(This will be the first of a series of Paris posts.)
We are back from Paris! We had a fabulous EIGHT days to explore this beautiful city. I was lucky enough to see bits of Paris waaaaaay back in college, during my study abroad. I did the backpacking across Europe thing for not quite two weeks where I did visit Paris for three days. I admit that I saw very little. And I also ate very little, due to low funds. Oh, and I did also make a weekend trip back to my favorite European city during my study abroad. I think that time was spent in a nightclub and exploring flea markets!
So I was thrilled when Jim and I started to discuss a trip. And then we found out that my big sis Ana and her husband were thinking about a trip. Jim and I were so lucky to have Ana and Rich as travel companions. They really did know the city, how to navigate it, and Ana had some great ideas of what to do. She is very organized, thorough, and wanted all of us to have the best-est time!
We left on a Thursday and basically traveled overnight. We arrived in Paris on a Friday morning. We had a hell-ish wait in a customs line with all the other travelers, and finally, finally we were free! Rich navigated our way to our hotel. The travel was quite easy, but the navigation of crowded metro stations, streets, and "the mall from hell" with our heavy luggage was NOT easy. It was also very hot and a few of us were getting very frustrated and hangry (the combination of hungry and angry!)
We were also greeted with one immediate cultural difference between Americans and the French. The French do not really believe in elevators. Paris is very pedestrian and if you need an elevator you are basically shit out of luck. We wandered forever before we could make make our way from the underground metro station to the street level and we finally made it to our hotel.
The hotel was lovely- and air conditioned!! This was my view from my hotel window. Our window overlooked a little street/alley and we were able to see into others' lives (windows). Everywhere in Paris the apartments have these lovely wrought iron balconies and flower boxes. I could have taken pictures of all of the pretty buildings and been happy!
We unloaded our suitcases into our hotel rooms, rested a bit, and then the rest of the day was spent exploring our 'hood. First things first. FOOD! We found a cute little cafe and I ordered a lovely salad. This was my first experience with the French's belief of fresh, high quality food. The ham? OMG. The cheese? OMG. Such a simple little salad made me so happy! Oh, and I think I had a glass of rosé wine :)
The Hotel de Ville was very closeby. (I will try and hyperlink these locations to wikipedia entries. I know wikipedia is not the best resource, but it will at least give us the generals.) Later in the week, the Hotel de Ville was the location for a series of outdoor concerts. It was INSANE and crazy busy with young people at night, wine bottles and mini parties everywhere :) Oh, and on the last day or so of our stay the front of the HDV was transformed to a very beachy scene.
Further into our walk we found a local little park. There will be many of these EVERYWHERE. The French love their grassy areas, their picnics, and later on we will join them!
We wandered into a beautiful little church, not knowing the historical significance of it at all, but we all found it to be beautiful, even if it was a bit neglected and empty. This church, Church of the Saint-Merri, I found out later was built in 1500!
Right outside the Pompidou Centre (we visit it later in our stay), was this giant ice cream. I couldn't resist a lick!
One thing we saw a lot of was graffiti. I did appreciate the artsy and interesting ones.
We didn't really visit this small market but every street had their own version of a fruit/vegetable market. I've read several times that the French shop daily for their produce and groceries. They just don't have the same kitchen and refrigerator space as we do and so they either shop often or eat out often at the local street cafes. Anyway, all of the produce looked lovely, everywhere! (No Walmarts or SuperTargets to be found!)
This is the exterior, back view of the Pompidou Centre. We could see a part of the building from our hotel window.
Heading in another direction, we found our first view of the Seine River.
And just a little ways away was the Notre Dame. It is magnificent. I couldn't get the entire front of the cathedral in one shot, especially with all of the swarms of tourists, but the blue sky and the beautiful cathedral just made me so happy. When I saw the Notre Dame in 1995, it was completely under renovation with tons of scaffolding in the front. I was so happy to see the entire building as it should be!
There wasn't a line to go inside the Notre Dame and I was very eager. It was as beautiful as I remembered! There was a mass going on, so we were all very quiet and respectful of taking pictures. I did manage to take a few pictures because I loved the stained glass windows and just the general beauty of the cathedral.
This was the beautiful view of the Notre Dame from the river.
We sat at another street side café for a light dinner... And our first sips of 1664! (Imagine being in business since the 1600’s!)
Such a simple sandwich but with great bread, cheese, and jambon!
On our way back to our hotel we passed the Notre Dame again. It is a lively place. There were many people just loitering around, sitting on street curbs with beverages, and a few street performers gathering small crowds.
We sat on the ND 800th anniversary bleachers (for lack of a better word) and took in the scene, including a group of street performers dancing. It was a beautiful night and an even more beautiful view!
And that concludes our first day in Paris!