Tuesday, January 26, 2010

2 Days in Paris, Day 1

They say Paris is the most romantic city in the world. I pondered this thought as I boarded the plane for my 53 hour birthday surprise. I wondered what made it so romantic? The architecture? The people? The food? Eager to revisit the answer, I gripped the arm of the man sitting next to me and we snuggled, laughed and gabbed about our upcoming adventure for the entire 8 hour flight. Knowing that my girls were in safe hands, I relaxed in a way I haven't relaxed in a long while. Just hours before, we were blowing out my candles

And here I was alone with Eugene, (my favorite picture of him from the trip)

just the two of us, not as the parents we are every single day but as the couple we've always been. This was a feeling that seemed like I hadn't felt in almost 4 years, but was instantly recognizable. That familiar chemistry, that always felt so right, so innocent, so special.

After a metro ride (subway) from the airport we ran up the stairs, so enthusiastic to see the city above us. It all came back to us, that undescribable energy in the air that is so obviously Paris. We took it all in and stood in the same spot for several minutes. Out of my purse I handed Eugene a 10 year old picture of us from our first Paris trip (he had studied there for several months and I flew in to visit him). This picture was a reminder of the innocent freedom we could once again share.

We walked several meters to the stoplight and turned the corner and saw a most unexpected surprise

Yep, we were in Paris for sure. We checked into our hotel, unpacked our bags and began our adventure. Our plan was simple: notice the details, take in the smells, taste the food and enjoy eachother's company. With our feet and a metro pass, our adventure began.

The details were everywhere

We visited the Arc de Triomphe, the world's largest triumphal arch. In 1806 Napolean I conceived of an arch dedicated to the glory of his imperial armies. It is breathtaking and oh so massive.

More pigeon pictures!

On foot we walked toward the Avenue des Champs-Elysees or as the french call it "la plus belle avenue du monde" (the most beautiful avenue in the world). This famous street is lined with cafes, cinemas, and luxury shops.

In fact, Champs-Elysees remains the most expensive strip of real estate in Europe.

Spotting the only store that I'd even allow myself to enter, I dragged Eugene into Guerlain, one of the oldest perfume houses in the world. Perfume is my thing, always has been--I was in heaven.

Ignore the artsy black and white of the photo and imagine everything you see in gold, everything.

After smelling and testing many perfumes, I decided that the perfect Parisian gift for my sister (who at the time was probably changing a poopy diaper and dealing with a melt-down) was a bottle of the first perfume Guerlain ever made. Eau de cologne Imperiale was created in 1853 for Empress Eugenie, wife of Napolean III, and does it smell yummy.

We decided to meander towards the Eiffel Tower for some night time gazing.

I'm so vain. I mean really Gina, a head tilt?!

Can I make an observation? Having been to Europe several times and witnessing beauty all over I come back to the states disgusted. The U.S. is so ugly. We have no monuments that could even come close to those in Europe. Sure, D.C. has some remarkable and poignant features--but they're still not all that pretty. What, the St. Louis Arch, you gotta be kidding me. Look at how cool the Eiffel is. Imagine looking at that every day or passing under it on your way to work. Now that's beauty.

Getting a second rush of energy we took off for Montmarte, the artistic center of Paris and the birthplace of the Bohemian Revolution. Set on a hill 130 metres high in the north of Paris, this area has been home to the studios of Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. Um, wow! Since Montmarte was outside the city limits, free of Paris taxes and also beacause some of the local nuns used to make wine, the hill became a popular drinking area.

The Bohemian Revolution is a term used to describe the culture change of the 19th century when artists, writers and disenchanted people of all sorts rejected mainstream values and mocked the bourgeoisie. I bet it was a blast!

As soon as we got off the metro, I noticed a different energy in the air here in Montmarte. In fact, it looked different than any other part of Paris. It had it's own feel with all the little shops, and cafes and bars. It was intimate--not stuffy like the Champs Elysees. No, this was completely different.

Montmartre is also home to the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret theatre, which I was so excited to see.

Needing to find a bathroom, we ducked into this little cafe to have a drink and use their services. What we found in this cafe will go down in our memories forever. Before I get into the details, you need to know that nights like this only happen a handful of times in a lifetime. The chemistry has to be just right. This night got added to our short list. When we stepped into the cafe we immediately heard the lovely sound of a French singer with the most passionate piano player at her side.

It was intimate, maybe only 11 other people in the small cafe, all of whom were locals. They all sang along with their bottle in hand. After each song they would shout out requests and the singer and the pianist would look to eachother as if to say "do you remember the words or cords to this" and tried it anyway, always finding the perfect sync.

The wooden floor was so old and broken

Most of the seats were empty

And the food was delicious

The few people in the cafe, including us, would sing, snap and clap along. In fact, she sang a version of Memories that brought me to tears. I will never forget it. We were a part of this moment. A part of the age old tradition here at Montmartre, where art is one with the soul.

We left the cafe hand-in-hand, riding the high of an already perfect evening and continued to explore the mystery of Montmarte.

So, is Paris really the city of Love? I think that casual travelers won't know until you experience a night like this. I found passion in everything. I smelled it in their perfumes, I tasted it in their foods and I heard it through their voices.

So yes, in my opinion, it most certainly is.


  1. Gina,

    I LOVED this recap!! I have never been to Europe and as a photographer, desperately want to go. I loved what you said about you and Eugene being able to go...not as parents, but as the couple you've always been. It's so easy to forget that, isn't it?

    And you're right, comparatively... the US is so ugly! Who wants to stop and see the strip mall???


    Your pictures are gorgeous, but it was your words that made me smile.

    Glad you had a good trip!! :)

  2. Oh Gina! Your trip looks and sounds amazing! I'm with you, the picture of Eugene is one for the ages. He looks so dashing. :)

    Can't wait for the next recap installment.

  3. Gina,
    I'm with Misty-your trip looks and sounds amazing. Such great photos, and such a nice chance for the two of you to reconnect, without being "parents." I'm so jealous that you got to spend quality time together in a city that you love so much. And yes, that photo of Eugene is the best!

  4. You must scrapbook this Gina!!! Beautiful!



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