Paris. The city of love. The city of lights.
Did it live up to all the hype and excitement? Even now, I think it did. But with a tinge of disappointment.
Don’t get me wrong. Given the chance, I’d recommend Paris to any of my friends to go to. The city is beautiful. It’s exciting and there is so much to see and experience. The disappointment is mostly due to my own expectations. For many of us, we’re exposed to pictures and movies of these famous places – Paris, the Eiffel Tower, the Versailles, Notre Dame, Basilique du Sacre Coeur, the Mona Lisa, the Louvre, le jardins du Luxembourg, and the Arc de Triomphe. And I was so excited to see all these places in person. My first ever Europe trip. The excitement was still there when I was there, and even thinking about it today, I know that I want to go back one day.
1. La Tour Eiffel
We all know it. It’s part of the most common souvenir bought from there. You know, the little replicas on the keychains. A friend of mine went on exchange in Paris and came home with one for each of us, which is why I didn’t bother getting any for my friends – how many mini Eiffel Towers do we need on our keychains?
Regardless, in my little prepatory reading on the flight to Paris, I found a little fact about the Eiffel Tower that I liked. Basically, it was constructed for the World Fair in Paris in 1889 and at first, Parisians hated this tower. They thought that it was “an eyesore” but little did they know that in time, the world would love it and the Eiffel Tower would become one of Paris and France’s most prominent symbols. I loved this little trivial fact because yes, I do think of France when I see the Eiffel Tower but I realized that aside from that connection I make, I had no real opinion of the tower itself – you know, for its aesthetic value.
I was shocked to see it in person. You know, you see and hear about something all your life and to experience it first hand… I was blown away. And when we went on the cruise along the Seine River our first night, it looked pretty with all the lights lit up. As our hotel was right down the street from this attraction, we saw it everyday. And with time, I thought… I love and hate it. I love it because perhaps the tourist in me just can’t help loving it. But I hated it because… there really wasn’t much to it. You can see the entire structure with all its metal glory. And I feel like there is so much more to Paris, and the Eiffel Tower blindedsided me because of its prominence. Even so, to actually say “Yes, I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower” – that, is pretty cool.
2. Musée du Louvre (& Mona Lisa)
Let me start with: I loved la Pyramide Inversée (the Inverted Pyramid). No, not because of The Da Vinci Code, but come on, a huge, glass pyramid that serves as an entrance and skylight into one of the most famous museums in the world? How can anyone not love this? The museum itself was nice. I loved the fact that the museum is in a palace: how grand is Europe? Just the museum itself was a beauty and wonder to see, much less the art that it holds within its wonderful walls. But I’ll be honest now, my family? No, we’re not too huge on museums. I mean, we all found statues and paintings that we liked, but our attention span and the speed at which we walk… well, we got through the museum pretty quickly.
But before I do move on, I do have to mention a certain lady. Miss Mona Lisa herself. Hello, you can not visit the Louvre and not pay your respects. And we did. From a distance. With a hundred other tourists fighting to take a good picture of this elusive woman in her elusive painting, behind a glass protection. So, score one for me – I have seen Mona in person. But, seeing it from a distance, with a glare because of the glass pane… well, Mona Lisaa looked a lot better in textbooks and books that I’ve seen her in. But I get it. One of the most known paintings in the world that has been stolen mutiple times – we do need to take our extra precautions.
3. Château de Versailles
It’s a château, enough said.
No, Versailles deserves more than that. In one word: majestic. In one phrase: I want to live there. Or at least visit a few more times to really explore the whole grounds. The palace itself is just that – a wonderful palace full of stories and history of kings, queens, princes and princesses who have walked its halls and bedrooms. The Hall of Mirrors? The garden? Wow. I mean, it has a fountain, and then a really long walkway reaching some kind of pond, and that’s just the view from the palace. It goes beyond that. Which is why we were unable to go further. I really wanted to visit Marie Antoinette’s estate – I have been fascinated with her history ever since watching the movie. But yes, definitely on my list of places to revisit one day if I get the chance to go back to Paris.
4. Streets of Paris
We visited more attractions of Paris, but I think I’m ready to go into one of the reasons why I do love Paris. Quite simply, Paris itself. Its streets and architecture and the fact that it’s just riddled in history. I love that about Paris, and perhaps it’s true for Europe in general ( ? I wouldn’t know until I travel to other European cities). But sometimes, I felt like Paris was just put together with every story that represents the history the city has experienced. And to travel to a place like that? I was a little overwhelmed to be honest (thank you Mom and Dad).
For a few nights during our trip – when we weren’t with my dad’s friends – we tried to find a small restaurant to have a little taste of Paris. After our trip to the museum, we also enjoyed tea and macarons at Tea by Thé. And for an hour or so, we just sat outside the place, put on our shades and relaxed. And honestly, as simple as that moment was, it is one of the memories that have stuck with me. The simple way in which we were able to just sit and chill, for lack of a better word. I think Europeans know how to enjoy life. Parisians take a whole month off in the summer, just because they can. They work hard all year and enjoy a month off. They have little eateries alongside the street, with tables and chairs facing outwards, because they want to just sit and watch the view.
Yes, I did not really enjoy the commercialized aspects of it or invasion-of-the-tourists feeling (yes, I’m a tourist too) but I had a good time.My love-hate relationship with La Tour Eiffel is still mostly a love. I do want to take more time in the Louvre. I want to visit Versailles again. I haven’t been up the Arc de Triomphe yet. And honestly, we only scratched the surface of all that Paris has to offer, much less France.
Places and experiences that I did not mention in detail:
- Champs de Mars – my first view of rectangular trees!
- Palais de Chaillot – great place for photos with La Tour Eiffel
- Notre Dame de Paris – beautiful exterior of the cathedral
- Almost being pickpocketed while shopping on the rue de rivoli – caught the woman as she opened my bag. Not a great experience to be honest.
- Riding the RER – public transport; I actually missed the TTC
- La Château de Fontainebleau – smaller palace than Versailles but just as majestic, with less tourists; I also found my future personal library here
- “Chinese” buffet, sushi and pho lunch – only made me homesick because Toronto’s Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese food is so much better
- L’église de la Madeleine – this church is … beautiful and powerful
- Statue of Liberty at the Seine
- Palais and jardin du Luxembourg – pretty but need to go back to explore more
- Top of La Tour Eiffel experience – beautiful nightview of the city; seems a little lacking without the Eiffel itself in the view
- Parc Disneyland – yes, another Disney park off my list!
- Basilique du Sacré-Coeur – another amazing view of the city and once again, loved the architecture
It was a great first European experience. I’m looking forward to returning to Paris one day, but perhaps after I travel to other European countries – France, Ireland, Holland, Switzerland, Italy, Greece… and the list continues.
Paris, France. 07.29.2011-08.06.2011. ♥