3 Days in Paris

Written by on February 3, 2014 in General with 0 Comments

What a difference a day makes!  After nearly 7 months in Asia, I boarded the 14th leg of my business class One World award ticket in Tokyo. 12 hours later arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

I timed my 3 days in Paris to coincide with my friend Kelly and her daughters’ visit, where I was invited to crash with them at her friend’s fabulous apartment in Montmartre, a neighborhood in the 18th arrondissement in the North of Paris.  We could see the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur atop the hill from one of the apartment balconies, which was fantastic!

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Montmartre used to be a tranquil village packed with vines and windmills (‘moulins’). Today, the area that makes up Montmartre on Paris’ highest hill is tightly packed with houses that spiral around the mound below the white dome of the Sacré-Coeur. Despite the thronging tourists, it remains the most romantic part of Paris – a place to get lost climbing quiet stairways, peering down narrow alleys onto ivy-clad houses, or watching the world go by in cool cafés where chairs outside face outwards rather than towards each other.

Artists have historically been attracted to Montmartre since the days that Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec immortalized the cabarets here in the late 19th century.

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Despite the tourists, an arty vibe still lives on as film, music and media types have moved in to the neighborhood.

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At the bottom of the hill lies Pigalle, an area with a reputation as Paris’ center of sleaze.  The Boulevard de Clichy is lined with bars, kebab shops, and more sex shops and peep-shows than you can possibly pretend you are not looking at.  Of course, most people know it for the famous cabaret club the Moulin Rouge, which didn’t look quite so snazzy or exciting by day as it does when it’s all lit up in neon by night.  I’d taken my mom to see the show here back in 2000, and although touristy, was worth seeing once.

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We didn’t really explore Montmartre by night, at least beyond the row of cafes and brasseries a block from the apartment.  With a 2 and a 5 year old in tow, it was tough to do much more than find a place for dinner and crash early, which was fine by me.  I had a case of serious jet lag both nights we were there.

Sacré-Coeur by night was impressive too.  From the steps, you could look down on all of the twinkly lights of Paris, too.  Beautiful!

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I’ve been to the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre on prior visits to Paris, and while I wanted to do something “cultural” on my quick trip, I really wasn’t up for another museum.  Instead, we decided to hop on a train and take a day trip to check out Giverny, a small town about an hour from Paris that is best known as the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s garden and home for over 40 years back in the late 1800s-early 1900s.

It was immediately evident that these gardens were the same that inspired him to create many of his wonderful paintings.

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Kelly and I couldn’t help posing for a picture on the bridge made famous by his painting “Water Lily Pond”.

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The gardens were gorgeous, and it was easy to see how they provided so much artistic inspiration to Monet.

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The next day, I said goodbye to Kelly and hello to Francois, who I hadn’t seen since we’d traveled together for a week in South Africa last November.  He took the train up from Brittany and we had a fun day together catching up and cafe-hopping through Montmartre.

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I’d been to Paris several times before, so this time I thoroughly enjoyed staying put in one neighborhood.  Montmartre couldn’t have been more perfect.  Well, Paris is such a romantic city, I guess it would have been more perfect to be there with a significant other.  Especially when we came across Le Mur des Je t’aime, the “Wall of Love”, a monument to love, where “I love you” is written in every language on a wall in a cute little garden in Rictus Square.

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My three days in Paris were enough to remind me how much I love this city, and has inspired me to not let another 10 years go by until I visit again. Roland Garros in 2014, perhaps?

Some of you may be wondering, why only 3 days in Paris?  Well…I had a date to run with the bulls Pamplona, Spain and wanted to get there in time for the kick-off fiesta to the festival of Sanfermines, one of the biggest and funnest parties in the world!

Au revoir Paris…Hola España!!!

 

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