Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I love Paris in the springtime!

My sister Dana and I decided to go on this trip probably 7 years ago and I’m so glad we actually did it. It was everything we hoped it would be.

We rented a flat in the Bastille neighborhood and hit the ground running our first evening in the city. Our first full day in Paris was great, except for the fact that my wallet was stolen on the metro. I lost my driver's license, 2 credit cards, 250 , and my pride. This trip wasn’t my first rodeo, and I felt like a serious rookie for getting robbed. It was so hard not to let that ruin my trip/day, but after I called the credit card companies from the Louvre, I tried to put it behind me. The Louvre was everything that people say it is: humongous. And fantastic.
Our first view of the Eiffel Tower was through the windows in the Louvre, specifically from the windows of the gaudy and fabulous apartments of Napoleon. That man loved red velvet and gold bling as much as I do.  

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Next stop: Eiffel Tower. It is so stunning in person! We didn’t take the elevator to the tippy top, instead we took the stairs to the 2nd floor. After the tower, we found our way to the famous department store Galeries Lafayette as we needed to buy a voltage/outlet converter. I also got my sock collector husband some funky red striped socks. And I checked out the wedding dress collection there.

We did pretty well with the highly efficient metro system even though we got lost constantly. My iPhone was handy as I was able to type the address in of where we wanted to go to let the GPS take us there. Had it not been for the GPS, we wouldn’t have made it to the restaurant recommendations our friends gave us.

Oh, the food! The food was really to.die.for  Dana and I had some of the best food we’ve ever eaten. Even the cafeteria food at the Louvre was fantastic and fresh. And extremely expensive. No wonder the Parisians are so thin!

Thursday was the Palace Versailles. Versailles did not disappoint either. Those people loved gaudy chandeliers and brocade as much as I do. Dana and I spent so much time in the big palace that we almost didn’t make it back to the Petit Trianon, the smaller palace that Louis XVI gave to his wife Marie Antionette. It seems that the royal life was a bit too restricting for Queen Marie, so she created her own fantasy land out in the corner of the grounds, complete with a peasant village where she milked cows and gardened. Until the Revolutionists beheaded her, of course.

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On Friday I had the privilege of meeting in person one of my wedding planner colleagues Kim Petyt of Parisian Events. Kim is an American who lives in Paris with her French husband and two children. She specializes in Americans getting married in Paris and she is fabulous and funny. Kim took the entire day to play tour guide to Dana and I—we went out the "Brocante et Jambon" flea market.  Translated, it means “antiques and ham”. We looked for treasures, chatted about the difference between American and French weddings ** more on that below**, drank champagne, and ate beef, not ham.  I purchased a silver champagne bucket as my splurge souvenir for this trip. No Chanel or Louis Vuitton bags for me. That’s not really my bag.

Saturday we wandered through the city and walked the 3 kilometers to Notre Dame. So beautiful and awe inspiring. Saturday was also they day of a big France vs. England rugby game so the city was invaded by British guys wearing rugby jerseys singing “God Save the Queen” loudly on the metro! For the polite and publicly quiet French, I’m sure this was not the most welcome sight.

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Saturday night turned into an all night dance party as Dana and I met up with Kim and some of her friends. They were all Americans married to French men and they know each other via an internet forum. They asked their husbands to take kid duty for the night so they could let their hair down. We danced until almost dawn! I can’t remember the last time I did that. The ladies we were with probably didn’t either…

Sunday we headed to the Monmarte area to walk up the hill to Basilica de Sacre-Couer for the view of the city. It being Sunday, we were able to witness the beginning of quite a spectacular Mass complete with a choir of nuns. Also during the day we kind of stumbled onto what seemed like a French version of Glee! with this group of teenage kids performing awesome songs such as disco favorite "Hot Stuff" on brass. I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Later that evening we went to a small chapel near Notre Dame for a concert. A pianist and soprano performed Chopin, Bach, Mozart, and some religious music such as the Ave Maria. It was so beautiful.

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I was really curious to see if the Parisians were going to be as rude as people say they are. I did not find them rude at all, but then again, I don’t find the rawness and loudness of New Yorkers to be rude either. Nor do I find people in LA to be rude. I just see it as people in a big city getting on with their day. Dana and I don’t speak French (although Dana is learning quickly) but we knew enough to be polite, respectful, and order food in French. That got us pretty far, and many people do speak English, but a few people actually went out of their way to help us when we looked lost or were standing at a closed taxi stand.

This trip was everything I hoped it would be and it will be a wonderful memory for the rest of my life. As much as I love the history and the beautiful places, I love to watch the people more. I think we’re all fascinated by each other. In the airports and trains we stare at each other’s clothing, mannerisms, language, gestures, accents, etc. I love the fabulous and classic clothing fashion of the Parisians. I love the accordion player or the guitar player on the Metro. The extremely proper older gray haired servers in the restaurants. The rowdy Italian teenage students yelling in the museums. The north African guys selling Eiffel Tower figurines. The fur coat wearing grandmas taking groceries home in their rolling cart. The little girls with bobbed hair, patterned tights, and bell-shaped coats. The ball cap and sneaker wearing Americans. The European teenagers eating pizza with a fork and knife then finishing dinner with a cappuccino. The rugby jersey wearing Brits. The mega-camera toting Asian tourists. The moms maneuvering strollers on the metro. The business men with their trench coats and briefcases. The fashionistas and their fabulous boots. Basically, I love to people watch, and what better place to do it than one of the most fabulous cities in the world?
 **French weddings** 
Along with the many things Kim told me about the difference between weddings in France and in the US, this one really blew my mind: if you are having a wedding in France, you go to a photography company and pay about 500for your photographer. You don’t meet your photographer until your wedding day when the company pays them probably 100 to shoot your wedding. They take pictures of your wedding ceremony and during cocktail hour try to get photos of each guest with the bride & groom. Then they leave and come back towards the end of the night with 8x10 glossy pictures that they sell for about 10each. And that’s pretty much how the photographer makes their money. American brides and photographers: can you even imagine???!!!!

PS: Air France seriously rules. Best international flight evah.


Anonymous said...

Great account of your trip, Amber! Great pictures, too! What a grand time you had!!

Silvana said...

Awesome. Sorry about your wallet. The photos are great. Very communicative!

Shayna said...

Looks like the tirp of a lifetime Amber. Congratulations, and great corresponding!

Suthi Picotte said...

looks like you had a great time!! looking at all your photos makes me miss paris so much. i'm dying to go back to france... wouldn't it be awesome if it was to photograph a wedding!!!

Ariel Yve said...

Sounds amazing. Paris is visually my favorite city in the world.

My hubby and I were visited Paris 4 years ago for 2 only days, and had nothing but the worst food of our lives (everything tasted like cigarettes). Weird, right? Anyway, I'm glad you found the right places to go. Which restaurants were your favorites?