I had every intention of writing daily, or at least more often. Paris, however, was exhausting, and by the time we got back to our apartment each night I was beyond tired and went straight to bed (after posting my favorite photos for you, of course).
As I write, my mom and I are on a train to Nice. We’ll be spending a few days there before I head to Cannes for the rest of the summer. But for now, back to Paris.
It turns out we arrived in Paris at the craziest time. From a garbage strike to Mass with the “vice first lady,” huge “manifestations” to the Euro Cup, our time in Paris was anything but relaxing. Still, it was wonderful.
One of the first things we noticed as we walked through the city was garbage. Everywhere. Seriously…it was piled in the streets, spilling out of the trashcans onto the sidewalks and into the roads. Confused, we wondered if everyone in France decided to spring clean all at once. Was it national “deep clean your house” day? We didn’t find out until later that many groups in France were on strike, protesting the new labor reform bill, including those who were supposed to be picking up the garbage. I read somewhere that the government decided to do something about the garbage and sent people out themselves. In a few days, the situation seemed better controlled, although remnants of spilled-over garbage were scattered even today. (here’s the article: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/world/europe/amid-ongoing-strikes-garbage-and-resentment-pile-up-in-france.html?_r=0)
On Sunday, we went to Mass at Notre Dame, which was as beautiful as I remember. As we were waiting for the priest, my mom pointed out well-dressed “dignitaries” in the front row. When Mass started, the priest exclaimed, “we are very excited to be joined by the wife of the Vice President of the United States, Mrs. Biden.” After visiting Sainte Chapelle (photo below), we ran into the cutest little outdoor market, and soon realized everyone was selling pet items: birds, birdseed, bunnies, rats, and toys for dogs and cats. Other than that, Sunday we just wandered the streets of Paris (and got lost a few times).
Monday we headed to the Louvre, hopped on the “Big Bus Tour,” visited L’Arc de Triumph, shopped the Champs Elysées (including Laduree macarons) and found the most wonderful Lindt store outside the Opera House before crashing back in our apartment.
Tuesday we began at the Galeries Lafayette and did some shopping before heading back to our apartment to rest before the next thing on our agenda: a night bike tour of Paris. When we arrived at the designated meeting point, we found another American family (and could speak real English!) and a couple from Australia (talk about amazing accents). We then found out that there were MAJOR “manifestations” taking place in Paris, including near several of the most important tour stops. The guides convinced us it would be a real “adventure” and that it would still be a wonderful tour (although they also said we could switch dates if we wished. Mom and I decided to go for it. At first, everything seemed pretty normal. There were some roads closed, which meant we could ride on them free of automobile traffic. It wasn’t until we turned one corner that we realized that this protest was, in fact, huge. Buses lined the streets, along with lines of police vans and police officers in full armor. Although the protest was winding down, we could hear shouts and see groups of decked-out protesters returning to their buses. As we rode through the crazy streets of Paris, we were constantly ignoring traffic laws, swerving around cars and buses, sometimes in the bike lane, other times in the middle of the road. We had to rush to the sidewalks on multiple occasions, as throngs of police cars rushed by, sirens blaring. At one point, during our stop to grab some of Paris’ best ice cream, it started pouring rain, and we all raced under a nearby restaurant awning to take shelter while our guide sang and danced in the rain. At the end of the tour, we hopped on a boat to see Paris from the Seine. At least the river was quiet.
On Wednesday we went up to Montmartre to visit Sacré Coeur and wander the streets in the northern part of Paris. In the afternoon, we took the metro to Montparnasse, a not-very-aesthetic tower that boasts the “best views of Paris” when you visit the terrace on the 59th floor. Or, as one guide put it, “it’s the only place in Paris where you don’t get a view of Montparnasse.” We found a restaurant nearby, called the Hippopotamus, to grab dinner. A few minutes into our meal, I noticed shattered glass on the windows, and my mom and I realized we were in a part of Paris that was badly hit during Tuesday’s protests, as protesters threw rocks at store windows, spray painted the building walls, and apparently lit police cars on fire. Did I mention it’s a crazy time in Paris?
Here are some news articles on that situation:
We left Paris and took a train to Versailles, and it was so good to be in a place that was at least a little more relaxed. Versailles was beautiful, and we were able to explore the gardens when they were pretty empty, as it was pouring rain (mom and I were prepared with raincoats and umbrellas, and didn’t mind being slightly damp). We went back to the apartment to start packing, grabbed a late dinner at a bistro down the street, and returned to the apartment to chill.
This morning we woke up, checked out of our Airbnb, and grabbed a cab to the train station. We’re currently riding through the French countryside, and I am so looking forward to arriving in the quieter town of Nice.
Other than that, Paris was as you might imagine. We ate fresh baguettes, croissants, or both, daily and took lots of trips on the Metro (which really isn’t that bad). We got lost, ran into some crazies, ate crepes and nutella, listened to accordion music, and bought kitschy souvenirs (but most not so kitschy). It was a crazy week, but also so, so wonderful.