Paris… Falling in Love Again

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Being completely honest, as is required in this job, I must say the last time I was in Paris I didn’t have the best of experiences.  Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that I never ventured out from the airport, but still, the amount of rudeness and underhandedness I experienced in an hour long layover, at Orly, was quite unbelievable.  As a matter of fact, the level of disdain I experienced there put me off for a full ten years from traveling to, or through, this mecca of romance.

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My husband, Dan, even had to coax me into going by mentioning all of the incredible art at the Louvre, the one museum I had really wanted to see in the EU.  I am exuberant to report that after my most recent trip, I happily stand corrected about Paris.  Today’s Paris has done a 180 degree turn on it’s heels.  People everywhere were polite and genuinely friendly.  I hadn’t ever known any other European city to be so open and friendly to tourists.  All of the people in Paris were so friendly it was absolutely shocking, but in a good way.

I think most people have heard that France, Paris in particular, being full of rude, racist and obnoxious people just lurking in the shadows, waiting for their opportunity to spew their venom on you.  Not so today, however, something tells me that was a more probable scenario before the internet took over.  Now because of the social aspect of the web, people have friends all over the world and it’s making a difference, a big difference.

Paris is certainly one of the capital cities of the Modern Age.  So much is going on 24/7, it’s dizzying.  It certainly rivals New York City for it’s pace, friendliness and style.  The only thing we didn’t see were blinking neon signs of those famous NYC “Open All Night” restaurants, but I bet they were there.  What with all the different attractions, incredible restaurants, mix of cultures and such a long history, you might need a year to just start to scratch the surface of all of the wonders that are Paris.

I realized something very important on this leg of our Europe trip.  The difference between my last trip to France and this one is simple.  Today’s French are really beginning to fall in love all over again…  with Paris, their country and the world, and why shouldn’t they?  The grandeur that is Paris can be seen in it’s magnificent palaces, museums, government buildings and the art that seems to be seeping from just about everywhere.  Also, the French are obsessed with lovemaking.  Well, again, they should be.   Didn’t they invent it or something?  After all, how sensual is it to be surrounded by the most famous architecture? How about the “ahh factor” of shopping in some of the most unique of boutiques or drink an award winning wine, neither of which need be the most expensive?   Mind you, if you want to go full tilt then there is a scotch that goes for $1200 USD per shot most recently consumed by our friend, Greg with his uncle in Paris.

Most people who have been to France understand when I say that there is a heaven on Earth and it’s the smell of the freshly baked baguettes, flakey croissants, and other treats on offer at the local patisserie.  It might as well be the equivalent of culinary Chanel wafting through the air first thing in the morning, or whenever you happen to be hungry.  It is downright Pavlovian.  It’s practically foreplay when you eat the oh-so-delicate, but rich, saucy French food, and of course parlez francais all the while, even if you’re messing up the words!  It’s no wonder that Paris is one of the cultural capitals of the world.  France, in general, certainly holds it’s own as one of the most amazing places on the planet.  Having a very good standard of living as well as the best health care system in the world really does make a difference in the way you experience your life.

Stories

We took the first class train from Brussels and arrived into the Gard Du Nord, (North Garage), on a high speed train that had WIFI available. (Dan was elated to have a decent internet connection).  Also, I should note that traveling by train first class is much easier and worth the extra couple hundred dollars you will spend.  We felt comfortable immediately in Paris because we were able to study the map to easily locate our accommodations. It was just a short walk from the station and on a quiet side street. Like something out of a movie, our host actually greeted us by name as we walked through the door.  He was incredibly nice and very helpful. He  made a point to give us plenty of good advice about where to find things like wipees, diapers and where to go to eat. Our room was small, but smartly decorated with the latest interior design textures and colors. Another thing that was nice, it used the limited space well.  All of the necessary amenities were to be found in it’s new bathroom , including a hair dryer, towel drying rack and the latest deco style sink.  The bedroom  had a work area with a desk and a solid internet connection, something you don’t always find when traveling in the EU. The windows looking out over the street really reminded you of the Bohemian Paris we have seen on the big screen.  We relaxed in the room for a couple hours before leaving to find our dining spot.  We both remarked how it was amazing to think that earlier that day we had been in Brussels and took two trains. It was a weird feeling.  Because of the closeness of all of the countries in Europe, we realized we had visited four countries in two days.

Our concierge gave us the name of a restaurant down the street that had tasty traditional food and really good service.  Our magical Parisian adventure began there when we sat next to two sisters and their brother at the communal eating table.  We began sharing stories and practicing our French with them. They spoke a bit of English, which made things fun. It seemed that the more wine the group consumed, the better everyone understood each other.  Certainly this was a tradition that was well proven all throughout Europe for the last several thousand years and probably helped to keep things peaceful most of the time between the different cultures.

After a couple hours of eating and making merry, we told them we were to meet a friend from California at the L’Arc de Triomphe at 11 a.m. the next day.  Emmanuelle, one of the sisters, said she would meet us and take us all on a bit of a tour.  She then divulged how much she loved the city and has written two books, both in French ,for the first time French visitor to Paris.  I know my eyes must have widened.  We were so excited because these were the only two days we had booked in Paris and we were concerned about having enough time to get a good overview of the city.  We were stunned by her generosity and couldn’t hardly wait to see where we would be exploring.

The next morning we wandered down to the metro and jumped a train out to The Arc. Every person we talked to was very friendly in helping us find our way around. An old man was so pleased he helped us find our way to the stairs to go to under the road to the Arc.  He said, in French, that he used to live in Florida for about twenty years and then moved back to Paris.  The L’Arc de Triomphe is quite large and is decorated with statues from many places.  We met Greg and Emmanuelle under it.  Both Dan and I thought that it seemed so surreal to actually be there. It had been a life long dream to visit Paris and it was already surpassing our expectations.

French Deli

French Deli

Our route around the city included a walk down to the Champs Elyees from the Arc and then to the Obelisk. Our new friend, Emmanuelle, took us to a small garden that was her favourite. It was a lovely little garden with plenty of colorful flowers. We also wanted to experience a local lunch meal. So, we went on a bit of an adventure on the Metro, to the little restaurant, across from the oldest home in Paris, which served whatever the chef wanted to cook that day. It was very good and really inexpensive for the quality and amount of food. Our meal included your choice of three entrees, a piece of fantastic chocolate cake and a drink for about 8 euros.   Please take notice that this place was so hidden that we would never be able to find our way back there without Emmanuelle.

We headed back to the Metro and found ourselves at the Lourve.  We walked through the courtyards in awe. The old palace was quite a building. Like most buildings it was between three and five stories high. It was covered in statues and windows. We passed through the few courtyards to get to the riverside. We found that it was just incredible how big this museum is in comparison with any other building around it.

Next it was on to Notre Dame where we explored a bit and took pictures of the statues.  Dan found it quite dark inside.  I stayed outside with our little girl. It was definitely a Paris landmark that needed to be seen. On the river below the church we took a boat ride up to the Effiel Tower and back.  We should have taken the Hop On / Hop Off boat so we could have gotten off there but there weren’t any available.  I would say to call ahead for that activity as they do book up quickly.

Back at Notre Dame we got off the boat and decided it was a good time to to head up to Montmarte and the Sacre Coeur Cathedral. We stopped in Montmarte and our Parisian Guide left us at the bottom of the hill. We promised to keep in touch and thanked her for the wonderful tour of the city.

The view from the cathedral is amazing and you can see a great deal of Paris from up there. The artistry on the roof of the cathedral is beautiful. Back down the hill a little ways there is an artists area where painters and sketchers were doing portraits. It was a bit touristy area but we sat down for a meal anyways. The meal prices were definitely a lot more up here then what we had so far.

As we passed through the tent to our seat I saw the crepes being served. They looked so good that I was thinking about getting one. My wife took the lead and ordered me pasta instead while I was out walking the little girl. This was a bit annoying since we head to Italy the next day for 3 weeks and I wanted to get in as much of the local dishes as possible. I sent the pasta back and got my crepes with the egg on top. It was enjoyed!

Unfortunately, one of my traveling companions left some important items in the restaurant’s seats while I was out walking with the girl. Although this traveling companion does not agree at all. It is still a point of contention. My hat, later to be known as Wilson, was lost in Montemarte for a day. It missed the train to Florence.

We wished our friend from California good night and took the metro back to our hotel. It was a wonderful 2 nights in Paris.

The next morning we caught a taxi early in the morning to Gare du Lyon for our journey into Italy.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe stands in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. It is an arch that honors those who fought for France during the Napoleonic Wars. It also houses underneath the tomb of the unknown soldier from WWI.

The Arc displays young french nudes against chain mail bearded German warriors. It is the second largest triumphal arch in existence at 162 feet tall and 148 feet wide. It is so large that a plane was able to fly through it and was captured on video. It was commissioned in 1806 after a victory of Napoleon at Austerlitz.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame first stone was begun in 1163 has been updated and modified each century since. The North and South Tower were completed in 1240 & 1250 respectively. The church is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

This model of Notre Dame is a scaled and is set with every detail as the real one. Reviewing this allows you to see the detail work that you are unable to see from the ground.

Lourve

Classical statues fill this gallery which is one of the few rooms that can be seen without paying an entrance fee to the museum. As heard in the audio this would be a great place to have a scene from a James Bond movie.

The museum is located by the river Seine in Paris and is the world’s most visited museum. It has an exhibition area of over 60,600 sq meters. The building was extended and added onto many times. It started as a fortress in the 12th century which is still visible. The latest addition which is the glass Pyramids give light to the lower reception and ticketing area.

Napoleon’s Obelisk

This obelisk was originally erected in front of the Luxor temple in the 13th Century BC. It was transported in the 19th century to Paris. Although it was attributed to Napoleon it didn’t arrive in Paris until 1836. This is one of the three obelisks that were given to the great western cities of New York, London and Paris.

Sacre-Coeur

The view from Sacre-Coeur Basilica is located at the top of Montmarte which is the highest point in the city. The basilica finished in 1913 has become a focal point for people to relax after a busy day and listen to music on the steps to enjoy that view.