Paris In Springtime

 

La vie ne vant d’être vécue sans amour.

-Serge Gainsbourg

Translation: Life is not worth living without love.

I had an innate desire to travel the world for years. I often visited Rome in my dreams. When I separated from my husband of nearly twelve years, I planned my first trip abroad. Solo. It was so exhilarating that I booked my next trip solo as well, to one of the most romantic cities in the world. Paris. A trip marrying the love of exploration and running, as my itinerary included a marathon my final day.

 

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I am in utter love of Paris and will most certainly return! I spent the first few days exploring the city while enjoying the gorgeous Spring weather and partaking in a bit of shopping. It is Paris, you know:-) I planned on making it to The Louvre, but was told I’d be disappointed I couldn’t spend more than a few hours, so till next time when I return…

Day 1

I selected an overnight travel itinerary to arrive in Paris early Thursday morning. On the first leg of my flight, a very chatty gentleman was seated across the aisle from me. He only took a breath once when the beverage cart was parked in between us. About two hours into the flight I put my headphones on and remarked for my need to enjoy a twenty-minute catnap. Didn’t stop him.

My excitement for solitude on my next flight was quickly dampened when I saw that he was seated in the same row on this enormous plane. Really? OK, perhaps the buffer passenger seated between us could serve as a distraction. No such luck – that seat was one of two vacancies on the entire flight. I further set boundaries and demonstrated my need for personal time by placing blinders over my eyes, inserting headphones into my ears, and pulling a blanket over my head. His incessant talking continued.

I continued to set boundaries and again conveyed my desire to sleep. His timeout never lasted more than 30 seconds at a time before his chatter directed to me began again. By that point I could only laugh as he talked through my layers (gheez).

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Arc De Triomphe

 

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Arc de Triomphe (interior view)

The universe gifted me with the most magnificent two-hours of sleep of my life as soon as I checked into my hotel directly across from the Arc de Triomphe. I then enjoyed a lovely dinner with an old friend.

Days 2 & 3

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Eiffel Tower

The bottoms of my feet were on fire from walking countless miles through Paris…enjoying its architecture and beauty. Everyone I met was so friendly and courteous.

 

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Peace Memorial

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Beautiful high doors and archways, so ornately designed. Simply gorgeous.

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Grand Palais: large historic site, exhibition hall and museum complex

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The best way to describe Paris is as a blend of what we experience in a large American city (hustle & bustle during the day) with the culture, old architecture and the love of life of Italians. The French truly do believe that Americans are nuts, as they view our culture as one that ‘lives to work’ vs. ‘work to live.’ They sincerely value their time and choose to spend it with friends & family. They ‘work to live’ so they may enjoy the pleasures of life, whether beauty or love. I could feel love in the air and witnessed significant amounts of romantic canoodling. Couples and entire families sat in decadently floral parks enjoying one another’s time.

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Florists are almost as abundant as the corner patissiers (bakeries)! The number of amazing restaurants far outnumbered both, with locals who enjoyed outside dining even in cool temps. Parisians may spend several hours with multiple meal courses over lively, engaging conversation and much laughter. The French truly enjoy the company they keep as much as their fine wine.

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Paris is beautifully fashioned! I enjoyed strolling along the Champs Elysees. Most men and women are dressed en vogue as they carefully don their designer attire, down to the gorgeous shoes. Although, I still don’t understand the skinny jeans on men thing. Just sayin…

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Street Performers

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Street Performer

While hitting the pavement, I also accomplished significant window-shopping. I found the most perfect bedroom set, a few amazing paintings and a sculpture that I must have. Yes, aside from fashion, this city is all about beauty and design.

So what have I learned thus far?

  • Use public transportation. I would never drive in this mess.
  • I love round-abouts, but you cannot cross the street in Paris unless there’s a stoplight. And even with stoplights at a crosswalk, vehicles don’t always stop. I had a close call with a Smart-Car. It finally stopped a few inches from me – I wonder who would have won that fight?
  • The French truly enjoy life and the company of others as much as they enjoy their vino and fine dining.
  • They live off of vino, breads & cheeses (oh yes they do). It was difficult for me to find protein-based meals. The French, however, are much smaller than most Americans! I can count the number of overweight/obese individuals I saw here in Paris on one hand — and all but one were from America or the UK.
  • As the result of their size, hotels are designed for smaller sized persons – elevators, rooms & bathrooms!
  • They are all about going ‘green’. The hotel I frequented had a special switch to turn all electricity off (lights, bathroom, television, etc.) upon leaving the room. The bellboy remarked about how the English and Americans like to turn everything on and then leave the room (ouch!)
  • Fashion and beauty in design is of significant importance – even in much of the building architecture.
  • On the first few 60 °F days, I pondered whether they were truly chilled to need warm weather coats or were they making a fashion statement. As I was over-heating while wearing a summer shirt and shrug, I watched several women walking in full-length fur coats. Fashion is clearly a priority here.
  • Florists are located everywhere throughout the city. Additionally, there are gorgeous, public flower gardens down walkways, adorning the center of major roundabouts.
  • Many French speak English – at least basic English.
  • The Paris Marathon is about twice the size of the Marine Corps Marathon, for those who’ve participated. It is very well coordinated and much of the city is shutdown. They had an amazing runner’s expo, as well. Oh, how I love new gear and gadgets.
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  • Allow for significant time to truly appreciate the Louvre treasures.
  • There’s a restaurant at the top of the Arc De Triomphe!
  • The French view the body & sexuality very differently from most (modest) Americans? Examples….
    • Many of the bistros I dined in had combo gender bathrooms, whereas even if there was a separate stall for each gender, there was a urinal right outside both doors.
    • We’re all familiar with the portable toilets, eh? Well, at the race, they doubled the elimination venue by bringing in the urinal version. (yep) So, four or five men could publicly eliminate in this circular device. During the race, men would stop next to me to urinate and one stopped directly in front of me as I returned to the hotel following the race.
    • I stopped into a store (similar to a Victoria’s Secret) to shop for a few necessities. Now imagine a tiny boutique with a small dressing room made of beautiful fabric, with no room to move. The manager waited for me outside of my ‘curtain’ and asked me to step out (Huh? What?) Umm, yeah, apparently she had to ‘adjust’ me, make sure it fits. OK then. I stepped out, she adjusted ‘’things’. Then after a smile and ooh la la returned with a few ‘creative’ outfits. I have to admit, cute stuff and she was right on with the size. Clearly she’d been doing this for a while. In what little English she knew, she requested I step out to show her associate (after another ooh la la). OK, I’ll never see these people again, so I did a little catwalk with a half-turn, then a full turn, realizing there were several men who had since entered the store. I blushed a million colors of pink and strutted right back to my dressing room. My fifteen minutes as a lingerie model flashed before my eyes. I hope there were no camera flashes. Haha
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      **April 2012: Republished from a retired blog page.