Even with a lack of expectation, Paris was everything contrary to what I’d imagined.

Arriving in Paris
We made it through customs, survived the train ride, even got our carnets beforehand, but the inevitable struck. We arrived at our horrifying hotel; it was really a hostel at best. The shady man at the desk played dumb upon hearing our American accents. After an interesting power game, he refused to give us the keys to our room until our other friend arrived. Defeated and frustrated, we left with all our luggage in tow.

I was eager to explore, especially given our 48-hour window, so, much to the chagrin of Remi, I suggested we jump right into adventure and hike up the Sacre Coeur. The view was amazing but almost sad because the city just kept sprawling over the French countryside. I wondered if any locals were sitting on the grass steps, or if I was merely surround by tourists.

Arriving at the top, you’re shocked by the visual clash of beauty and capitalism. Steps from the entrance, peddlers sold everything from wind-up birds to wooden trains to plastic Eiffel Towers. This beautiful cathedral sat as the backdrop to hollering promotions, “five euros…five euros”.

Oh the Splendor of Walking the Champs-Élysees
My pervious reservations melted as I exited the metro at Notre Dame. The sheer scale of the architecture made me feel completely shrunken. And with such wide streets, I began to wonder how many Hollywood chase scenes had been produced at the heart of such history. A brutal racing scene set against a perfectly preserved city—it seemed like something a filmmaker might do.

As we made away over the Seine my awe continued to amplify. I just kept putting my hand to my mouth as my jaw literally dropped. I wondered if local residences still stood on bridges and thought wow I’m really in Paris. One of my favorite scenes was a snapshot of the entrance to the carnival set up for Bastille Day. Talk about a clash of time periods: The commercialization of cotton candy, Ferris wheels and neon plopped right next to the Louvre was comically contrasting. When we actually arrived at the Champs-Élysees, I found myself trying to adopt a certain air of class. You wanted to walk just so and tap into this unreal life. Remi fit right in with her macaroon and Parisian accent, but I’m sure I still stood out as the American, whirling around in circles with my arms outstretched like I was waiting for the sky to rain Skittles and tell me this all wasn’t quite real.

Varsailles Palace
Ginormous. That is the only way to describe this estate and the maze of gardens that just keep going. I’m sure within the labyrinth of shrubs hide-and-go-seek could last for days.

The Food
Near the fountains we enjoyed a delicious lunch at a place fittingly titled, La Petite Venise. My plate consisted of melon and prosciutto drizzled with a sweet vinaigrette and a slice of lemon. With only a few ingredients, the overall flavor was surprisingly complex and original.

On our way out, we stopped by the gift shop, so Remi could grab a few mementos. While waiting, I leafed through the heaping pile of cookbooks and found a surprising amount of desserts combining lemon and chocolate. What an odd combination? There was everything from macaroons with chocolate ganache to lemon chocolate tarts to lemon and white chocolate soufflés. As much as I love London, Paris will always have the upper hand when it comes cooking.

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