First time I visited Paris in 2001 was a whirlwind experience. It was like a spring fling that has come and gone, but somehow its memory has nestled into a nook in your heart.
Quick Trip Down Memory Lane of Paris
As part of a 21-day group tour of Europe, there wasn’t enough time for me to really take in and enjoy the city. Since this trip was almost 20 years ago, here were a few stops on memory lane that have stuck with me: Seeing and going up the Eiffel Tower during sunset; the best French bread I’ve ever had in my life – so fluffy and light, with the right amount of crunch. Also trying escargot – because come on, we were in Paris. Never mind that’s it’s snails It was a perfect chewy delight of butter and garlic. At the Louvre, we (my college friend Rachel and I) scrambled to find the famous pieces, namely the Mona Lisa, Nike and the Venus de Milo before our allotted time ran out. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem at all enough to enjoy the other works. Still, I savored every glorious moment.
Fast forward to 2017, my boyfriend and I were planning our Amsterdam trip for the Awakenings festival. It was at this point that I came up with the brilliant idea to stop in Paris for a few days before. So goes the internal dialog, “Wait, why are we going there again? Um, because it’s exciting and you love art! Right. Let’s go!” But how was it going to be the second time around? Will it be the same? Will I be bored since I’ve been there before? Perhaps, I was setting my hopes to high. Eventually I throw these doubts to the wind and go with the butterflies of excitement.
Day 1 -Eiffel Tower
After arriving in Charles de Gaulle airport, we made our way to the Metro. The subway system is pretty extensive at first glance, a spiderweb of colored lines; wasn’t too difficult to figure out though. Reminded me of the good ol’ NYC subways…ah, just like home, minus the graffiti, faint urine smell and the occasional rat sighting. Coming off the escalator, got an unexpected blast in the face with the Paris heat wave.
The narrow streets were lined with bakeries, small restaurants/ bars and clothing stores. The locals appeared calm, cool, collected going about their business. It felt like a city, like New York, but without type A personality. We, then found our way to our hotel Pont Neuf, an old building – so no air conditioner, just a ceiling fan and curtain, a tiny shower and a hard bed. We got what we paid for. It didn’t matter; we were going to be out most of the time anyway. (Apologies for the quality of some of the pics – had to make the best of it with my old iphone6)
Eiffel Tower at Sunset
After stopping for a quick bite (a samosa of all things), water and fresh fruit (best apricots I’ve ever had-so sweet and juicy) at a nearby market we made our way back to take the Metro to Eiffel Tower. Yes, it’s big and touristy. But, whatever, I AM a tourist and will have my Eiffel Tower moment! At the top of the tower, an equally magnificent view of the sunset. (the picture does not do it justice)
Afterwards, lingered around the park grounds…groups of people claiming their spot of grass to relax, for their picnic dinner or hangout. We did the same, taking in the relaxed ambiance, admiring the soft lights of the tower, which unexpectedly turned into a flashing light show. What is it about flashing lights we love so much? – Somehow it touches our happy place, makes the inner child stare with awe and wonder, as if looking upon this for the first time.
Day 2 – Croissants and Versailles
In the land of the best wines and cheeses, it was a challenge to find vegan options. Luckily, we didn’t have to trek too far. Thank goodness for Cloud Cakes – an adorable vegan coffee shop within walking distance of our hotel. Yummy croissants – warm, flaky goodness!
Psyched for Versailles
Oh man, oh man I was so psyched for this experience! Couldn’t wait to see the massive decadence of that period, quietly judging humanity’s materialism while simultaneously oohing and ahhing at the glittery gold. After the tour van parked, we walked up, what seemed a perilous journey to the golden gates. The heat wave continued on. With it being high noon with no trees in sight, my sun hat saved me. The scorching heat radiating off the stone cobbled walkway.
The only relief were the water trucks spraying the grounds and crowds.
While waiting for our guide to get the tickets, we had around 20-30 minutes to wander the garden around the back. We admired the endless swirling greenery, the many elegant statues and trying to stay cool by the fountains.
The palace really is the epitome of decadence of the day. I imagine the conversation of its design would’ve been something like this:
Planner: How much of the gold framing would you like inside the palace?
Louis XIV : Yes.
Planner: How many statues and fountains in the garden?
Louis XIV: Yes.
One can hardly imagine the amount of time put into the construction of this palace, elaborate bedrooms and dining areas with rows of candelabra chandeliers, walls and ceilings covered in paintings bearing mythological figures and those of the royal family. Up, down and all around…a dizzying experience with all there is to look at. Let’s not forget the Hall of Mirrors, where one side of a long hallway with one side of mirrors shaped like the arched windows across from them. With the summertime crowds, the mirrors seem to multiply the already numerous bodies in that narrow space. Almost making me feel a little claustrophobic.
And with this, one last panoramic view of the palace, a grand spectacle of its time period.
Day 3 The Louvre
Art has a way of evoking something within us, eliciting various reactions/thoughts from wonder to repulsiveness, or perhaps indifference. An outlet for creative expression. A kind of reflection for the duality of the human condition. We are capable to producing wondrous beauty and at the same time profound ugliness. For someone who enjoys this, the Louvre can be an intimidating place to behold. A visual overload of sorts, covering over 650,000 square feet, displaying 35,000 works of art. We opted for a tour of the must-see pieces. If you’re only spending the day there, it is the ultimate timesaver. Our guide led us to the Must-sees, which included: Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa and Nike (Perfect!). As expected, there were crowds upon crowds swarming these popular ladies.
Along the way, admired these other impressive pieces. Sleeping Hermaphroditus- The mattress is so life-like, many passers-by can’t help but touch it. We know it’s marble yet still surprised by its hardness. Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss– I love the way the subtle embrace of her arms around Cupid’s head, with Cupid with his prominent wings and arm around her chest – evokes a lightness, airiness and romance. Four Captives– a stunning larger than life bronze display -On the Louvre.fr website, it is stated, “…these captives represent the nations defeated by the Treaty of Nijmegen (1679). Each expresses a different reaction to captivity: revolt, hope, resignation, or grief.” Salle des Caryatides – sculpted by Jean Goujon in 1550, a fitting tribute to Greek and Roman antiquities.
After perusing the gift shop and picking up the best souvenir fan ever, we then took some fun pictures with the glass pyramid inside and out. Kind of reminds me of that concept of “as above, so below.”
Chilled at our hotel for a bit, from the walking-filled day. After about an hour or so, we grew restless and the neighborhood was alive with activity. From our window listened to a local rock band played down the block. Clusters of people drinking, socializing.
Wandered aimlessly around for a bit, not wanting to go back to the hotel just yet. Curiosity leading us to the sounds of the rhythmic bass beats and whiffs of cigarette smoke and weed. A makeshift street party by one the restaurants? Plopped down at a wine bar, where we enjoyed a glass of red for him and rosé for me, all the while people watching.
On the way back to the hotel, we took one last look at the Louvre with its night lights and a haunting glimpse inside without any people.
Day 4 Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur
Notre Dame hardly needs any introduction…
With its classic flying buttresses and spire, beautiful stained glass windows and eerie gargoyles, it is a cherished jewel of Paris. However, for me, they’ve become bittersweet memories after the April 2019 fire that destroyed much of the roof and spire.
Sacré Coeur Basilica was built in the Romano-Byzantine style, an intriguing style that appears to be more like Taj Mahal than Notre Dame. Situated in Montmartre, the highest point in Paris. It offers a panoramic overlook view of the city like no other.
As I stood there, savoring these last daylight moments, replaying the images of the last few days, the moment triggers those blissful feelings that life is good. Even so, there is so much more the city has to offer in art and history that I haven’t yet experienced.
Before leaving this site, we listened to the musical talents of this young lady with her guitar and who was gracious enough to take a photo with me afterwards.
Thanks and farewell Paris. You’re even more wonderful the second time around. We will meet again.