My brother-in-law, and my only brother of any kind, is visiting us in Italy. He has been here since just after Christmas and he is the one responsible for dragging me kicking and screaming to Paris. Just kidding. I don’t think anyone is dragged to Paris. And certainly not me! Nevertheless, I will be the first to admit that before coming to Europe, the list of places I had ever thought I would visit was slim. And, Paris wasn’t on it. But, he flew out here with three objectives in mind: Paris, Rome, and hockey games. I haven’t had a brother officially until five months ago, but it’s an innate understanding that it would not be very sisterly of me to deny him any of those three modest goals for his European vacation. Nor would I be fulfilling my new role if I were to send him to the City of Lights without some company. I knew it was a big sacrifice on my part, but, I would have to go to Paris with him. I know, poor me.
When we arrived at the Charles De Gaulle airport, we boarded the commuter rail and headed to the Gare du Nord railway station. From there, we switched over to the metro system orange line and got off at the Bastille stop en route to our hotel. I am not a city girl, and so utilizing public transportation successfully throughout our trip was, for me, an accomplishment. And since Paris is such a big city, and since the weather was not completely cooperative during our stay, we had to take advantage of it a lot! We checked into our hotel, an easy-to-find building that was barely deserving of its one-star rating, and we headed onto our first day of Parisian exploration.
Since the forecast called for rain for Thursday and Friday, we spent as much time as possible outside on that first day. This involved a trip to the Eiffel Tower, a boat cruise on the Seine, a visit to the Arc de Triomphe and an evening in Montmarte. When we arrived at the impressive steel tower, we found the line for the elevators was excruciatingly long especially considering the cold temperatures. Rather than spend the rest of the day getting frostbite while waiting to go to the top of the colossal national monument, we moved onto the next item on our agenda… the boat cruise. But first, we needed lunch. We stopped at a little café/patisserie that offered take-away options. While I grabbed perhaps the most delicious almond-covered-honey-glazed confection I’ve ever consumed in my life, my B.I.L opted for a more practical lunch in the form of a chicken sandwich. Both re-energized by our meals, we boarded the boat a few minutes before departure and enjoyed the hour-long tour. It served as a great way to kick-off our stay because it acclimated us to the geography of the city by passing many of its most famous landmarks.
Following the cruise, we ventured beyond the 7th district to the nearby Champs de Elysees street and up to the Arc de Triomph. From there, we took the metro to the Sacre de-Couer cathedral in the Montmarte district. Set up on a hill over-looking Paris, the cathedral proved to be a beautiful spot in the landscape of the city. By this point, the day was giving way to night and a deep purple-blue sky waited behind the white basilica as we made our way up the stairs. Travel blogs and Paris websites had rightfully praised the views from Montmarte. We were thoroughly entranced by the city skyline and developed an immediate understanding of why it’s considered the City of Lights. But what our internet Paris-planning resources neglected to mention was that the network of cobblestone streets expanding behind the cathedral were so beautiful. We spent the rest of the evening walking through the quaint piazzas, past artists working at their easels, and by little boutiques and restaurants that were full of character. We had a delicious dinner and warmed up in one of the restuarants before heading back to the 4th arrondissement and our hotel. When we made it back, we were asleep immediately.
Our second day in Paris started with another pastry or two. And then we were back on the commuter rail, this time in the direction of Versailles. The Palace was indescribable. I walked from room to room in utter astonishment that such a place actually existed. There was not so much as a square inch of the walls and ceilings in the entire Palace that wasn’t adorned with elaborate paintings, chandeliers, candelabras, and gold. And, it is a very large palace! The doors themselves were works of art, along with the rugs, furniture, and drapery. The Hall of Mirrors was more than just what the title implies. Both sides of the hallway were lined with elaborate candelabras and the ceiling was covered with more chandeliers than I could count. And, of course, the paintings weren’t too bad either. The entire building was a work of art and stands as a positive example of the word excessive. We walked outside the palace and through some of its gardens. We did make the trek to Marie Antoinette’s house almost a mile and a half away from the Chateau de Versailles, though we probably wouldn’t suggest it to anyone else. I can’t imagine the King cared much for his queen if he put her up in such a simple domain while he himself dwelled in such an elaborate palace. Had the weather been nicer, it might have made for a at least a pleasant walk, but in our circumstances, it wasn’t worth our energies except for the laugh we shared over our lunch of kebabs about how we walked a 5k for next to nothing.
To finish off our second day, we visited the piazza containing the Louvre and returned to the Eiffel Tower, this time at night. We timed our second visit to the tower perfectly. We saw the light show that illuminates the tower in white sparkles every hour on the hour. And, we walked up the stairs to the second platform without waiting in line for a single minute. The view from up there was breathtaking. And, did I mention that there was an ice-skating rink on the first platform? Well, there was. While we didn’t rent skates, plenty of people did. And, even now, the fact amuses us that, if we had wanted to, we could have skated on the Eiffel Tower.
After a second night of sound sleeping, even sounder sleeping than the first night since we had learned to control the furnace enough that our room was no longer a sauna, we woke up for our final day in Paris. The rain didn’t deter us from venturing to the Notre Dame cathedral, the gothic monstrosity that, though somewhat eerie maintained an indefinable beauty. And then it was off to The Louvre for the B.I.L and some exploration of the lesser-visited streets of Paris for me. I drank some tea and put in an hour of ever-so-amusing people watching. In doing so, I confirmed a suspicion I developed in the previous two days of being in Paris. Mainly, Paris is full of beautiful people. Oftentimes, I had to remind myself that I was walking through a city in France and not the pages of Glamour magazine. While I was battling through the rain in a ski jacket, rainboots, backback and umbrella, women were navigating through cobblestone streets in heels and braving the elements in classic, yet elegant clothing and accessories. How they managed to hold an umbrella, send a text message with their smartphones, and hold an oversized leather purse, all the while looking simply stunning was endlessly impressive. I mentioned to the B.I.L later that the city was full of pretty girls and he looked at me as if I was crazy for only just making that observation… it was a fact he had discovered long ago.
After I finished my tea, the rain miraculously stopped. I spent the rest of the late morning walking through back streets and taking in as much of the Paris scenery as possible in the final hours of our adventure. I picked up a couple Eclairs from a little hole-in-the-wall patisserie so that I would have something to bring back for Kevin. Then I had lunch outside the Louvre and soaked in the little bits of sunshine that made its way through the clouds. At 1:45, as scheduled, we met back up under the designated archway of the museum and made our way back to the airport.
And that about sums up my clearly selfless vacation to France. As I’ve established in the previous paragraphs, I truly endured quite a bit in the midst of completing my sisterly duty. Architectural beauty, art history, and experience with French culture and people. You can give me the Sister-in-Law-of-the-year award later…
|Flying Over a Thick Layer of Clouds|
|Under the Eiffel Tower with the long line to your Left|
|One of my favorite bridges as seen from the cruise|
|Another cruise shot...|
|The Arc De Triomphe|
|Approaching the Sacre de Couer Cathedral in Montemarte|
|The cathedral is interestingly made of stone that gets whiter and harder with time.|
|The view from Montemarte|
|A piazza in Montemarte with artists all around and the church tower in the center|
|A piece of a ceiling in one of the rooms in the Versailles Palace|
|Just your average door in the palace|
|The Hall of Mirrors|
|A Puddle Picture as I call it... A Louvre Pyramid and a piece of its reflection|
|The view from the Palace of the gardens|
|The Notre Dame Cathedral|
|A stained glass window in the Notre Dame|
|A typical Parisian piazza, this one close to the Louvre|
|Yes, another puddle picture... I can't resist!|
|The Eiffel Tower during the Lights Show at 9pm|
|View from the Eiffel Tower of the City of Lights|
|The skating rink on the Eiffel Tower first platform... in case you needed photo proof|
|"The Best Picture Ever Taken By a Camera" as taken by the B.I.L from the top of a Notre Dame tower|