Though we were heading to Paris, it didn’t take long to realize how long it’s been since sixth grade French class. Paige took three years of French in high school, but even still, it’s not like either of us were well versed as we boarded the flight to France.
In a way, traveling to Paris was a dream-come-true for both of us, a seemingly stifled notion because of the city’s classic popularity, but an incredible opportunity to explore another new city.
As a child my mom shared stories of fresh bread and child-leashes when her mother took her and my aunts into Paris from the military base their father was stationed at. I’ve watched the Tour de France almost religiously the last four years, and was caught up in Armstrong-fever back in elementary school, and this was my chance to briefly experience all of this for my own.
But we weren’t in France just to hang out… No, we had a half-marathon to run.
So what do you do when your time in Paris is limited?
A fellow raft guide, who coincidentally is from France, suggested we see it all from a bus first. Anything that’s worth your time you can always go back to, but this will save you from trying to squeeze everything in and never actually seeing anything: think a Clark Griswold type of vacation.
Our itinerary, and one I would suggest was straight forward.
Start at the Louvre before the crowds get ridiculous, tour the Eiffel Tower so you can see more than just the landmark, and dinner cruise your way into the evening.
Though the notion of a three-hour tour may insight flashes of Gilligan-type PTSD, if you want to see the highlights of the Louvre and get the biggest bang for your buck, this is the way to do it. We saw sculptures from Michelangelo, Napoleon’s living areas and of course the Mona Lisa, but the tour covers much more than just the famous highlights. Full of history and the importance of certain pieces, we were constantly reminded to take a moment, truly appreciate what these artists did, and to feel the impact of everything the building represents, not only to the art world, but to the French people as a whole.
A quick cab ride along the river, and we were wandering the entrances of the Eiffel Tower, attempting to decipher our instructions for meeting our tour group, and finally exploring the iconic landmark.
I would like to clarify at this point, that when I hear the word tour, and especially consider back-to-back tours, my eyes gloss over and everything goes a bit hazy, but our experiences in Paris were far from coma-inducing snore fests.
Exploring the tale of a love story between an aviator and his nearly missed-connection romance, the tour of the Eiffel tower was led by a character actor that at one point had us frolicking down the Champ de Mars with our arms outstretched as if we were airplanes flying over the beautiful city. Though it may seem silly, it made the trip memorable. How many 26 year olds do you know that would run through public, arms reaching like wings grinning from ear to ear, all in the pursuit of learning more about the Eiffel Tower?
We saw a World War II communications bunker that was connected by a tunnel that runs the length of the Champ de Mars. We explored the massive and seemingly ancient pulley system that controls the famous Eiffel Tower elevators, and finally we stood atop the Eiffel Tower restaurant.
With memories like these, maybe we should “stretch our wings” more often, take a moment to stop amid the chaos and just look up, and break our travel routines.
Our day ended with a dinner cruise, offering champagne and beautiful food as we sailed along the Seine. The sun setting around us, we saw the gothic beauty of Notre Dame, we sailed past the Eiffel Tower, and we took in the smiling faces of tourists and Francophiles; finding understanding in the apparent love the city is so frequently associated with.
Though we only had this small taste of what Paris has to offer, it’s more than just a city. Paris is alive, it’s beautiful, and we wouldn’t hesitate to go back.
Of course, this is just our brief moment with the City of Lights, and we’d love to hear any stories of your great experiences in Paris! Or if you have any suggestions for what to do the next time we find ourselves in France, feel free to leave us a note in the comments below!