Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Paris: You Don't Even Know

I'm not quite sure what this is. Anyone else know?

Second Floor View from the Eiffel Tower!
Even on a rainy day the Tower view is enamoring 
Paris-the city portrayed by Hollywood as pure romance, rich with decadent food, beautiful sights and even more beautiful people. Well, they pretty much nailed it. The romance definitely fills the air, as people flock to the city from around the world to show off how much they love each other. The food is beyond delicious, and the sights and people are more gorgeous than you could possibly believe. Despite the Hollywood perception, I was told by nearly everyone who had previously visited Paris that it was dirty, people were rude, and your stuff will most likely be stolen. I honestly dreaded going, even though I was so excited to see all of the famous landmarks I had heard so much about. Regardless of my intense paranoia upon arrival, I immediately relaxed when I saw the way the city functioned and how shockingly friendly and open most people were. Of course, there was the occasional unnecessary snob, but for the most part, everyone was relatively helpful and enjoyable. I was also so relieved that we had Suzie, who is studying in Paris and was definitely the most efficient and informative tour guide I have ever had (shout out, Suze). She took us to the best restaurants, the best parks, and certainly every attraction that would appease my tourism obsession.

We started our first day at the Eiffel Tower, which was, again, everything I expected and more. The structure itself is breathtaking in size and design, but I think being in the presence of such a historical work of architectural perfection was what really had me taken aback. We were unable to go all the way to the top, as it was closed for weather-related issues, but we did get to take the elevator to the second floor (thank God we didn't have to walk) for views that satisfied us just as much as sights from the top could. We proceeded to the market at Trocadero to pick up fresh bread, cheeses, meats and fruits, also making a stop at the famous Laduree for the tastiest macaroons I have ever tried, for a picturesque picnic in front of Les Arts Decoratifs. We walked through Le Carrousel de Louvre, which is basically just a really nice mall in close proximity to the main attraction. We saw the glass pyramid outside of the Louvre, as well as the beautiful buildings surrounding it, before traveling toward the Seine. After seeing the Thames of England and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, it's pretty safe to say I've seen enough enormous rivers for a lifetime, but the Seine was stunning nonetheless.

The Seine>The Thames
Acting like a jerk in front of the glass pyramid

No Hunchbacks to be found 
After walking for quite a bit, we ended up at the Notre Dame, which was unfortunately flooded with tourists obnoxiously posing around it despite the fact that it is a renowned church intended to receive the utmost respect. In any matter, it was dramatically beautiful, and I say this because no picture could ever do it justice as it would be leaving out some angle that could make it that much better. At this point, we were ravished, so we went to Le Petit Chatelet, a tiny establishment with a quiet atmosphere. I felt so French, as I had escargot, duck and profiteroles! Too good. Too French.

Sacre Coeur-majestic
The next morning, we took a stroll to Sacre Coeur, a gorgeous church not far away from our hostel. Of course we had to get some pan au chocolat, and of course it was delicious. We enjoyed our croissants as we passed the most French streets, including an artists' market, that seemed straight out of a movie. The Arc de Triomphe was the next stop, and it looked like it was cut and pasted against the bluest sky Paris has possibly ever seen. This pointed us in the direction of Champs de Elysees, a miles-long street strung with both high-end designers (Louis Vuitton) and the common-man brands (Levi's). It was a really interesting combination of American, French and other European stores, and lead us to our next destination, Angelina's.


Arc de Triomphe
Laduree: macaroon town

Angelina has a special place in my heart

Suze and I in front of Palais du Luxembourg
Angelina's was an intimidatingly-beautiful eatery where we were delighted with the thickest, chocolatiest hot chocolate and toast with homemade jams. It really hit the spot, and energized us enough to move onto the Opera, which had limited access, but the outside was substantial with the perfect statues and architecture. Palais du Luxembourg was next on the list, and it's floral arrangements put Elon's to shame, something I never thought possible. Every color is represented in the flowers strewn around the palace, and the accompanying gardens, fountains and statues just add to the fact that you will never see a prettier sight. After seeing the French Pantheon, which I don't really need to explain without sounding entirely repetitive, we decided to go to La Marais. This was the "Jewish quarter" in the pre-Holocaust era, and traditionally Jewish and other Middle Eastern cuisine could be found on every corner. I got some Challah and hummus, Courtney and Suzie got their snacks, and we sat in the cutest park and just enjoyed Paris. The many vendors and markets on the streets held our attention with trinkets and vintage records before we felt it was time to eat yet again.

We had a bit to wait, but we went to Breizh, a creperie in La Marais, for traditional Brittany crepes. I had never had savory crepes, so I went all-out with an egg, chorizo and cheese concoction for dinner, and another covered in chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Pantheon: not the Italian one...
After saying goodbye to our amazing tour guide, Court and I went back to the hostel to gather our things to go on our overnight bus (blech!) BUT we had to make sure we made a pit stop at the Moulin Rouge! I was scared to be in the area basically because I've heard horror stories about getting mugged and what not, but I absolutely had to go and I don't regret it one bit! It was such a lively, lit up place, very reminiscent of Las Vegas, even though I've never been there, but it was similar to what I'd imagine it to be. It was a great way to end the short, but action-packed trip, and I was so happy we got to see everything we'd planned. Paris was extraordinary, it was exactly as I pictured it but also completely different simply because I wasn't seeing it through a screen. I loved the food, the people and the places we visited, and I could only hope I'll be lucky enough to revisit, hopefully with a bit more time!


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