Date Night With The Eiffel Tower
When we first started our travels, we were only in France long enough to get to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to start our Camino route. Even though Paris wasn’t in my top 10 list of cities I wanted to see in the world, we decided to spend a few days there before adventuring into Northern France.
So we spent a day bussing from Tarifa back to Seville, then flying from Seville back to Paris.
It was a whirlwind.
Once we finally got around to sightseeing on our first morning, we decided to spend the day getting to know the city. We hit the big “must-sees”: The Panthéon, Notre Dame, Le Marais, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, and, of course, the Eiffel Tower.
I know many people mourn the destruction of Notre Dame, but there was something very inspiring and hopeful in seeing the rebuilding process.
There was a big parade happening in Le Marais in front of the Hôtel de Ville with giant papier-mâché characters and drums, protesting climate change and protesting some world leaders (at least that’s what I gathered from watching from afar).
Towards sunset, we gathered some provisions and headed to the Eiffel Tower. All the shows and movies about Paris would have you believe that you can see the Eiffel Tower from anywhere in Paris. This is not accurate. Every corner we turned, I expected to see it.
But it wasn’t there.
Then Andy stopped and pointed. And I saw it.
In the distance, blocked from view by narrow streets and seven-and-eight story buildings. It peaked over the top like it was waving to me, “hey! Over here!”
We wound through the streets until we were standing at the base. We walked around, taking in the icon from every angle.
We spent sunset on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, picnicking on bread and cheese and enjoying wine from the bottle. We laughed as we watched the hordes of tourists trying to get the perfect jumping, pinching, hugging, or holding pictures with the tower.
We stayed until the light show started, then we made our way back to our apartment to rest up for another day of exploring.
Je T’aime, Croque Madame
I have always felt like French food was too fussy and pretentious for me to appreciate. Food is one of my favorite ways to get to know a new place. But I felt like unless I went to a Michelin-starred restaurant, I wouldn’t be able to really appreciate French food.
I felt overwhelmed and excluded.
But then we found a cafe near our neighborhood. They served hot pastries, coffee, and croque madames and croque monsieurs. This cafe with its perfectly made pastries and breakfast sandwiches completely changed how I felt about “fussy French food”.
We visited this small cafe every morning we were in Paris.
After a high-energy breakfast, we set out to see more sites. First, The Centre Pompidou, which houses the National Museum of Modern Art. We didn’t go inside but we stopped to enjoy the wild architecture from the outside. It looks like it was built inside out.
Next stop, Sainte-Chapelle, a 13th-century Gothic chapel known for its gorgeous stained glass windows. I’ve never seen so much stained glass in such a small space and it was dazzling.
We passed some awesome street art on the way up the hill to Sacre Coeur, which had beautiful mosaics and stained glass.
We ended our day at Le Mur des Je T’aime, the Wall of Love, which has “I love you” written in 250 languages.
To Louvre Or Not To Louvre?
In planning what museums to visit in Paris, I quickly got overwhelmed. There was so much to see! And so many people all swarming to see all the same things! (note: this was pre-pandemic, so the crowds were massive)
Some of the blogs I read advised either:
Look at the Louvre map/directory beforehand and “only” see the things you really “want” to see, or
Visit the smaller but equally impressive Musée d’Orsay.
Skipping exhibits in a museum gives me some level of FOMO (also I didn’t know enough about art to know what things I did or didn’t want to see), so we decided on Musée d’Orsay.
It was a great choice.
Not only was the building itself gorgeous, but there was also a reasonable (not overwhelming) amount of great works of art to see inside. We spent hours inside enjoying the art, not skipping over it or rushing through it.
The first sculpture here is Rodin’s “Gates of Hell” representing Dante’s Divine Comedy.
The following are some of my top picks for paintings including Van Gogh (Self Portraits, Starry Night) and Monet (Poppies, London House of Parliament, Heavy Sea at Étretat)
The last one is one that I really appreciated called “Two Mothers” by Maxime Faivre. Moms have always been metal and will fight for their babies.
Here’s the thing about Paris.
I know it’s the dream destination for a lot of people, but I wasn’t looking forward to it. Based on what I knew about it, French cuisine seemed too fussy and pretentious.
I don’t care about high fashion, I’m not interested in shopping, and I didn’t have cute outfits to wear for carefully curated pictures in front of all the iconic Parisian spots. I was wearing the same clothing I had since we left the states in May. Lots of wool and tech fabric. Functional, but not cute or trendy.
I was convinced that I wasn’t sophisticated or refined enough to appreciate all the culture and art that Paris has to offer.
I actually said out loud “I feel like I don’t even deserve to be here because I can’t fully appreciate all these things.” I was feeling anxious, undeserving, and overwhelmed and I was in a funk for a full day.
I loved to hate on everyone taking their cheesy “pinch the top of the Louvre” or “jump in front of the Eiffel Tower” or whatever else they do, probably because they seemed to be enjoying themselves when I was struggling.
Andy pulled me out of my funk and assured me that I did deserve to be there and that we would find things to enjoy. And we did. We found a cafe with croque madames that were fantastic. We went to Musée d’Orsay, spent the whole day inside, and truly enjoyed it. We saw the exterior of the Notre Dame Cathedral. We picnicked and drank wine in front of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris may not be my favorite city, but I enjoyed it once I stopped trying to convince myself that I didn’t deserve to be there. I let go of the person I thought I needed to be and sought out the things that I genuinely enjoy and appreciate.
Andy ambushed me with one of those cheesy “pinch the top of the Louvre” pics and it’s one of my favorite pictures that we took in Paris.
I don’t say this as a “poor me, I was in Paris and didn’t have anything cute to wear [blah blah blah]” but more of an “even in the most beautiful places, that nagging feeling that you’re unworthy or undeserving can find you.”
Be vigilant, that nagging feeling is a sneaky bastard and will find you anywhere.
Don’t ever let anyone, especially yourself, tell you that you don’t deserve to be somewhere.