Since I’m sitting sleepless on an international flight and too groggy to work…I thought I would inflict my restlessness on you all…my faithful readers! What better time to continue reminiscing about a trip abroad than when I am headed there again?
After barely making my flight today and taking off in conditions that I doubt I could even walk in I was glad to see the Detroit Airport behind me…it is truly amazing the weather that you can fly through! That being said…back to my days in Pariiiiii…
One of the most significant accomplishments of the entire trip was my ability to depend upon a real paper map…not wanting to run up insane international data charges while taking GPS guided walking tours through the city, I went out on a limb and used real maps. Map reading has never been a strong suit of mine however I do have a pretty good sense of direction, needless to say, when and where to look at a map in Paris is an art form unto itself. The key is to plan your route and familiarize yourself with it before leaving your hotel everyday so you don’t have to stop every 500 feet to reacquaint yourself with your surroundings making you a possible target of tourist scorn.
So my first morning in Paris I did just that…I had about a mile walk from my hotel to pick up my Paris Pass. Seeing the city relatively early in the morning was a treat, the temperature was still cool and the grind of the city had not yet started. Things seems lighter and more beautiful at that time of day…less congested. It was a pleasant walk past landmarks like the Paris Opera or the Palais Garnier.
I picked up the Paris Pass at a restored theatre and sat down at a cafe around the corner to read the fine print details and review my plan for the day. I was unsure about spending the 150 euro on the Pass, scared that is was a tourist trap…but kept telling myself that if it actually worked like it said it did I would save at least double the price of the pass. I purchased a 5 day pass that included entrance into every major Museum, Monument, Art Gallery or Attraction in the City including Versailles. Additionally the pass was equipped with a 5 day unlimited metro pass within the city, that could also be used on the bus and certain shuttles as well. There was a nighttime boat tour on the Seine, a wine tasting tour and even a tour of the tunnels of Paris included with the pass… All of this sounded too good to be true but with each museum or gallery charging between 8 and 13 euro a piece for entry you could quickly spend 75 euro a day just on fees and transportation.
First stop…The LOUVRE….so I was going to test the pass with the big mamma jamma on one of the busiest weekends of the year…I began my trek to the most famous museum in the country expecting to be treated like a VIP! I arrived at the upper courtyard of the LOUVRE around 10am and already there were hundreds of people standing in line on the quickly warming pavement anxiously awaiting the chance to see some of history’s greatest treasures….
I was standing beside the line unsure of where to go since I knew from reading the fine print on my paris pass I was NOT supposed to wait in lines…hmmmmm…lets just see of if this works…then something magical happened. A museum worker noticed the pass in my hand and approached me, when I asked her where to go…she took me by the wrist AND LED ME TO THE VERY FRONT OF THE LINE…DIRECTLY TO SECURITY. I waited exactly 30 secs to get into the Louvre…whoa…the pass was LEGIT!
Once inside the Louvre it is like a maze…this was meticulous planning fail #2 after the train station….I had not made a plan for what I wanted to see in the Lourve or even looked at a map before I got there. Trying to absorb the layout and the contents all at once isn’t possible…not to mention the place was packed…so here are some of the highlights….
Another important travel note about this infamous museum/palace….the building itself if just as impressive as its contents…LOOK UP, take your eyes off the cases and displays and observe the walls, trims, fabrics, frescos, gilded ceilings and the like…its amazing to imagine what went on in these halls, rooms and spaces before the Lourve became the worlds’ most elaborate display case.
And secondly….if you have to make a trip to the ladies room…PLAN AHEAD!!! This building is hundreds of years old and 30 stall bathrooms on every corner were not built into the original design…one of the most stressful moments of the day came 45 minutes into my seemingly endless hunt for a bathroom….ahhhhh…I was trapped….I couldn’t get out of the building and I couldn’t find a bathroom…whew…less than glamorous I know, but real talk here. Once I finally did find a ladies room with two stalls, there was a 20 min wait. First world problems…I know.
After spending 4 or 5 hours wandering around from one world wonder to the next I decided it was time for a break and some lunch. I must say though, in keeping with the theme of parisian high drama, the Louvre has the exceptional ability to surprise you around every turn and take your breath away when you least expect it. I don’t have the ability to walk around these places wearing headset while on a numbered walking tour via prerecorded information and emotion…I want to be free to wander which is also why there were surprises waiting for me around every corner. Sure, from a purist perspective I probably didn’t do justice to the establishment but from a perspective of childlike wonder…I was in heaven!
I exited through the mall (of course) via a new Swatch Watch to the Jardin du Tuileries for a leisurely walk, jamon baguette and san pelligrino on a park bench in the shade. I sat for a while taking in my surroundings and the cool air, it was at this point that I looked down at my feet, dusty and dirty as they were, and wondered for the first time how in the world someone is supposed to be endlessly glamourous in a city with so much warmth, dust and congestion. My oh so chic’ gladiators and newly pedicured toes were filthy and I was not just glistening…I was full on sweating…you know wearing a scarf of course!
At this same moment I realized that I had spent the entire day NOT BEING PANHANDLED!!! So maybe all this uncomfortable, sweaty, holier than thou, imposter parisian glamour was paying off….I was being left ALONE!!!! I win! I was sweaty and my shoes would never recover…but I won! While I might not have been mistaken for a parisian I was not being assumed as a tourist so no haggling, begging, or general weirdness from passersby; all with a change of outfit and demeanor!
Travel is drama and subtlety, moments that take your breath away and moments that remind you to be grateful you’re breathing, it’s a sandwich and dirty feet on a park bench while you ponder the crown jewels and Hammurabi’s Code of Law…it’s complex and simple. It’s a reminder that every moment is a gift, every new experience, every hurt and happiness, a gift.
Until the next time…stay tuned for Paris Part 3…