I found the perfect sunglasses weeks before going to Paris. I figured that would be the thing that would make me look like a local– the right sunglasses– ignoring the fact I don’t speak French.
N and I drove from Köln to Paris instead of taking the train. Don’t let anyone tell you those two places are three hours away, it’s more like five hours of driving. People and Google can be such liars.
The German, Belgian, and French countryside is beautiful, but driving in Paris requires nerves of steel. It’s like turn signals don’t exist in France and motorcyclists weave in and out of traffic to squeeze into the front of every lane. I mean, apparently it’s totally cool that they do that, and they don’t care I disagree.
So, here is something about me–maps, electronic or otherwise, never give me a good idea of how close I am to something. If they did I would have realized how easy it is to see most of Paris’ main sights in one day. Then you can spend the rest of your visit exploring your favorite places for longer.
If you start at Notre Dame, you can tour the cathedral for free or take an audio tour for six euro. Right across the street is Shakespeare and Company. It’s a book store specializing in books written in English. Famous authors of the Beat Generation hung out here. If you’re a fan of the written word, I’d say this stop is a must. You can also ask for your book purchase to be stamped with the store logo, and that will make it an excellent keepsake.
Next stop would be the Louvre. You can take pictures with the glass pyramids and enjoy a coffee and baguette in the gardens. Perhaps a glass of wine while you people-watch? I mean, that’s what I did and it was magical.
The lengths to which people go to get the perfect shot are entertaining. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to look as hot as possible in every single picture. Who wouldn’t? But some tourists got creative. N was taking a picture of me looking away from the camera, you know, so it looked like a totally unplanned picture. Anyway, while he was snapping away, I saw two women doing the same thing, but their deal was a full blown photo shoot– like they pulled off their sneakers and slapped on some red soled Christian Louboutin’s just for the pictures, and then swapped again. I mean, damn.
At the end of the gardens you’ll see the Eiffel Tower from afar, and you can get a good picture. Just outside the gardens is the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, and if you’re into shopping this is the place to be. I didn’t spend much time here but did walk along the avenue. It’s one of the most expensive streets in the world but I didn’t feel like spending my dolla dolla bills there.
The Arc de Triomphe is straight ahead. It’s huge and beautiful, but it is difficult to get a good picture. Different parts of it are always being cleaned so there is scaffolding on it. You have the option to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but I wouldn’t bother. There are better places to get a good view of the city.
Then, there is the Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre. It is further away from the line of tourist attractions but it’s worth the hike. I drove there and parking was a nightmare, so maybe take the subway?The church is at the highest point in the city so try to go during the day for the view. I went at night, and it was still lovely. If you feel like going inside the church, it’s free and very quiet. There is no photography allowed but there is some breathtaking artwork inside.
Moulin Rouge is hilariously close to the beautiful giant church. It seems like a classy show, though I didn’t have time to catch it, but it’s surrounded by terrifyingly sleazy looking strip clubs. I really didn’t know what to think when a group of middle school students were touring the area with their parents, but I’ve never tried harder to avoid eye contact with strangers.
I also spent a good portion of my sunny Parisian visit at the Luxembourg Palace enjoying the gardens. It’s near Notre Dame and there is a great bakery by the entrance. I bought a box of eight macarons and N picked out some sorbet, then we sat by a giant fountain and snacked.
The running joke during my brief time in France was how obnoxiously well N speaks French. He will tell you he doesn’t speak French, sometimes he’ll even yell it at you, but only after translating something for me. I still laugh at his nerdy explanation.
“Stop saying I speak French. My German is better. I speak less French than I do Spanish. I just took Latin in college so I can guess what things mean pretty well…”
I want to go back. I want to drink coffee and eat croissants for breakfast and escargot and wine for dinner. I want macarons in all the flavors while I walk in a city of great excess and great suffering. Sometimes I’m such a stereotype– Woman in love with the City of Light, but I’m ok with that.
Paris, I love you, but I’m sure you hear that all the time.