I’m a September baby. My mom had the good fortune to go into labor with me on Labor Day, 38 years ago. I wasn’t actually born on Labor Day … they told her to go home, have a glass of wine, kick her feet up and come in the next day. Every now and again, my birthday falls on Labor Day, as was the case this year. This year was even more awesome because the bestie (Sparky) and her husband (Brain) decided to make September the month of Euronanigans. That’s right friends, serious shenanigans abound!
Day one: Happy birthday to me!
We woke up and the day was pretty chilly and rainy. Fall was definitely around the corner, but after the heatwave we had just endured, it was a welcome cool down. We made our way to the train station and hopped on the ICE train to Paris. After two and a half hours of seat switching and awkward passengers taking photos of cars out the window, we arrived. Sparky and Brain knew that I was coming in, but we “surprised” them (they totally guessed early on) with Husband, Girl Child and Boy Child. After a breakfast of breads, juice and coffee, we were off to show our friends one of our favorite cities.
Trip Win #1: No one was struck down at Notre Dame. We walked over to Notre Dame Cathedral and surprisingly, no one was struck down by lighting wrath. We’ll take that as a win. It was busier than the past few times we have visited, but the line to get in went surprisingly fast. We took our time and then moseyed around outside for a little. We decided to walk over to the BatoBus and take a ride along the Seine.
Trip Win #2: The Eiffel Tower. This one will pretty much always be a win. Even more so now that they have completely amped up the security. Before, the area beneath the tower was open and there were a lot of shady peeps hocking selfie sticks and chintzy Eiffel Tower replicas. Now that whole area is fenced off, you have to go through security before entering the area (don’t worry, it’s still free to get in that area) and there aren’t any shady peeps throwing stuff in your face. It’s really nice because you can take your time and just look around without the crowd.
After the Eiffel Tower, we grabbed a crepe (because really…what’s Paris without grabbing a rubbery crepe from a vendor?) and started making our way back over toward the hotel. Since we were still little hungry (rubbery crepes just don’t quite suffice sometimes), we stopped by the little cafe that we had taken my parents to back in April. We weren’t starving, but the charcuterie boards looked pretty tempting. We ordered a bunch of different cheeses and meats along with a bottle of Bordeaux.
Trip Fail #1: Pâté. Dude…just…no.
After the delicious cheese, wine and questionable paté, it was time to say Au revoir to Husband and the kiddos. Yep…you read that correctly. Husband was awesome enough to let me chill with the bestie and her hubs for a couple of days in Paris. I know that I am a very lucky gal when it comes to him. We all jumped on the metro and said our goodbyes, with the three of them heading in one direction and us in the other.
We went back to the hotel, chugged some water, changed shoes and decided to walk around the Les Halles area. Tip o’ the day: It’s not pronounced lay-halls. The “h” is silent, so it’s actually pronounced “lays ah lay.” This will save you a many strange looks when
butchering attempting to say it correctly. However, if you happen to consume many a few adult beverages along the way, your rudimentary French can sound amazing (at least in my mind it did.) Sparky, Brain and I hit up a few different spots in the area — an Irish bar, an Australian bar and then finally a pizza joint for dinner. I have to say, it was a pretty fantastic birthday with some of my favorite people.
Sparky and Brain were still recovering from their flights, so we got a slightly later start than planned. After a necessary caffeine stop, we made our way over to the Paris Catacombs.
Trip Win # 3: The Paris Catacombs. If you don’t like bones, skulls, and slightly morbid curiosities, then go ahead and skip over this section. Otherwise, keep reading dear friends. The Paris Catacombs are fascinating and full of slightly creeptacular history. Way back in the day, during the age of the plague and rampant disease, the cemeteries in Paris became overcrowded. At the same time, limestone production in the city became less and less, but left cavernous dwellings beneath the streets. To kill two birds with one stone (see what I did there?), it was decided to go ahead and move some of the dead into the catacombs. Well really, it was more like six million. Rather than have the bones just scattered about, workers began arranging them in almost an artistic fashion. When you take the morbidity factor out, it really is quite stunning. And then you remember that these are actual peeps and you get a creeped out again.
Quick tip: If you want to go, buy tickets ahead of time to skip the line. We didn’t and waited about 90 minutes. On a Tuesday. In early September. It’s absolutely worth the wait, but just be prepared. Quick gross tip: If you have an aversion to rats, avoid the bushes by the lines. You know this place is legit when there are rats in the vicinity. Thankfully, we didn’t see any underground — only in the bushes above ground.
Trip Win #4: Cafe Indiana for lunch. When we made our way out of the catacombs, we realized that we hadn’t really eaten anything all day. We scanned the area and found Cafe Indiana on the corner. There was a spot outside, so we plopped down and grabbed some eats. I had the blue cheese burger which was absolutely phenomenal. Sparky and Brain ordered a chicken sandwich which looked equally delicious.
Since we weren’t too far from Tour Montparnasse and the day ended up being somewhat nice, we walked over to the tower to check out the Parisian skyline. The view from Montparnasse never gets old. There’s just something about having the Eiffel Tower actually in the picture, rather than taking the picture from tower and not having the quintessential landmark in the background. After we had enough panoramic eye candy, we hopped on the metro and took it over to the Arc de Triomphe.
Trip Fail # 2: Arc de Triomphe. Lemme just say … unless you’re willing to pay the admission fee, you can’t actually go to the Arc. You can get real close from across the street, but you won’t be able to visit the “island” unless you fork over the euros. We were getting a little tired of paying fees at this point, so we opted to *not* pay and just take a gander from across the street.
We walked down Champs Elysées for a bit, and then walked along the Seine toward Trocadero. By this time, dusk was settling in and we found a dock across from the Eiffel Tour that was the perfect viewing platform to watch the City of Lights come to life. Granted we *may* have been bombarded by a bus of Chinese tourists and their clap-happy tour guide, but when the light show began, it was magical. Once the show was over, we met one of Sparky’s friends from Harvard for dinner and drinks. Excellent way to finish the day.
Since today was going to be a later travel day, we woke up early and headed down to the Louvre. I had been to Paris twice before and had yet to check out the famous museum. I’ve wanted to check it out, but when you have a 10-year old that is notorious for shooting you ninja death glares any time she doesn’t get her way, it’s just easier to avoid the situation all together. Since it was on Sparky and Brain’s bucket list, I was more than happy to tag along.
Trip win #5: The Louvre. Here’s the deal about the Louvre: hope for the best and expect the worst. Go early and definitely buy your tickets ahead of time. They’re not very expensive and you can buy them online. Also, hit up the pieces or exhibits that are on your must-view list first and then work your way through the rest of the museum. The Mona Lisa will always be crowded, but it’s a lot less crowded at the beginning of the day. Same thing with the Venus de Milo.
The Louvre is astounding. The sheer amount of priceless works and art is nothing short of mind-blowing. I remember seeing replicas and prints of a lot of the paintings, so seeing the actual original painting up close and personal is really cool. I had to keep reminding myself that the artist’s hands actually touched the canvas that I was looking at. There are also a lot of hidden gems in the museum. For example, one of the oldest works of art (thousands of years old) is hanging out in the Middle Eastern section. Because everyone is so wrapped up in seeing the Mona Lisa, there was NO ONE checking out this awesome Jordanian sculpture.
You could probably spend a couple of days at the Louvre alone. And I do have to mention the visitor fails that we observed. 1) Put the selfies away. Seriously. We saw more people with their backs turned to the art because they were too busy taking a selfie of themselves in front of the art. We even saw one chick taking a selfie in the hallway mirror. Please. I get it. You want to prove that you were there and you love yourself. Cool, cool. But dude, stop. Put the camera down and just savor in the moment and realize the magnitude and depth of what you are seeing. Allow yourself to feel the emotion of the art and the emotion of the moment. You are seeing something that so many in the world will never get a chance to see in their lifetime. So do yourself and everyone a favor, put the selfie stick away and let yourself be human. 2) The signs absolutely apply to you. When they ask you not to sit on the ledge, there’s usually a pretty good reason (ummm…the possibility of falling four stories to your peril?). Put the flash away…it might be dimly lit, but remember…many of these pieces of art are a LOT older than you and I combined. Light and flash photography can easily degrade the works.
After we spent most of the day at the Louvre, it was time to head back to home to Germany. Since it we were would be missing out on dinner, we grabbed a few nibbles for the ride back. Did you know that coffee stir sticks can make excellent emergency chopsticks? You’re welcome.
I can’t guarantee that I won’t write about Paris again, but for now, we’ll call it good. It is an amazing city with so much life and brilliance. Just. go.