It's of course very different existing in a city as opposed to admiring it in art or movies. Perhaps a little more gritty (as in, the occasional street smells, the muggy and crowded subway, the small children living on mattresses on the sidewalk, the scammers, you get the idea). Yet, concurrently more beautiful and inspiring and delicious.
We arrived in Paris in a haze due to a late night stuck on the subway in London and then taking a cab to the airport a mere few hours later. When we landed in Paris, I had slept the most with at least two hours under my belt. Jason and Marisa, probably closer to one hour. Apparently that hour made a difference as I was downright perky compared to the zombies that were my companions. We wandered around our hotel's neighborhood (me: Did you see that?! companions: ....huh? hmmph llullmph...) until they opened our room and we collapsed for a much-needed nap.
Post nap, we headed towards Sacré Cœur Basilica. It seemed as though the city was against us as we kept getting stuck in the subway. The train wasn't coming, the train we got on wasn't moving, the stations were closed, everything was in French. At long last, we emerged to find a group of policemen (maybe 10?) pointing, yelling excitedly and running together. I walked in slow motion, pivoting to see that no one else on the street was phased by this at all. We were clueless, and kept turning corners and running into more groups of police all riled up. I began to worry that even if they told us to take cover, we wouldn't be able to understand. A Frenchman took pity on us and queued us in that there was a Palestinian protest turned riot going on nearby. Ah, just what my mother was hoping for. He told us which directions to avoid and in a boring but safe conclusion, we found the basilica and heard nothing of the riot afterwards until turning on the BBC that night.
(I feel it important to interject here on how humbling it is to consider that I was concerned about my vacation getting interrupted when across the world in the Gaza Strip, others were concerned only about surviving to the end of the day. It's not fair and I can't begin to offer anything to reason or make sense of it).
During the rest of the trip, we marveled at the views of the city on the basilica hill, ate crepes nonstop (not kidding), wandered along the Seine River bridges full of locks, became breathless upon first seeing Sainte-Chapelle's stained glass, horribly butchered the French language at every turn, explored the mile-long Louvre (I may be exaggerating but it's HUGE), booked it straight to the Mona Lisa and elbowed our way to the front, leisurely ate sandwiches under the Eiffel Tower, got tattled on by a neighboring room in our hotel that we were "too loud", took a boat cruise down the Seine and laughed at the weird tourists who joined us, got caught in a rain storm in front of Notre Dame, covered our entire hotel room in wet laundry after washing everything in the sink, ate a fancy French meal and felt like royalty, decided against going to the Grande Mosque of Paris due to tensions in the city, got giddy each time we saw the Eiffel Tower, watched House Hunters dubbed in French in our hotel, followed these directions and triumphantly found the Paris flea market, wept at not being able to afford any of the antique Parisian furniture, saw an infamous golden ring girl scam at the Arc de Triumphe, got very loud and harsh when a man tried the bracelet scam on Jason on the Sacré Cœur hill (ah, to remember Jason's big eyes as I repeated, NO NO NO and pulled him away), stared too long at the French women on the trains while trying to memorize lipstick color and hair styles and outfits, bumbled through a French grocery store and learned after the fact that we should bag our own groceries, got quite lost trying to find the Palais Royal, vowed to come back some day and buy every block of cheese in sight, resisted stealing every precious French-speaking child, sang "Bonjour" from Beauty and The Beast at least every hour, sang "Bella Note" from Lady and the Tramp far too often even though we kept promising to wait until Italy, and gawked openly at the gorgeous views on every street (while later going back and deleting the majority of Parisian building photos I took because beautiful or not, no one needs 500 of them).
How's that for a run-on sentence? Time for pictures!
I snapped this (the police during the riot), and then worried that they would come after me. The risks I take, I tell ya!
A bridge filled with locks overlocking the Seine.
Les Puces de Saint-Ouen Market
These chairs. I die.
Also, this chair. Deserving of a better photo, and an amazing home. I die again. I must note that Jason and I stood in this booth and Jason said, "that's a big rabbit back there." The owner laughed and told us it's a kangaroo. Close, my dear, close.
3 individual photos with my 50mm - ha!
Thee most amazing crepe: toffee with ice cream on the inside. Amen.
Our fancy French meal. It was fantastic.
Alright, alright, we did see Mona Lisa.
Backpacks loaded and on our way out of the city.