When I wrote this note, it was actually day three…not that it really matters. Here’s what I took down: Well we are getting ready to start day 3 in Paris. I did not write anything yesterday, and to be perfectly honest, I was entirely too exhausted! Rather than disclose what we did yesterday, a simpler undertaking would be to ask, “What did we not do yesterday?”
We began our day touring Notre Dame, which was located a mere five minutes from our hotel. It is officially the most extraordinary church I have ever seen.
You could tour a thousand and one magnificent cathedrals and still be utterly enthralled with the sight of that grand structure.
I love feeling small. It’s what I live for in traveling, to feel completely insignificant in the presence of something incredible. By allowing myself to feel small, I can more easily be completely involved and consumed by what’s around me, can relish in the accomplishments of the world, both humanly and environmentally divine, to be a part of an image unbelievable enough that the only appropriate response is paralyzed silence. These are the moments I seek out in travel. Seeing the cathedral illuminated by a menagerie of color, splashes of light floating down from the stained glass spotlights, was brilliant.
Each tourist was transformed into a pilgrim, and whether intentional or not, each was finding something divine in his/her observation of that holy place. I moved silently, almost afraid of making a sound lest I disturb the ancient spirits that I am sure are forever bound to that spot, unable to leave something so beautiful. I, myself, might have been bound had I not been compelled forward by my obnoxious curiosity that keeps me from staying in any one place for very long. Our next endeavor was spiritual in its own, primal way. On every corner, the delicious smell of carbohydrates called to us, sirens on the cobblestone pathways. We entered, we consumed. Bread, pastries, coffee. And with our bellies filled and insulin soaring, we had what we needed to carry on, fuel necessary for the search for the elusive catacombs of Paris. I’d take a gander and say we walked a good 5 miles to find the place and to our great and terrible disappointment it was closed! National Holiday…such is life. We would have to delay. Being exhausted from our trek, we took a gamble and decided to have a subway adventure! What’s a European vacation without one? The adventure spat us out at the most glorious view of the Eiffel Tower. We walked down a grand set of stairs, and in that moment the only thing in my head was, “Alright Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup.”
Next stop, Montmarte Village. To get to this famous “artist village” our bus took us past every ritzy designer store my mind could think up. I almost died when we drove past Chanel’s original (well besides the coastal location) store and apartment! Another highlight of that drive was the Paris Opera house.
The Phantom of the Opera was definitely there inside my mind. We were dropped at The Moulin Rouge in the Red Light District, and I must say that I have never seen a greater concentration of sex shops in my life. “Pussy’s” looked particularly respectable.
The Moulin Rouge was as glamorous as ever, mystery and desire successfully communicated. Walking up the hill to Montmarte was like stepping into the past, take away all of the student groups and hordes of tourists. Wandering through the crowds to catch a glimpse of the artists at work (many still work in the village, perhaps a novelty, but a successful one at that).
We stopped for a quick bite, well, as quick as a meal can be in Paris. Every meal there is cause for a celebration. It’s a wonderful thing. Each meal is a chance to sit down with someone, ask them how they are, and actually care to know the answer. Sometimes the simplest things are the most beautiful. Anyway, I seized my chance. “They serve cheese omelettes here, yes!!” I was ecstatic! “Omelette du Fromage.” I congratulate myself silently as these words tumble from my lips. The waiter nods politely, possibly concealing some amusement. That phrase, one that I have known since my childhood “Dexter’s Lab” days, happens to be the extent of my French repertoire.
Another check off of the Paris bucket list! After a completely satisfying lunch, we climbed to the top of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica for the most breathtaking view of the city. And at 300 spiral steps to the top, I think it’s safe to say we worked off the copious amounts of bread we consumed that day! Incredibly exhausted, we tripped and stumbled along our way, grateful to see our bus rolling slowly toward us.
The joke became, “thank God we have to get on the tour bus, I could really use a nap!” However, Clarissa and I made the most fortunate discovery. We tuned our tour guide headset to the kids channel, and were swept off into the adventures of our new guide d’Artagnan. He willed us to stay awake with colorful tales of the Three Musketeers romping around Paris! We stopped for a much needed cup of coffee, but not just any old cup o’ joe…we were in the neighborhood and stopped at the Grand Hotel across from the Paris Opera house!
I think we were slightly underdressed (we were seated in the lobby), but what a lobby it was! A magnificent ceiling of glass, velvet couches, a massive chandelier! Downing our coffee and delicious molten chocolate cream, we boarded another bus and rode down to see the Bastille, but that bus is cursed.
Our heads were bobbing the entire drive, and when we finally stopped, Clarissa’s dad asked, “Wait, where was the Bastille? I must have missed it!” We woke ourselves up with pizza and Heineken, prepping our minds and bodies for the mini pub crawl we had assigned ourselves for the evening.
It’s quite an experience buying a round for my friend and her lovely parents, but it’s something I could get used to. And a few drinks and hours later, I was off to bed, Paris flooding my dreams and reality, and I didn’t mind in the slightest.