage stamps.
I wish we had more time to explore and find treasures, but it was starting to get dark and the flea market is in a bad part of town.
This nutella crepe was delectable. The maker used to live in New York and had some good advice for us. 
(Biggest advice: get out of that neighborhood.)
We were lucky enough to go to church while we were in Paris.
The main sacrament meeting is in French and it is translated to a different room for English and Mandarin.
It was a wonderful meeting and my favorite talk was from a missionary from Canada who was called to Paris- Mandarin speaking.
delightful macaroon shop | the most menacing policemen ever
political demonstrations on our street | parade for the new president on our street
The streets of Paris are perfectly charming, especially in the neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower.
The big Kahuna.
I did not "get" the Eiffel Tower before. I thought it was cheesy, lame and cliche.

OK, OK, I get it.
I fell for the Eiffel Tower instantly.
I too wanted Eiffel Tower t-shirts, key chains and underpants. Gimme, gimme!
We timed our visit perfectly to see the magic of the tower in all three lights. (It is kind of far away from other sites in Paris, so we wanted to hit it in one trip.)

We saw it in daylight, hiked the 669 steps to the top (yep, we hiked steps again and this one was a killer) and watched the sunset from the observation deck, all before rushing down in time to watch it sparkle at 10 p.m.
The field just around the tower was perfect for a picnic and people watching.

A charming town troubador played on a guitar and sang for hours.
One of my favorite moments was when he played Wonderwall by Oasis and the entire crowd chimed in. 
All of the sudden we all felt interconnected, a bunch of strangers from who knows where singing along to 90s English rock. I adored it. 
OK, cheese-fest officially over.

Forgive my sideways video. I just discovered the video option on my camera and turned it thinking I would rotate it later.
Yep, can't rotate a video. D'oh!

At least it sparkles!
                                                      picnics | delicious French pastries
the souvenir that got away | freezing

France has wonderful parks, ripe for picnics.
You can actually get fined in Italy for eating near monuments, so we took full advantage of parks and picnics in France.
On the third day, it was freezing and we were the only fools dumb enough to picnic.
It was just us and crows the size of small children (in the top left photos).
Our streak of good weather turned sour and we began to freeze.
My biggest travel regret was not bringing a warmer jacket.
It was wet, windy and moody.

The sun peeked out for us long enough to stroll the Avenue des Champs-Élysées a famous street known for expensive shops and cafes, shopping and futuristic car showrooms.

The Arc de Triomphe is a monument at one end of the street.
Once again we hiked a spiral staircase for a view of the city.
It was especially chilly at the top.
I was bundled, looking cold when another traveler noted how cold I looked and asked if I was used to the weather. 
I replied, "Actually, I'm from Utah so I understand cold."
We discovered he was also from Utah, his travel companion and I went to HS together (different years) and our parents live in the same neighborhood. We exchanged travel stories and a few laughs.

The next morning we hit Versailles and finished off our Paris adventures at the Louvre museum.
The massive art collection is housed in a former chateau that spans more than 652,000 square feet.
Not familiar? DaVinci code fans might recognize the pyramid. Thankfully, no one was murdered for the secrets of Christianity while we were there. Dodged a bullet on that one.

The Louvre is a cultural buffet. Come early, wait in line, indulge for hours and leave feeling stuffed.
Do not expect to see everything or even try. It is just too big.
Do, however, grab the Paris Museum Pass. We walked right passed the line and were whisked right in.

We did a highlights tour and then picked a couple sections to explore.
 Venus de Milo |  Winged Victory of Somathrace 
 Just a few of the 35,000 artifacts housed in the Louvre, including the largest painting in the museum.
The Mona Lisa.
I am probably the only tourist who was overwhelmed by the painting.
I kept hearing how tiny it was and how it didn't live up to people's imaginations. Plus, da Vinci traveled with the painting so I assumed it was small like a 8x10.
We once again fought the crowds for this one. I'm glad we did.
Our final dinner in Paris was hilarious.
We ate at Le Marché , a small restaurant with cozy tables.
The table of Germans next to us recommended a couple of things, including the beef appetizer.
That turned out to be RAW meat. That red in the top photo, that is beef.
Jacob is a champ and ate it, probably to save face because we had no idea it would be raw.
Watching him eat it was enough for me.

We stopped by a darling candy shop for treats and gifts before falling asleep one last time in Paris.
Le Marché exterior.
The next day, we bid au revoir to Paris.
After three weeks in Italy and France, it was time to head home.

I could have kept going. 
After a while it felt like eating good food, visiting museums and planning what historical sights we would see is just what we do now. But reality must come.

It was the best trip of my life.
It was wonderful. 
And I can't wait for our next adventure.


  1. My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to france(i think just paris though) italy and switzerland. We will be there for 16 days or so. I have loved your info on the area. It's been helpful. When did you guys go? It looked cold

  2. Hi Taylor,

    That sounds like a great trip! We traveled at the end of April through May 18. It was perfect weather in Italy 9(except for some serious rain in Florence). But it was really cold in Paris. We kept hearing that it was unseasonably cold, but I would definitely take a good, waterproof jacket. It was nippy.

    Good luck and have a wonderful trip,



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