I just spent one very long weekend in Paris, so get ready for one very long post! I’ll try to make things as easy to read as possible, but forgive me if I ramble a bit.
Kaia and I made it to the Paris train station at about 4 in the afternoon on Friday and slowly made our way westward along the Seine. We passed by the Notre Dame de Paris and spent a while taking in the unbelievable architecture. It always amazes me that such a thing was built with no calculators, no cranes, and no power tools.
We caught our first glimpse of la Tour Eiffel just as the sun was beginning to set. We wound through a few side streets and suddenly, there she stood. Even though I was freezing and tired, I felt a burst of energy and ran the rest of the way to the park. Kaia didn’t know that the tower lights up after dark, and the look on her face when it started to twinkle was priceless!
I wasn’t entirely sure where to go from there, but I managed to navigate us toward a metro station and ride to Montmartre, where our hostel was. We checked in and pretty much went immediately to bed.
In the morning, Kaia and I threw on some layers (by the way, that’s one tank top, one underarmor shirt, two longsleeve tshirts, a hoodie, a leather jacket, and a trench coat, plus leggings under corduroy pants, two pairs of socks, boots, scarf, hat, and gloves) and headed downstairs for breakfast. We were shocked to have cornflakes, croissants, baguettes, juice, and coffee! It was delicious and far more than I expected at a cheapo hostel. With our bellies full, we walked just a few blocks to Sacré Coeur, the cathedral that made Montmartre famous (well, that and the tax-free alcohol). Sacré Coeur is at the top of a 147 step hill that provides a beautiful view of Paris. We spent several minutes trying to identify various buildings, then made our way back down the other side of the hill toward Moulin Rouge. There, we stumbled upon an English-speaking free tour of the district. How lucky were we? The guide, Louis, was born and raised in Paris and showed us all his favorite nooks and crannies of the area. We would certainly never have seen much more than the cathedral and Moulin Rouge without his guidance.
After we bid Louis adieu, Kaia and I hustled to the Louvre. While she’s not the biggest fan of neo-classicism or Renaissance art, I hope she appreciated my whirlwind tour of the massive museum’s most famous works.
After a mere three hours at the Louvre (just a drop in the ocean of artwork, really) we crossed the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay, the impressionist museum. Mom and I didn’t get the chance to go to this museum when we were in Paris six years ago, and now I wish she could have seen it! Much much much smaller than the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay is perhaps a bit more accessible to the average art non-connoisseur and offers many widely known (and frequently reproduced) works. My jaw literally dropped when I saw Monet’s waterlilies-truly beautiful.
We ended the day with a stroll down the Champs Elysées. The boulevard was packed with Paris’ wealthiest citizens and tourists wanting to see and be seen. Kaia and I were happy to window-shop at the giant Sephora and Disney stores! Our walk was capped with a few pictures at the Arc de Triomphe-a beautiful sight to see at night when the street lights illuminate it from below.
We bought a frozen pizza and some fruit to cook in the hostel’s kitchen, and settled down to eat a cheap but warm dinner. While eating, we met a Frenchman and a Russian girl who were traveling together. Both, of course, spoke several languages and were eager to hear what we thought of the differences between the United States and Europe. We spent a few hours discussing our cultural difficulties and what we love most about France. Often, Kaia and I had completely different answers to their questions, which confused them and surprised us. The Northwest and the Southeast of the US might as well be two different countries in some aspects!
The next morning, Kaia and I hurried downstairs to enjoy our cornflakes once again! Seriously, I never thought I’d be so happy to have cereal for breakfast. Rather than take the metro to the Seine, we decided to walk to the Eiffel Tower. We saw several little markets and took our time peeking in souvenir shops and windows. When we finally reached the tower, we decided to spend the €3.50 to climb it. Over 600 steps later, we reached the second floor (about midway up the tower) and saw a glorious view of the city. It was a bit foggy, but you could still see for many miles in each direction. We couldn’t take the elevator up to the very tippy top, but our view was pretty nice from where we were.
When we descended we walked a few blocks south to the Hôtel des Invalides, where Kaia took some pictures and I bought a marvelous crêpe with nutella and bananas. Sometimes, it’s worth it to pay €4 for a chocolate pancake, and that afternoon was one of those times.
Suddenly, we realized we had about an hour until our train left, and that the station was still more than five miles away. Needless to say, we picked up the pace. I was very tired and ready to pay a stranger to lend me their bicycle/car/scooter/wheelchair to make the journey a little easier, but we managed to get to the station with a few minutes to spare. Two hours later, we were back in snowy Tours with sore feet, empty wallets, and big smiles.
All in all, I had a great weekend trying to fit all the most famous sights of Paris into one quick tour for Kaia. I wish I could have stayed for weeks and weeks to be able to relax a bit and absorb the culture, but our little jaunt was a fun crash course in all things Parisian! I look forward to seeing it again.