Sunday, November 23, 2014

Paris, je t'aime

I will just be honest and tell you all that I had relatively low expectations when it came to our trip to Paris. Judge me if you will, but Paris was never one of my dreams like every other typical girl. I had heard the city was dirty, theft was bad, and guys were creepy. What about that sounds appealing?

However, I have come before you today to tell you that I was horribly wrong.
Paris is as enchanting and beautiful as you hear. It now holds a very special place in my heart.

Just take a look at the view from the top of Notre Dame and try and tell me you don't wish you were there. I have this theory: Paris is better from above. It really is. All my favorite views were from high up. I actually have several conclusions and bits of advice concerning traveling Paris, so I will give you my top ten must-do's of Paris:

1. Climb every set of stairs you can if it means you get a killer view. ((Besides, more stairs climbed = more calories burned = more food you can eat, right?))
Refer to picture and paragraph above. It is worth every step! Most are not even too bad, but you need to go the Champs Elysees at night at least once. At least. Head up about fifteen minutes before the hour once it is dark so you are at the top in time to witness the light show of the Eiffel Tower. Honestly, it was pure magic. It goes for the first five minutes of every hour after dark and she just sparkles.. It might be super touristy, but that did not make it any less wonderful. We all just stood atop the arch, held hands, and silently watched it as our hearts swelled with so much love for each other, our adventures, and the beautiful moment we got to share together in the city of love. Cliche, but I can't describe it any other way.

   

Notre Dame is also a must; go visit Quasimodo and his gargoyle friends in the bell tower. Make sure to go inside after! It is one of my favorite churches we have gone in. Props to Disney for making the movie interior and exterior incredibly accurate. To be honest, I could not help but walk around and hum "God Help the Outcasts" as I went. (speaking of which, props to Disney again for a fantastic song)
   


We saved climbing the Eiffel Tower for our last morning as a sort of farewell to Paris. It was a good end to a nearly perfect trip. I can't lie though; we actually took the lift up and stairs down... It was only a few euros more, and while I was totally down for climbing 700 stairs other girls were very much opposed. If I go again I definitely want to take the stairs just for the sake of bragging rights and saying "I climbed the Eiffel Tower." 

view from the glass second floor

oh hey Paris; 
we love you. 

2. DO A BIKE TOUR. (shout out to Ash for suggesting it). 
It was all of our favorite thing we did. Best 28 euros spent thus far. We went through bikeabouttours.com and they were so good! Our guides name was Paul and he was the bomb. For three and a half wonderful hours he took us through the backstreets of Paris and let it's local magic come alive for us. We stopped ever fifteen minutes or so for him to point things out, tell us stories and history, take photos, etc. It was the perfect way to see the real city fast and with someone who actually knew what they were talking about. He spoke perfect English because he was actually from New Zealand! He moved to France 14 years ago for school and never left. I am a strong advocate of bike tours now and will definitely look them up in every city I go to from now on. 

Guys, I just can't say how much we all loved it enough. He also took us to a fab sandwich cart for lunch and gave us suggestions for shopping and dinner. Such a homie. 

     

I've got a talent for taking photos while riding a bike. Just appreciate that.
Notre Dame in the background
     

Have my pictures convinced you yet of the bike tour brilliance? It wasn't until we did this that we went from thinking Paris was okay/cool enough to falling in love and believing it was magic. Really, it was the turning point for all of us.

3. Eat the best food of your life. 
Bread fresh from bakeries. Cheese like you've never imagined. Pastries you don't regret afterwards. The biggest pears of my life. Blessed and beautiful macaroon's. And, of course, crepes.
Now. I will let you in on the best kept secret of Paris, which is where the BEST CREPES YOU WILL EVER HAVE IN YOUR LIFE are. Are you ready? These came through recommendation of our Centre facilitator who spent some time living in Paris and searched out the best crepes. Here's how you get there:
       1. Take the pink metro line south to "Place Monge" stop.
       2. When you walk out up the station steps, turn left and walk up the street a block. At the top you will hit a "Comfort Inn" (note: it does NOT look like an American hotel; you have to look for the sign. It's just another flat/building from the outside).
       3. Turn left again and walk maybe twenty feet down the street until you see a hole-in-the-wall crepe stand. It's called "Paradise" and you will see it and question me with this recommendation. Just trust me. The crepes are pretty big, go very hungry or split them. And if you can only get one, get the savory. It is just all sorts of wonderful. Though, I have to say, the sweet one was amazing too. The guy is so sweet and will basically make you whatever you want. You just ask and he says, "okay.. it's okay.." in his thick french accent." So I got one with applesauce, cinnamon, coconut flakes, and sliced banana. And now I am drooling thinking about it's warm, gooey, flavor overload of goodness. Everyone needs one of these crepes in their life. I have to warn you, it could potentially ruin your experience with all other crepes for the rest of your life.

4. Go to as many museums as you can, but do them on your first day in Paris because they are the least exciting (don't tell my professors I said that).
The Louvre is obviously required. It is the largest museum in the world and full of many masterpieces. You will get overwhelmed, so know ahead of time what you want to see. We mostly looked at the impressionist works and that was perfect. We still spent several hours there but we saw a lot and felt good about our life decisions. Obviously we saw the Mona Lisa as well, how can you not?

After discussing it with our Professor, we decided the Mona Lisa is basically the Kardashian of paintings. It is simply famous for being famous and it doesn't make a lot of sense but that doesn't stop everyone from obsessing about it. I mean, it's a nice painting. But.. not the best in the world by any standard. I am partial to Claude Lorrin, Claude Monet, John Constable, and Joseph Turner though. 

    

 

we did experience some technical difficulties with the umbrellas.. But we got it under control. Eventually.



My favorite museum was the Orangerie because it has a room designed specifically to house Monet's Waterlillies paintings. Perfection in a painting. I could have sat in there for a substantial amount of time just admiring them. 

The grounds between the Louvre and Orangerie are beautiful to walk through, even in the rain and especially in the fall. 

I seriously love all these girls so much.



Which leads me to my next travel tip...
5. GO TO PARIS IN THE FALL. 
-no crowds or lines or people swarming everywhere; you have the city practically to yourself 
-not as many tourist shops and annoying guys trying to get you to buy things
-more "local" life
-IT IS GORGEOUS STILL

I mean, just look at it. 





The photos from above are from the grounds at the Palace of Versailles, which is number 6. 
6. Spend a day at Versailles. It is incredible. I've gone to a fair number of palaces and castles here in the UK, but they pale in comparison to Versailles. It is unreal. It makes the french revolution make complete sense. What king could live like that while his subjects starve and think it will be okay? 

    


7. Go on a night boat ride down the Seine. Our buddy Paul hooked us up with some student tickets, so we spent our last evening cruising down the river and eating some macaroons. So yes, it was brilliant.


The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame; two of my favorite views in the world now. 

8. Visit Saint Chapelle
It is about a 4 minute walk from Notre Dame and has the prettiest stained glass I have ever seen. It was so powerful and awe inspiring to stand inside of it. 

9. Shakespeare and Company bookstore.
It's been visited by essentially every famous author after Shakespeare and is literally across the street from Notre Dame. It is 100% worth going in for a little if you love books at all. It is so quaint and full of books. It's incredible to imagine the writers who have come before and left their mark in the shop. I loved it. 

10. See the Eiffel Tower every day. 
Sure, people who live in Paris can go months or years without seeing it. That's not the point. She is beautiful and represents so much of what Paris is; the city of love, the place I spent four days walking up and down every street with my favorite people, somewhere you can get some of the best food (and shopping and perfume) in the world while enjoying the best art and outstanding history. It just is symbolic of everything brilliant about the city. It's worth seeing every day from different views. 

Other than that.. All I can say is see as much as you can, remember that the more stairs you climb the more food you can eat, and go with people who are willing to go hard all day long. Miles and miles of walking just mean you saw more amazing places and experienced the beauty that is Paris. 

Love Always, Aimee