Ahh Paris!! I loved, loved Paris. We had the opportunity in July 2008 to visit the City of Lights when my dad also took all seven of his children and their spouses to Europe for several weeks. I think I checked off many of the items on my bucket list at one time.We arrived at the Charles De Gaulle airport and finally figured out how to take the train and Metro to the Marais area of Paris (4th arrondissement) where our hotel was located and got a few strange looks and a few laughs when we asked for directions to Rue des Mauvais Garcons-which was across the street from Hotel de Ville. There was so much going on the day we arrived-can you say chaos?
We went to see the Arc De Triomphe-the traffic around it is crazy on the Champs-Élysées. What an amazing piece of architecture and history. It is a monument to those who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars and is inscribed with all their names. It is also the the burial site for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
The next major site we saw was the Eiffel Tower. We waited in line forever to see the Eiffel Tower and it was after 9 pm when we all got done. It was the summer solstice so there a huge rave going on in the park next to the Eiffel tower. This was one of the biggest party of the year so it was really loud and crowded. Also several of the games leading to the World Cup soccer were also going on and some of the people got really upset when their teams lost, which lead to pounding on the Metro car window and terrifying moment when it shattered.
We finally got back to our room, which was almost comedic. My husband and I had to share a room with my sister and her husband due to an accidental overbooking. The room had four single beds (not twins). My poor brother in law is over 6′ so his feet hung over the end of the bed and he was too tall for the miniature shower. We had the room on the top floor so fortunately we had our own bathroom with a toilet and shower. We also had a 6″ television but only channel we could get was playing Rambo in French. But the room was clean and the hotel staff were pleasant even with my limited French conversationally skills. I can read and translate most signs, menus, etc but since I don’t speak French regularly at home I had to speak really slowly and French people speak really fast.
The next day we got up early in order to beat the crowds at Notre-Dame. There was a hilarious man dressed up like Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo. He imitate people walking down the street and then would hide and jump out and scare people. After waiting in a short line we climbed the 387 circular steps to the top, noting the Gargoyle drain spouts and then continuing to the belfry to see the bells, including the Emmanuel Bell, which weighs over 13 tons.
Then we took the Metro to the beautiful, white Sacre-Coeur de Montmarte and climbed even more stairs. It was amazing to actually see these place in real life. I think this was the first time I ever saw a pay-for-use, self-cleaning, public toilet (ok I know it was). Later that day was took a relaxing Seine River Cruise.
The next day we spent at the Louvre. After studying Art, Art History and French for years in school seeing the Mona Lisa and other great works of art was a surreal experience. I was simply overwhelmed with emotions as I stood in front of each painting with tears streaming down my face. Honestly, I don’t know why it affected me so much.
We spent our last day in Paris at the Château de Versailles. It is about 12 miles outside of Paris. It was converted from a hunting lodge to a royal palace by Louis XIV (le Roi-Soleil). The gardens are beautifully maintained and impeccably manicured. The interior is amazing and extremely extravagent. I wish we would have had time to see more of the fountains, pools and Marie Antoinette’s smaller house.
Tip: All of the area outside of Versailles is cobblestones, as is much of Paris so good quality walking or athletic shoes are strongly recommended.
I loved Paris and would love to go back one day and see more of France and Europe!