Happy Days 64: One glorious day in Paris!

France, Day 8

Bonjour! We are celebrating our 22nd anniversary a couple of days early by arriving in Paris at 10 a.m. and returning tonight to Dublin at 10. I know, crazy huh?

At the Eiffel Tower

I am hearing all these conversations in French, and I’ve forgotten much from college, but I still think the language is beautiful.  Well, I actually do understand some, like the instructions from our driver taking us from the Paris Beauvais Airport to Porte Maillot where we will walk or ride to the Champs Elysees (and the Eiffel Tower). It was drizzling on and off as we got here, not unpleasantly cold, but cool and wet enough I put on my raincoat. Initially I wanted to wear a little black dress. Thankfully I opted to be warmer in jeans, a 3/4 sleeve blouse and a scarf.

I feel like showing off the little French I speak, when many here speak English enough. However, my tongue’s shy. But I did say “Excusez moi,” and I am eternally grateful to Miss Piggy for the artful way I can say that now.

We took an hour and a half shuttle ride to Port Maillot, which is a Metro stop in the heart of Paris. A fellow passenger from New York told us that the Metro connects Paris pretty well. And he was right. We bought a value deal of 10 tickets for 13 euro (1,70 euro each normally) then took the metro to Trocadero. I felt a heightened sense of anticipation as we got out of the metro, like a kid being let out to see what Santa brought. Turning the corner and going up some steps, I first laid eyes on the Eiffel Tower.

It has a dark coppery patina to it, this tower of people’s dreams. I don’t know how long I’ve been wanting to come here to Paris to see it, but my heart fairly leaped out of my chest thinking, here it is. Maybe I just imagined it, but it kind of shimmers under cloudy Paris skies. The tower looks like something out of a steampunk novel, cables, steel frame, somehow without marring the skyscape of this city.

We probably took three dozen selfies and non-selfies. No, we didn’t do the photo of us holding the tower in our hands. The place was packed with tourists and hawkers of little Eiffel towers, but it wasn’t annoying. Everyone seemed elated to be there. Like them, I looked at the tower with a sense of wonder and benevolence that we were all acting like silly kids, but it was alright. Any doubts I had of booking such an impractical trip fell away, replaced by a lassitude, a bliss.

I. Am. In. Paris.

I wanted to be blase about it, pretend that I had been here a thousand times and Europe is old hat, but why should I? Someone told me before we left that we’ll look at it and wonder what was the big deal, but now I understand why. It’s a creation so audacious and confident, it truly reflects the French spirit. Always pushing the limits of arts and tastes. Oftentimes gaudy but undeniably alive. Drew commented that it was a lot bigger than he thought it’d be.

I looked at Drew then with gratitude that he played along with this madcap and touristy plan, even though he probably would have been just as happy going someplace like Prague or Romania, but here he was, posing for our hundredth picture and buying me crepes.

Warm crepe with strawberry jam

We hadn’t eaten anything all morning, having had to leave for Dublin airport at 4:30 a.m. I’d had this plan to buy a picnic lunch of baguettes, cheese and strawberries from a local store, but the thought of walking blocks away to get them didn’t appeal so we bought crepes and beignets from the nearby stand. Then we walked on down to the Champs Elysees, and on down by the river.

Next, we took the Metro to the Cathedral of the Notre Dame. It looked unfinished in my untrained eye, because it didn’t have prominent spires. But the gargoyles were there in all their ugly glory.

After several minutes, the cloudy skies gave way to a drizzle, then a heavy downpour. We waited it out with our raincoats and my handy little umbrella. When it slowed enough to permit a walk, we went in search of real food, choosing a French bistro. I might not have had my picnic, but instead, we ate delicious grilled lamb chops and steak.

We used to tease each other that we should do something insanely romantic like eat lunch in Paris. And now we have!

Our last stops were the Louvre museum and the Arc de Triomphe.

The Arc was kind of busy with a lot of people crowded around what looked like a brass instrument band. The Louvre had that same sepia patina as other French buildings. The glass pyramids were an interesting modern counterpoint to the old Paris. Their style, set up against the French architecture, didn’t make sense, but somehow they co-exist in a playful way. This is, after all, the same people who built an amusement park (ferris wheel, carousel) downtown.

The rain had drenched our shoes and pants earlier. So we sat in the Louvre square, just sunning ourselves, watching the pigeons scrounge around and tourists having their photos taken. A happy moment I’ll always remember.

Some people have written and said how France is a dirty country, etc. Certainly, Paris is an old city, and shows some wear, but there’s also an elegance and je ne se quois – a vibrant attitude that is infectious. Plus it is indeed tres romantique.

Collectively, there are probably a lot of people in the world who will be posting about their French holiday, and mine is only one of them, but I’m grateful I can chime in with my own.

Je t’aime Paris!