When I went to Paris, I didn’t believe all the hype around how romantic it is. How it’s this magical place of wine, cheese, bread, art, architecture and culture. Well, I’m a believer now! After visiting twice and looking back on these trips, my perceptions about the city and myself as an artist have been forever altered. It also changed the way I go about globe-trotting, so I’ve included a few travel tips throughout.
Surprises on a Plane
I didn’t eat or sleep much on the trip over, which was about 11 hours with a layover. I was meeting my boyfriend in Paris. He had been working abroad for many months and I was just too excited to sleep. There were cons to not sleeping, but having a window seat proved to be a pro. Flying from Seattle to Reykjavik and then to Paris showcased landscapes I’d never seen. I’m always pleasantly overwhelmed by the beauty of the earth and the science of it so I look out the window often. At one time, I noticed the plane’s shadow in a cloud with a rainbow encircling it. I grabbed my camera and it was gone, but I’ll never forget it. So, since I didn’t really sleep at all, I ended up witnessing the aurora borealis dance across the night sky. It was truly amazing and otherworldly. I think these things were indicators of how the trip was going to go even though the day after our arrival I felt very sick and exhausted. So, eat on the plane, even if a boring salad costs 11€, and bring melatonin on overnight flights just in case you’re having trouble sleeping.
Lust for Art & Architecture
It’s a rather humbling experience to go to a place of such history and resplendence. And man were the French all about excess when it came to tarting up a building, inside and out. The painstaking detail that was applied to their monuments, churches, and bridges showcases distinct architectural periods. While the intimidating height of the Eifle Tower features a pleasantly distracting view and the stairs up the Arc de Triomphe are tiring in number, it was the Notre Dame Cathedral where I felt the most humbled by the gravity of its grandeur. Being so close to the gargoyles made it all the more real.
The Paris Museum Pass helped us experience historic works of art more fully without the distraction of long lines and paying for museums at every turn. And we went to so many, I lost count. Prior to Paris, I had only cried once at a museum and it was because I was standing in view of one of my favorite pieces, not expecting it to be there. When I visited the Musée de l’Orangerie, I walked into a bright oval room to be completely surrounded from floor to ceiling by Monet’s Nymphéas series. Don’t google it, just google how much it would be to get there within the next year. Get or use a miles credit card or just start entering Travel Channel Sweepstakes. I’m sure not everyone has had or will have the emotional reaction that I did, but when you do experience that moment where art floors you, I know you won’t forget it. And I’m sure, possibly without you knowing it, that that moment will inspire you in your life.
After studying art and architecture in London for a quarter I gained an appreciation for them both, but after spending time in the City of Light, it hit me—artists whether architects, painters, writers, or bricklayers, can spend their whole lives perfecting and making things that could last centuries. And people who live after them take care of their creations ensuring their immortality. This realization helped me fully grasp that art takes time, patience and practice. Creating can be a grueling, not always lucrative process resulting in an emotional roller coaster of uncertainty, doubt, revelation, renewal, fear, and accomplishment. I’m convinced now that it’s totally worth the ride.
The Romancing of the Stone
My romantic view of Paris is almost solely determined by my first trip and what happened in the Jardin des Tuileries one morning in early November, 2013…which probably makes this post a wee bit biased. Long story short, my boyfriend knelt down in the garden and asked me to marry him, with a ring no less! When I tell people about this to this day, they swoon and tell me how romantic it is. And it is for sure; however, after a big life event adrenaline strikes followed by shock and memory loss, so what I learned was to keep a travel journal. Writing everyday while traveling is a difficult committment, but the true reward is reading it later, I promise.
It’s All About That Bread
No really. The bread is like nothing I’ve ever tasted! And pairing it with ham and cheese is absolute genius. Paris broke my fiancé and I of our pescetarian lifestyle and we became full-on carnivores. Just so you know, my love of bread didn’t begin here. It has always been a constant in my life whether dipping it in olive oil and balsamic, spreading salty butter over sliced poppyseed-bedecked baguettes, or even a simple piece of toast with freezer jam, so I suppose it’s no surprise that the Parisian versions were so appealing. Yet my tastebuds and I were very surprised and writing about this experience has inspired me to bake French bread and attempt to capture my memory of it. I now fully understand why bread is the staple that it is.
Adopting the habits of the Parisians is another way to explore their food culture. Habits may include: having espresso in the afternoon, to give yourself a pick-me-up after all the walking that’s necessary during a trip. Picking up a baguette on the way home, along with cheese, and a bottle of wine that will open your palate to the tastes of France.
Urban Oasis Isn’t Just a Song
The streets of Paris can be long, winding, and bumpy but there’s always something to soothe traveler’s exhaustion and invigorate the senses. Find an empty green chair in Le Jardin du Luxembourg or outside the Musée de l’Orangerie and catch your breath. Or take refuge on a bench at the Square du Vert-Galant. Seeking out these green spaces and a place to park your barking dogs are just the things to help refresh your sense of adventure and your feet. This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but when you’re traveling, excitement causes you to forget how taking breaks makes the trip more enjoyable. So remember to sit down now and then, close your eyes, and breathe deeply while you’re exploring what the city has to offer.
I could honestly write so much more about the city, my time there and impressions of it, but I’ll just leave you with this: Go there. Experience Paris for yourself and fall in love with it because it’s just waiting to seduce you too.