One comment I often get when discussing potential travel plans with others is, “Oh, you should go to Paris”. I don’t disagree but somehow I always end up somewhere else when I visit Europe. If the decision was mine alone, I would usually choose London since it’s one of my favorite cities in the world though I also want to visit other parts of the UK as well (Edinburgh, Oxbridge and Brighton are still on my to-visit list).
But now, I can finally cross the City of Lights off my list. I spent a very long (for me, that is) Memorial Day weekend in France and Belgium, traveling with my friend P. She wanted to take a trip this year and I happily agreed to be her traveling companion; it was a new experience since I’ve known her longer than most of my friends (she and my sister went to school together) but this was the first time we traveled together. P made all the arrangements and we set off for Paris on her birthday.
While this was my first trip to Paris, P had been there before some years ago but she didn’t mind revisiting the famous and heavily trafficked landmarks. Of course, there were visits to the Louvre (Mona Lisa, check. Venus de Milo, done. The Winged Victory of Samothrace, ditto.), the Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Champs Elysées.
There was a stroll along the Seine on our first afternoon, crossing the river at Pont Neuf and browsing the famous book stalls on the Left Bank. We were lucky to see the Pont des Arts with love locks intact; Paris officials finally removed them last week and I can’t say I disagree with that choice. A few days later, we hopped on a boat for a one-hour cruise on the Seine, starting at the Eiffel Tower and heading west to the tip of Île Saint-Louis before turning back. And all along the river were Parisians sitting by the banks, chatting the night away with food, drinks and their friends.
We saw both the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe up close but did not climb to the top of either; the lines were insane for the former (even during late evenings) and we arrived too early for the latter to be open. One nice thing about visiting Paris this time of year is the long daylight; sunset began around 9:30pm and it was very hard to want to return to the hotel when there was still a lot of natural light outside. We made the most of it by wandering around the streets of Paris until it grew dark; even then, there were still plenty of people picnicking on the Champ de Mars or having a late (for me) dinner at the bistros.
People have asked me what my favorite part of the trip was and honestly, I don’t think there was any particularly outstanding moment in my mind. Because we were there for such a short time, we crammed as much as we could in the first few days and a lot of it went by almost in a blur. It also didn’t help that the weekend we were there happened to be a public holiday in France so while stores were normally closed on Sundays, many shops and restaurants did not open on Monday either so that meant all our shopping had to be done in between all of the cultural visits.
Even so, I think it was amazing how much we did see in such a short time though our feet were so sore every evening by the time we returned to the hotel. One thing I now have a temporary aversion to are cobblestone streets; walking on uneven, unpaved surfaces were brutal, no matter which pair of shoes I wore nor how often we changed them during the day. Stone streets are lovely to look at but not for ideal for walking hours on.
Stay tuned for more about my trip (and of course, the food).