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When my mother first brought up the idea of adding a few days in Paris to our trip, I heard nothing but mediocre things. “Paris is dirty,” “I hated it there,” “anymore than three days and you’ll want to get out of there.” Even the weather network lied to me, telling me to expect rain and cool temperatures. I even bought new rubber boots for all the rain I was anticipating between Paris and Dublin! (Luckily they’re cute.) I was starting my trip with low expectations; almost looking ahead to Florence.
Everyone seemed to be so down in the mouth about France, that I was overcome by how much I fell in love with this city. But how could I not, when this is where I was sitting as started writing this entry.
Getting here was what some in my family might call a royal shag-around. Those direct-to-Dublin flights are great when they’re cheap but they’re not cheap forever, and it ended up being hundreds of dollars cheaper for us to fly to Toronto and back to Dublin. Saving a couple hundred bucks sounds great until you’re part way through your trip and your tailbone hurts from sitting and your brain hurts from lack of sleep and the sitting and dehydration make your feet swell. Add a mad dash across the Dublin airport to make our flight to Paris and by the time we were heading to our hotel, I was too tired to care.
At least until we got into the city.
We dragged our luggage up the metro steps, along St. Germain and finally up Rue Thénard to our hotel, Hotel College De France. It was the perfect place: small and quaint, tucked away just off the main street, but centrally located, and the staff were very kind, courteous, and helpful. We fell in love with our fifth floor balcony.
After dropping our stuff off, we explored our area, the Latin Quarter, looking for food. There were several little back streets and each one was more quaint and packed with interesting places than the last. It was during this wandering that we discovered exactly how close we were to the Notre Dame cathedral, stumbling upon it unexpectedly. It really was a sight to behold, and I think it was that moment that it hit us through the exhaustion – my God, we’re in Paris!
The next day, after catching up on some much needed sleep, we got up and went straight for a tiny crêperie that we had spotted the night before. The selection had me all but drooling, but in the end I went with a simple classic: banana and nutella! Mom used to laugh at me for all the talk I did about the food we were going to eat, but I’m not going to go to some of the top culinary areas in the world and not focus on that as much as architecture and history! That would be just silly.
So naturally I also bought macarons that afternoon.
After we ate, we headed back to Notre Dame so we could actually go through the cathedral and marvel at its wonder. I honestly have no words to describe how beautiful and amazing it was. Everything was something, there was no part of the building that wasn’t adorned with some angel or gargoyle or knight or some other architectural wonder. It is a constant shame and heartbreak to me that my hand is so shaky that church interior pictures are all but useless. Well, maybe not that bad, but they’re not great.
The cathedral may have been bigger than any other I’ve seen in my life. It just seemed to keep going back and back, each arch, each chapel, each stained glass window different and more beautiful than the last.
We took our time wandering the halls, taking in all the art, perusing their treasuries, listening to a practicing choir, and sitting in the chairs they had laid out in lieu of pews. A gentleman handed us sheet music for the hymns set for the service that was evidently about to start. We debated on whether to stay and take it in or not, but we decided against it in the end. You can’t do everything when you only have a couple of days in Paris.
We came back that night, after delicious gyros from one of the 3 billion hole-in-the-wall Greek joints there, and took in the cathedral all lit up, and discovered that while Paris is always in movement, it seems to really come alive at night. We stayed out, dodging the street vendors insisting that they had a sale and trying to push a selfie-stick into my hand (no thank you). When everything closed around midnight, we headed back to our room. Luckily we were just as in love with being in our room with our French doors thrown open as we were with being on the street.
The next day was Mother’s Day, so naturally we did what Mom wanted to do: head up the Eiffel Tower. After reading about long lines and wait times and all that jazz, we decided to book a “tour” that was really just a timed ticket and a guide who took you to the door and gave you some history about the tower. Our ticket even included a trip to the summit! Being scared of heights, this left me torn between excitement and pure terror. But in the end, I’m glad I did it.
After all, I’d had pain au chocolat to give me courage before the trek. (The first of two that day.)
The tower itself, much like the church, left me lost for words. It was grandeur at its finest. So huge in every aspect, it made five foot me feel very small indeed. From the top, we could see all the landmarks of Paris: Notre Dame, the Pantheon, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe… each famous point stood out among the rooftops of the city.
Eventually we left to head towards the Arc de Triomphe. It was so neat to have the tower looming over us as we walked away. It almost reminded me of how you can see Signal Hill from most parts of St. John’s.
We took the metro from the Eiffel Tower to the Arc de Triomphe. As we headed towards our train, I was surprised to feel a tug on my purse. Some little kid was trying to get into it! He stared at me, clearly surprised that he had been caught. Luckily, I have a Travelon anti-theft purse, and he couldn’t get into it. They’re not the prettiest purses in the world, but I was very thankful in that moment that I had dished out for one!
We got to the Arc as it was getting dark, and we were both a little frazzled at having been the subjects of a pick-pocket attempt, so I’m afraid to say it wasn’t as enjoyable for us as it should have been. But nonetheless, it was beautiful lit up for the night.
Our final goal of this evening was to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. I was so glad we headed back to see it, because it wasn’t until seeing this that I fully realized the romance of the city. Despite the crowd of people gathered to harass you into buying mini towers, or selfie sticks, or a number of other things, and despite how obnoxiously touristy some people can be (I make it a goal to at least try and blend), this city really is romantic and beautiful and since I left my boyfriend at home, I fell in love with the city instead.
On our last day we had planned on a 7 am rise, and battling the crowds to get into the Louvre. But we had exhausted ourselves at this point and decided that we’d try to get there by noon and follow some helpful instructions that I had read on the internet to shorten our wait time.
So at noon on the dot, we walk through the Richelieu passage, past the pyramids where hundreds of people were waiting to get in, down the left arm of the building until we come across the porte des lions. Here, we found an entrance where there was nobody. I mean nobody. We walked in the door, walked through security, bought our tickets and were in the Italian painters wing within two minutes.
I knew seeing some of the bigger works would be hard, but I was not prepared for how frustrated I would be trying to see the Mona Lisa. It honestly felt like I was the only one there to look at it. Everyone else had a camera, phone, or stick in front of their face, and while I won’t try and tell you that I didn’t take a couple of pictures myself, I really did try and look at her and take it all in. At least until I was jostled out of the way.
We spent all afternoon at the Louvre, taking a break for a bite to eat at a nearby cafe. But when it comes down to it, you need days to even come close to seeing all the wonders housed in the Louvre. We saw what we could, and I have a reason to come back.
From the Louvre, we caught the Batobus and just rode it all the way around their route on the Seine, checking out parts of the city that we hadn’t seen yet. It was a nice, peaceful way to spend our last afternoon in Paris as the sunlight was starting to die.
For the rest of the evening, we just went back to exploring the streets we had fallen in love with. It was a tough goodbye, but I couldn’t be too heartbroken, because my next stop was Florence.