Technically, I have been to Paris before. Of course, at the time I was a ten year old, the concept of romance probably featured a cartoon on my mind (and almost certainly seemed dull), and the main purpose of the visit was to hang out at Disneyland Paris. As ‘cool’ as Mickey Mouse and Space Mountain are, I’m not sure you can really count them as Paris. Though I will admit that the thought of heading back to Disneyland did cross my mind, at least for a split second.
Reality, of course, is somewhat different to a Disney movie. In real life, being an oversized hairy beast does little for the romantic side of life. The presence of animated cutlery doesn’t make the sparks fly (though it would certainly keep you entertained) and, contrary to popular belief, the sun shining vigorously all day causes you to sweat profusely. You never see a single drop of perspiration on the magic carpet in Aladdin, nor do they take off at 4 in the morning to start their trip. Still, Helena and I have never had too much trouble on the romance side of things. Though I’m sure she’d beg to differ…
Paris, though, definitely brings that side of things out. Just walking down the back streets, you stumble across the kind of epically overblown monuments and quirky little cafes that would seem spectacularly romantic in any other city, but just seem normal here. It’s impossible to drop by Paris without seeing the sights, too, of course, and there are far too many to deal with. On the first day we went with sightseeing overload.
It says it all that the walk between our hotel and the Louvre, which we decided to make out first stop, took us past so much on the way. The Madeline church resembles a site of ancient Athens, with huge columned facades, but it’s just a point to walk past on the way to the central square. The square is actually more like an octagon, and from it you can see the Seine, the Arc De Triumph, the Madeline Church and the gardens of the Louvre. Superb.
It was so hot, though, that before getting into the Louvre we spent a good chunk of time flitting around the gardens, trying to find shade, eying up the funny statues and dipping our feet in the statues beside that pyramid. For the record, I think it’s beautiful, though the Parisian public seem to beg to differ. What I didn’t realize until getting into the Louvre is just how huge it is – the entire outside of the big courtyard is filled with painting. As much as it’s like repeating a cliché, the Mona Lisa was a little bit dull for me, though the Roman and Egyptian statues and some of the bigger painting did really impressive. Quite an effort walking around an art museum in the heat, though.
After walking along the bank of the Seine (and buying up a few beautiful little posters for impressively little), we decided to take a boat along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Serious sightseeing mode, as you can see, though we did calm down a touch the next day. One of the nicest things about the ‘boat bus’ – which we used for the entire two days – is the view of the banks, including the shady walkways hidden under the Seine’s banks. Just another beautiful side of Paris.
When we eventually got to the Eiffel Tower, we found it be a real tourist trap. Hardly a shock, but sitting on the grass and taking a few pictures seemed a much better option than two hours of queuing amongst the irritating salesman to go up to the top. Especially as they charge a whole lot for what’s basically a lift journey. Instead we chilled out, had an ice cream, and then walked back for a quiet dinner.
I must admit that Paris wasn’t that close to the top of my European ‘must see’ destinations (it was Helena’s choice as a birthday present, personally I prefer the idea of a more culturally out there Eastern European city or perhaps the geysers of Iceland), but I have to say the abundance of sites and the sheer quality of the rest of the city puts pretty much everywhere I’ve been to shame. There’s a great atmosphere, too, and while the local populace did occasionally irritate us with their renowned arrogance, generally things were very friendly and the city has a wonderful ambiance. Definitely somewhere I’d like to return. Day two to follow, anyway…