Monday, July 22, 2013

Paris: Days One and Two

It’s always so hard for me to recap a travel experience so quickly after the fact because my brain is still a jumble trying to process everything. But at the same time, I want to write it all down as quickly as possible so that I don’t forget any of the details. I apologize in advance if this seems a bit disorganized. 

We arrived home yesterday evening after our 3 night stint in Paris. The trip doubled as a birthday celebration for Jon as well as a mini ‘Baby-Moon’ for us. Since we took so much time in the States in June, Jonathan couldn’t really afford to do a lengthy pre-baby vacation so we decided to compromise with a weekend trip to one of the direct flight options from Aberdeen (Paris, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Dublin, Belfast, and a few others) and a few days spent somewhere within driving distance of Aberdeen (Lake District, Western coast of Scotland, Orkney Islands). 

Jonathan has had Paris on his radar ever since moving to Aberdeen. However, when I asked him to pinpoint why he was so gung-ho about going there, it was hard for him to articulate. I think it was more of an issue of feeling like he ‘had’ to go. He couldn’t live this close, with a 1.5 hour direct flight, and not visit the famed city. So even though he didn’t have a bucket list full of Paris must-sees, I think the city in general was something he wanted to put a check mark by. 

Well, we definitely did that! I’ll be recapping the trip little by little throughout the week, but let’s start with the first half. 

Day One: After dropping off the dogs for a sleep-away weekend at Ryan and Jill’s Angus’ house, we headed to the Aberdeen airport to catch our 1.5 hour flight to Paris. Since we were only going for 3 nights, we both just took carry-ons, making the airport process easy-breezy. 

I was a little apprehensive about taking the metro-train from the airport to our hotel, but it couldn’t have been easier. Our hotel was right on the direct line from the airport, so after 30 minutes of cruising, we exited at our stop and walked the 300 yards to our *air conditioned* hotel. Our hotel, Hotel des Grandes Hommes, was located in the Pantheon square. 
Our room, though teeny-tiny, had quite a lovely view of the building, though we were slightly disappointed to find that it was under construction (especially since this construction woke us up at 8 AM every morning). 
The day we arrived was also Jonathan’s birthday, so I made sure to let him lead the way. Since our hotel was super close to the Luxembourg Gardens, we decided to give that a stroll first. 
It was a lovely day with a nice breeze, which made it perfect for meandering through the beautiful park. Had I not been pregnant and conserving all my energy for sightseeing, I would have loved to have come here for an early morning run. As it was, afternoon strolls with my honey would just have to do. 
After Luxembourg, we headed down to the Siene River where we stumbled upon the ‘lock’ bridge. 
If you’ve traveled to any European cities lately, you probably have spotted this phenomenon of bridges full of combination locks, usually with couples’ names or initials written on them.
I’m pretty sure that 95% of the tourists who take part in this activity have no idea what the epidemiology or backstory is behind the ritual. When I was on my ‘Sound of Music’ Bike Tour in Austria, we stopped at a similar bridge in Salzburg where our guide explained that the tradition really got going after the protagonists in Federico Moccia’s Young Adult Novel ‘I Want You’ put a padlock to signify their love on Milivian bridge in Rome. The book has been described as the Italian equivalent of Twilight, complete with some Italian heartthrob cast as the lead in the film adaptation. The significance has obviously evolved independent of the novel, but I always like to know what these sorts of things derive from. 
After crossing the 'love lock' (Ponte de Arts) bridge, we headed towards Notre Dame and sampled some Berthillion Ice Cream as we explored the area. 

For dinner, we had reservations at Grizzli Café. 
My friends Michal and April discovered this little café while studying abroad one summer in Paris. They raved about the melting chocolate cake so much that they insisted I go there with my parent’s when we visited Paris the following January. We obliged and agreed that the melting chocolate cake was probably the best thing we’d ever tasted. Since then, my parents have returned to this restaurant on separate trips to Paris, and I knew that I wanted to take Jonathan there for his special birthday dinner. 

For our main meal, I had chicken and he had lamb, which he said was the best meal he had while we were there. 

For dessert, we ordered the melting chocolate cake, of course, and within 5 seconds we had devoured the entire thing. 

So yummy. After dinner, we headed back to our hotel (about a mile walk) and stopped to take in the scenery and also for Jonathan to have some more birthday brewskis at a little bar along the way. 

Day 2: Friday was our only full day in Paris and we wanted to make the most of it. Jonathan was more interested in seeing everything than actually participating, so we skipped visiting the museums and climbing to the top of things to try to check more sites off the list. 

We ate breakfast on the go and walked over to the Louvre for some photo ops. 

It was a beautiful morning but was getting hotter by the second. We have totally acclimated to Scottish weather, so anything over 80 degrees has us feeling overheated. 

We walked through the Tuileries Garden that connects the Louvre to the Place de Concorde. 
It was another park that would be great for running! Once we reached the end, we crossed the street to wander down the famous Champse Elysee. Once we reached the Arc Du Triomphe we considered climbing to the top for a nice view of the city, but when we saw the lines for this, we chickened out and decided to just snap some pictures from the ground level. 

From here we walked to the Trocadero for the hands-down best view of the Eiffel Tower. 
Since at this point we had walked 4 miles, we decided to veg out in the shade with some ice cream and just take in the scenery. This was probably one of my favorite moments in Paris. 

After resting up, we took the obligatory photo ops and then headed down to see the tower up close and personal. The heat and overwhelming crowds kept us moving pretty quickly, but it was still cool to stand underneath the tower and marvel at its engineering. Plus, it was literally 'cool' because it provided shade and a wind tunnel, which made tolerating the crowds much easier.

Once again, the long and winding lines made climbing the tower a non-option for us, which I was super grateful for. Around this time, I started thinking Paris in July was about the worst place on earth to be pregnant. I was tired and hot and my feet and hands had swollen to the point where I was extremely uncomfortable. We decided to cancel our plans to visit Sacre Couer and Montemarte that afternoon and instead, started the 2.7 mile walk back to the hotel. 

Paris is big, y’all. And if I had been non-preggers and it had been about 20 degrees cooler outside, walking the city would have been perfectly pleasant. As it was, I was cranky. Real cranky. 

The metro is a good option if you don’t want to walk, but they were pretty crowded and hot as well, so walking was preferable as long as we could stop and take breaks along the way. We would try to stop every 45 minutes or so and get some refreshments, use the restroom, and give our feet a break. 

Once we got back to the hotel, we both showered and enjoyed the luxury of our air conditioned hotel room for the next 2 hours, until it was time for dinner. We decided to take a taxi to dinner, since the restaurant, L’Ardoise, was 2 miles away. (The Taxi cost 11 Euros, and was totally worth it. We were on our ‘baby-moon’ afterall.) Dinner was fantastic, though the restaurant didn’t have air-conditioning which caused Jonathan and I to take turns heading outside to cool down with the evening breeze. 

I understand that these old buildings are not equipped with air-conditioning, but would it kill them to put in a few fans? It was probably 80 degrees F in some of these little cafes. A meal is just not refreshing or relaxing when you’re sweating throughout the whole thing. 

The nights really cooled off nicely however, so after dinner we headed back to Tuileries Garden for a good view of the Eiffel Tower at sunset. 

We were told that we absolutely had to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle, which didn’t start until 11 PM.  We killed time until about 10:50, at which point we headed down to a nearby bridge to get a glimpse of the Iron Lady shimmering in the moon light. Here are some pictures and video:

After that, we hailed another cab back home (6 euros, totally worth it once again) and quickly fell asleep in our 64 degree, air-conditioned room (another thing that was 100% worth the splurge). 

Come back tomorrow where I'll recap Days 3 and 4 of our trip! 

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