Paris with Family and Friends

Diego and I got to Paris a day before everyone else, so we walked around to see Notre Dame, the beautiful castles and buildings along the Seine, and explore around for a place to have dinner together. It’s definitely worth walking down side streets for a while to find a place to eat off the beaten path. We found that the food was better and cost less than the places in more touristy areas (this rule seems to apply for many big cities).

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First views of Notre Dame
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This kind of architecture is exactly what makes me think of Paris
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Walking along the Seine
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This lock idea seems to be everywhere…
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The beautiful Hotel de Ville, now the city hall
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Diego had an artistic moment ūüôā

On Friday afternoon, we finally got to meet up with my dad and Peg. I was so happy to see them! When you move to a foreign country, seeing family and friends from home is really comforting. We also met up with some old friends from my dad’s days in the Navy. They now live in Germany and came over to Paris for the concert and to spend some time together. After lunch on Friday, we checked out the¬†Mus√©e de l’Orangerie, which has impressionist paintings by Monet and Renoir among others. After that, we decided to go to the Arc de Triomphe. Climbing to the top makes you dizzy because it’s a circular stairway all the way, but the views were worth it.

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In front of the Arc de Triomphe
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Walking up to the top of the Arc
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The Eiffel Tower from the Arc

That night, we headed out to the concert. I have to say, this is definitely not your typical Paris experience. But for me it was a great time and it felt like being home. Diego had no experience with Jimmy Buffet, but still managed to dance around with me and enjoy himself. With my mom in mind, I danced to almost every song, sang out loud, and let out some tears at the end as I knew she would have loved to be there (my mom was a huge JB fan, and his songs remind me of her).

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An animated crowd at the Jimmy Buffet concert

On Saturday, we all met in Versailles to check out the chateau, as recommended by my Aunt Laura! Although I wouldn’t recommend going on a Saturday, as it’s extra busy, the weather was perfect that day. Just remember that the line to buy tickets is separate from the line to get in, and if you can get tickets before getting there, you save time.

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The front gate was impressive
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Enjoying Versailles

The chateau was really amazing. Not all of it is open to the public, but you get to see the church inside, the art and statues lining every room and hall, the bedrooms (including of the king) and areas where the residents ate.

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Beautiful hallway
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The audio guides at the Chateau are included in the ticket
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The hall of mirrors
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It was a beautiful sunny day

After seeing the chateau, we decided to take a walk over to a block of quaint old houses, shops and restaurants that are located at the intersection of Rue Royale and Rue d’Anjou. We enjoyed some beers at a local bar and then got some desserts at a pastry shop.

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An adorable area of Versailles just a few blocks from the Chateau
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Plums and grapes at a local market
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Peach, watermelon, and mushrooms!
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Desserts at a local pastry shop…I wanted to try one of each!

When we were ready to leave Versailles, upon arriving at the train station, we were informed that the station was down because of an electrical outage. After a few minutes of slight panic and disorientation, we found our way to the next closest station with a ton of people trying to get back to Paris. Fortunately, one of the train workers decided to let everyone get on the train for free! It was a cramped ride back but we made it.

That evening, our friends showed us a great view in Paris (that isn’t the top of the Eiffel Tower)! The building is called¬†Tour Montparnasse and you have to buy a ticket to get to the 56th floor…there you will find a shop, cafe/bar, and a flight of stairs up, the rooftop terrace.

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Enjoying a beer at the top!
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The view!

Sunday morning, we checked out Notre Dame. It was raining when we got there, so we went inside first. When we went back outside to go up to the top, luckily it had stopped raining. Seeing the gargoyles and chimera, as well as the bells and tiny doorways up top was amazing. I was reminded of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I still really want to watch that movie again!

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The inside is really impressive
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Huge stained glass windows
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From the top of the Notre Dame, you can see the church itself as well as the Seine
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View from the top
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In Quasimodo’s territory!
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Tiny door to the bells

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Next up, we visited the Louvre Museum. I’m really glad I downloaded an audio tour for us to follow, although the hour we allowed to see it still wasn’t enough! D’oh. I downloaded Rick Steves version, another great tip from my aunt.

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One of the hallways in the Louvre
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Under the pyramid

Diego and I wanted to see Moulin Rouge in person, so we took the metro to check it out. On the walk from the metro station to the actual theater, we realized that this area is realllly catered to sex. The entire street was lined with a ton of sex shops. Case in point:

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I mean, WHAT the heck? How in the world do they all survive? We were laughing pretty hard at this, or at least I was as I took photos like a total tourist.

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I think the journey to Moulin Rouge entertained me more than the building itself. By the way, the metro in Paris is a bit crazy. It’s confusing, expensive, crowded…yeah I can safely say I didn’t like that part. Definitely an adventure, though, and cheaper than taxi.

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Being troopers on the metro!

What’s a visit to Paris without going up the Eiffel Tower? We really chose a great day to do this: a cloudy Monday morning. But the clouds didn’t impede our view at all. As recommended by my Aunt, we walked up the first 2 stories, then took the elevator to the very top. Unfortunately, I was fighting off a cold and walking up stairs was tougher than normal. But it was worth it!

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Before going up
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Getting ready to climb the stairs
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On the way up
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It’s a bit like walking in a cage
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Looking down under the tower
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View from the top
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Our reflections

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After eating dinner at an interesting “viking” like restaurant, we headed out for our nighttime bike tour of Paris. It was a ton of fun to bike around, even though a few times the traffic was daunting. We took mostly back streets, which I love seeing in a city. I’m glad I brought gloves, a coat, and a scarf, especially since I wasn’t feeling well. That didn’t stop me from enjoying the tour though.

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Diego being good with a helmet. The jackets were required!

The boat tour at the end was a highlight for sure. Seeing all the buildings lit up at night is beautiful.

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At the end of the tour, you go on a boat on the Seine and they serve you wine!
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The tower was lit up “pink” (seemed like purple, but ok) for breast cancer awareness. Regardless of color, it was a beautiful gesture.
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And we got in front just as it started to sparkle. A magical moment!

That night, we were going to go out to a bar for a few drinks before saying goodbye. But we couldn’t find a single bar that was open (I believe it was between 11pm and 12 am). Granted, it was a Monday night, but still! So my dad solved the problem by buying us beer and wine in the hotel market, and we all hung out in our hotel room. We had some laughs, discussed our next visit together, and said goodbye. I’m so thankful for the entire experience.

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