Seeing the sights in Paris — with photos

betty ming liu Travel 12 Comments

Vacationing in Paris with my daughter Gabi and her godmother — my childhood pal Judy — was a once-in-a-lifetime bonding adventure. So marvelous and memorable. In a million ways, I’ve been transformed.

This was a first visit to the City of Lights for both of them. While I’d been to Paris twice in my un-evolved youth, doing this girlie vaca tops both trips because there’s nothing like traveling with compatible good friends. And yes, I do believe our nine-day spring break getaway has laid the groundwork for a budding adult relationship with my baby girl.

Of course, we had to hit all the usual tourist spots, including Musee du Louvre. The mob scene surrounding the Mona Lisa painting was ridiculous. The first photo shows what we saw of her:

The Louvre is actually quite gorgeous. The trick is to go there when the museum opens and beat the crowds. We went mid-morning, which was too late.

There were other museums that we liked more. Unfortunately, I can’t show you photos because picture taking was not allowed. What a novel idea — going to an exhibition just to look at the art. Our favorites were Musee d’Orsay, which was created out of the former Gare d’Orsay train station. And Musee de l’Orangerie is a quiet jewel bursting with Impressionist paintings.

I managed to take one photo in the hallway at d'Orsay. The museums in Paris have great gift shops and nice restaurants. Although when we ate at d'Orsay, we found a fly in the salad. Of course, they took it off our tab.

Musee d’Orsay is on the left bank of the Seine. After our visit, we took a stroll across one of the little walking bridges that span the river. We got a kick out of one section of the railings, where lovers had penned their names on the locks that they left behind. Did they throw away the keys?  Ah, romance!

How sweet that someone thought about mommy at this romantic spot. See the little shiny gold lock in the middle? The Mom lock -- it's my favorite. Haha.

Moving on from museums, we spent an obligatory day at Palais de Versailles, where France’s misogynistic monarchs openly cavorted with their mistresses. Bleh. Still, worth seeing. And we liked lunch. With several eateries on site, we picked Angelina’s, a Parisian tearoom chain. Delish — especially the famous hot chocolate, which goes down like a decadent, dark chocolate soup, served with a swirl of super-rich whipped cream. Burp.

More photo-snapping crowds. We enjoyed meeting the tall dude, whoever he was. To pass the time, I pestered Gabi into taking my joke pictures.

Gabi turned 17 during our trip. To celebrate, we had dinner upstairs inside the Eiffel Tower, followed by an evening, hour-long cruise along the Seine. I highly recommend our tour, ParisTrip.com, which I booked online in advance. These folks provided excellent, door-to-door transport  to and from our apartment. The price included both the dinner reservations and boat tickets: 165 Euros or $218 per person. (Note: When you make dinner reservations at one of the tower’s restaurants, you can jump the long lines and head straight to the shorter express queue to the elevator.)

The food was pretty good for a tourist-y spot. The waiters sang "happy birthday" to Gabi and put a candle in the dessert. We had a magical evening on the boat too. Viewing Paris from the river was simply divine.

There is one more tour that I MUST mention. Black Paris Tours is run by Ricki Stevenson who offered great information and photo opps.  We learned about France’s historically warm relationship with black Americans as they faced outrageous racism in the U.S. Paris has deep black roots too. Did you know that Alexandre Dumas, author of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Count of Monte Cristo” was black? Or “mulatto,” as they used to say. (And yes, mixed race folks do count as being black — or anything they want, actually. It all depends on the discussion at hand.)

Ricki, a California native who is a former NYC TV journalist, has a reporter’s obsession for facts and an ex-pat’s passion for Paris. By the end of the trip, we also learned how to take the bus and how to NOT act like ugly Americans. And dinner in Little Africa was the best Senegalese food I’ve ever had. Her day-long tour costs 100 Euros ($132) per person.

The photos, going clockwise: Llittle Africa near the Chateau Rouge Metro station, a statue of Alexandre Dumas, Ricki Stevenson. The open air market in Neuilly-sur-Seine, just beyond the city limits, has been there for ages and counts the late, great novelist Richard Wright among its shoppers.

I know this post is getting long but I want to show you everything! Here are some final shots….

We enjoyed eating out in Paris. But to be honest, we couldn't get used to the slow service. We figured the waiters weren't that motivated because the tip is automatically included in the bill.

There were so many fabulous food shops in our neighborhood. We did a combo of take-out and cooking up fresh veggies from the market in our kitchen. Eating in saved us a small fortune & made us feel at home.

This was our corner bakery. Judy got up early every morning to pick up a fresh, warm baguette -- which we'd either slather in butter or dip in olive oil. The croissants were amazing too. Everything was amazing!

Here’s a look at the front door of our apartment building. Our two-bedroom rental from Parler Paris Apartments cost us $2,950 for nine nights. That’s about $109 a night per person. The kitchen and both bathrooms were all new. So were the windows. Some of the decor was a bit kitschy (blue shag rug, a music theme complete with violin-shaped living room lamps and musical note-patterned curtains), but that was okay. I found this rental company through one of its listings on VRBO.com, a major vacation rental website.

Ever wonder about these huge doors that front Paris residences? During the Black Paris tour, Ricki said that in the old days, the doors had to be big enough for horse-drawn carriages to pull inside. And doesn't Gabs look happy?

On some level, I hate to end this post because it means that our Paris trip is over! It was fun; I didn’t go looking for my dad or work on my heavy-duty to-do list after all. But since he was a university student in Paris and my mom studied in Brussels, our travels brought me closer to them anyway. I could see why my father loved cafes and French women (that’s another story). Now I also know why my mother had so many scarves (all the French women wear scarves, all the time).

Even though I had my share of tourist mishaps, the vacation was wonderful, priceless , a total joy.

Okay — maybe not priceless. If we throw in the airfare ($1,345 per person), I’m going to guess our excursion cost me $8,500 to $9,000. But it was money well spent, n’est-ce pas?   :)

And I’m going to let Ricki have the last word. One of the things she said during her tour:

“We want to move through this life as travelers, not tourists.”

Yes.

Yes.

Yes!!!

We enjoyed our apartment on Boulevard Beaumarchais in the Le Marais section. xo

 

 

Comments 12

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    Author

    Feels really good to get these photos out of my files and onto the blog. Now I can move on with the memories settled as part of me — part of the energy that takes me forward and into life’s next surprises. :)

  2. Wonderful and comprehensive post on Paris! I am going to the city of love in June, part of my schooling. We’ll be booked for that part of the trip but am staying an extra couple of days with friends. You post will give me some great tips on ways to look at our time there. I love the thought that I am a traveler (student) not a tourist. All those cameras! Thank you for keeping track of your activities for all of us bak home!

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    Author

    Mary Anne, have blast! You’re so lucky to be staying with friends in Paris. Nothing beats going native.

    Thanks, Skye, glad to be home. :)

    Doug, I’m trying to figure out how to best manage my photos. I’m in flux! I won’t be making many of these collages anymore because I did them on picnik.com and the site closed down last week. I might start posting more photos on my flickr.com. Thanks for putting the idea in my head! Here’s the link to my account. Another site where we can follow each other and mingle: http://www.flickr.com/

  4. Betty thanks for sharing your vacation in Paris with us. I was in Paris for 3 days and was super sad it was so short. But happy I was able to experience- I can honestly say Paris is one of my top 10 places.

    I wanted to suggest a Lightroom for archiving/ managing your photographs. At ICP we are constantly juggling around multiple projects and taking 1000’s of photographs. Lightroom offers basic editing options- but when it comes to archiving your images it’s the hassle free. Adobe just released Lightroom 4. I think they offer a 30-60 trial. Give it a shot and let me know it goes.

    Much love,
    Netza

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    Author

    Netza, I totally would agree. At the end of our trip, we all wanted to go back. I will look at Lightroom. But what about iPhoto on the Mac? My real issue is less about archiving and more about creating a plan for sharing. Do any of you have strategies?

    And Isha, thanks for your input in planning this trip. Your comments on earlier posts and Fb were very helpful. :)

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  6. Hi Betty. That Flickr link just sent me to their home page, not your account. Hm. I’m quite interested in the photos because I’m in London until the end of May, and might zoom into Paris at some point.

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    Author

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