Not unlike many girls, I grew up with a desire to visit Paris; my vision of the City of Lights included walking along the Seine River, visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Champs Elysees, the Moulon Rouge. I dreamed of artists and fashion, women walking poodles, and endless coffee time at outdoor cafes. Gay Paree! I received a text from one of my friends while in Paris, asking “is it everything you thought it would be?” A normal question, right? But I have to tell you, it took me off guard for a second… My answer was yes and no. Read on and through me, travel Paris. I’m wondering what your impression of this magnificent city will be!
My flight landed early morning and by the time all the airport stuff was complete, finding my driver and checking in at the Hotel West End, it felt like I hadn’t eaten in years! There were a couple of things I needed to do as well…… I needed a French Sim Card for my phone to avoid international roaming fees, I thought I needed a Passe Sanitarie (a Covid Euro Green pass, to gain entry to inside venues), so I headed towards the Champs Elysees- the largest boulevard in Paris and only about a 5-minute walk from the hotel. OMG! I had no idea how “big”, big could be! Manhatten is one of my favorite cities in the U.S. but it looks like child’s play compared to the Champs! Starting on the Champs Elysees was a good move as it put the Paris “attractions” in perspective as far as location and everything I could possibly want, was right there!
I’m sorry everyone for bringing up that terrible Covid subject but the fact is, if you are traveling during this time, it needs to be addressed. Above, I mentioned the Passe Sanitarie. Everything I researched pre-trip about Covid restrictions in France, referred to this pass as mandatory. Obtaining it was quoted as a simple process, done at any pharmacy by presenting your digital or hard copy vaccine information, and taking only a few minutes. It was not needed. The fact is, every place I visited accepted my digital vaccine certificate without any question.
The French Embassy site also said that a sworn affidavit attesting to not having Covid symptoms or having been around anyone with Covid 14 days before entry into France was an absolute requirement. Also, not true. But, here’s the thing, I had the paperwork numerous sources quoted as needed. There was no stress in not having all my ducks in a row. So, my advice to you is to thoroughly research the country-specific requirements before travel, err on the side of caution and have more than what you are told you need, use common sense and go have a great time!
After a delicious lunch, I headed to the Pandora Store. One of my bracelets consists of charms from the places I have traveled. While I had been in France many times before, this was my first time in Paris, so you guessed it, I needed, not wanted, a charm. I opted for one out of the ordinary; most folks would have gone for the Eifel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe but I chose the Rooster! What the heck! Did you know the Rooster is the symbol of France?
Right across the street from the outdoor cafe where I lunched, I got my first glimpse of a fashion house, the new Paris headquarters of Dior with images of “toiles,” the white prototypes used in the making of haute couture clothes painted on the outside of the building.
PARIS FUN FACT:
But why does France have a rooster as its national symbol? The Emblem, dating back to ancient Roman times is as a result of the Romans laughing at Gauls because of a linguistic coincidence – in Latin, the word gallus means Gaul… but also rooster! This coincidence resulted in the French kings adopting the rooster as a symbol of courage and bravery. Today, it is often used as the national emblem/mascot, particularly in sporting events such as football (soccer) and rugby.
As mentioned, getting my bearings using the Champs Elysees was an accidental stroke of genius! At the Arc de Triomphe, there is a huge roundabout where 12 roads converge- it’s crazy but fortunately, there are underground walkways to cross. Standing at the Arc, the pinnacle of the Champs, the Eiffel Tower is almost due south. Other important monuments, such as Notre Dame, The Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and Concorde de Place, line the banks of the River. What I found strange, is that it always seems so close by, when in fact, it’s not. For example, standing on the Champs and looking at the Tower, my first thought was that it was just a few-minute walk, maybe a half-mile, however, according to Google Maps, it’s a 29-minute walk and 2.5 kilometers.
I always recommend, when in a new destination, use your first day to orient yourself. Get a feel for the city, shore up your plans, etc. It pays off in days to come, ridding the stress of directions and getting lost (although, sometimes getting lost is perfect, as you will see in one of my coming articles!).
The Champs Elysees was alive like its own living organism. There was a rhythm that was pure Paris! But, then, as the sun got lower in the sky and nighttime fell, one by one, the lights came on, almost like magic! Between the retail lights and the Christmas lights, there was a whole new ambiance. After traveling to 47 countries, and countless cities, towns, and villages; I really was in Paris! A little girl, all grown up, in Paris!
The Elusive Eiffel Tower!
Remember, I said earlier, that the Tower looks like it’s always right around the corner. I did a Google search for a restaurant, which boasted outdoor seating away from the tourist area. I found one of many that had great reviews. To make it even more enticing, the location was in a neighborhood “at the foot” of the Eiffel Tower. Off, I went in search of the perfect restaurant for dinner.
I’m not sure how far from the Tower I was, but I’m telling you, the view while walking was incredible! And then, as if by special invitation, the Tower started twinkling! What?!? I later learned that every hour on the hour, after sunset, the lights on the Tower twinkle for 5 minutes. Can you fault me for thinking it was a special “Hello” just for me? The food was excellent, the wine was amazing and both made for a perfect ending for my first day.
The next day’s itinerary included the Eifel Tower and a dinner cruise on the Seine River. There would probably be some impromptu stops along the way! Come back again in the next few days and check out my Day 2 adventures!
Until next time, my friends, remember, “To Travel is to Live!”