Paris, The City of Lights

Paris sunset Eiffel Tower

You know that awesome feeling when the hopes and expectations you had about someone or something are exceeded? Paris brought that out in me. Honestly, it probably would not have even cracked my top 10 places to visit prior to this past weekend. I always figured it was somewhere I should go, but I had other interests. However, seeing as how France and Spain are a stone’s throw apart, it seemed the ideal time to check out what all the hype was about. A few hours in and sure enough, I had fallen head over heels for the romance capital of the world.

Day 1: Notre Dame 

We were going on about three hours of sleep our first day, so we opted to only tackle one of the attractions I wanted to see (Heather frequented Paris as a child, so she basically let me pick what I wanted to do and offered suggestions.) Notre Dame seemed like the obvious choice since it’s quick to pass through, but mostly because one of Paris’ top-rated crêpe places is nearby. The only knowledge I had about the cathedral going in came from a Hunchback script from my high school theatre days.
I imagined it would be comparable to other cathedrals I had visited throughout Europe, and for the most part, it was: high arches, obsessive attention to detail, grandeur in all its forms. While I don’t consider myself religious, I can appreciate the painstaking effort required to create such a structure. As impressed as I was with the interior, it was after we left that Notre Dame made my jaw drop. We turned the corner and caught the cathedral at a different angle, illuminated like a candle over the river Seine. In fact, everything was lit up. It was in that moment that I first felt the magic of Paris.

High on the breathtaking views, the downpour hardly bothered me as we hustled to get our hands on some crêpes. To say they did not disappoint would be an understatement. My first Parisian crêpes created a bit of an obsession.

Notre Dame night

Day 2: Montmarte, The Louvre, La Tour Eiffel

One Parisian gem that I wouldn’t have known existed if it weren’t for Heather is the neighbourhood of Montmartre. In a nutshell, it’s an art district with a fantastic view of the city. Quaint shops line the cobblestone streets and artists display their work in the square, offering to immortalize you with a portrait done in mere minutes. The image I had always had of Paris could be summarized with a walk through Montmartre. To make the experience even more stereotypical, we couldn’t resist stopping for crêpes and picking up some macarons along the way.

Montmarte

I confess: I know as much about art as my grandmother knows about social media. My limited knowledge, however, did not impede the feeling of utter awe that washed over me the moment we walked into the first gallery at the Louvre. A room full of 10-foot-tall marble sculptures sure makes you feel small. The museum itself is rather overwhelming; we arrived about two and a half hours before closing and felt like we had hardly scratched the surface. Considering it holds over 35,000 works and spans 652,300 square feet, I guess we did okay. 

Louvre Mona Lisa

Being in the Louvre felt a bit like being in The Da Vinci Code. The bibliophile in me was fangirling pretty hard. Like any good tourists, we elbowed our way through the crowd to see da Vinci’s masterpiece up close and personal. 

Finally, after devouring a mouthwatering plate of escargot, we headed up to Paris’ crowning glory (though it wasn’t always. Fun fact: many people hated the Eiffel Tower when it was first built). I was ill-prepared for the biting cold of Paris in February, but my first glance at the Tower aglow in the inky night sky ceased any shivering. No disappointment there. It really was as spectacular as I’d imagined. Luckily, we only had to wait about an hour to reach the top and it was worth every second.

Eiffel Tower night

 

Day 3: The Catacombs and Les Champs-Élysées

Paris catacombs

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”

So, here’s a dilemma: it’s the 18th century and you’re running out of room to store your dead people. What do you do? Convert the out-of-use limestone mines running underneath the city into a sepulchre, of course! Fast forward two hundred-some years and the Parisian catacombs have become a major tourist attraction. It’s funny because Paris is the crème de la crème of class, yet just underneath the surface lies a maze of over six million dead bodies. Quite the juxtaposition. Nonetheless, it was a delightfully eerie experience.

Luckily, our bus to the airport was right at the end of the Champs-Élysées, Paris’ luxurious shopping street, so I had the good fortune of walking it in its entirety prior to leaving the city I’d fallen in love with. Tourists flood the thoroughfare as if in a parade, the Arc de Triomphe towering in the background. Upscale fashion brands like Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss line the Champs, along with a plethora of lavish restaurants. People were even lined up to get into some of the stores! It felt a little bit like Boxing Day, except nothing was on sale; everyone was just loaded.

Soon after we passed the Arc (in my opinion, the most impressive part of the Champs-Élysées), it was time to say our sad goodbyes. Au revoir, Paris. À la prochaine fois.

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