Ahhhh.....Paris. One of my favorite movies of all time is "An American in Paris" with Gene Kelly. I had a massive crush on him as a child. No, I never said I was a normal child! I loved the scene where he is walking along the Seine river eating ice cream. I envisioned myself walking beside him... in the romatic setting of Paris. Reality Check: The Seine is... well... not so romantic. If you call looking at ugly naked people splayed out on their boats in a crowded river romantic, than I guess that's your thing. Not so much for me. "French Kiss" is another french fave. Kevin Klein is fabulous, and funny. I thought a little too over-the-top... that is until I went to Paris myself!
My 4.5 days in Paris was NOT the highlight of my trip, sadly to say. I am sorry to those of you who either love Paris, or think they would love Paris if ever given the chance to go. My questions the entire time I was there was: Don't these people die from cigarette smoke like we do in America? and What's the big deal???
Ok, to address the first question, it seems that 99.9% of the population of Parisians smoke. I didn't take one fresh breath of air from the time I got off the ferry at Calais until the time I stepped into the Paris airport. No... not one! I even had to buy nicotine patches for the flight home so I could survive the withdrawals! I also didn't see a lot of old people, so maybe they all die off from lung cancer before they hit old age.
Second question: What's the big deal?? Ok, there are huge, beautiful buildings everywhere you look... and I mean, EVERYWHERE! It was like architecture overload! Yes, I got very quickly that Napoleon thought very highly of himself and erected many large and spaceous buildings in honor of himself. For a very tiny man, he left a very large footprint on the planet. I absolutely love beautiful architecture, so the tour was frustrating to me because we never stayed in one place long enought to really look at it!
But, what about Notre Dame, and the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower, and the Arch de Triomph and..... Yes, I hear you. What about them? They're... big. Yes, I loved the Louvre, I'll give you that. All 3 hours I spent inside were wonderful. Even when my husband got lost and I had to go find him, was still wonderfully.... artful. Honestly, we did so much sight-seeing in such a short time, every large edifice melded into the next. I was happy at the end of the day to crash on my dilapidated twin bed with the shabby bedspread, hearing the smoke rattling in my damaged lungs while watching German movies with french subtitles on television.
The highlight for me in Paris was when we sang the Mass at Notre Dame on Sunday morning. Despite the fact that we couldn't breathe, yet again, because the incense guy was going a little too crazy with the stuff, it really was awe-inspiring. I didn't understand a word the priest was saying, but it all sounded very religious. At the end, we processed out down the long isle to the back of the cathedral, behind the priest, while the huge pipe organ was playing triumphant music. I really felt like royalty. The people of Paris were clapping and blowing kisses and giving us money and their little children.... ok, well, they were smiling... most of them. It was a memorable experience!
Dining in Paris: a HUGE let-down! We were sooo excited to leave the hum-drum food of the UK for Paris' culinary artistry, only to find out that if you want anything decent, you have to fork out at least 40 Euros each... which translates to about $70+ dollars.... gasp!!! We've never spent that much on a meal in our entire lives! Not even anniversaries! Not even if I gave birth to a golden baby who spits up money would we do that! Our first night I was so tired and exasperated from trying to read french menus and figure out what was edible and what wasn't, we finally ate at Pizza hut. We could recognize "Meat Lovers", even if we didn't recognize the meat on it!
The second night we had greek food. But, we did eat a TON of pastries, and boy were they delish!!!!! My husband and I are going to write a travel book called "Eat your way through Paris, or a Pastry on every block".
So, do I recommend Paris? I'll have to say, not if you value your lungs, or your arteries, for that matter. And if you like to take a little more time in the museums and at the Eiffel Tower, maybe a mass bus tour isn't your thing, either. I think I much prefer the smaller, more quaint little towns we saw in England. I'll write about those later. But, I will always love "An American in Paris", and I think I'll go watch "French Kiss" right now. I still love that movie, even though the main male character is much more realistic than I ever realized!
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