40: Paris, My Hidden Prince Charming

Some of the best parts of traveling is the ability to share my experiences and take friends on an adventure with me; especially those, who otherwise, wouldn’t have the opportunity. My newest travel companion, Michael, is one of my closest friends from college and when I mentioned going to Amsterdam for a pre summer trip, much like Cleveland, he was all in. Yes this blog is titled Paris. Yes that is one of three times I’ll mention Amsterdam. Yes, I will explain. No, this was not the plan.

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Plan: Amsterdam. Who: Michael, college friend Rick (we hate him), and work friend Valerie (she’s a gem). Roadblock: Flights to Amsterdam were too full. Airbnbs were too expensive. New plan: PARIS! After a quick pow wow, we came to the conclusion that we’d fly to Paris first for a day and the the next day fly a cheap €31 flight to Amsterdam for two days. PSYCH! The flights were full, we couldn’t find a place to stay, and to top it off it was a holiday. So the day of we made the hard decision to stay in Paris the whole trip. Woe are we. How difficult are our lives?

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We found an Airbnb almost immediately, switching places each day to get a feel of the areas. The streets were like an ancient city with that romantic feel, like a fairytale. Now I’m not into fairytales but a stroll through Paris can change your mind about a thing or two. The scenery is to die for and the croissants are just as mouth wateringly tasty as you’d expect them to be, and then some. The coffee? Amazing. The men? Cute. The accents? *kisses fingertips*. The fashion? *faints*.

Lesson 62: Wateringly isn’t a word, but should be?

I adored every bit of Paris and although I could talk for hours, here are the highlights.

The Eiffel Tower
What can I say about the Eiffel tower that hasn’t been said a million times already? Absolutely nothing, but ill say it anyway. Holy shit is it beautiful. I’ve never been someone who obsessed about going to Paris. Of course I’ve always wanted to go but it wasn’t at the top of my list nor did I grow up wishing some beau whisk me away to the city of love. Honestly I cared more about the shopping and museums than anything else, but I was wrong. As soon as we arrived to Paris, the Eiffel Tower was naturally the first adventure. You could see it from miles away as you approached only allowing your view of it to get larger wishing your eyes were bigger so that you could see the monument as a whole.

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We walked under the middle base of the tower and found a nice clear spot in the grass to relax and take in our surroundings. Yes, I napped in the park under the Eiffel Tower on a Wednesday afternoon while it was 75 degrees and sunny. Yes, you can be jealous. No, you cannot hit me. Fast forward to next evening at 11pm after a couple glasses (bottles) of wine and fists of chocolate, and we decided to go back to the Eiffel Tower to watch it shimmer like glitter on the hour.

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We grabbed our final bottle of champagne and set out for our twenty minute walk as we laid on the grass, for yet a second time, at midnight gazing at the stars and the tower as they lit up the nights sky. Okay now you can hit me. Perfect is the best way to describe this moment, surrounded by people I care about and random strangers trying to sell us over priced bottles of wine. Perfection.

The People
I was fair warned by not only friends who have ventured to France but also one of my best friends, who is French, that people who live in Paris, though nice in nature, do not typically like tourists. SURPRISE. There are many benefits in being an avid traveler but some people who have the means to travel can often show the uncultured nature of their nationality to those of other countries. Paris being one of the most visited cities in the world, is one of them.

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That’s not to say they “hate” tourists, because I know that isn’t true. They, just like most big city natives, are very much used to seeing different cultures, from all over the world, all the time. And sometimes, people can be entitled; people can be assholes. This attaches a stereotype to all nationalities making it very easy to get annoyed when foreigners come into your establishment forcing their agenda into your every day lifestyle. That said, I rarely noticed anyone be mean!

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Mostly everyone was polite and giggled when I tried to speak French. Since I didn’t know a lick of French, I didn’t try to butcher it. Look, it was hard enough to get me to learn the difference between de bano and il bango (the bathroom in Spanish and Italian). I’m not super woman and will never know every language. Shrug. Either way they were usually polite enough to find an English speaking employee to help our needs. Go figure, more than 50% of them knew English. No wonder we’re entitled.

The Service
Like any big city there were plenty of shoulder grazes and their staff service is not like ours in America at all. They don’t work for tips at restaurants so it isn’t rude to wave for a server. Once my French friend and I wanted to leave a restaurant in Chicago. As I was patiently waiting for the server to come to the table, she stood up to go look for her saying, “I’ll just give our check to this server instead”. I had to explain to her that I didn’t want our server to think she was doing a bad job but she didn’t get it. Here when you want service you demand it as politely as possible. I didn’t know this. Cue to us sitting around looking uncomfortable waiting for our server when in all actuality all we had to do was ask.

The Louvre
There aren’t enough words to express my amazement with The Louvre. Describing what this museum now means to me will be rather difficult but I’ll let you gander at my plethora of photos to give you a basic idea.

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For starters, I am a museum nerd. I love to get lost in the history and culture of others while seeing their artistry flow from them into visual form so flawlessly. It’s breathtaking. Not only that but the history behind some of the most well known pieces and artifacts found from all over the world to come together in one collection is amazing.

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That said, The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world, and arguably, the most popular. It holds the largest Egyptian exhibit, and this excited me because it happens to be my favorite part of any museum.

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Every corner I turned I expected the exhibit to end only to discover another room, another display, or wall of hieroglyphics. The intricate detail that goes into setting up such exhibits is beyond impressive and I give kudos to the many souls it must take to run such an establishment.

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The museum itself is split up into three wings; the Richelieu, the Sully, the Denon. The Sully is where I spent the bulk of my time, fan-girling over the mummies and gawking at the statues of Aphrodite and the many other Roman/Greek gods and goddesses.

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Just that section alone without going into each and every room took nearly three hours. And we sped walked. Of course we saw the Mona Lisa which was smaller than I assumed it’d be and displayed in the center of a room that was dedicated to biblical paintings by Italian artists. It was amazing. Mona Lisa herself was semi-basic as always but the painting and the experience was amazing.

The Catacombs
OH MY GOD THIS WAS THE COOLEST THING ABOUT THE ENTIRE TRIP!!!

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For most people that know me, I’m a lover of horror and creepy things. So when planning a trip to Paris it was no surprise that on the top of my list was not seeing the Eiffel Tower but to walk a narrow, spiral, stone staircase over a mile into the ground to tour an underground ossuary (a chest or box of human remains in order to save space) that is hundreds of years old, and haunted.

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Yes, yes and more yes. The building itself was rather small and gothic. The line wasn’t long and once we were about halfway through, Valerie decided that this just wasn’t for her. The hallways were narrow, it was underground, and it was an ossuary for Christ sakes. Not her cup of tea which was more than okay. She left to shop as the three of us continued to wait in line.

Once inside the building we noticed just how small it was as we went through a door way that started leading us down stone stairs directly into the ground. Five minutes pass and we’re still descending the stairs not knowing if we’re half way there or still pretty close to the top; we couldn’t see more than three feet in front of us. This is where Michael checked out, noticing that he too, was not into underground ossuarries. This left just Rick and I and once to the bottom all you saw was a long hallway with walls covered in skulls, the ceiling no more than 6 and a half feet high, and sometimes even lower than that causing Rick to hunch.

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It wasn’t necessarily a maze because you couldn’t really choose a direction; there was just one long winding hallway. The ground was of loose dirt and the surroundings were all uneven. Every so often the narrow hallway would open up into a circular type area allowing you to have a little more moving space and also plaques that explained some of the history.

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Quick lesson! In 1780, after the graveyards became overcrowded, they moved upwards to 6 million remains to old underground mining tunnels that were no longer being used. These tunnels run miles beneath the city of Paris and later became not just an ossuary, but a museum of the dead. Creepy right? *insert cat with heart for eyes emoji*

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Once we got to the end we had to then walk up the seven millions flights of stairs and while I was nearing my death I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, the road. Feeling like a vampire escaping it’s tomb I looked around and noticed we weren’t near the entrance. As a matter of fact we were about five to seven blocks away from the entrance. We were slightly confused but it was 110% worth it.

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As a whole the trip was amazing. I love visiting places with not many expectations and having everything I do and each experience exceed them. Not only that but traveling with friends makes the journey much more enjoyable because in more ways than one, I’m a people pleaser. It brings me joy to see that others are having a great time and being a part of those life experiences are memories that will stick with you for years to come. Paris is very much my hidden Prince Charming and going back year after year I’m sure will only allow my heart to grow fonder of the breathtaking city.

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