Alright folks, still on the road to an on schedule recovery of the blog around the New Year….keep your fingers crossed….

I made my first ever trip to Paris this past summer…it was life changing, mind blowing and overwhelming on every level and I did it SOLO!

Welcome to the City of Love, Light and Dust!
Welcome to the City of Love, Light and Dust!

One thing is certain when traveling alone in the city of love…I mastered the art of the unashamed selfie…in all situations and circumstances….flashing a cheesy smile with arms outstretched to prove I’d left my mark on the city.

I took the train from Cologne, Germany to Paris, France on Friday afternoon in the middle of July…just in time for Bastille Day Weekend…one of the warmest and busiest weekends of the year in France.

In all of my meticulous planning and daily itineraries I never really made a plan to get from the train station, which is total chaos, to my hotel. Ignorantly assuming that taxi’s would be abundant and cheap….WRONG. They are abundant…because no one uses them, however I had yet to review my subway route to the hotel and didn’t want to drag my luggage through the subway gauntlet…I overpacked…as usual.

I so ventured out into the sea of screaming cabbies and heavily overspent on my ride to the hotel…I immediately understood why so many cabs sit empty on every curb in the city…they are not well regulated and charge the naive for their ignorance…LESSON LEARNED.

Ok made it to the hotel…nerve in tact and was greeted by fantastically polite and helpful staff at the Amarante Beau Manoir, other than slightly faulty air conditioning in this centuries old historic building…I could not have been happier with the staff and location of my hotel…literally blocks away from the Champs Elysees and Place de le Madeleine.

My first afternoon…Jardin du Tuileries
My first afternoon…Jardin du Tuileries

On my first afternoon I generally just got my bearings,took assessment of my location and closest subway stop. Oh…and I got panhandled…NONSTOP…apparently I looked exceptionally american, touristy and stupid…In one afternoon I was approached over a dozen times, I was even told I had to pay a fine for taking pictures in the Jardin de Tuileries…which could be paid in cash to the greasy french guy who approached me.  Later on we will discuss the series of behavioral and wardrobe mistakes I made to evoke this sort of treatment on my first day in the city…

This experience left me wondering what I was doing wrong…and questioning my ability to withstand this sort of ‘in your face’ behavior for the next 6 days…

I was distracted from the constant panhandling with my first sight of the Lourve, which like so many things in Paris is Magnificent in size and stature…no second hand perspective can do it justice. This is where the ART of the SELFIE really began…at first I was shy…didn’t want to be noticed, then a few minutes later I was practically laying on the ground trying to get the entirety of my face and the pyramid in the picture at one time…of course not trusting anyone else to take a photo. As you can see…my first attempts were not the best…

First Selfie Attempt…Strained and Unnatural…it can only get better from here...
First Selfie Attempt…Strained and Unnatural…it can only get better from here…

I was more determined on my walk back to the hotel to change for dinner, in Paris the sun sets around 9pm so it is not unusual to still be eating dinner at 10:30pm or 11pm at night…I decided on my first evening to make my way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, stopping alone the way to eat, shop and of course be panhandled.

I stopped at an Italian Bistro with a nice view of the sun setting over the Arch, and asked for a table for one….this first evening was really my first and real introduction to the beautiful things of paris. I ordered the special which was Bolognese and a white wine…The Italian man in is fifties that was waiting my table disagreed with my choice of wine so in addition to my white, he also brought me a glass of Rose’.  My waiter was right and my white wine sat lonely and full while he happily refilled my Rose’ with a satisfied grin on his face.  I watched the sunset over the Arc de Triomphe with an appropriate glass of french Rose’ in my hand and felt slightly undeserving.

Champs Elysees decorated for Bastille Day.
Champs Elysees decorated for Bastille Day.

Turns out that when your waiter decides to go rouge and bring you the sustenance of his choosing…these rouge items are also gratis…I paid my bill and left a tip (even though this is included in almost all food tickets in Europe) feeling at peace with my decision to come to Paris alone and slightly tipsy after a few glasses of free wine…

Onward to the Arc…through Rose’ colored glasses I sat and stared across the 8 lane roundabout, wondering how in the world people were supposed to get across this gauntlet of pavement…having not walked far enough around the see the lamppost marking the entrance to the underground walking tunnel,  I was baffled…SO NATURALLY…I made a run for it…’

Selfie taken moments before the perilous crossing!
Selfie taken moments before the perilous crossing! Still having a chin issue…working on it…

Horns honking…drivers cursing…I could not be deterred…and thankfully I didn’t even get scolded by the many armed guards that are protecting Napoleons Triumphal Entry to the City…my entry was a sight to remember as well…so I guess they turned a blind eye.

Getting to the top of the Arc de Triomphe involved an 11 story spiral staircase that is about 24in wide…at this point I was questioning my choice to obligatorily finish my three free glasses of wine…ok…focus…lets do this…

Triumphal Entry/Street Crossing!
Triumphal Entry/Street Crossing!

Needless to say my head was spinning when I got to the top, so I stopped and caught my breath while I bought one of four cheesy gold coins I collected all over the city…one more story to climb to the top…let’s go.

Camera in hand and wits in tact; I exited the last set of stairs completely unprepared for the onslaught my senses would endure…Paris…Just after sunset from one of the best views in the city…360 degrees of twinkling lights, history and beauty all at once…yup…I cried…and it won’t be the last time in this city. I took my time…saw the city from all sides…and then it happened…

For the first time I saw the Tour Eiffel light up on the hour in a spectacle unlike any other…Paris…you have mastered the art of high drama! It was breathtaking and I stood with my hands on the railing until I was urged to move so others could take their turn…

Selfies get better all the time...
Selfies get better all the time…
The Moment
The Moment

 

That’s the thing about travel, it brings to the surface moments that you remember forever…moments that overwhelm and humble you at the same time…moments that cultivate such a mixture of excitement and fear that all you can do is be present and absorb.

That first night at the top of the Arc de Triomphe was the first of many ‘moments’ in Paris…walking back to the hotel I almost didn’t notice the last panhandler of the night…I was lost in thought wondering how I ever got lucky enough to live out my dreams…one overwhelming moment at a time…

The Camera just can't capture the memory...
The Camera just can’t capture the memory…
A look back...
A look back…

And that pretty much sums up my first afternoon/evening in Paris…sooooo maybe getting caught up won’t be as easy as I thought because once I really go back to the memories I have from the city it’s hard to know where to stop…but stay tuned…the panhandling gets better…I get this miraculous card called a Paris Pass and the adventure in high fashion continues…

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