In all my life I never thought that I would ever leave the U.S.A. Let alone for Europe… and when we moved, yes.. I wanted to travel. Did I think we ever really would? Did I think it would ever become a reality? No… I had hoped… but didn’t really hold out hope.
All my life I have heard about Paris and thought to myself… “Really what’s the big deal?”
Well now I know and I’m here to tell you that… “Paris holds the key to my heart!”
On Monday morning bright and early we went to the train station in Phillipsheim. We took a train to Trier and then another on to Saarbruken. In Saarbruken we waited for just under an hour and boarded an I.C.E. train… (Basically a bullet train) and off for Paris we went!
We arrived in the City of Lights at about 3pm and walked from the train station, Gare de l’est, to our hotel, La Vieille France. When we arrived at our hotel it was to find that the lift was broken and our room was on the very top floor! Yikes! We hiked all the way to the top, put our bags down, and headed out to find something to eat!
We ended up in a nice little restaurant that I would NEVER eat in again! Word to the wise. If you ever go to Paris do not eat in a restaurant! If you have to sit down to eat you are going to be sorry!
We went in, sat down, and ordered.
For the appetizer course we all ordered a raw veggie salad… thinking or course… “Salad, okay I can do salad.” It ended up being a massive plate of cold; corn, peas, carrots, beets, and several unidentifiable things. All cooked mind you but served cold in some kind of gravy… SHUDDER! It’s okay though since they didn’t bring me the cold veggie salad I ordered I didn’t have to eat it. Oh no… instead I ended up with the cold MEAT salad. Which is, of course, PATTE! Oh, there simply are no words. NO WORDS! Suffice it to say that I have eaten real Pate in Paris, France.
For the main course (feeling a bit cautious after that appetizer fiasco!) Cheryl and I ordered chicken and Denny and Ryan ordered fish. Safe right? WRONG! The fish were these small limp pieces of the kind of fish they put in fish sticks covered in a lemon butter glaze. It was kind of like ordering fish at Denny’s… Then Cheryl and I got our chicken. Yep just a thigh and leg of a chicken baked. It had no flavor and was dry. Not terrible and not wonderful.
Dessert was another thing all together. It was AMAZING and we all almost died! It was this super thick, super dark, super RICH, chocolate mousse. About three bites and we were so done but of course we had to finish it all and so we were all about to explode when we left.
So sounds bad but not terrible huh? How about if I tell you that between the four of us to eat in this small sidewalk cafe with terrible food that didn’t even really fill us up we paid over $100.00? Now it’s bad right?
Okay so moral of this little story is… eat at the sidewalk vendors! They are everywhere and they are CHEAP. There is every kind of cuisine from all over the world on the streets of Paris and the food is amazing!
Anyway… back to the trip!
After dinner we set out with our maps and cameras!
The streets were amazing… Every building was something to see… Even in the poorer neighborhoods.
Restaurants you recognize from home… and many you don’t…
Restaurants with logos you recognize from the pictures you can buy in Target…
And after a lot of walking and some very scary moments (such as walking through the red light district of Paris at dusk) we found the most famous brothel in the world!
The Moulin Rouge!
Needless to say we contented ourselves with pictures from a distance and then hoofed it out of there before full dark!
So again we headed out on foot with maps and tour pamphlets. After about 600 miles and 4 billion stairs (just being dramatic) we stumbled upon the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur on the Montmartre.
It was an awesome sight to behold. Pardon the fuzzy pictures but it’s hard to get good pictures in the dark!
This one ended up being too cool to not use!
And from the Montmartre (a hill 130 meters high, in the north of Paris, primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacre Coeur on its summit and another church on the hill called Saint Pierre de Montmartre, which claims to be the location at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded. Many artists had studied or worked around the community of Montmartre such as Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.) you can see all of Paris spread out before your feet.
Seeing the city of lights from the Montmartre and feeling the crisp fall breeze was almost surreal.
Who would have ever thought that I would stand upon this hill looking out over Paris in perhaps the same spot as some of the greatest artists of all time.
When we were done taking in the sites we slowly walked back down the hill into the teeming nightlife of Paris.
The lights and sounds and smells of Paris at night can be summed up in a word… Charming!
We finally found our way back to the hotel and fell on the beds just to get off or our feet!
The next morning, bright and early we were up and about. We walked to the Gare de Nord train station and caught a bus for the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe is a monument in Paris that stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle at the western end of the Champs-Elysees.
The bus stop for it is about half a kilometer away from the actual arc so we walked along Champs- Elysees and looked at all the shops. We even saw the Louis Vuitton store. We went in for just a moment and the cheapest thing we found was a small medal keychain that was priced at 220 € (about $315.00) how crazy is that?
Back to the Arc de Triomphe.
The arch honors those who fought for France, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars.
And today also includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
It is lit with an ever burning flame.
As I said in my previous post, so many things here in Europe are so large that they don’t even look big. It’s as if your brain can simply not comprehend the true size so it scrunches it down to something understandable. Just to give you an idea of the size of this monument it is over 51 meters (165 ft) in height and is 45 meters wide. Still can’t grasp how big that is? That’s Ryan and his dad at the bottom there.
And here are Denny and Cheryl.
Ryan and I in the center next to the tomb of the unknown soldier.
It is the second largest triumphal arch in existence. Its design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. The Arc de Triomphe is so colossal that three weeks after the Paris victory parade in 1919, marking the end of hostilities in World War I, Charles Godefroy flew his Nieuport biplane through it, and was caught in a newsreel.
From the Arc de Triomphe we walked back to the bus station and headed for the Eiffel tower.
Again it is hard to explain just how large this is so I’ll show you. This is a full park and pond under the tower with full grown trees!
Suffice it to say… it’s big!
It was an amazing sight to see. My only regret is that Ryan and I never thought to get the classic picture of us kissing in front of the tower!
We’ll have to make due with this great picture of Ryan and his Dad overlooking the Seine river with the tower in the background… NOT kissing. (snicker)
After taking in the Eiffel tower and strolling along the Seine river we made our way to the Louvre!
The Musee du Louvre in Paris is the most visited and one of the oldest, largest, and most famous art galleries and museums in the world.
And of course the Louvre pyramid which was built in 1989 and serves as the entrance to the museum!
The Louvre was once a palace. It’s construction began in 1535 and was completed in 1876. It is quite a site to behold.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays… and that happens to be the day we were there! If we ever go to Paris again you can be sure that the day we see the Louvre won’t be a Tuesday!
After seeing as much of the Louvre as we could we walked onto the Ile de la Citi, the island in the center of the Seine River.
To the front doors of Notre Dame de Paris.
Notre Dame was built between 1163 and 1345 and is widely considered one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in the world.
It is still the seat of the Archbishop of Paris.
I have to say that this was perhaps my favorite stop in Paris.
The interior of this church took my breath away. Here are the pipes for the organ in front of one of the famous stained glass windows.
Can I just say that I love my camera? Flash cameras are not allowed inside as this is still a functioning church so all of these were taken indoors without a flash!
The windows were phenomenal.
The archways and ceilings just stagger the mind. It is not hard to believe that this building took 172 years to complete.
There were many alcoves with statues and paintings and of course stained glass.
It was surreal to look up into this church and have images of Disney movies flashing through your mind.
Don’t you expect to see Esmerelda walking down the aisle seeking sanctuary?
I wish that the pictures could portray just how amazing the experience was…
But I’ll have to settle with telling you that the actual sight of this place is much grander and awe inspiring than my camera (without it’s flash!) can show you.
This is the Crown of Light or the Great Chandelier that has been taken down for restoration.
I think this is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. It looks like it should be a postcard! (And in light of my recent encounters with Nuns it sooths my heart a bit! 🙂
The great Rose window of the Notre Dame cathedral.
The length of the cathedral from the Narthex.
This is one of the two iconic bell towers of Notre Dame.
The bells are some of the only things that survived the looting and destruction during the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century.
The outside of the Rose Window.
Us posing in the gardens behind Notre Dame.
After Notre Dame we spend some time perusing the little sidewalk shops and buying souvenirs. We had a wonderful time… We then walked back to the bus station and caught a bus back to our hotel. We collected our baggage and walked back to the train station to catch our train home.
As we boarded our train and looked back over the city of lights just beginning to come awake I realized that a piece of my heart would always belong in Paris.
I never understood how people could be so enchanted with a city, I have always been a mountain and lake girl myself.
But in the short two days that we walked it’s streets I fell in love with the city of lights, the city of L’amour.
Not to mention that Ryan and I can hold each other close, look deeply into each others eyes and say…
“We’ll always have Paris!”