Monday, September 16, 2013

Paris, France

I don’t care how much of a cliche it is that I think that Paris is the most beautiful city in the world.

The cliche exists for a reason. Call it overrated, call it overhyped, it’s fabulous.

From its wide-open tree lined streets, to it’s consistently designed architecture to the wine, people, history and culture. It’s the city of love, it’s the city of lights, it’s the city I will forever for now call my favorite city in the world.

[History Lesson: Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world. Being the capital of France it’s been the focal point for many important political events throughout history. Today it’s one of the worlds leading business and cultural centers. It has a huge influence in politics, education, entertainment, media, science, fashion and the arts.]

There is a very convenient train that took us directly from Kaiserslautern to Paris in 2.5 hours. Then a 5-minute walk (plus a 25 minute detour thanks a moi) to our hostel. The hostel was a rather unsavory experience for us.  And not just because we had to share a room with 6 other people and a bathroom with 20 other people. I won’t go into the logistical rant of how awful it was- as I’ve already left an honest, unapologetic review on their site. Needless to say, next time we’ll pony up the dough for a hotel or apartment.

Paris has a free walking tour hosted by the same company we used in Amsterdam. We headed to Saint Michel for the starting point and were greeted by a man and his piano playing something fierce.

Saint Michel Fountain 
Piano Man
The tour lasted 3 hours and took us to all the major sites in Paris. Although since the city is so large, we never were too up close and personal to anything in particular.

After the tour, we headed down the Champs-Elysees towards the Arc de Triomphe to get a better view.

[History Lesson: The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars with their names inscribed on the inner and outer surfaces.]

After walking below the monument, we walked up the 284 steps to the top.

We walked up there!
The views were phenomenal and we later agreed it was our favorite thing we did in Paris.

View of the Champs-Elysees from the top of the Arc. 
Panorama from the top of the Arc.
More views from the top. 

 :) at the Arc.
Dan and I were most memorized by the roundabout surrounding the Arc and how unorganized it was. No lines, no rules. Utter chaos.

Something was going on- creating a massive traffic jam.
After enough giggling about it, we headed down Avenue I’Iena towards the Eiffel Tower. After taking pictures, we walked a few blocks to Rue Cler, which is well known for all its food markets. We bought a bottle of wine, quiche, croque-monsieurs and sweets. Back to the Eiffel Tower, where we found a bench in the Champ de Mars (the park below the Tower). We enjoyed dinner as the sun went down and the Eiffel Tower lit up.

Look what we found.
It sparkles for 5 minutes every night. 
Obligatory 'I'm here!' photo.  
*     *     *     *     *

The next morning we headed to Notre Dame. The queue appeared long but took us a quick 5 minutes to get inside. Notre Dame is celebrating its 850th anniversary this year, so there were many events, renovations and temporary instillations happening. The church was exactly what you’d expect from the Notre Dame- lavish architecture and beautiful stained glass. There was a mass in progress while we were inside as well.

The queue.

Stained glass inside the church. 
Next we headed to a bridge called Pont d’Arcole near the cathedral.

[When I went to Paris two years ago with Kelly I picked up this postcard. It’s a still shot from a French movie. I don’t know why, but I was captivated by it. Once I returned home, I framed it and have kept it with me ever since. I think it’s beautiful. So this trip, Dan humored me and we recreated the shot.]

The original.

The recreation. 

“I hate this.” I whispered to Dan.
“Oh yea, this is not fun.” He responded.

We were in the basement of a wine bar called O’Chateau with 20 other people for an hour long wine tasting. This place had rave reviews on multiple sites but it was not what we expected. The tastings were small and we learned nothing about French wine. The sommelier poured each tiny sample and then went around the table forcing prompted answers out of every person about the smell, taste, acidity, etc of each wine. He exuded the stereotype of a Frenchman. Rude, pompous and unaware of how uncomfortable he was making everyone. I’m glad we had the experience, but lesson learned.

A real glass of wine!
By the time we were finished with the tasting, the rain was coming down and the skies were gray. Determined not to let the rain ruin our day, we headed to Pont Neuf for a boat ride around the Seine River.

The route we took on the boat.
Selfie on the boat.

We ended our day in the city at Vins et Terroris for dinner. It was exactly what we needed after a day of sogginess and unmet expectations. It was a dim, cozy French restaurant. We each ordered a drink, Dan had the beef bourguignon and I the roasted duck, both with sautéed potatoes.  

Rainy weather wear.  
*     *     *     *     *

Day 3 brought us sunshine. Hooray! We walked from our hostel to Sacre-Coeur.

[History Lesson: Sacre-Coeur is a Roman Catholic Church dedicated to the sacred heart of Jesus. It’s located at the summit of Montmartre- the highest point of Paris.]

On the way to the church, we stumbled across an outdoor community flea market and that’s where our collection officially started.

As you remember in Amsterdam, we bought vintage army men at an antique shop. Then, while in Cologne we saw small metal army men in a pawnshop and bought those.

“Wouldn’t it be funny if we found army men amongst all this stuff.” I said.

Not 2 minutes later, I found 4 aluminum army men sitting on someone’s for sale table. Count it!

We didn’t go inside the Sacre-Coeur but took plenty of pictures of the outside and of the view of the city. Next we went to Moulin Rouge and then to the I Love You wall.

View from the steps of the Sacre-Coeur
Smooches on the steps of Sacre-Coeur. 

[History LessonThe I Love You Wall is a meeting place for lovers created by Frederic Baron. It includes 311 declarations in 250 languages on 612 tiles dedicated to love erected in the romantic garden on Square Jehan Rictus in Montmartre.]

I Love You Wall
Found the English! 
We had 5 hours to kill before our train back home, so we headed back to the Eiffel Tower. We were overwhelmed with the crowds and tourists of Paris and constantly being cattle called in this direction or that. So we decided to lounge. We bought a couple bottles of wine and a pizza and sat in the Champ de Mars to enjoy the afternoon.

Waiting for our pizza. 
Our lunch spot view.
 Great ending to our Parisian vacation!

Rainy day. View of the Seine.  
Paris love lock bridge and last scene of the series finale of 'Sex in the City'.

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