The City of Love
I should start by saying I did NOT fall in love in Paris. Well, not in your traditional sense.
I went to Paris in May 2019 for 3 days with my friend and travel companion, Doug, who you’ll probably hear more about throughout blog posts, so remember his name. We had a Contiki tour planned, and we wanted to be closer to the meeting spot in Vienna, Austria. We decided spending a few days in Paris before would be the smart move. In my head, everyone just exaggerated about how magical Paris was. I really had no intention of going there at this moment of my life and saw this as just a stop before the more exciting part of the trip. Boy was I wrong. The minute I arrived I knew I was somewhere special. There is definitely something in the air in Paris that just instantly boosts your mood.
I had a pretty rough flight in with a stressful layover in Lisbon, Portugal. It was the first time I had a layover for an international flight, so I was in constant fear that everything would go wrong and I would miss my flight. I barely slept on my flight from New York to Lisbon but finally fell asleep on the flight from Lisbon to Paris. By then I needed more than 2 hours of sleep, and I was just very cranky to start off the trip. When I got off the flight, I was so excited to be off the plane, I basically ran to baggage claim and then ran out of the door to find a ride to my hotel. I don’t know if it was my lack of sleep or what, but Orly Airport has the most confusing parking/ride share area I had ever experienced. It took me probably 45 minutes to figure out the area and finally find an Uber.
After I finally called and found my Uber, I made my way to the hotel to meet Doug. He had taken an earlier flight than me, so he was already taking in all of Paris before I even got there. We had reservations at Moulin Rogue later that night, and I think knowing that was the only motive I had to stay awake and keep going at that point. I started to wake up physically and emotionally during the ride to the hotel. Paris was absolutely stunning, and I was starring out of the window like a tourist seeing NYC for the first time in a cheesy, cliché movie. We made a turn and then I saw it. The Eiffel Tower. Can I just say… WOW. It is an absolute masterpiece; such beautiful architecture.
I finally got to the hotel and made my way to my room to settle in. From what I remember Doug was as jet lagged as I was and was taking a power nap in his room, so this gave me time to unwind, power nap, and get ready to head to Montmartre where the Moulin Rogue is located. Montmartre is a unique area of Paris that is located on a hill just north of the city center. Our reservations at Moulin Rogue weren’t until 10:00 PM, and we decided to have dinner in the area just to be safe with timing. We wandered around Montmartre a little bit and finally decided to go to Le Chat Noir. This charming restaurant had live music and was the perfect place to pick! The food was delicious and the drinks were even better. We sat there for a few hours enjoying the charm of the scenery and the man serenading the restaurant on the piano. The time had finally come to go to Moulin Rogue, and seeing that iconic windmill made my heart skip a beat. I had wanted to go to this cabaret show since I was a little girl. It was probably my only reason to go to Paris in the first place. The movie with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor was one of my favorite movies ever, and I loved singing along with the soundtrack with my mom in the car. Who am I kidding? I still love doing that! The show was perfection. Moulin Rogue was everything I could have dreamed of and we even got a complimentary bottle of champagne with the reservation! If you are ever in Paris, put this at the top of your list. I promise you will not regret it!
Our second day in Paris we decided to get a museum pass and get through as many as we could in our few days. This is another thing to jot down in your Paris notes! If you plan on going to a bunch of museums, definitely get the museum pass because it will save you money and lets you skip any entrance lines you may encounter. Doug was hesitant to take the subway system and decided we could walk to the information building to get the passes. I didn’t even think to ask how far it was from our hotel, but I can tell you I was yelling at Doug almost the entire walk because it was FAR. I was angry. Doug liked to poke fun at me for reading travel guides before our trips, and kept asking me what every single thing was that we passed on our walk. At one point, he pointed to a giant building with a golden dome and asked me what it was. In that moment I had lost my cool and screamed “I DON’T KNOW, DOUG! I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT PARIS STOP ASKING ME!”, or something like that. A few minutes after that ordeal, a man on the street attempted to con us by pretending to find a gold ring on the street, thankfully Doug saw right through this and immediately grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the man with the ring before he could even speak to us. I ended up looking it up and turns out that this is a common trick, so always be extra aware when in an unfamiliar area! I decided this was enough for Doug to redeem himself for the constant questions and long walk, and didn’t stay angry with him for much longer.
We finally picked up our passes and walked over to the famous Musée du Lourve. Thankfully, Doug and I have common interests when it comes to art, so we stuck together and enjoyed the time we spent there mostly wandering around the rooms with the statues and sculptures. We decided it was time to see the Mona Lisa after we went through all of the statues. Joke was on us, because we couldn’t find it anywhere! There were a million signs pointing to it, but for some reason we kept walking in circles. We finally found it, and I have to say it was really underwhelming. The room it is in is mobbed and the painting is actually pretty small and was hard to see, but we managed. After we finally saw it we had the reverse problem. Now we couldn’t find the exit and kept circling back to the Mona Lisa. We were lost in there for longer than I would like to admit, but hey now we have a funny story to tell.
After we escaped the maze that is the Louvre, we made our way to Musée de l’Orangerie, which houses Claude Monet’s famous water lilies. I had seen the water lilies a bunch of times online and in books, but seeing it in person gives you an entirely different feeling. It gives you a sense of calm and a sense of wonder all at the same time. Magical.
After a long day of walking and wandering museums, we head back towards the city center for dinner. After dinner, we decided we would walk down to the Arc de Triomphe. We had no intentions of going to the top, but I remember a coworker had told me to do it, so we figured since we had no other plans that we would go, especially since our museum pass would get us in for free anyway. Another thing to add to your must do list for Paris! If you want the best view of Paris, this is it. I was mesmerized up there and could have stayed there all night. We got lucky to be up there at the same time the Eiffel Tower was being lit up for the night and put on the light show. It was like being in a movie. You could also see Montmartre from up there to get a good look at Sacre-Coeur in all of its glory.
Day three. Our last day in Paris, and still so much to do! We wanted to see a few more museums and Napoleon’s tomb before heading over to our reservation to take a tour of the Catacombs of Paris. While walking towards the military museum we wanted to go to, we saw the golden dome again. I said something along the lines of “oh look! Napoleon’s tomb is close too”. I don’t think I could describe Doug’s face if I tried. In my fit of rage the day before I didn’t even realize I knew exactly what the building he was asking about was. Now this gives us something to laugh about, and every once in a while he will just randomly say “I DON’T KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT PARIS, DOUG!” and we’ll burst into laughter. We walked through the military museum, and then made our way to Napoleon’s tomb. I know the history books mentioned he was a short man, but this casket really showed it. It was very short.
We still had some time to kill before heading to the catacombs (no pun intended), so why not get some more museums in, right? We made our way to the Musée Rodin, which I honestly had never heard of until that moment. Little did I realize it was home to the famous “Thinker” statue and many other recognizable pieces of art from this sculptor. This museum had garden exhibits and indoor exhibits as well. My personal favorite was the Gates of Hell. It was so detailed and really told a story. Absolutely beautiful.
After we finished at Musée Rodin, we made one more stop before our final destination. You cannot go to Paris without seeing her majesty Notre Dame. Another one of my favorite movies as a kid was Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I know it’s an animated kids movie, but the cathedral always amazed me. Unfortunately, exactly one month before we were in Paris, Notre Dame went up in flames. Such a beautiful, historic building destroyed in such a tragedy. When we went, we were able to get a look from a distance and check out some of those gargoyles, but we weren’t able to go inside. Hopefully next time I am in Paris!
We finally made our way to the Catacombs. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Catacombs of Paris are underground rooms with a tunnel system filled the remains of over six million people. We went down and instant chills. I could have never imagined how many bones were actually down there. Being above ground in Paris you never think about the dark past the city has, but being underground starring right at it really brings you back to the reality of its history. After this chilling experience, we head back to grab dinner and get some sleep since we had an early flight to Austria the next morning to finally meet our Contiki group.
So like I said, I didn’t fall in love in Paris in the traditional sense. What I did fall in love with was my own sense of wonder. I saw such beautiful things in this city, and didn’t even want to come. This quick trip opened my eyes to how much I really needed to open my eyes to the world around me, especially since I know I didn’t even see everything this magnificent city had to offer! There is so much to see even in all of the places you have no desire to explore. I will never dismiss another city/place again, because I am sure there is always something to explore. I will always be curious and wonder what I can discover in every place I visit.
Have you ever fallen for a city/place you didn’t even want to visit? Comment below!