Bonjour! Okay, just kidding.
Since returning from our trip in June, I’ve had several people ask me if I loved Paris. Much to their surprise, my answer was a resounding no. I think I can speak for both Brady and I when I say that we were both in complete culture shock the entire time we were in France. I’d say that normally I can adjust to culture shock pretty well, but this time it just never happened.
Our France itinerary was made up of 3 full days. We arrived on a late afternoon and by the time we got through customs at the airport, figured out the RER, and got to our room, we were pretty well wiped and just went exploring near our hotel. Little did we know we were staying within a half mile of Paris’s Red Light District. While soliciting sex in Paris is legal, brothels and pimping were finally made illegal in April 2016. With that said, the sex scene in Paris is still in full-swing (no pun intended). I’ve never seen so many sex shops, gentlemen’s clubs, and burlesque clubs lining one street in my life.
Our first full-day in France, we caught an SNCF to Caen for a day-tour of the Normandy D-Day Landing Sites. With an early 7AM departure and a 10PM return, we had no time to go sightseeing. We attempted to find the Eiffel Tower once we got back, but my oh-so-nifty Paris Metro app led us astray and we weren’t able to see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. It probably had less to do with my app and more to do with the two Oklahomans who consider “turn left at the red barn”directions.
Our second full-day in France was spent at Disneyland Paris. Why wouldn’t two grown-ass adults spend a day at the happiest place on earth? Thankfully this day we conquered the RER and metro like we were seasoned pros. We even busted out a few “pardon moi’s” while on the metro. Look at us go! That evening, we decided to venture away from our hotel walk around the area. It just so happened that the entire time we were in Europe, the Euro Cup was taking place in Paris, and everywhere we went was swarming with soccer fans. This particular night, we were walking back through the Red Light District and came upon an entire block party. Crazed soccer fans were climbing street signs, hanging their country’s flags from light poles, smoking lots of weed, and dancing like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. I’m quite certain I got a contact high from all the weed in the air. Did I mention that there were cops everywhere not arresting anyone? Hm!
As we awoke on our final full-day in Paris, we set out bright and early to begin our day of sightseeing. Come to find out, our hotel was a hop, skip, and jump away from Sacre Coeur basilica, so this was our first stop on the list. Construction on the basilica began in 1875 and was not completed until 1919. Tours of the basilica are offered, but we opted to stay outside and take in the views overlooking Paris.
Our next stop of the day was the Arc de Triomphe. I had seen the arch numerous times in pictures and movies. People, pictures and movies do no justice to just how big this thing is! It stands at a whopping 162 feet tall, 150 feet wide, and 72 feet deep. Built in honor of those who fought for France during the Napoleonic War, the inside walls of the monument lists the names of 558 French generals with the names of those who died in battle being underlined. Also inscribed on the shorter sides of the four supporting columns, you can see the names of the major battles of the Napoleonic wars. The line to get to the top of the arch was very long, so we instead took a few selfies and went on our way.
Leaving the Arc de Triomphe, we walked along Paris’s narrow streets in search of the Eiffel Tower. Arriving at the Palais de Chaillot, we climbed up the stairs for the most iconic view of the Eiffel Tower. This area is referred to as the Jardins du Trocadéro. We gawked at the gardens and eventually found ourselves staring up at the Eiffel Tower. Again, I was shocked by just how big it is in person! Standing at 986 feet tall, it was the world’s tallest building for 4 decades until the 1,046 foot-tall Chrysler Building in New York City was built in 1930. To no surprise, the place was crowded and the lines were quite long to get in. A few pictures later, we were on our way to the Louve.
A few wrong-way metro rides later (I thought we had this metro figured out), we arrived in the Jardin des Tuileries (The Tuileries and Carrousel Gardens) outside the Louvre. The nearly 70-acre open-air gardens are home to over 35 species of trees and a wide variety of plants. Along with the beautiful landscaping, 20 sculptures by Aristide Maillol are on view in the Carrousel Garden, and, in the Tuileries, over 200 statues and vases dating from the 17th to the 21st century are displayed. We spent quite a bit of time wandering through the gardens and even sat in the grass eating ice cream (this was short lived as I got itchy).
As we were walking towards the Louvre (the most spectacular building I have ever seen), Brady suggested that we see how long the line is and go take a look. On a warm, sunny Wednesday summer afternoon, there was no line to be found! This happened to be one of the days the Louvre is open until 9:45PM (how lucky), so we sauntered on in. While walking up to the ticket lady, the following conversation happened:
Brady: “How do you say two in French?”
Haley: “Trois… duh..”
We approach the ticket lady…
Brady: “Bonjour!! Trois, s’il vous plait.” *holds up 2 fingers*
Ticket lady: “Trois?”
Brady: “Oui!” *Ticket lady swipes card and hands us tickets.”
A few minutes later, Brady hands me my ticket as we approach an entrance.
Brady: “Here is your ticket and a receipt.”
Haley: *Looking at ticket and receipt.* “They’re the same thing.”
Haley: “We bought 3 tickets.”
Brady: “Well, how do you say two in French?”
Haley: “Oh my God. Deux. Trois is three. *Insert nasty words* I’m a dumbass. We’re not speaking French the rest of the trip.”
Brady: “No wonder the lady looked at us weird.”
You’re welcome, French Government, for you $15.00 donation. Casper thoroughly enjoyed the museum.
We wound our way in and out of the different rooms and floors of the Louvre rather hastily. After all, we only had 1 day to see about 650,000 sq. feet of building! The Mona Lisa, in my opinion, is way overrated. Luckily there was no wait, so Brady made it to the front and took a selfie. I was much more impressed by the paintings that were 40 feet long and 20 feet high. What was even more impressive than the massive paintings? The ceilings! I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Our last stop of the day was a short walk away – Notre Dame Cathedral. We just missed being able to go inside as they were closing for the day. I didn’t see Quasimoto running around anywhere, but the cathedral was impressive enough without him being there. Standing outside the massive cathedral, it is apparent why it took nearly 200 years to be built (construction began in 1163 and was completed in 1345).
After a short metro ride back to our hotel, we stopped for a bottle of wine and began packing our bags for our departure back to Oklahoma the next day. While I didn’t love Paris, I did enjoy it and wish we could have spent a few more days exploring everything this city has to offer. Is there another trip to Paris in the future? Maybe, but I can promise if we go again, we will know how to speak French.
Check It Out!
♦Vintage Hostel & Hotel: single room suite from $83/nt
Things We Did
♦Sacre Coeur Basilica: free entrance
♦Arc de Triomphe: tickets from $55 with Champs Elysees Walking Tour
♦Eiffel Tower: tickets from €17 per adult for Summit access (all 3 floors); 1st & 2nd floor access €11 per adult
♦Louvre: adult tickets €15 per person; Museum open until 9:45PM on Wednesdays & Fridays.
♦ Notre Dame Cathedral: Cathedral is free; Cathedral Tower & Treasury have entrance fees.
Places We Ate
♦ Nowhere worth mentioning!