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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Paris, France - The First Time


One of our first trans-Atlantic trips was a true adventure in France. We had been to Montreal before (an awesome city) and I had really tried my best to get the basics of French down so that I could attempt to be civil, but for some reason my mouth just does not speak French. I can muddle through in Spanish, and I actually enjoy trying to learn a few basic words and phrases in a new language when traveling, but for some reason French...

But man was I looking forward to seeing France, and did it ever deliver in spades!

We started off in Paris, and it was everything I had hoped it would be. The city has an amazing vibrancy to it that you can feel as soon as you set foot in the city. I've always found people to be very friendly. I usually try to say something lame in French, and more often than not they come to my rescue and reply in English. Of course, with an iPhone and Google Translate that's not as much of a problem any more!


We stayed in a very cool little hotel, in a great neighborhood, called Hotel Saint Paul Le Marais. When we first arrived we saw a fire station across the street (in a very cool old building) and thought this could be trouble. It was actually great. We never heard a siren, and the firemen - or les pompeliers - were very friendly.

The small hotel had a cool cave-like breakfast room with an awesome buffet filled with great pastries, cheeses, meats, coffee, juice and much more. It had all the modern amenities you could want, but with a certain old world charm that definitely fit.

Le Marais is the perfect neighborhood to stay in when visiting Paris. The city's amazing mass transit - especially the metro - makes getting around a breeze.  The St. Paul metro station was just a few blocks from our hotel, so what wasn't within walking distance was never far away by train.




On that first trip I wasn't sure if Paris was so overwhelming just because it was my first time to visit there, or if it was always like that. We've now been back a few times since, and I'm happy to say that Paris always elicits the same response. We wandered around the city seeing some of the most amazing monuments to history and art and literature.
Le Louvre is truly one of those places that you can't come up with any way to describe how magnificent it is. It is a collection of some of the most amazing pieces of art of all kinds from throughout history, from all over the world, in a setting that is itself a work of art. You absolutely cannot do the museum justice in one visit. If you can only make one trip to the Louvre during your visit to Paris, then plan ahead and pick out some specific things you want to see. 


But I'll warn you, it's incredibly easy to find yourself wandering in amazement. To walk around a corner and suddenly be confronted with the Mona Lisa or the Venus de Milo can be a little overwhelming.


We took the metro out to Pere Lechaise Cemetery, the largest cemetery in Paris. Now while I love vampires, this has nothing to do with that particular affection. There are a number of famous people buried or entombed here, and it is reputed to be the world's most visited cemetery.

Gertrude Stein's Grave
Oscar Wilde's Grave
Jim Morrison's Grave
Everywhere we turned in Paris, we were confronted with incredible history and art and culture so beautifully combined and delicately preserved. It was breathtaking in the real sense of the word to stand on the top of Notre Dame and look out over Paris.






After an incredible time in Paris, we boarded a high-speed train and headed south for a week in an ancient walled city...