Bonjour de Paris!

2 Oct

I really wish that every mother-daughter duo could have a Girls’ Weekend in Paris!  It’s THAT fabulous!  🙂

As you know, my folks are in town for a couple weeks and since Mom has always wanted to see the City of Lights and Dad, well, hasn’t (citing something about politics and economics, but that’s another story…), she and I decided to head westward for a quick ‘girly hoorah…’  And to up the ante, we packed uber-lightly- just a backpack each!- and caught a train to Paris- 4 hours direct from Stuttgart!

At the train station, heading to Paris...All is right in our world 🙂

For those of you who haven’t traveled by train, it’s terrific!  *Think airplane, but with awesome scenery (we had rolling countryside and quaint towns along the way), cell phone reception, WAY more space, and WAY fewer people!  Best part? Someone else is doing the driving!

Our hotel, right between the Eiffel Tower (we could see the top of it from our room) and the Arc de Triomphe...

Once we got checked in, off we went to explore…Paris was our oyster.  And let me say this…Yes, it’s most definitely a ‘tres romantique’ city, there’s no doubt about it…And John and I definitely had a great time when we came a few years ago- I mean, strolling hand-in-hand along the river banks in Paris…Of course!  BUT, in my opinion, of course, making it a girls’ trip is every bit as fabulous, just in a different way.  *Think more leisure, more detours, more window-shopping, more seeking out the best foods, more people-watching…Ahhh…:)

First order of business, crepe lunch 🙂

Our first real stop was the Louvre and its Tuileries Gardens.  The Louvre is one of the world’s largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over a HUGE area of 652,300 sq. ft. The museum is actually housed in the Louvre Palace, which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display royal collections.

At the Louvre...Yep, it was freezing cold and raining...

If you've read The DaVinci Code, you surely recognize the glass pyramid...

The Tuileries, created by the Medici family, are formal, Italian-style public gardens found between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde.  They are filled with dramatic statuary and perfectly-symmetrical shrubbery, reflecting the Renaissance preoccupation with bringing rational design to nature.

The Tuileries...You can see the wide open walking paths, lined with perfectly manicured gardens on each side.

Standing at the Louvre, looking back at the Gardens...

Our (eventual) next stop was Notre Dame, but we took our time getting there, stopping to browse in the shops and take in the sights along the way…Paris is just a very pretty city, even when you’re just looking at regular ‘run of the mill’ buildings…

La Samaritaine, a now-closed department store, but still so elegant...

Random street...

Bet you've never sang, 'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...,' and pictured this...Well, folks, this is how it's done- on a trash can lid!- And I've seen it done like this now in 4 different cities, so it must be the norm! Not as warm and fuzzy as the song implies, huh?! And fyi, they taste gross!

Pont Neuf Bridge, the oldest bridge in Paris, built in 1578...

The leaves along the River Seine, literally changing from summer to fall before our eyes...

Notre Dame, meaning ‘Our Lady’ in French, is a Gothic, Catholic cathedral, widely considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world. It was restored and saved from destruction by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, one of France’s most famous architects. Built from 1163-1241 (yep, nearly 100 years!), Notre Dame’s sculptures and stained glass show the heavy influence of naturalism, unlike that of earlier Romanesque architecture.  It was among the first buildings in the world to use the flying buttress (arched exterior supports). There are five bells- the largest (named Emmanuel) weighs 13 tons- toll to mark the hours of the day and for various occasions and services. Once rung manually, they’re currently rung by electric motors. After a period of neglect, it recaptured the popular imagination when 19th-century writer Victor Hugo immortalized it in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”

Notre Dame

Inside the Cathedral...

The famous stained glass window...Of course, this picture doesn't begin to do it justice...

Looking back at Notre Dame from the Latin Quarter, just over the river...

The Latin Quarter, nestled on the left bank of the River Seine, is home to the oldest university in France, the Sorbonne, as well as several other colleges.  Known for its student life, jazz clubs, book shops, and bistros, the Latin Quarter gets its name from the Latin language, which was once widely spoken in and around the area since Latin was the international language of learning in the Middle Ages.  This turned out to be one of our favorite spots in the city- *think European Haight Ashbury 🙂

One of the bridges to the Latin Quarter was full of 'Locks (and ribbons) of Love...' Apparently, this is a well-known European tradition to cement your love- just write your names on a padlock and clamp it to a bridge...Note to self: Must Buy Locks...

Since the sun was setting and we knew wanted to get in a night cruise of the river, we decided to forego dinner in favor of dessert.  Specifically, the most famous ice cream in France.  (Yes, I’m a foodie and I research these things.  Don’t judge 🙂 )  And with Mom being an ice cream connoisseur, it was only fair!  So we hoofed it back over the bridge, past Notre Dame and onto the next island in middle of the river to Berthillon for their world-reknowned Salted Caramel Ice Cream.  I’ll just say this- Best Ice Cream of Our Lives.  Period.

It didn't even matter that we were freezing cold and drenched! It so exceeded the hype.

Rejuvenated and totally satisfied, we made our way back down the river to catch the boat so we could get a better idea of why Paris is known as the ‘City of Lights.’  It truly is just breathtaking at night- every building, every bridge, every tree is softly bathed in light.  I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true!  Unfortunately, night shots never translate as well on film (or digital cameras, in this case), but here are a few so you get the jist…

Pont Alexandre III, the most extravagant and ornate bridge in Paris...Built for the Universal Exhibition in 1896.

I just loved how this- the French flag flying high above a massive, majestic building- was all that was lit...

One of my favorite shots of the city...And yes, I meant for it to be crooked 🙂

Call me a tourist, but this is one of my favorite sights, not just in Paris, but in the world! The Eiffel Tower, twinkling on the hour...one of the very few things that 'moves' me...

That concludes Day 1 of our Parisian Girlie Adventure.  After walking 9.2 miles (we Google Mapped it!  Jeez!), you can bet your bippy that we slept like babies that night!  Although we didn’t sleep for too long- Day 2 was here before we knew it, which meant we were up and at ’em…

First on the agenda was getting up close and personal with the Eiffel Tower, in the daylight.  And even though we were there before 9a, the lines were already several hundred people long, which meant that we would be admiring the ‘Iron Lady’ from beneath…Afterall, we’ve got things to do and places to go!  No worries:)

Built in 1889 as the entrance arch to the World’s Fair and named for its engineer designer, the Eiffel Tower is the global icon of France and the most recognizable structures in the world. The tallest building in Paris (1063 ft.), it’s the most-visited paid monument in the world.

Crossing the river...And yes, we even got an hour of sunshine before the rain moved back in!

The first time I saw it, I was amazed at how 'heavy' it looks...I don't know why I always thought of it as 'dainty,' but it's really a substantial, imposing structure!

Next up, the summit of Paris- the highest district in the city up on the hill, Montmartre.  With narrow, steep, cobblestone-paved streets, stairways, hidden gardens, cemeteries, and vineyards, you can easily see how Montmartre was, until recently, a village in its own right, tucked away from the city. You can honestly feel how Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and countless other artists and writers worked their magic here.

Mom on Montmartre with Paris sprawling in the distance...

Looking down the hill toward the city...

Aside from being known as ‘poetry-drenched and artsy,’ Montmartre has two other well-known claims to fame- the first being the Sacre Coeur.  With its unmistakeable white dome, the Sacre Coeur (translated to Sacred Heart) is the center of the district and the true peak of Paris. This Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, which was consecrated in 1909, is best-known for its garish gold mosaic interiors (one, titled Christ in Majesty, is the largest in the world) and its clean, white exterior.  An interesting note: built of travertine stone quarried in Château-Landon, France, the stone constantly exudes calcite, which ensures that the basilica remains white even with weathering and pollution.  Pretty neat, huh?

The Sacre Coeur

A glimpse of the Christ in Majesty mosaic...Millions of individually-laid tiles...Wow...

Montmartre’s second major sight is the Moulin Rouge (translated Red Windmill), built in 1889.  Best known as the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance, the Moulin Rouge played a vital role in introducing the seductive dance to the public, as well as the introduction of cabarets all across Europe.   Today, the club sits in the red-light district and is still offering musical dance entertainment for visitors from around the world. Much of the romance of turn-of-the-century France is still present in the club’s decor.  And although Mom and I didn’t have time to catch a show this time around, John and I did go to one when we were here a few years ago and LOVED every minute of it!  Eating that fabulous dinner (it’s a dinner show) and watching those beautiful, scantily clad women dance around the stage, you can’t help but feel like you’ve been transported back to yesteryear…

The famous Moulin Rouge...

Just for kicks, an 'oldie but goodie'- John and I headed into the show in 2006 🙂

Having finished our list of (realistic in 2 days) ‘must sees’ and not having to catch our train until early evening, Mom and I made our way back to city center with only two items on the agenda- strolling the Champs Elysees (the main ‘see and be seen’ shopping street in the city) and enjoying a leisurely, people-watching lunch.  Both of the above were accomplished with the greatest of ease :).

Crossing the Champs Elysees (it ends at the Arc de Triomphe)...You can see the famous trees lining each side of the street...At night, they're each individually lit...

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, with its cinemas, cafés, luxury specialty shops and clipped horse-chestnut trees (planted in 1724) running from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe, is one of the most famous streets in the world and is considered the ‘most beautiful avenue in the world.’  The Avenue has played host to numerous military parades over the years, such as the Free French March by the 2nd Armored Division on August 26, 1944, and the US’s 28th Infantry Division on August 29, 1944, both marking the Liberation of Paris from the Nazi Occupation during World War II. The largest military parade in Europe passes down the street each year on Bastille Day, France’s national holiday.

With rents as high as €1.1 million/month ($1.5 million/month- I’m sorry, WHAT?!) per 1,100 square feet of space (HOLY COW!), it remains the second most expensive strip of real estate in Europe, having recently been surpassed by London’s New Bond Street.  One of Paris’ major shopping districts, the Champs-Elysées neighborhood is host to both global chains and exclusive couture designers, although there’s very little in the mid-range here.  Needless to say, Mom and I were there for the looking, not the purchasing! Ha!

With a line around the building, shoppers are only allowed to purchase one LV handbag per week (in an effort to keep sufficient inventory)...How can they enforce this? By scanning your passport!sport to ensure

Perfect sidewalk lunch 🙂

Our only purchase on the Avenue...Macaroons from the #1 bakery in Paris, Laduree.

BEST MACAROONS (basically cookies with doughy centers!) EVER in every flavor imaginable. Also the most expensive- 10 for 29 euros…But worth it 🙂

One of the best parts of the Avenue were the window displays...This was a favorite...

The end of the Champs Elysees is majestically crowned with the symbol of Parisian pomp and elegance, the Arc de Triomphe.  Erected by the Emperor Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate France’s military prowess, the 164 foot tall monument is the center of the main juncture known as the Etoile (star), where 12 prestigious avenues radiate out from the arch.

The Arc de Triomphe

Well, boys and girls, that concludes our whirlwind Girls’ Trip to Paris…Hey, you try conquering a city a such grand magnitude in just two measly days!  But have no fear, we did it and we did it well! 🙂  If I had to sum up our time here, I’d say it was ‘au-delà de fabuleux’- beyond fabulous!  And since we were a little ahead of schedule making our way back to the train station, we decided to stop at one last sidewalk cafe for an early ‘dinner…’- we split a strawberry crepe, a Grand Marnier crepe and a caramel sundae. Yep, be jealous. 🙂

Au revoir for now!

3 Responses to “Bonjour de Paris!”

  1. PJ LePine October 3, 2010 at 2:40 PM #

    You girls did it up right! Sounded like a great time. Brought back memories of my trip there – back in the day. However, Erin your guided two days was better. Wish I was there too!

  2. Kathy Alban October 2, 2010 at 2:51 PM #

    Love your blogs. Sam took Bob and I to paris and we loved it too.Have to agree with you about the chestnuts but then I don’t get boiled peanuts either.
    Have fun!

    • Erin T. October 2, 2010 at 7:15 PM #

      Hi there! Glad to hear we aren’t the only ones in love with Paris! What a fabulous time! And I know you can appreciate a Girly Trip, too! 🙂

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