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Adventures Past: Paris, the City of Lights.

July 18, 2012

When I was in high school, my friend and I were assigned a video assignment for French class. At the end of the video, I angrily shouted at my friend (a belligerent repairman), “Il y a une celebration dans mon pantalons. Je tu n’invite pas!” To this day, it is one of the few French phrases I remember how to say. I did not get a chance to use the phrase when we visited Paris.

The vacation took place a little over three years ago. I was bored to death at my terrible job (thankfully, I have since changed jobs) and decided to do a little web surfing for good travel deals. When I stumbled across a plane ticket and four-night hotel combo to Paris for $875 per person, I immediately called my husband: “Want to go to Paris in three weeks?” He said, “Yes.” And so we did.

This was my second trip to Paris but my husband’s first, so we hit all the touristy stuff. There is so much to see in the city that it can be hard to choose what to do and what to skip. Based on this fabulous trip, I put together a list of tips for anyone who may be considering a trip to the City of Lights. Keep in mind, this is not meant to encompass an entire vacation. Just some highlights and things that popped into my mind.

1. Most importantly I would advise everyone to walk the city. The underground system is fantastic and easy to use, but walking the city will be an experience you never forget. One of the most memorable experiences for me was walking past a group of older French gentleman playing Bocce ball in the median of two main streets. Cars careened around them at break-neck speeds down the narrowest roads I’ve ever seen, but those old men, with their old beards, didn’t see anything but that pallino. It is one of my greatest regrets that I didn’t stop to take a picture.

2. Take pictures of the people, not just the things.

3. Chances are good that Versailles is already on your list of things to see. And it should be. You’ll take a tour of the palace, ooh and aah at the gold and the mirrors, and grimace at the idea of the poop pots. By the time you get to the gardens, you will be a little pooped out (not to overuse the poop terminology here…), and you will be tempted to stroll through the main garden areas and stoop by the main fountain and then move on. DON’T DO THIS. Take time to walk through the entire garden – it is a palace on its own. You cannot begin to imagine all of the beauty that lies within until you explore it yourself. Your feet will be killing you by the time it’s all over, but it’s worth it.

4. You will go to the Louvre. You will head straight up to one of the upper floors to take a look at the famous, the magnificent, the hailed Mona Lisa. I’m going to ruin it for you right now: it is really not that cool. A tiny picture in a dark room with a big crowd, surrounded by rooms and rooms and rooms of very similar looking paintings – most of which are of the same guy, Jesus. My advice: start with the lowest floors and work your way up. The basement is filled with the most amazing collection of historic pieces that I have ever seen. The middle floors are filled with elegant, perfect sculptures. I think a lot of this gets overlooked. The Louvre is more than a painting museum. See it all.

Don’t stop with The Louvre. The Musee D’Orsay is wooonderful. Not quite as stuffy as The Louvre, this excellent art museum caters a little more to non-art fanatics. It’s still art…but you don’t have to be an expert to appreciate the stuff they have here.

6. Take the stairs at the Eiffel Tower. You will hate yourself the whole way up, but the experience is fantastic.

7. Visit Sacre Coeur at night. This is big regret number two for me. We went to Sacre Coeur during the day, and it was beautiful, but as soon as I came home, the first thing my dad said to me was,  “Did you see Sacre Coeur at night? Wasn’t it beautiful?” Paris is the City of Lights. Make sure you see why.

8. Whether you’re into military history or not, go to Les Invalides. Truly fascinating history from so many different time periods. Definitely worth it.

9. This tip CANNOT BE OVERLOOKED! You MUST eat ice cream at Berthillon. We waited in line for about twenty minutes just to get a cone, but Oh. My. God. The greatest ice cream on the planet. And the best part? Just around the corner is Notre Dame. Eat this ice cream. It will change your life. I highly recommend the rhubarb sorbet.
10. If you are a Pulp Fiction fan, go to McDonald’s. You can order a Royal with Cheese. Seriously. It’s there.

11. Pay a visit to Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Chopin — the cemetery is the final resting place of many great artists. Plus, it is beautiful and will take you to a unique part of the city. We had a hard time finding it though, and if I remember correctly, the open hours were odd. So double check that first.

There are so many things I did not mention, please don’t think I’m leaving things off on purpose, there is just too much to see. This is exactly why comments are fantastic! Leave your tips, so the next person who reads this before going to Paris won’t miss a thing.

What are your tips? What was your favorite part of Paris? How much money would I have to pay you to ship me some ice cream from Berthillon?

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