Paris – By Red
After a whirlwind Thanksgiving week visiting my friend Tori in Strasbourg, aka the Christmas Headquarters of Europe (they take Christmas to a whole new level there) (Unfortunately we left the day before they turned on all the lights!! – Steve) we jumped on a very fast train to Paris!
After the attacks, a lot of people questioned whether or not we should go. But with everything going on in the world, we don’t know the next opportunity we’d have to return to this amazing city, so we decided to continue on as planned.
We arrived in Paris by train and then quickly jumped into their crazy huge underground metro system. Steven was a pro; navigating our way through all the crazy stops with names that we couldn’t pronounce. (We later learned that you don’t say all the last letters of words in French, only some, and that was a major factor in our mispronunciations.) As a Southern California girl, metros, busses, and trains are all but foreign to me, so I was totally in awe of how much action goes on underground, beneath the amazing buildings and landmarks of this old city. There’s a whole world under there!
Finally we arrived at our final stop and make the long trek through the outskirts of the city to our home away from home that week, my professional friend Razwana’s humble abode. Razwana is a professional acquaintance turned dear friend that I met through other online contacts that I’ve done business with. We had never actually met in person before, but had had many long conversations and video chats throughout this past year and I was so incredibly excited to FINALLY be meeting someone that I felt like I already knew so well. While the internet and social media can be a nuisance or obnoxious element in our lives as it sucks us into the digital world and out of the real one, this was an excellent example of the internet creating real world experiences, friendships, and memories that I will cherish forever.
Raz was an exceptional host. I know Steven was excited to give up his role as the navigator and just enjoy being a tourist with me for the weekend (It was awesome! Plus, she took us to so many places that I had never been before, making this trip seem almost like it was a different city – Steve). She had an amazing itinerary planned for us and we were so excited to jump right in.
Night one, we didn’t even leave her place until about 4pm (we arrived at 2pm, finished a bottle of wine, a baguette and a wheel of cheese; I count that as a productive use of time! – Steve), but the night didn’t hold us back at all. We walked over 10 miles in one evening alone as Razwana took us all over the city. At this point, both Steven and I have visited a number of places around Europe and the US, and we’ve seen many amazing building and structures, but by far one of the most amazing and breathtaking things I’ve seen to date has to be the Eiffel Tower. Such a truly majestic structure that shoots up through the center of the city, and at night, it’s all lit up and every hour it explodes in twinkling lights that makes everyone in the facility oooo and awe out loud in surprise. It was so much more than I was expecting. You know that feeling you get when you finally see a major work of art and you have it in your mind that it looks a specific way and then you are somewhat disenchanted when you finally get to see it in real life? Yeah, that doesn’t happen here. The Eiffel Tower is truly amazing.
After our thorough examination of all angels of the tower, we headed to our first Christmas market. We got our first glass of Mulled wine (which sounded totally gross to both Steven and I at first until Raz assured us it was amazing – which it was!) and crepes filled with nutella. There was ice-skating, food galore, game rooms, shopping, and even a haunted Christmas house that has “Thriller” playing on repeat.
Steven reached out to his old friend from his last European adventure, Julien, who also lived in Paris, and he met us at the Christmas market. So with Steven, Julien, Raz and myself, we all walked and talked like old friends all the way up through the market to the Arc de Triomphe which had the most gorgeous display of the French flag in remembrance and tribute to the people of Paris after the horrible attacks last month.
We finished out our FIRST (yes, we are still on day one), night with some delicious food and drinks at Julien’s friend’s restaurant, Le Bouchon des Batignolles, before heading back to Raz’s for the night.
Day two was equally as exciting as day one, and involved just as much, if not more, walking. We went up to the top of Montmartre and got to look over the whole city of Paris from above. We walked through all the art squares filled with local artists doing portraits and paintings of Parisian city streets.
We skipped out on touring the Moulin Rouge which I hear is a pretty dodgy kind of place and high tailed it straight to another incredible building, Notre Dome (I instantly started singing Disney songs in my head as soon as we arrived.) It was amazing. Another historical building that just shoots up in an area surrounded by modern buildings and architecture. Steven and I walked around the building, marveling at its size and beauty. One great thing about Notre Dome is that they don’t charge for you to enter. So many of these incredible buildings cost money to enjoy or enter. But we got to go in for free and take a look around.
I was disappointed in the extreme commercialism that has engulfed the center of the church. They are not alone here, but so many of these amazing places are now filled with vending machines, gift shops, and commercial elements that it takes away from the classic beauty and purpose of the church. Still, we were very much in awe of this amazing place and took our time enjoying as much of it as possible.
We finished off the night with an incredible bottle of wine at a beautiful restaurant called Capucine Café.
Some of you may know this already, but Steven actually lived in Paris for about 6 months before I met him. And in those 6 months, he never made his way to the Louvre! (I always regretted that – Steve) What is the Louvre? It’s a seriously ridiculously, ginormous building that houses some of the world greatest works of art including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Aphrodite, known as the “Venus de Milo”, Liberty Leading the People by Delacroix, The winged goddess of Victory, and Michelangelo’s The Rebellious Slave. There are countless more masterpieces in this place, but those were some of our favorites.
This place makes the Getty Museum look like a tiny gift shop for art. We weren’t sure what to expect and as fans of classical art, but not of major crowds, we almost decided against going. Boy am I thankful that we didn’t. It was so incredibly worth it. And there is still so much we didn’t even see yet, so if we ever return, we are definitely going back.
We finished out evening with a less that adventurous choice of going to see a movie with Raz at an English movie theatre. But we had been dying to see the new Bond movie and when you’ve been traveling as long as we have (and it’s as cold out as it has been lately) the warm movie theatre was just what we needed.
To Wrap It Up
This is only a quick summary of all the adventures we embarked on this past weekend. Paris, despite the terrors of the past month, stands strong and beautiful, as it gets ready for the Christmas season. We are both so thankful to have been able to visit it during our trip, and we couldn’t be more grateful for our fantastic host and tour guide who made sure we got to see everything we wanted and more.