No one ever said a blog about Italy can’t include a side trip to Paris…after all, in the infamous words of Audrey Hepburn, “Paris is always a good idea!”
I think a traveler never forgets their many firsts….the first time you see the Coliseum in Rome, the first time you experience the canals of Venice…and the first time you walk the streets of Paris.
My calendar for this year has a quote from Mehmet Murat ildan that says: “If you have ever walked in Paris, you will see that Paris will ever walk in your memories!” No truer words. People I have discussed Paris with always share with me their strong desire to return as soon as possible and stay even longer next time.
There is so much to see and do in Paris. As I just mentioned, you never get to visit this city for the first time but once, and that first visit was magical. The first day we (my family and I) navigated the rail and subway system from the Charles de Gaulle Airport to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Paris-Republique, was an exhilarating yet exhausting experience.
The hotel, located right across the street from the Place de la Republique, a notable landmark that borders the 3rd, 10th and 11th districts (or arrondissement as they are commonly called), placed us in a great location to explore Paris by foot, subway, taxi or bus). After dropping off our luggage, we quickly set out to explore….and before long found ourselves in the heart of Montmartre, one of the most beautiful, scenic, historical districts in Paris.
Montmartre is a large hill in the 18th arrondissement. It is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur on its summit and as a nightclub district; both of which we (a family of four) were soon to experience.
With wide-eyed wonder, we strolled down narrow, brick-paved streets in some of the of the most touristy areas of the district, including Place du Tertre, a very artsy stretch of town.
We stopped and sampled a plate of Nutella Crepes, sandwiches and cappuccino’s at the first sidewalk cafe we stumbled upon. This was not a mistake…as we soon had the energy to explore the Sacre Coeur Basilica and sit on the steps and enjoy breathtaking views of the entire City of Paris while young street peddlers thrust Heineken’s at us from multiple directions. I was not prepared for the incomparable views of Paris from this vantage point and will never forget this as my first introduction to the city of lights.
Our mapless adventure on our first day in Paris took us past the former home of Vincent Van Gogh, La Maison Rose (the pink house), the Moulin Rouge, numerous gardens, flower shops, cafes and patisserie’s that were truly irresistible (and truthfully, we did not resist). We purchased eclairs, torts, croissants and a number of tasty treats to remember this walkabout. This part of Paris, Montmartre, was a feast for the eyes and the stomach and a true delight to the senses. It was here that I learned a master pastry chef (or licensed maitre patissier) must be employed in order to call your bakery a patisserie.
As evening approached we found ourselves in front of a restaurant, Le Vrai Paris (The Real Paris), that had outdoor seating, allowing us to continue taking in the sights and sounds of Montmartre. Our table for four was placed cozily between two other close tables. It was here that we had some wonderful conversations with locals and tourists.
To our left were young Parisian men, smoking cigarettes and drinking french wine. They kindly overlooked our rough french language skills while we appreciated their rough english language skills, all the while sharing tips and must sees of their lovely city with us. On our right sat a mother and son from Canada who were soaking up France and sharing their tips as well.
Never again will I experience Paris as a novice. This one day in France allowed me and my family a peek into life in France. Although we stayed mainly in the tourist areas today, we met friendly Frenchmen and women. We marveled at architecture that is hard to rival by American standards and sipped french wine and sampled food that will be imprinted in our memories. Knowing that this was our first day in Paris left us hungry for the next few days and wondering how we would fit in all that we wished to see.
Merci beaucoup Paris!