I took myself on a vacation to France this last weekend, which was an amazing and completely wonderful trip! Nothing like submitting a half-assed dissertation draft before taking off for a few days… to Paris, no less :).
I found the sun, I found great wine, I found great food and, most importantly, I found the Eiffel Tower. It was kind of hard to miss.
I also found that French people were definitely not as rude as I have been told… but maybe it was because I made an effort to speak French and wasn’t an obnoxious tourist. There were a lot (a lot) of those.
My hostel was located near Sacre Cour, which was a beautiful cathedral with an impressive panoramic view of the city. You could see from Notre Dame all the way to the Eiffel Tower, and as I explored Paris I got to know all the places I had seen from atop the steps of Sacre Cour.
Of course, my first day was also an intro into the art of navigating the countless souvenir vendors who would shove things in your face or, to my deep chagrin, actually grab your arm to show you whatever it was they wanted you to buy.
No. Nope. Nuh-uh. I guarantee that no matter where you come from or where you live now, grabbing a strange woman on the arm is literally never going to be ok. That garnered a couple ‘fuck offs’ from me and off I was, permanent bitch-face on as I navigated the city. Much different than Ireland, where a smile and a ‘hello’ are commonplace between strangers.
I have never seen so many damn selfie sticks being sold or used in my entire life… I hate them!
Moving on. I took my little map of the city my hostel kindly provided me and walked all over the city, topping first at the Louvre. The line was huge but it was completely worth it! Seeing all that history and such incredible works of art was truly amazing. I definitely got lost a few times in the labyrinth of halls and certainly missed a few rooms, but got to see many great things.
I could have walked around the Louvre for ages, but there was more of Paris to be seen!
I headed down the Champs Elysees, a favorite of my mother’s and a place I wish I could travel down with her. There were trees, there were bakeries, there were ice cream shops! No complaints from me. The Arc de Triumph was visible from the Louvre and only got more impressive as I got closer.
Walking the steps to the top of the Arc de Triumphe was pretty awesome. Watching the tourists try and dodge the traffic in the roundabout below? Humorous, especially because there was a well-signposted tunnel leading right to the base of it :).
From the Arc I had a bead on the Eiffel Tower and proceeded to meander my way there, via couple French cafes. The coffee (and pastries) are fantastic!
The Eiffel Tower is probably my favorite place in Paris, and not because it’s romantic or an impressive feat of engineering. The Eiffel Tower was the thing that whenever I caught a glimpse of it, I smiled. I could see a hundred cathedrals or sit in numerous cafes eating delicious things and still not be as personally excited as I was when I saw this silly building with (literally) thousands of tourists waiting to ascend it.
As impressed as I was and continue to be by the Eiffel Tower, I declined waiting in line to go up top and instead enjoyed it from a sunny bit of grass down below, crepe in hand!
Walking through Paris is a lesson in living history. Around every corner there is another building to be discovered, another corner where history took place. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t humming the songs in Les Miserables the entire time ;-).
When walking and trying to communicate in a language I didn’t know became too much, the Seine was where I headed. The river was crowded with tourist boats but the walk along the riverside was peaceful, beautiful and quiet.
I did a ton of walking in Paris, to the point where I walked a hole in my shoe. On one of the days I was there I tried to make my way out of the city (why oh why do all bus and train stations smell like pee?) on a wee day trip literally anywhere, but couldn’t afford to get there because of the crazy prices of travel during the summer in France. Apparently traveling about requires more planning than this weekend warrior was willing or able to put in… so I got a city ticket, picked a line and got on! Long-ish story short, I found a sports shop, bought a pair of ballet flats that totally looked like old Chinese grandma shoes and also found a sweet little rucksack on sale to boot. That’s the shopping I did in France!
And food… there was so much delicious food! (Pardon the food pictures, but you don’t get to eat in France every day)
Another adventure was taken to Notre Dame, of course. The cathedral was incredible, but what wasn’t incredible was the insane line snaking out the door. My feet or brain weren’t up for an hour or two wait to get in, so I explored what lay underneath Notre Dame- the original foundations of Paris.
The catacombs of Notre Dame show some of the original roads, gates, and buildings that existed before Paris was Paris. There were Roman ruins and old docks that show how the landscape of Paris has changed over many hundreds of years. Pretty cool if you ask me!
My last adventure was to the palace of Versailles. Once again the lines to get into the actual palace itself were off-putting, at least for me! I was satisfied (for now) with observing the beautifully decorated exterior and just imagining what opulence must lay inside. I took myself on a much cheaper tour of the Versailles gardens, which were immense! I had to think, if Marie Antoinette hadn’t been so laden down with skirts and nonsense she could have hid in there for the duration of the Revolution. But… maybe not.
All in all my trip to Paris was wonderful. I walked my feet off, discovered the metro and got to see some incredible things. I ate great food, and my only regret is not drinking more wine (yum) or knowing what cheese to pair with what (or how to order it in French). I ate many great meals, drank spectacular cups of coffee and had wonderful interactions with people. Next time I’ll try to go when the weather is still lovely, but when there’s not so many tourists about!