A Parisian Pit-Stop

During our time in Europe, we spent the majority of the trip in Spain with the intention of going to the UK to visit one of my best friends (and bridesmaids) on our way home.  However, we couldn’t resist the temptation to stop in Paris since neither of us had ever been there.  It’s one of the most famous cities in the world!  How could we not?!  We didn’t have a ton of extra time in our itinerary so we were only able to stay in Paris for about 48 hours, but we squeezed a lot out of that limited time.  As always, Scott took some incredible photos of this timeless city.

The first night, we arrived fairly late in the afternoon/early evening.  We took a LONG taxi ride through incredibly dense traffic to the heart of the city.  We noticed several things on this ride.  First, Parisian drivers are the most terrifying we’ve seen so far.  They didn’t seem to care for other vehicles, pedestrians, motor scooters or bicycles.  They would honk and yell out their windows at one another and I had never been so grateful to not have a rental car.  Second, we were reminded immediately that there were soccer finals going on and Parisian fans represented the teams they supported with a fury I hadn’t yet witnessed.  There were flags flying out of vehicle windows, people yelling off of balconies and out of their cars, it was madness.  Finally, Paris has ethnic districts unlike any I have seen.  When we entered the city, it was as if we were in India, then we transitioned into Africa, then China.  Every block seemed to have signs in a different language, clothing of a different style and people of a different color.  Once we arrived in the center of the city, however, it became extremely diverse.  You could hear different languages all around you and the city was full of life and color.

Our hotel was very urban and the entry way was hardly noticeable stuffed between different storefronts as it was.  We hurried up to our TINY hotel room (we didn’t even have a place to set our suitcases other than the bed) and quickly changed so that we could enjoy our first of only two nights in Paris.

Our hotel was just down the street from The Louvre which was on our agenda for the following day.  Not knowing the city at all, we went towards the only landmark we knew from our taxi ride, The Seine River, and started to explore.  Sun was setting over The Seine, we caught our first glimpse of the tip-top of The Eiffel Tower and could see the ferris wheel spinning amongst the fire-orange clouds.

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We stood on the bridge for a while, taking it all in.  We watched river boats cruise up and down under the bridges, couples walked along the sidewalks that lined the canal-like river, lovers stopped for sunset photos, and locals marched home from work or out for a meal.

One of the things we were most excited to experience in Paris was THE FOOD, of course! We had dinner reservations for the following evening, but the first night we were flying by the seat of our pants.   We saw a restaurant a couple blocks away directly on the river and thought that it looked inviting and traditional so we walked over and hoped it wasn’t too fancy to allow a couple of tired looking walk-ins.

We were seated right away and we were NOT disappointed.  In fact, this impromptu, late dinner was our favorite of all the Parisian eating experiences we had during this short visit.  The restaurant was called La Frégate (http://alafregate.fr/en).  We started our meal with Foie Gras, which Scott had never had, and my first taste of French red wine.  I was totally in love with French wine after this night.  Growing up in Washington wine country, I’ve always loved wine and I’m turning Scott into quite the wine-o, as well.

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We then ordered entrees that we thought would give us a true taste of French fine dining.  Scott got rack of lamb and I got duck with raspberry sauce.  We savored these meals because, though simple, they were EPIC.

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After an delectable dinner, we strolled along the river under the street lights for a little longer before returning to our tiny room and passing out.  We had big plans for our one and only full day in Paris which was yet to come.

The next morning we had early passes to The Louvre.  We got up, showered in the teeny tiny bathroom, got a coffee and a croissant (something I had also REALLY been looking forward to), and walked the short walk to The Louvre.  We were immediately overwhelmed.  The outside of The Louvre is a work of art in itself and spans 652,000 square feet.  The courtyards are all immaculately landscaped and the entrance to The Louvre is a glass pyramid with escalators inside.  We knew we were only going to be able to see a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of pieces inside.

We chose to see Greek sculptures, Renaissance paintings, ancient Egyptian works, and historical Christian pieces.  Essentially we were following the yellow-brick road that would lead us to the Mona Lisa (which is what every other patron seemed to be doing, as well).  Although we have about 100 photos of the pieces, murals and rooms at The Louvre, I’ve chosen only a few to share here.

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When we got to the Mona Lisa, we were shocked by how tiny the painting was.  She was contained behind a wall of glass and hundreds of  pushy tourists were snapping photos of her.  Surrounding her, were hundreds of incredible, large-scale, paintings from the same time period that were equally awe-inspiring, but were ignored due to the fame of this one portrait.  It was quite a scene to take in.

Eventually, our eyes and legs were exhausted from scouring the rooms and walls of this immense museum.  We had so much more to see and decided to return to our hotel room, change into some walking shoes, and hit the streets of Paris.  Of course, we had to stop first and get some lunch at a corner cafe and get some to-die-for fresh fruit juice.

One of the landmarks I most wanted to see was Notre-Dame de Paris.  I had grown up watching the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I wanted to see it with my own eyes.  I was amazed at the skills of the animators.  They were able to take an incredibly ornate, stone structure and turn it into a cartoon while preserving the character of such a place.  I felt like I actually recognized some of the gargoyles.  One of the things you don’t get to see in the cartoon, however, is the garden.  The courtyard at Notre-Dame is just as gorgeous as the bell towers that have become so well known.

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After Notre-Dame (which was quite a trek from our hotel), we did some more walking along The Seine, explored the street markets for souvenirs, and returned to the hotel to get dressed up for our planned Parisian fine dining experience.

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For dinner we had reservations at Le Violon d’Ingres (http://www.maisonconstant.com/violon-ingres/) which we found by searching “fine dining near The Eiffel Tower”.  Before hailing a taxi to take us towards the 7th arrondissement of Paris (the district in which The Eiffel Tower resides), we stopped in a small bar near our hotel and ordered a few glasses of wine.  The bar tender was friendly and informative and helped me pick out some new favorite varieties of French wine.

At Le Violon d’Ingres we ordered a bottle of wine and both decided to enjoy their tasting menu.  This was a six-course meal with two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts.  The unanimous favorite course was the first one: a truffle bisque with tiny bits of fried pork belly.  This course set the tone for a ridiculously rich meal (thankfully the courses were quite small) complete with pigeon, macaroons, and a salad with a soft-boiled egg on top.  We were so enraptured with the food that we completely forgot to take pictures of the stunning presentations.  After the third, surprise dessert course, I was stuffed and uncomfortable wearing a pretty tight, red dress but so satisfied.  We decided to walk off our feast by heading over to The Eiffel Tower.  As the evening sun went down, we watched the famous tower light up.

We had NO IDEA that the final soccer game was letting out at the same time and as we came upon The Eiffel Tower (which had a huge inflated soccer ball hanging from it) the streets became FLOODED with angry or ecstatic fans.  Feeling full from a rich meal, we were overwhelmed in such a huge, rowdy crowd.  We found some steps that led directly into The Seine and we wet our feet while the world calmed down around us.

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This marked the end of our one day in Paris.  The next morning we would be getting up very early and flying to London where Scott and I would meet up with my dear friend, Kirsty, and visit with her and her family.  Someday we will return to Paris and enjoy the plethora of things we weren’t able to see during the hours we had in the summer of 2016.

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