Paris has been on my must see list for years. Look at this view!
Bill came home from work on evening and said, "would you like to bring your Dad to Paris?" His wife died earlier this year, then he had double knee replacement, with a long recovery. An adventure would be good for him. For us.
So Paris it is! A quick five day trip with my loving father. We shared a room with two twin beds, walked through peaceful protests, ate crepes and explored as much as possible in five days.
Parts of the trip were tough, pushing a wheelchair on cobblestone roads, and having our tour guide leave us at the Eiffel Tower when we had riverboat tickets for the Seine. But most of our trip was wonderful. My father, still recovering from a tough year, slept a lot which provided a good balance of sightseeing and relaxing with a book after dinner.
It takes a few days to understand how Paris is organized by arrondissements, once you figure this out... you can sightsee all day.
I loved, loved standing in Versailles but all of the sights are rich in history.
Here's what we did in four days:
Notre Dame: This is a must see, with gargoyles staring at you from every direction, beautiful windows and the peace you feel upon walking in the door.
This was our first stop after getting settled and taking a nap.
Notre Dame is the center of Paris. It sits on an island on the Seine River, with the first stone placed in 1163.
Arc de Triomphe: In a straight line you travel from Notre Dame, to the Louvre, Champs-Elsyees (shopping) to the Arc de Triomphe. Napoleon commissioned this monument in 1806, visitors can climb to the top to see a splendid view of the city.
After I finished my climb, I was approached my a twenty something man who asked me to dance and tried to kiss me!
Eiffel Tower: A photo doesn't convey the feeling you get when you see the tower for the first time, it's massive.
Built for the 1889 World's Fair. I climbed to the top (about 890 steps), then rode the lift to the very top. click here for an virtual view
Louvre: I can't explain how big the Louvre is, it might be a half mile long! When we turned into the room that is home to the Mona Lisa, live music was being performed. What an experience!
Built inthe 12th century as a fortress, many Kings, Emperors & Presidents have added extensions & embellishments. The Louvre Palace houses the Louvre Museum since 1793.
Versailles: Just 20km outside of Paris, Versailles' the name of a village and a palace. Louis XIV moved the Palace from Paris (the Louvre) to Versailles.
Marie-Antoinette and Versailles go hand in hand. It's an over embellished yet tranquil place, with mythological paintings throughout, and magnificent gardens.
Montmarte: I loved the feel of this neighborhood! The streets are lined with fruit vendors and it feels like a neighborhood you want to live in. The windmill in lights helped us locate the Moulin Rouge, which is about half way up the hill.
Keep following the winding road up the steep hill you will land at the famous Basilique du Sacre Coeur. You can see the Basilica from Paris, it's an amazing structure.
Jim Morrison's grave: I'm not a Doors fan but while in Paris... I had to take time to visit Morrison's grave.
Have you watched the movie? It's so good. The cemetery feels crowded with massive structures/headstones. His gravestone is fairly small, and behind a massive one... there were people crying when I finally found it.
Battle of the Macaron: Pierre Herme vs LaDuree. Reading Paris, my Sweet I discovered the lore of the macaron.
LaDuree was founded in 1862. Pierre Herme was a master chef until opening his own chocolate shoppe in 1994. He is known as the Picasso of Pastry.
I bought a dozen macarons from each store, we are going to have a taste off tonight. I wonder who's we will like more.
Random observations: I hate to share some no so happy things but I was so surprised by a few that I'm wondering if anyone experienced what I did.
The French really do not speak English: I'm still shocked by this since it is a tourist city. Try asking someone what type of salad dressings they have... or communicate with a taxi driver. We learned to write everything down, in french.
No smiling please: People do not smile or make eye contact in Paris.
No service: It's true, do not expect service while dining.
Homeless: I hate to even share this but I was shocked by the homeless population in Paris. We even saw people sleeping on the sidewalks, heartbreaking.
Smoking: ICK! The sidewalks are covering with cigarette butts, you can hardly avoid the smell.
Dirty streets: I haven't been to a city with trash on the streets/sidewalks in years. NYC is SO clean!
Pick pockets: You can't miss the 'beware of pickpocket' signs (they're everywhere, even in Notre Dame)
No 'coffee to go': This must be an American/Canadian thing. Without visiting a Starbucks... I wasn't able to get a latte to go. Something I desperately wanted for my morning strolls.
Very little nature: It took me a few days to realize what felt off, while the streets are lined with trees... in January it's basically colorless. Don't get me wrong... it's a beautiful city, rich in history and architecture. It's just not very colorful in January. I bet it's amazing in Spring.
Conclusion.... I loved the idea of little squares of shoppes in one central location (several streets meeting, creating a square of sorts). The architecture is stunning, absolutely stunning. Many of the streets are cobblestone, some are narrow and winding letting you imagine life 500 years old.
I LOVED Madeleine (the neighborhood). You must have lunch there, then visit LuDuree and Maille. Don't forget to pick up some Chocolate Chaud, delicious. I know exactly where I want to stay on my next visit.
Now it's time to unpack and start planning dreaming up my next international adventure.