Thank you, Simone, for this awesome post about her adventures in the most romantic city in the world: Paris!
In late August of 2002, I was surprised for my 21st birthday with a weekend in Paris by my then boyfriend. To other people it must sound like the most romantic thing in the world. Normally, I would agree that this is a valid statement. Unfortunately, I believe that it only counts as being utterly romantic if you do not already argue in the car on the way to Paris and you do not stop halfway at a rest area to call your sister for advice on whether to continue or not.
Arguing in Paris
Long story short: we went to Paris, we saw almost all the typical sights (Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacre Coeur…), and my boyfriend and I argued only a few more times while in the most romantic city in the world. If that does not sound romantic, I do not know what does (insert sarcasm here). In retrospect, I should have seen the signs that were hitting me in the face; my love for Paris was bigger than the love I felt for said boyfriend.
So far, I have not been to another city that took my breath away quite like Paris. I have been to the city of lights twice. The first time was in 2002 for my 21st birthday with my then boyfriend. The second time was in 2008 for the 30th birthday of my older sister. I loved Paris instantly, and I fell in love with it again the second time. It is the one love story in my life that will never end (except for the love story I share with my husband of course). I cannot wait to visit Paris over and over again.
Paris: The Perfect Gift
My love to Paris lasted (the boyfriend obviously did not). So, when my older sister’s 30th birthday was around the corner in 2008, I immediately thought of the perfect gift for her: a weekend in the most romantic city in the world…with me! Financially, I was not up to Paris’ standards. All I could afford, at the time, was a bus tour. Everyone should at least once in their lifetime go on one of those bus tours – preferably when young.
On a Thursday evening in late November, around 8pm, my sister and I left the city of Mainz (Germany) with an ICE (Inter City Express, which is a high-speed train) to catch our bus in Koblenz. From Koblenz we were on direct route to Paris, at around 11pm. What usually takes 5 hours by car from Mainz, the bus drove over night (with one stop somewhere in France), and we finally made it to Paris sometime in the morning.
It probably is unnecessary to mention that we did not get much sleep on the bus due to various noises from all kinds of people who were on the bus with us. However, I will mention it anyway: we did not get much sleep (another reason why it is a plus to do this when young).
BACKPACKERS in Paris
After the night on the bus, with virtually no sleep, we drove into Montmartre and were finally able to leave the bus. Armed with our backpacks full of snacks, water, and city maps, we left the bus behind and walked uphill until we reached Sacre-Coeur; a majestic and beautiful cathedral, with a breathtaking view of the city. I immediately remembered why I fell in love with Paris: because of its beauty.
After this brief taste of Paris, we were headed back to the bus which dropped us and our luggage off at our hotel. The hotel was quite far from downtown (there is, of course, a reason for the price of $100/person for the entire trip), but thanks to Paris’ Metro system it was as easy as one-two-three to get there. We bought a day ticket for the Metro, and we were good to go.
We went to see the Arc de Triomphe, at the Place Charles de Gaulle, and continued walking down the impressive Avenue des Champs-Elysees (where they had already set up everything for the upcoming Christmas market a couple weeks later) which ends at the Place de la Concorde with its Egyptian obelisk.
From the Place de la Concorde we headed to the Louvre; passing through the Tuileries Garden which is really beautiful (even in November). At the Louvre, we walked around the outside a little, took the obligatory photos of the famous glass pyramid, and peeked inside the museum. We did not go on a tour of the museum, since we did not have enough time set aside for it. The Louvre is the world’s largest museum, and we needed a day alone to tour it comfortably. We continued on to walk around the city passing many beautiful buildings and places and took it all in.
After all this time walking we decided to take the Metro to meet with our tour group for a river cruise at night on the river Seine (which was included in the package deal). We enjoyed being taken around the city by boat and passed many famous sights (e.g., the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Pont Neuf (under which you are supposed to kiss your love), and much more). The cruise was such a great experience and definitely worth it; seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night from a distance will forever be saved in my memory. After the relaxing and educational, as well as romantic, river cruise we went to a supermarket to get our dinner and a few goodies to take home and finally to our hotel and went to sleep.
The next morning, after a good night’s sleep, we went straight to the Eiffel Tower. At a bakery nearby we got some coffee and eclairs for breakfast (how French, no?!?). When it was time for us to go up the Eiffel Tower (which was not included in the package deal but only about $12/person) we were well fed, rested, and ready to go!
It’s approximately 350 steps to the first level, 670 steps to the second (there is also an elevator for the not quite as young), and from there one has to take a tiny elevator to get to the very top. This elevator has a glass door and, even though that is a nice view, it is terrifying if one is afraid of heights; which I am. Of course, my sister and I ended up standing right at that glass elevator door. The doors closed right in front of me, and I died a thousand deaths. I asked my sister to hold onto me because my panicky brain thought that she would be able to keep me from falling out if the doors opened. How silly, but I made it, and I have to admit the short and terrifying ride is worth it. I would even do it again (I think).
We took in the fantastic view, took photos, and sent postcards from the Eiffel Tower’s own post office. After the exciting visit of the Eiffel Tower, we went to meet with our group again to go on a tour of Versailles (which is a beautiful palace with huge gardens about 12 miles from Paris).
Our group made it to the immense palace of Versailles, and it really is as beautiful as one would imagine. Elaborate decorations, gold and marble, and only the finest materials were being used to create this beautiful palace for Louis XIV. The visit of Versailles was also not included in the overall price of the trip, but another 15 Euros was all we needed to spend on touring the palace (an audio tour and the temporary exhibit are included in that price).
The tour of the palace alone takes quite a while, if you do not want to rush through, and since it was November we did not tour the gardens (which is more like an immense park). We took our time walking from one impressive room to the next, always listening to the audio tour. The famous hall of mirrors is magnificent and beautiful, but so is every other room, really. It is a palace after all.
The temporary exhibition at the time was by Jeff Koons (think the huge, pink balloon dog), and we enjoyed looking at his intriguing pieces of art amidst all the elaborate gold and silver of Versailles itself. The tour came to an end, and we wandered around the outside for a little taste of what else there must be to explore in the gardens. Later, our group met at the golden gates of the palace to drive back into Paris for one last glimpse of the city and one last stop at the Eiffel Tower.
A ROMANCE with paris
Paris is a city which, like so many other people, I instantly fell in love with, and it all started on my 21st birthday. Even though I have been to Paris twice already, I would not hesitate one minute to visit the city of lights again. It does not matter whether one stays at the George V, or at a more budget friendly option. All that matters is that the right person(s) travel together to make this trip even more special as it would be alone. Paris is really as magical and beautiful as everyone always says, and I do hope that I could inspire someone to apply for a passport tomorrow and spend a week there soon.
Originally from Germany, Simone now makes her home in the US with her husband and daughter. She travels frequently to Germany with her toddler to visit family.