I started this piece a couple of weeks ago, and so I’ve recovered a bit more from vacation lag, but only slightly. The way things are going, the entire summer will be one huge vacation lag. When I’ve seen an email pop up about “cheap end of summer flights,” I’ve checked a few bound for Paris, mulling over the idea of going again without my husband to wander the streets and brood. Shoot more photos. Sit in cafes. Write.
And then I snap out of it because I’m not exactly 20 something and trying to find myself. I could be persuaded to do a bit of a makeover, however. Alas, recovery from the cost of our recent trip must also be considered, but I can dream, can’t I? I can think about all we’ve seen and done and wonder what we might do next should we venture to Paris again — we, because I’d never go without my husband. He has the Metro all figured out, after all. And who would carry my camera bag if he stayed home?
We know Paris fairly well now — or wink and pretend we do, having covered seemingly endless nooks and crannies, walking, riding more Metro lines than we ever thought we’d need to, and indulging in a funky C2V tour we thought we’d miss after being delayed at Heathrow.
Yes, we’ve done Paris nicely, crossing the Seine to zigzag from right bank to left and back, admiring the views as we made our way, me never quite satisfied that I was able to gaze long enough wondering what is it about those buildings?
We made sure we strolled down as many streets as we could to admire the shops and cafes, people watch, and wonder what it would be like to live in such a city. Well, I thought about it. I love big cities and the neighborhoods that make them so unique. Everything I’d need outside of a patch to have a garden and a tree would be so close. And with a short walk or ride on the Metro, I could be in a completely different neighborhood.
I like that.
We’ve seen the sights you might expect and enjoyed them all.
Sometimes more than once just to be sure we got our dose.
My husband said that once he’d seen the Eiffel Tower, his visit to Paris was official. It does have that effect on you after so many years of seeing it everywhere, then finally getting to stand next to it to realize it’s even more incredible.
I was so happy to have made it to Shakespeare’s, and while I was sifting through the fiction section to find a new read, my husband made his way around upstairs to confirm that yes, people were really sleeping there. I marveled over such a thing, gave him my book and he paid for it, watching the man at the counter stamp the title page, which makes my visit official. I could have spent hours in there. A whole day, perhaps.
We spent a morning at the Louvre seeing statues I’ve wanted to see since I was a child admiring them in books — the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo, and many more. And then there was the excellent people watching as well. I never tire of watching people. They’re interesting — especially when I can’t quite make it to the front of the throng positioned in front of the Mona Lisa.
One very rainy morning, we took the RER to see Versailles. We were wet and cold by the time we were ready to return to Paris, but we had so much fun tooling around in a golf cart rental while listening to classical music and trying to make it from one fountain to another, splashing through the puddles when we had to get out to find an opening in the maze of hedgerows.
I did experience my first photo bomb at Versailles, but didn’t realize it until I got home. It makes me smile every time I see it.
Strolling through the Tuilleries and Jardin du Luxembourg coaxed us to stop long enough in each to lounge a bit among the Parisians who seem to have sun worship down to an art form. We have plenty of sun where we live, but haven’t quite got the hang of lounging in it. We need more practice and have been doing just that, walking along the beach on Sundays with our bare feet in the surf. It’s not quite like being on vacation, but I’m not complaining, and I don’t think those sitting around this pond would, either.
Speaking of Parisians, after reading so many recommendations about what to wear while in Paris (no prints, dark colors, tasteful shoes) I took special note of those who stood out for one reason or another and decided the advice was all wrong. That Parisians do enjoy colorful garb. But how does one really tell who is Parisian in Paris, and who isn’t?
I like her style!
I love the color and tousled ease of her hair.
And her spirit.
You couldn’t get me on a bike in the traffic on the Place de la Concorde.
We shopped a bit — mostly for food related items to bring home as gifts.
That was enough.
Chocolate fan? Oh, the varieties of Valrhona in this shop!
I brought home a little Charlotte mold, I’ll confess, but no one had to twist my arm. In fact, we were left to our own as we shopped until we needed a question answered.
Surely, a Charlotte mold purchased in Paris will turn out a perfectly constructed dessert the very first time it is used, don’t you think?
And we definitely spent time eating at a variety of cafes or restaurants each day, but never made a single reservation deciding to not treat ourselves to anything with Michelin stars attached to it.
I never quite got my fill of sitting at those little sidewalk tables to watch the passersby.
And as much as we’ve read so much about the waiters in Paris, I’m happy to say we only had one issue, and it wasn’t with a waiter. They do their job and do it well, leaving you to your meal and thoughts, as long as you’d like to sit there, until you signal for your check.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery also got some of our time on our first day in Paris — an odd place to begin, but so peaceful. So beautiful. We’d lost a day and Sundays can be a challenge to find things to do from what I’ve heard. Now that we’ve been, I’d question who said that. It was perfect to walk through the tree lined lanes and enjoy the quiet, a fresh baguette ready to snack on as we walked.
A walk through bustling Le Marais and our first lunch was a wonderful way to spend Sunday afternoon.
What didn’t we do when we were in Paris?
Or better said — what did we save for next time?
I never did see a Monet, but I have seen them in other cities so will settle for that.
We didn’t make it to Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen, but we happened onto a flea market on our way back from Pere Lachaise and that was a good consolation.
We didn’t climb the Eiffel Tower, but seeing Paris from the dome of Sacre Coeur was more than fabulous and without a line!
Although we planned for a picnic like so many others clearly had, the weather wasn’t always cooperative, so enjoying our picnic in the apartment on a rainy day was wonderful. After all, you will soon see we had plenty of left over cheese!
I never had a madeleine or lemon tart, but we sampled macarons and chocolate croissants, and not nearly enough, so I ordered Pierre Herme’s pastry book as soon as we got home. I’ve made macarons once, and I’ve made a laminated dough, but never a croissant. It’s probably time.
We didn’t make it to Laudreé for macarons, but Pierre Hermé more than satisfied. Besides, our C2V driver said they were the best in Paris. They will tell you no photos please, even though you’re spending nearly $40 for a cute little box of macarons.
So you have to be quick and get the job done before they notice.
We also never did walk along the Champs-Elysees much to some people’s chagrin, but enjoyed many other walks instead.
Like Rue Cler with a lovely lunch at Cafe Central.
The cheese course was large enough (OH!) that the waiter asked if we’d like to take what we couldn’t eat.
We walked along the Rue de Rivoli and window shopped near the Place des Victoires, the lovely Rue Montorgueil…
Rue Saint-Antoine and Place des Vosges.
Our last day in Paris — the most beautiful of our vacation — we strolled along the Cours du Commerce Saint-Andre tucked away just off the Boulevard Saint-Germain and had a late lunch at Le Relais Odeon.
I’d say we did our share of finding some lovely streets to wander along and enjoy the lively spirit of Paris.
One of us ordered a salad, and the other, frites.
No, I did not order the frites.
Thank goodness, he did not use the ketchup.
One of the things I’d planned to do in Paris is surprise my husband with an engraved lock in celebration of our 25th wedding anniversary.
I’m a romantic so why not?
I imagined the scene where I’d tell him I’d marry him all over again before we added our padlock to the thousands there before throwing our keys into the Seine.
And then I read Rick Steves’ always practical advice on that, saying the locks were removed eventually so what was the point of adding one?
It snapped me out of my reverie until my husband surprised me on the Pont des Artes one afternoon.
I saw him writing on a lock.
My heart melted, I cried, (took photos, of course, which is a challenge when your eyes are soggy), and decided right then and there I would never listen to a travel expert’s practical advice on romance again.
I’ve read there is always something to see in Paris no matter how many times you go, and I certainly know that now.
But I also know I’ve seen enough of it to last a lifetime.