There’s something so romantic about even uttering the name of the city. In light of recent events (the burning of Notre Dame Cathedral, in case you’ve been living under a rock), I was waxing nostalgic about my time in Europe. …That, or the fact that a person who is 32 inches tall will be preventing me from traveling anywhere adult-like for some time.
Truth be told, Paris wasn’t even my favorite stop on the 16-day honeymoon we embarked upon, but at this point in time, it sounds like absolute perfection. The most likely reason for my indifference would probably be the fact that we spent so little time, had only a fleeting moment to explore, it was only 2 days after Bastille Day, and I was horrendously jetlagged while we were there as well.
This all can only mean one thing: we must go back. In the meantime, though, let’s just take a jaunt in time.
My husband and I were married July 9, 2016 and left for our honeymoon about a week later. I had already gone to Europe twice before, but this was the first time he had crossed the ocean. Having also traveled twice before with my tour company of choice, I knew that I would not have to worry about a thing as soon as our organized sight-seeing began. We landed at Charles de Gaulle around 7:45 in the morning and had transport service to the Mercure Eiffel. Naturally, we arrived at the hotel long before check-in, so we decided to explore while we were waiting. When all you have to do is step outside, look up, and see the Eiffel Tower before you, how can you not be inspired?
With sturdy legs, map in hand, and renewed, adrenaline-fueled energy, we decided to walk 3 miles to the Louvre. In no rush, we walked leisurely, taking in our surroundings and people-watching on the busy streets. The city looked like it had been recently taken over by a college frat party. Did I mention it had just been Bastille Day? The city was certainly still in recovery! Everywhere you turned, you were also accosted by street vendors trying to sell their wears, and gypsies trying to distract you long enough for a companion to rob you silly.
By the time we got to the famed museum, we sadly did not have enough time to wait in what appeared to be the hours-long line. It remains one of my biggest regrets, being an appreciator of art. However, being part of an organized tour means that you are on a strict schedule once it begins, starting with our planned group dinner that night. (The beauty of traveling with a tour group, though, is that you skip the lines for all attractions that are included!) At said dinner, we would learn from one of our fellow-travelers that the line actually moved rather quickly and that we probably would have had enough time after all. Hindsight!
After dinner we took a relaxing river cruise on the Seine to see the sights. Words do not do nearly as much justice as pictures so I’ll leave you with these:
The next day was partially unplanned with optional excursions to choose from that took up the morning. Being a lover of history, this particular day and excursion was supposed to be the highlight of my trip. Beheadings, and cake, and splendor, oh my!? … Versailles.
I had been so looking forward to visiting the palace that I had read so much about in history and fiction alike. I was already dancing through the Hall of Mirrors in my head. But jet-lag had other plans. I don’t know what it was- the time zone, over-excitement, the oppressive heat/dehydration… but I felt so terribly nauseous that I could not enjoy my time there in the least. I barely wanted to get on the coach to go there, I felt so awful. Sacre bleu.
I mean, I was literally swaying on my feet, praying that I would not pass out. At one point, I felt I was either going to vomit or faint, and I had to stumble down to the bathroom on another floor of the palace. Before we had climbed the stairs, we were warned that if we had to use the bathroom we had to go at that point because we would not be allowed back down and there were no other bathrooms until the end of the tour. At that beginning, I had been convinced that I could hold it together, that it would just go away if I ignored it. You should have seen the look on the face of the guard who saw me quickly(ish) making my way back down the stairs with what I would imagine was a look of determination. He tried to stop me, and I thought for sure that this interruption was going to end in me on the floor or my breakfast on his shoes. My face must have been nearly translucent, being so near collapse, because I pointed to my stomach, said I don’t feel good, and he moved quickly out of the way to let me pass. I sat in the stall for a moment, willing the spots I was seeing to go away – or to just puke and get it over with – but neither was happening. I was so nervous about not being able to find my husband and the rest of our tour (I had pretty much took off with little to no explanation), so I quickly gave up and went in search of them.
Thankfully, I did not have too much trouble catching up, but I had missed part of the tour, and missing any one part was too much considering the amount I was looking forward to being there prior.
I spent the rest of the tour sitting down in any room it was possible to sit down in. I could not enjoy the history that was being shared, not really being able to focus on anything that was being said. I did snap pictures of everything so that at least I would be able to look back and prove that I was there, however miserable. My husband purchased me a water when we finally got to the gift shop, and when I downed that, I did begin to feel a bit better. When we went outside to view the magnificent gardens, I was somewhat able to relax since I was able to mostly sit down and continue to drink more water.
One thing I can tell you is that it was every bit awe-inspiring as I imagined it would be, inside and out. It leaves me continuously disappointed that I am not living in a palace and that I am the queen of nothing. Somehow, it is still a surprise every morning when I wake up.
Funnily enough, the grandeur of the first half of the day paled in comparison to the rest. It will sound corny, but what I had imagined would be the best part of my trip had turned out to be the worst, and unexpected events would have a far greater impact.
Following our excursion, we returned to the hotel to meet the rest of our group for our included tour of the city by bus/foot/boat. We were let off at the iconic Arc de Triomphe to take pictures and admire the structure. Well, maybe not everyone was doing the latter, but you see, I have a thing for traditional European architecture. It’ll always be a wonder to me how intricately constructed these buildings can be given their age. You know what was even more amazing? The rotary around it. I could have sat and watched the masterpiece that was the flow of traffic and been entertained by that alone.
The rest of our tour showed us all of the major landmarks from afar, including Notre Dame Cathedral, which I only had a passing glance at. This, of course, is quite the regret. When we had been aimlessly wandering the streets of Paris the day before, we didn’t realize how near to the cathedral we were, and I think we were also unaware that our guided tour would not be taking us there. We were so close, yet so far. I may not have stepped foot inside, but I am trying to be thankful for the fact that I was able to see it in person in its original beauty at all.
We concluded our sightseeing with a stop at the Eiffel Tower. Included in our entry was a trip up to the second deck, and we had the option of going up to the third for a fee… and an extremely long wait for the elevator. Maybe it sounds lazy, but we were both okay with not going to that higher level. Mostly because we had such magnificent views from where we were. It might be cliché and touristy, but you can’t go to Paris and not experience the Eiffel Tower. I’m all for exploring the hidden gems, but you need to see the big ticket places too.
On the way down, we decided to walk down the stairs instead of wait for the elevator. It sounded like a great idea at the time; more exercise- how could you go wrong? 674 steps, no problem! And in general it wasn’t, except for the fact that once we got pretty far down my eyes started playing tricks on me. I was almost hypnotized by looking at them as I went down, and I kept thinking I was going to miss a step and fall. My muscles also became taut and I felt like my legs weren’t functioning properly. There was no where to stop or rest because there are people constantly coming up and down, and the stairs aren’t wide enough to accommodate stragglers. Cross-eyed and wobbly-legged, I did make it down without incident!
Later that night, we went on another excursion to see Moulin Rouge- yes, the one! It was quite the experience. We sat in cute tables facing the stage, like you would see in the movies. Prior to the main attraction, there was a live band that you could get up and dance to in the front of the room. We had already gotten to know our travel companions a bit and were enjoying conversation with them when the band began to spontaneously play our wedding song, “Stand by Me” by Ben King. Of all the songs, our song. And so exactly one week after our wedding – almost to the moment!- we danced to our song, in the middle of the Moulin Rouge. Now how many people can say that? That is what perfect moments and perfect memories are made of.
The show itself was entertaining, though I must have been naïve because before the show, I didn’t realize just how much I would be seeing of women’s breasts. I don’t know how they don’t throw them out of whack, constantly moving around on the stage like that. God bless!
It was a magical night and tied up our short time in Paris in a neat little bow. The next morning, we departed by coach for the next destination on our 16-day journey. I don’t think I was able to fully appreciate the city, fueled by fatigue and adrenaline alike at the time. And I know for a FACT that I did not see even a fraction of a fraction of what Paris has to offer. That can only mean one thing: someday we’ll just have to go back and spend a longer time exploring and falling in love with the City of Love.