We took some time in the arrivals lounge to prepare ourselves for the rush that we were about to experience. We were about 45 minutes outside the center of Paris and the next week would be a busy one; but one that I couldn't wait to start.
It started out with pouring rain as we arrived at our hotel, but we refused to let that dampen (sorry) our spirits for long and as the evening came, we had already looked around - slightly underwhelmed - the local book market, made ourselves comfortable in the nearby park, explored the lovely neighborhood and were searching for food in the closed neighborhood that Sunday evening. The fact that everywhere would be closed was something that had escaped our minds in all the excitement, so we settled for a picnic in our hotel room which suited us fine for our first night in the City of Love and Light. H was flat out asleep at 8:30pm because she had, as she kept saying, "been up for many hours" and so too had I, and was harboring a 24 illness but I refused to sleep when I could instead be standing at our window and watching the beam of light from the top of the Eiffel Tower sweep round through the darkness.
Monday was our first full day, so we headed into the center of Paris on the Metro (which for me provided endless excitement as I love train travel) and started by strolling up the Champs Elysees, amongst the crowds of Americans and Asians, to then get lost in Sephora and fall in love with a rucksack and a Penny skateboard in the Roxy/Quiksilver shop, neither of which left the shop with me.
As somebody who only buys makeup when I need it, Sephora made me feel a bit on-edge. Walking amongst the stands selling countless brands of everything - the purpose of most things slightly lost on me - was like walking in a completely different world; one with perfectly turned out blonde Parisian girls that shoved perfume samples and free makeover coupons in your face. One of the girls working on the hair styling stand genuinely looked like Carrie Bradshaw and I couldn't help but stare. I lost H for a good twenty minutes but after I had found her, she was pounced upon and as I can't even talk about makeup in English, I panicked and walked away as fast as I could.
Up to the Arc de Triomphe, or as an American so loudly pointed out, "we're at the Arch of Triumph!" and back down to the Seine where we had lunch on a boat - not bad for some budget travellers! It turned out to be one of my favourite meals of the holiday, but then again, who wouldn't love a galette on a boat in the sun?
We made our way down the river and to the Louvre museum. It's a huge glass triangle and makes a great photo. There's a shopping centre inside and as we didn't have to pay for that, we got our shop on in all the nice places.
It was a late night and we fell asleep buzzing from the day that didn't quite feel as if it had happened.
Tuesday bought with it a visit to the Pompidou Centre, which we discovered to be closed, as all museums and galleries in Paris are (a handy tip for you there) and the Notre Dame Cathedral. It was an impressive piece of architecture and feeling like I should make an intelligent comment about it but not quite knowing what, I just said, "It's quite big isn't it" and that was when I realised that "It's quite big isn't it" was probably the least intelligent comment that I could ever have made. Tuesday bought with it more rain and a kind of wetness that hydrated my bones, so we called it a late afternoon, headed back to the hotel to dry off and found a cute restaurant for dinner that evening. We finished the day off with three euro wine and fell asleep a bit drunk.
Wednesday was DISNEY! We were in the park at 9:30am and I've been to both Disney in Paris and Florida before but it still had the same magic that it did all of those years ago and we both walked round simultaneously enchanted and childishly excited. I won't say much more for those of you that have yet to go, but let me leave you with the knowledge that it will make you giddy like a little school child. Leaving at 10pm was a sure sign that it was quite good.
On Thursday, we made it into the paying part of the Louvre only to be almost unimpressed at the sheer volume of marble busts and paintings of the same people. Now I was expecting pieces of art, not people art if you get me. We made it round the whole place, much to the surprise of both of us and we even saw the Mona Lisa. As we walked into its own private side room, the swarms of people were hard to miss but the one thing that I did miss was the painting. I was looking for the huge masterpiece, to then realise that the hords of people in front of me were in front of it. It was like being at a concert with everybody pushing to try and get a picture and the energy in that room was strange. I saw the little painting of the lady sitting and again, in one of my finest moments with words, managed "Is that it?" and to be honest, I was quite unimpressed. I had seen the famous Mona Lisa and the world had not shifted, it had not inspired an epiphany within me but I was still the same. I couldn't understand why they were all pushing for a picture when Google has plenty.
Guess what we did that evening? We walked up the Eiffel Tower. Hadn't you noticed its absence? We paid our five euros to walk up the two floors or 1500 steps, which took us about three quarters of the way up the tower. We got up there at about 9:30, so the sun was setting and I stood there breathless (in both senses of the word) as I absorbed the stunning view that was the entire city as it prepared for its night time festivities. When it's dark, the Eiffel Tower sparkles gold like a shimmering disco ball for five minutes on the hour, every hour and to be up there when it was happening was truly magical.
I made it my personal challenge to walk from the first floor to the second floor without stopping on the way up and needless to say, as I stood there holding my weary legs up, I was not going to do the same back down the other way.
We grabbed an 11pm dinner from a questionable food truck at the bottom of the tower and as I stood watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle for the second time that night, with frites and saucisses in one hand and H on my other side, I felt so simply content and I didn't want that night to end.
Friday was a shopping day and although it's really not my strong suit, I did make a trip to the Pull-In shop which dramatically compromised my money situation but I had been waiting all year for the Pull-In shop so I WAS LEAVING THAT SHOP WITH SOMETHING (or somethings as it turned out). I also couldn't make it past the Roxy shop without that rucksack, so it was destined to go home with me afterall.
In the evening we trammed it over to Montmarte and I have to say, I think that was probably my favourite place. Coming out of the Metro station you are greeted by the Moulin Rouge (I'm not sure whether they used that actual windmill in the film or whether it was a prop, but anyway, it was still pretty cool) and you can go in, but it's about 100 euros for a cancan show and ain't nobody that rich. There's a side street right next to the Moulin Rouge and if you go up it, you will find the cafe that they used in the film Amelie. They actually used that cafe in the film and as H is obsessed with that film and Audrey Tautou, she stood outside it at a loss for words and, I think, suffering a minor heart attack. If you sneak a peak inside, it's a bit of an Audrey Tautou shrine so you'll know that you've got the right place. She apparently lives in Paris so I wanted to cooly run into her but that unfortunately did not happen, plus I would have had to scrape H up off the floor in her starstruck mess. The area around the Moulin Rouge is a bit seedy but it was quite a funny contrast.
Montmarte is on top of a hill and you have to get a cable car type thing up to it and it was a lovely place but completely different to the rest of Paris. I liked it best because it strangely felt very familiar and I liked that about it. The artists drawing portraits and people sitting out in the cobbled streets drinking beer and wine amongst the fairy lights is something that the rest of the hectic city doesn't offer. We had dinner under a canopy strung with fairy lights and the wine topped it off - so too, did the delicious steak - but in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to capture it for a lifetime.
On our final full day in the city we returned to the Pompidou Centre and that one was actually art, but the only downside is that H looks at everything so SLOWLY, so I had looked at everything probably about three times by the time that she had done it all once. I can tell you where each piece is, I lapped it that many times.
That took up the majority of the day and we had dinner in our neighborhood and went back to a restaurant that we went to on Tuesday because we liked it so much.
We were flying back home on Sunday, but we had just enough time before making our way to Charles De Gaulle to pay a trip to the Laduree shop, although I saw the price of the macaroons and that was my minor heart attack. But H let me have one of hers and I started with the polite, "No, no they're yours. You paid for them and they're not cheap" but a few hours later at the airport, she sat there holding them and I caved and just went "ok then, thanks". They were nice but not the amazing piece of patisserie that I had been promised about.
Paris is a city that cannot be described properly in words; to really experience it then you just have to go. It gives you a certain feeling that I'm not sure anywhere else could. With my role as translator also fulfilled, Paris left me enchanted. I was in love, but not just with Paris.
(Pictures to come)