“DOO-eh train tickets” (in fake Italian accent for some reason), holding up 2 fingers to the girl in glass both at the subway station near the Louvre Museum. This picture of an American idiot in Paris sums up my early days as an inexperienced international traveler.
Our Paris trip was a combination of two lucky circumstances. First, my new girlfriend in law school(later wife) also loved history, Roman history to be specific, but whose counting. Secondly, we were in law school and living off loans anyway, so what is one more loan to pay off somewhere down the line.
We had a successful trip to Rome, Italy the year before, Paris, France was second on the list.
Plane tickets for $300 each round trip and we decided to upgrade to an actual hotel instead on a youth hostel.
In my opinion a European capital like Paris needs a whole week just to hit all the basics. I bought a copy of ‘Let’s Go, Paris‘ to plan out our trip. These books are an excellent travel guide. As an added bonus, I used a highlighter to mark all the routes we took, years later you get to look back over that map and see how much of Paris you covered.
One way I can tell how much this trip meant to me is that 20 years later, I could still draw you a fairly accurate map of Paris from memory. Talk about a lasting impression.
Paris, France is generally arranged into 16 arrondissement, or districts, spiraling out from the tiny island in the center of the Seine River which bisects the city into Right bank and Left bank. All the photos are taken by us.
Ponte Neuf – ‘new bridge’ is really the oldest bridge across the Seine.
Here are some highlights;
The Bastille. The infamous French fort/ later prison. Nothing is left, it was torn apart brick by brick during the French Revolution, 14 July 1789. I kinda wish they had left just one stone in the street to mark its place.
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées. One of the most iconic strolls you can take. Right up to the Arc de Triomphe. 12 avenues radiate out from this war memorial.
The Eiffel Tower. We climbed up to the second platform, but not the tippy top. My favorite story about the Eiffel Tower is from Guy de Maupassant. Supposedly, he ate lunch in the tower’s restaurant every day because it was the one place in all Paris where the ugly tower was not visible.
Notre-Dame de Paris. ‘Our Lady of Paris” is probably the most famous example of French Gothic architecture. The ‘flying buttresses’ are very interesting. The Rose window is beautiful.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, Sacré-Cœur. It is quite a climb to get all the way up into the bell tower, but we did it. It is the highest point int the city and my favorite view.
We went on a day trip to The Palace of Versailles. Just outside the city this was the principal residence of the Kings of France, and it shows. The Treaty of Versailles, formally ending the First World War, was signed in its Hall of Mirrors. The grounds and gardens outside are both elaborate and stunning. I liked the The Gallery of Battles in the Museum of the History of Paris, France. Enormous painting of famous battles. After touring the royal apartments, I am OK with chopping off the heads of these people. P.S. They slept on tiny beds that would not contain a modern toddler.
The Louvre. Filled to the brim with Egyptian, /near East, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman art and artifacts. I suffered from awesome art fatigue and found myself underwhelmed by the Mona Lisa.
Here are non tourist site related observations.
Food. Some warm brie and a fresh baguette. Forget about it, I am all set. The food really was great. We were students at the time, so we only tried for middle of the road fare with one or two high end meals. I loved the idea of buying smaller one or two meal batches of groceries. Stop off at several different small stores and you are ready to make a fresh, great dinner that night and live of the leftovers tomorrow. P.S. I did see ‘broiled puppy’ on the menu at one of our fancy sit down restaurants.
Night life. I would go out late at night from our hotel on Rue Saint Honore’. There was a vibrant and distinctly immigrant scene near the Louvre. I ate the street food because that is what you do when you travel.
Cafe life. We would site see all day. Nowadays I would refer to this pace as a ‘death march’, but we were young and only had a week. When it was time for a break, it was time for a cafe’. What a lovely lifestyle, site outside, talking, smoking and drinking coffee. We both declared we were now OK with our 2-3% french blood.
Are French People Rude?
No. I did not find this to be the case. I did watch as some Texans complained that the tour guide was speaking French at Versailles. They thought the tour should be in English??? Don’t deserve rude treatment and you will be fine.
I do not know if I will ever be back, there are some many other places I want to go, but it was easy to fall for Paris, France when you are young and with a girl.
P.S. I wanted to put 2 photos side by side, the first is mine, post card worthy, I know. The second is my wife taking a photo, it is of a small horse eating out of the trash in some park. This is very typical of our dichotomy.
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