Paris – Finally!

The title of this post has a double meaning. My husband and I took our “grand European anniversary trip” last fall, but it’s only now that I’ve had the time to sit down and give our trip the in-depth posts it’s due. See, nearly as soon as we returned from our trip, holiday planning took over our lives and our days and weekends were filled with children’s holiday events, shopping for gifts and decorating. As soon as Christmas was over, we found a great deal on a bigger home (sorely needed, as our two boys were sharing a room in our old house), and so we began the stressful process of both getting our existing home in shape to sell and making an offer on a new home. We went through a number of twists and turns in the home selling and home buying process, and at the end of March we finally moved into our new home. Since then, nearly every waking hour we’ve had that hasn’t been spent on work or shuffling our kids around to all their activities has been spent unpacking and organizing the house.

The other side of my “finally” headline is the fact that’s it’s taken me so damn long to get to a city I’ve wanted to visit my whole life. Ever since I was a little girl taking ballet classes, Paris has been one of my bucket list cities to visit. Taking French since middle school and being a French minor in college, you’d think I would have gotten there far before now. But no, though I’ve traveled to many places, Paris had never been one of them until our trip last fall.

We touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport around noon on a Sunday after an overnight flight from Dulles. After the 45-minute taxi ride, we arrived at the Hotel Louvre Sainte-Anne, a cute little boutique hotel in the 1er arrondissement within walking distance to the Louvre. Being in “Little Tokyo” meant that there was a plethora of delicious-looking sushi and ramen shops, most tucked into tiny spaces with large windows onto the street. The girl at the front desk recommended we try Toyotomi, a sushi restaurant around the corner. Our sushi rolls were delicious and filling, a great quick lunch before wandering the city.

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On the first Sunday of each month, the Louvre offers free admission, so we walked the few blocks to the museum, taking in the vibe of the city and smelling chestnuts roasting (street vendors sell these in the fall and winter). While the rest of the city was not overly crowded, free admission to the most famous museum in Paris drew quite a crowd. We roamed the Denon Wing to see the “must see’s”:  the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo. The further we got from those works, the thinner the crowds were, so we had a chance to explore a bit.

Besides the paintings, the Louvre houses some of the most beautiful sculptures in the world.

In the basement of the Louvre is an interesting Islamic Art exhibit that houses art and cultural objects from 1,300 years of history throughout the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia.

After the Louvre, we walked across the Seine to Notre Dame de Paris, arguably the most famous cathedral in the world. Construction of the gothic church began in 1163 and finished in 1345. It was one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses to counterbalance the weight of the roof and walls. Heavily trafficked by Catholic pilgrims and other tourists from around the world, Notre Dame is guarded by heavily-armed French military following the string of terrorist attacks in the city. Indeed, other areas of the city, from the Eiffel Tower to the streets of the 11me arrondissement, were patrolled by soldiers carrying automatic rifles. It’s a feeling that’s somehow comforting and disconcerting at the same time.

Right around the corner from Notre Dame is the best ice cream shop in Paris, le Berthillon. Offering rotating, seasonal varieties, as well as dessert crepes and pastries, this shop has been in the same location for over sixty years. If Rum Raisin is on the menu, you must give it a try!

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Walking back to our hotel, we stopped to grab a sandwich for dinner. In Paris, long, thin sandwiches on baguettes are common. They’re topped with vegetables and meats and often melted slices of cheese. When nowhere else is open for dinner, you can be sure a kebab shop will have sandwiches, kebabs, crepes and a variety of drinks. We stopped at Creperie Doner Kebab d’Opera.

A l’Heure du Vin was a tiny wine shop near our hotel that had a range of excellent wines and spirits from France and Italy. After a long day filled with traveling and exploring, our hotel room window was the perfect spot to chill our white wine in the November night.

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More to come! Tell me about your last trip to Paris, or your dreams for exploring the city.

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