I have a love-hate relationship with Paris. In some ways, it’s one of the most overrated cities in the world: hardly as romantic as portrayed in the movies and instead strewn with litter and tainted by graffiti even. Knowing the French are hard-asses when it comes to foreigners parlez-vous-ing Francais, it is also the only place where I feel insecure and not because I’m not willing to speak French (I always try!), but because I always feel like there are so many rules to follow when I’m there and I don’t want to do something wrong. The last thing I want to do is perpetuate the rude American stereotype. That said, there must be something about the city of lights because I keep going back… perhaps it’s the architecture, the parks, or maybe it’s because I can buy high end designer goods (you know, the ones that never go on sale anywhere) for less than they retail in the states — love getting the VAT back!
This last visit, Mr. T and I decided to kick off 2013 in Paris. Since it was his first time, we did all the obligatory tourist stops. It was a bit tricky to plan a visit to Paris during this time of year since many attractions are closed, but we managed to keep ourselves plenty busy for the 6 days we visited. Below are the top 4 most memorable moments from this trip for me:
1. Seeing the inside of Notre Dame Cathedral
I’ve seen the outside of this famous cathedral many times, but never actually made it in because I either got there too late, didn’t bother to go in at all, or there was a massive line waiting to enter and I’m not fond of lines. When we got to the Notre Dame this time, there was a crowd so huge, you’d think they were shutting down the Notre Dame because the Dalai Lama was visiting! Not to be defeated again, I made sure we tried our luck again another day and fortunately, we made it in. I’ve seen plenty of cathedrals and churches, mosques and temples, but the Notre Dame is truly something special. It was so massive inside! And I loved the beautiful chandeliers that hung next to the giant columns. The Sunday services there must be something else…
2. Looking out at the city view atop the Sacre Coeur
I’ve been to top of the Arc De Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, and the Montparnasse Tower in previous visits to Paris. They all offer great views of the city. But, the problem with the views from the Arc De Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower is that you can’t see both landmarks in them! Montparnasse Tower is better, but you’re taking pictures from behind a window, which I never like. This trip, we decided to climb to the top of Sacre Coeur – the highest point in Paris. While you have to pay to get in, the high vantage point and clear afternoon skies made the cost of the ticket well worth it. Plus, it’s a great way to see the layout of the city, shoot postcard-worthy photos, and enjoy a moment of silence just taking it all in.
3. Indulging in a shopping spree
I love shopping but I tend to do very little of it when I’m out of the States– that is, unless I’m in Paris. Last time I was here, I recall buying luxury goods for 30% cheaper despite the unfavorable USD-Euro exchange rate and because visitors get the taxes back. This time, I picked up some pricey souvenirs for about 20% less than they would be if I bought them in the US. How can a girl resist, right? The good news is that we came to Paris prepared to shop so we brought extra luggage with us to carry it all back. The bad news is that I still feel guilty for the indulgence.
4. Doing a day trip to Mont St. Michel
I had to add at least one “first” for me on this trip and our day trip to Mont St. Michel was just that. After the 4 hour bus ride to get there, this rocky tidal island and its gothic styled abbey sure was a sight for sore eyes! While the tour through the abbey was worthwhile, I liked the walk we took down the tiny alleyways lined with stores and restaurants on either side afterwards. My favorite part, however, was admiring the island from afar. There’s a bridge next to the stop where you catch a shuttle to Mont St. Michel, and the best views of the island are from that bridge – you get a bit of the water, birds, and of course, the island looming in the background. It’s so stunning, it’s like you’re looking out at a painting come to life.