Saturday, April 21, 2012

(a better late than never) Recap on My Trip to Paris

Gosh, 3 girls, with 3 different ideas with how to spend our 3 days in Paris,..miraculously we actually all agree the trip went better than anyone could have expected! It was smooth, rather, smooth high speed sight seeing.

*to read my post on the food we ate in Paris, please visit the post here.


What I found interesting about site seeing in Paris was, we all knew the popular sites to visit, but we didn't really know why or how they gained such famous reputations, especially after visiting some of them. (In contrast, Rome's ancient and massive buildings, that if for no other significance, are still standing.)

Paris looks just like I'd imagined, ornate, elegant, manicured, and its buildings are in uniform tones. Parisian buildings were more austere than the other places I have traveled to in Europe, it's awesome to see all the variations between countries so close together.

Here is a lavender garden we found among many of the well manicured public gardens.

I found the Parisian stereotypes to be unfortunately accurate. One moment, you smell the scent of fresh baked bread, or sweet pastries, and the next moment, a rank garbage smell mixed with sewage smell hits you up the other nostril, followed by a trail of cigarette smoke. I thought the Parisians were unfriendly, especially in contrast to the Romans who seemed go out of their way to help you find your way when lost (which happened, a lot).

Parisian fashion was really nice. As in most of Europe, there were no natives walking around in tshirts, hoodies or tennis shoes, hell no. (Not gonna lie, I totally rocked them on airport travel days.) Parisians dressed primarily in neutral, darker tones, in classically formed apparel, blazers, sweaters, dressy pants, nothing too flashy. And while I'm sure we still stuck out like tourists, we did our best to blend in when we weren't brandishing our cameras at a monument.

Above is our first glimpse of the famed Eiffel Tower, which we found simply by following its towering magnitude. This was one monument the historian in me understood the importance of, as the entrance to the 1889 World's Fair, and at the time, was the largest building in the world. We wished we'd seen it at night, lit up and beaming golden, but that just wasn't in the cards.

My first impression once we got close, was that the Eiffel Tower is much bigger than I imagined.

The wait to go into the tower was about an hour. Once inside, we decided we definitely wanted to pay a couple of extra euros and make it all the way to the top, another hours wait, significantly windier and colder than on the ground.

The whole place was packed with tourists, bumping elbow to elbow, but the view was definitely worth the wait, and made me wish I'd gone to the top of St. Peter's while I'd been in Rome.

To reiterate, the view from the top was awesome, the whole of the city of Paris's magnitude was awesome, and the structure of the layout of the city added to the spectacular view. If you're going to go up to the top, make sure you allow about half of your day to do so!

We stumbled upon this view of the tower and carousel on our exit from the adventure. This was the best view we could find, it's amazing to see other people's pictures from the different possible angles, if only we'd had more time!

One thing about Europe I'm not a huge fan of, is the lack of readily available bathrooms...and water fountains for filling up my "green" reusable water bottle :) However, Paris had these glorified porta potties....self cleaning porta potties which despite having a slower turnover time, made my bladder happier.

The Louvre was sure a sight to see, it was massive, absolutely massive. The area around the Louvre was a beautiful walk, lots to see. 

Of all DaVinci's works, I find the Mona Lisa least inspiring, but I really wanted to see it anyhow. On our last day in Paris, we made it to the museum, to wait in line, for forever! Finally, up the stairs, to see the Mona Lisa, where again, we pushed our way through a massive crowd to get a quick peak at the painting. We wandered around the rest of the museum, just to get an idea of everything it held, and then were ready to leave within an hour. It's kinda like every other massive/famous museum, so unless you're a museum freak, I'd skip it and see more of Paris.

Anna (which one? lol) found this amazing blog, Oh Happy Day, full of Parisian traveling adventures, and added this shop to add to our list. It was such a cute and colorful craft shop. I didn't buy anything, but did take pictures, which the clerks asked me to NOT do, and I also got in trouble for sitting down near the door (I was exhausted, and the girls were busy shopping, so I just wanted to be quietly resourceful. Not in Paris!)

I have to say, my disappointment of the trip, was the Moulin Rouge. It wasn't cute and vintage, like I'd pictured, it was bold and flashy, in a cheap way. Plus, the whole neighborhood was sketchy and it didn't help we'd gotten off the metro a couple stops early, and were out numbered to creepy men 50:1.

I have never felt so scared, walking down the street in broad daylight, elbow to elbow with friends (Amsterdam during high school was freaky for me too...wrong turns aren't fun). Below, gives you an additional image of the streets, lined with sex shops, in mass quantities. Probably more on that street, that in the entire Midwest of the US?

After our unenchanted walk to the Moulin Rouge, we saw what we thought must be a mosque, on a hill. Our curiosity got the best of us, and off we went to find out what it was. Turns out, it was definitely not a mosque, but Sacre Coeur, a Catholic Basilica, at the highest point in the Montmartre district. Climbing the endless steps to the top was an adventure on it's own. The steps were littered with people, seated on the steps, heavily drinking wine, beer and looking onto the view down below. The trek was worth it, and the inside was amazing (no pictures were permitted). We were moved to tears, as church was in session and French nuns were singing, the poetic French sounds were like heaven had come down for a visit. It made getting lost totally worth it :)

Image above was found here, since I didn't get my own :(
One regret we all had, was not stopping at one of the restaurants down the way from the basilica for dinner, instead deciding to eat our fresh bread and cheese we purchased earlier. All of the little cafes looked amazing, everyone was eating outside in little tables and chairs, like out of a movie!

Notre Dame is huge, impressive, magnificent and stern. I was really glad we went to see it. Going inside wasn't worth it to me, though it was quick and free.

More enjoyable for us than Notre Dame itself, was the area all around the island, arched bridges, cute shops, amazing sorbet, musicians & dancers on the streets...We could've spent the rest of our trip there, eating picnics and watch everything going on!


Summary for friends traveling to Paris with limited time (ie: the lovely Erin):

I recommend skipping the Arc de Triomphe and unless you love art museums, skip going into the Lorvre, but peak at the outside. Don't go to Moulin Rouge past dark alone.

I would highly suggest going to the Île de la Cité where Notre Dame is located (by the way, you need to get a metro pass, unless you want to pay for a cab) and walk around, get some Bertillion sorbet, and soak up some sun. I would also recommend going to see the Eiffel Tower, maybe research a less busy time to arrive and do that first? And finally, if time permits, go to Sacre Coeur and sit down for a meal at a cafe, after popping into the church ;)

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