To start off, I have been told Paris is a beautiful city but the people are rude, they expect you to speak French, and will try to rip you off. I have heard the same stereotype about people in New York as a Southern boy. I am here to tell you after now twice actually going and exploring these Meccas of art, culture, history, and style that none of the stereotypes regard merit. It all comes down to how you treat people and how you express yourself.
We loved Paris and the Parisians were more than accommodating in sharing their beautiful city with us. I feel like we experienced a true European gem at the perfect time of year and saw and did the best of what the city had to offer in our four day adventure into the myth, the legend, Paris!
We flew out of Madrid early, with our Cashman in his doggy bag, and set off for the eight day trip splitting time between Paris and Prague. We arrived at the Paris airport, with no complications, just after noon. We were going to grab a taxi to our apartment, but were immediately turned off by this mode of transport to the city as they wanted 60 euros to drive us in. Deciding to save that money for our trip we opted for the alternative and took the bus. Without clue of what was going on we hastily purchased a ticket at one bus platform then walked to another. We purchased tickets for the rail and went on the bus. Being herded into the bus like cattle we quickly realized we purchased the wrong tickets for our transport but with the number of people that boarded just went with it and off to the city center we went. We arrived at the center of Paris where all lines were accessible and the city life all around us. The people were bustling around like in Madrid and we were focused on the task of getting to our apartment. We found the metro line to lead the way, were guided by a polite Parisian, and informed to keep our metro tickets, and got closer to our apartment. When we got off we weren't exactly where we needed to be and after walking in a circle decided to hail a cab. Finally, after getting in the taxi, we were only 5 minutes from our place, or so we thought. I had been researching the city and the big monument, the Eifel tower, was getting farther away and we were crossing the river we weren't needing to cross, so I explained we weren't going the right way and the driver realized his mistake and righted his path. It was a nice introduction to Paris to see the river, the street art, the people, the restaurants of one of the posh districts before finally arriving at our destination. The cab driver properly deducted our out of the way fare and we had arrived at a beautiful building that housed our four day Parisian love nest!
Our Air B&B host, Robin, was at the place to greet us. We toured his place and made sure all our questions, including how to get back to the airport by rail, were answered and left us to it. Wow! That is what we had to say about this place, it was everything we could have asked for and more, a rare find to be in such a gorgeous place in such a gorgeous city in such a great district! We were first taken back by the amazing light that shown into the bedroom and living room from the ceiling to floor, windows that looked out over the street. Our pad had a full kitchen, large comfy bed, vintage style decor, a full bath, wifi, and all the comforts of home and then some. We quickly unpacked, refreshed ourselves and then off to get a bite to eat.
We stepped out of the front door of our building and Chelsea said we were at our destination. We walked across the street and found our table outside in the sunshine with Cash delighted to be out and about in the city with us. We got ourselves situated in the sunshine and were greeted by a fresh faced waiter that got us setup with an amazing lunch of salmon and tuna bowls with fresh vegetables and rice accompanied with white wine. We savored the dish, took in the scenery, had great conversation and enjoyed getting recharged. The waiter commented on how slowly we ate for Americans and then began to befriend us, talking to Cash, and giving us valuable tips about the Parisian culture, the districts, the nightlife, and learning about us while he also explained his life. My favorite piece of information was that in Paris the wait staff treat their restaurant like their home. When you go to eat even if you want to sit outside go in and let them seat you. This gets you started off right with them and allows them to help you best enjoy your dining experience with them. We found that advice useful and had great service throughout our time in Paris.
Full and having setup intention for the day we took about 50 steps and were then surrounded by a spring time neighborhood tradition, the vintage markets! We walked through and saw amazing furniture, art, clothes, and endless vintage Persian treasures. We mingled with the locals and were made to feel right at home in a new city. Chelsea did manage to find a headband that she couldn't leave behind and found us bread, cheese, and meat from a local vendor that we planned to snack on later.
We then headed back to our apartment for a nap before getting ready for our fancy dinner out we had planned. A dear friend of mine, Max, from university exchange program in Austria 12 years before, was living in Paris and had made us reservations at 20 Eiffel. He said the restaurant had fresh local ingredients prepared in traditional Parisian fashion close to our place at a good value.
We took the short ten minute walk up the street, the Eiffel Tower guiding the way, and arrived in traditional early bird fashion in Europe at 7:30 in the evening we were the first to be seated. We were seated right by the window with the art, smells, and champagne to get us comfortable in our dining room of the evening. I ventured for the escargot appetizer, they reminded me of mussels only cleaner without the salt and occasional grit. Then had a lamb dish and vegetables followed by creme brûlée for dessert. Chelsea had tiramisu. Satisfied but not stuffed, the best way to eat in Paris, we ventured to the Eiffel Tower to take it in at night with a nice wine buzz and the lights and sounds of Paris. Holding hands and walking through the the magical park we decided we had a wonderful first day and retired home for a glass of Rose, compliments of the host before lights out.
Day two began early, we were to be at the Louve by 12:30 and needed to first find our crepes we had been Jonsing for and navigate there. We decided to start to the museum and find breakfast on the way. We found a great crepes place and sat outside with machiato and cafe with Baileys watching the Sunday pass by in Paris waiting on our crepes. I got mine with chocolate and Chelsea got hers with Nutella. Both were exceptional and after settling up with the waiter off we went to the Lourve. If you haven't been and you like art then this is a must see. I have been to many museums now over the years and this one is the best I have ever experienced! The Renaissance oil paintings had colors I had never seen before on canvas. The building itself an amazing work of architecture and detail, the statues from Greek and Roman origin, the collection of French art, the Egyptian tablets from BC, the South American and African wood sculptures, the Asian oriental furniture, the collection of palace furniture, pocket watches, every art form imaginable was displayed there, you could even take a selfie with the Mona Lisa, if you were so bold. My imagination ran rampant and the sheer excitement of being able to experience such great masterpieces and priceless artifacts made me so humbled and really creates a more worldly and balanced view of art and creation. After spending 4 and a half hours in this wonderland and experiencing art overload it was time to move on, after all we had reservations to skip the line at the Eiffel Tower and still needed to play with Cash before we went. We went into the center of the Lourve and took in the beautiful sights of the outdoor section of the museum then sadly said goodbye to the largest, most comprehensive, and amazing museum I have ever had the privilege to attend.
We knew the trip to Paris wouldn't be complete without a chance to ascend the iconic Eiffel Tower. Thanks to Chelsea's experience of the city and thoughtful planning she setup for us to skip the god awful line that exists. To avoid this mess we had to sign up for a tour. As we were walking to the meetup Chelsea expressed interest in meeting new people. We began the tour and about 20 of us are walking together. I started chatting up the tour guide and Chelsea joins in. He explained his connection to Spain, how he speaks four languages, and how he started giving the tours last week. It was nice to take the tour with him. Meanwhile Chelsea was off to her usual of meeting other people and striking up conversation with them. We skiped the line, yeah!, and began our ascent. We got to the first level and were taken around by our guide and shown various buildings, the history, the river, the park, and neat facts about it all. We then were left to roam freely with tickets to the summit. We waited in line to take the elevator and Chelsea began to start up a conversation with Ryan and Sara, a couple originally from Miami and now living in LA, Chelsea began conversation with while we walked around the first level, while I began to speak with Siobhan another new friend Chelsea had befriended from Scotland. We all got along so well and all enjoy each other's company. We instantly all become friends and as the elevator took us to the summit we continued to talk and stay with each other. We got up to the summit and spotted the champagne bar. Chelsea shared our plan with the group, that we were there to see the sunset! Everyone was on board, we got a round of champagne, and continued the conversation on for hours until the sun set. I enjoy, "bro time" and Ryan, IT guru, was the perfect guy to shoot the breeze with as the evening slowly got brighter and cooler. Of course Chelsea was with the girls and paid us no attention except for the occasional, "you remember so and so, or how did this go?" Until the sun began to set and we were privileged to a perfect sunset atop the Eiffel Tower with our new friends! Once the sun set we decided it was time to go but the new group didn't want to split up yet. We were enjoying each other's company too much. We decided to head back closer to Chelsea and my place since we were closer and get a bite to eat. I walked back and picked up the Cashman and we ate dinner outside at a traditional Parisian restuarant. The meal was excellent and we decided to move the group one more time to share a bottle of Bordeaux from France we picked up the day before. We went back and were able to host in our best Air B&B yet, and went in the wee Parisian hours getting to know our new Floridian and Scottish friends. As all good things, our evening had to come to and end, and as our new friends went to catch the taxi and metro home. We planned for our next adventure, reuniting with my great friend from 12 years ago, Maxime Chanoine during his lunch break the following day.
The best of friends are able to pickup right where they left off no matter how much time has passed. I was over joyed to have the opportunity to meet up with my closest friend from the before Chelsea semester abroad in Austria. While getting ready I told Chelsea fond memories of Max and couldn't wait to see him. The time finally came and we met at a close train station to his work for a lunch. We reunited with big hugs and formal introductions before being wisked by Max into a local restaurant he frequents and were seated with warm welcome by the waiter. We felt very at home and local as Max explained the specials and we thoroughly enjoyed our reunion with my long friend and was so proud to introduce him to my wife, catch up with the ten years that brought him a wife and three new children, and share what we could of updated events we could in the hour we had together. Max then walked us over to the posh Parisian shopping district to continue our day and headed back to work. What a guy! Max I miss you already and look forward to our next meeting, hopefully sooner than 12 years from now.
We walked into our first of many high end fashion centers that completely changed my way of seeing clothing and fashion. We were introduced to all of the designer labels with awesome displays of the cutting edge trends of the highest quality. I have been to many stores but these had clothing that inspired you and actually made you want them. I know this sounds vain but I was there and you have to see to believe what I am talking about! Chelsea and I wandered through viewing designer labels at their best and took it all end, we even brought a souvenir home!
Back home we got some rest for the big event of the evening, our visit to the Moulin Rouge! We got dressed to impress so as to not stick out in the best cabaret in the world and off in the Uber we go for a pleasure for our senses. The experience begins to turn me off in the beginning as we wait for 45 minutes to be seated as we are herded through the practice area and back through the front before being seated. Once we got to our seats the entire perspective changed. We were seated, a waiter popped a bottle of champagne, and then we had a moment to take in the ambiance, not a bad seat in the house, 150 people dressed to impress drinking champagne and getting ready for a spectacle that has been a Parisian tradition that has wowed and impressed generations of guests, including Chelsea's grandfather Joe! When his wife Wanda asked him what he saw there he said they did nothing but the can-can and he was right! In his time I could see the can-can being the big finale. It has probably been the greatest show of it's time throughout it's existence to develop a reputation as it has. In our show we saw dancers, both men and women, dressed in the most amazing costumes, performing various routines with talent and class. The music pumping through the first rate sound system was excellent, and the singing we saw was great too, or as great as you could expect with all of the dancing and jumping around happening on the stage. We were awed for an hour and a half as we were mesmerized by the show. The occasional bump by Chelsea to fill up her drink or the occasional comment about this or that were all that broke my concentration of the spectacular. The acts were incredible, performed with wonderful choreography by a group of women that shared a very particular body type, weight and ability, in numerous costumes that were over the top but very tasteful, accompanied by a group of attractive but no so syncopated or rhythm-gifted men, and setup in front of a multi-dimensional stage that included revolving sets and even included a pool filled with anaconda snakes! The costumes were very pleasing to the eye as most were designed without tops and the body style of the women was something to be admired and enjoyed! Even though the set performances were amazing Chelsea and my favorite parts were during the intermissions. During the time the performers were changing and the next set getting into place there were individual performances. We witnessed a muscular acrobatic dude perform gravity-defying feats on glass tables and use bars to lift his body in ways uncomprehendable to most. We also saw a couple dance inside of a ring together so beautifully and with much ease. Also, from what appeared to be the most veteran of the crew, a performance with each other that made Chelsea think they were using wires, but I prefer to believe the guy was just that strong, experienced, and talented to be able to pull off the stunts he was doing with his gorgeous partner. The scene that I remember the most was when a pool elevates from below the stage floor and a girl jumps in and starts to swim and dance in the water with anacondas swimming all around her. The girls dressed like various birds, in bedazzled everything, different genres, glamorous, and wearing hardly anything at all, but don't get me wrong, while I enjoyed viewing their bodies it was the dance moves and talent they were showcasing, more than the lack of clothing, that sparked my interest. Just when Chelsea and I polished off the last of our champagne the spectacular ended, the lights came on, and we were left in awe in wonderment. If you are ever in Paris don't let the ticket price stop you, dress to impress and attend, this show should not be missed!
High on life and a bottle of champagne Chelsea and I weren't finished with the night quite yet. Our great waiter had informed us of some bars we should attend to we headed that way. We decided to order a pizza and get a drink at a swanky bar next door while we waited. There we met a man from Africa who made us some excellent martinis, which is a luxury since they don't shake for you in Spain, and we met yet another friend as we enjoyed our nightcap waiting on our pizza. With another evening drawing near an end we enjoyed our late night snack and prepared for yet another action filled day in Paris to come!
We took advantage of the planned break on Tuesday and slept for a few extra hours. I then cooked us a nice breakfast and we got ready to meet our new friends Ryan and Sara to go to the Palace of Versaille. Both us and them were about an hour behind and we leisurely made our way to meet them to head to our destination for the day. Once we got to the train station it was apparent we weren't the only people to visit Versaille that day. Once we arrived to the exit we were glad to get off the train but the long lines had just begun! We spent the next two and a half hours waiting in line to view the palace! This was by far the longest we have had to wait for any attraction. This was made okay and tolerable by the fact that we had our new friends with us. The time passed effortlessly as we all got to know each other. If we hadn't had people to get to know Chelsea would have gotten very bored of me telling another story she had already heard at least twice already! Finally, we got to the front of the line! We walked through and saw a cool palace with great chandeliers, furniture, artwork and views. The only problem was that there were so many people and you felt rushed and didn't get to take in all the views you wanted to see. Once we got through the palace we all needed a break and some caffeine. We stopped at Angelina and got some coffee, macaroons, and water. I have always heard how fancy macaroons are and this place makes some of the best in the world. I had never tried them before and we got some to share. My favorites tasted like fruit loops. If you ever want to share macaroons with me I'm down, they are so good! While we were relaxing Ryan wanted to get another bottle of water. When he returned much later he was red and looked flustered. What he was about to explain next was probably the best story I have heard while in Europe. He went to the cashier to purchase a 3 euro bottle of water. He had a 2 euro coin, a fifty euro bill, and his debit card. He ordered his water and went to pay with the card but she wouldn't accept the card for such a low amount, then he asked if she would take a 50 euro bill, which she said she would take. He then proceeded to get his bill that was in his waist pouch under his shirt. He presented the bill to the woman and she gave him a blank stare and asked, "do you feel shame for your Fannie pack?" Ryan couldn't believe it and said he didn't until now. She then asked him if he was afraid of pick pockets and he said yes. She didn't understand him she said and stated she could not break a bill so large. She then decided to allow him to use the card. The Fannie pack distraction caused her to run his debit card for fifty euros instead of the three euros for the water. She got the manager and then gave him the change back in cash. She told the manager she was so distracted from the Fannie pack, made Ryan show it again, they both laughed at him together in amusement while handing him change. All of this took at least 10 minutes for a bottle of water and the line behind him was backing up. Moral of this story, don't flash your change belt in Paris unless you want to get called out by a young waitress, Feel the shame!
After laughing about that for a few minutes we were off to the next part of the Versaille Palace, the gardens. It had taken so long to get through the line and palace that it was late afternoon. We walked though the garden trails taking our time and enjoying being outside and away from the crowds. We were having such good conversations and enjoying the weather so much that we walked past the Palace grounds to a public park where they were renting boats. We purchased some wine and planned to take a paddle on the water but the rental company was packing up for the day. We decided instead to sit on the green grass, enjoy the sunshine and continue our conversations. Hours later the sun began to set over the palace giving some wonderful light, the ducks were getting out the water for the day, and we began the long walk back watching the colors change minute by minute as the day gave way to dusk and we watched another sunset and had the gardens to ourselves. It made me think of golf cart rides in Ravenel with Pops and Shakey Sue, while appreciating the great colors and weather of spring.
We caught the train back, said our goodbyes, picked up Cash and headed for yet another fantastic culinary experience just minutes walk from our apartment. I dined on the spagehtti bologna accompanied by a glass of red wine and enjoyed watching Paris pass by my little family sat outside and took it all in. Life is so good!
Our last day in Paris we packed and cleaned up the house, finished off the breakfast food in the fridge, and then went on a riverboat cruise through the Seine River. We saw the must see buildings, the Eiffel Tower from the river view, and the numerous bridges that are works of art themselves with statues and ornate decorations abounding in exquisite detail. The weather again, perfect! The company, perfect!
We were leaving the boat and decided to keep the group together, get Cashman, and have a picnic in the Champs de Mars park overlooking the tower. We shared a bottle of champagne, various tasty lunch snacks and sandwiches while soaking up the sunshine one last time before heading to the airport. Cash chased after the pigeons and stretched his puppy legs to the delight of the crowds around us. People video taped him and pet him and it felt so good to let him be free before going on our flight.
We then grabbed our gear and navigated back to the airport this time properly by underground. We were even assisted yet again by a very friendly Parisian who helped us through the maze of walking and buses to get to the airport terminal. Yet another dream come true, full of adventure, romance, fashion, food, culture and people. Paris was an unforgettable place that will always be a special place in the Stone's book of adventures we will forever have a Passion for Paris!