American in Paris
HOW TO BE A GOOD TOURIST IN FRANCE
Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating on America with France. I was born in the USA but have always found myself drawn to the city of love and light. While the United States represents comfort and belonging, the country of my home but one I did not choose, France is my mistress, the city I marvel at every time I step outside of Charles de Gaulle Airport. The one I chose because the city just somehow appealed to my senses and enticed lust. Paris, je t’aime.
This trip marked the fourth time I was able to visit this wonderful county, including the time I lived there for a year. While this trip was only for one week in Paris, I was still able to enjoy the wonderful things the city had to offer and like always, fell back in love with all the things I fell in love with as a little girl, just 10 years old.
THE SIGHTS, SOUNDS AND SMELLS OF PARIS
In Paris it is common to hear the “weee oooo weee oooo” of French police cars as well as the cackling of pigeons and the hum of the French conversing with one another. The smells of fresh bread, old buildings and a dirty river engulf many of the streets, while amazing buildings, architecture and terraces line the sky. There’s a reason why the city wasn’t destroyed during World War II and I can attest to its beauty and allure. I know that many people say they love Paris, but somehow I feel as if Paris and I have a connection that only we know about. She is my city and I am her person and no one will ever have the relationship we do. She gives me blue skies and the best tarte aux framboises in the world. And I give her my heart. Thank you my darling.
But Paris is for everyone, and I want to help anyone heading there or wanting to head there for any period of time. You may not know what to do or what to see and I am outlining my favorite things to do in the city. However, since Paris has so much to offer there is no way this article will be able to outline all the things I love, so we’re making this part one of three. Hope you enjoy!
1. THE BASILICA OF SACRÉ-CŒUR:
While this usually falls 7th or 8th on people’s lists on what to visit in Paris, this is by far my favorite place. The Sacré-Cœur or the “Sacred Heart” is a Roman Catholic Church, consecrated in 1919 and located in Montmartre. The inside of the church is decorated with a gorgeous pipe organ and beautiful blue and gold ceiling paintings. But, while the Sacré-Cœur boasts some of the best architecture in Paris that is not why I love this place. When you arrive at the Sacré-Cœur you either climb the slew of stairs or drive up the hilly back roads until you are standing on the “terrace” of the building. On this terrace you can look out to all of Paris and see, in my opinion, the best view of the city. It is at this place, looking out over this view, where I fell in love. Take your loved one, friend or just go up yourself and fall in love like I did.
2. LE LOUVRE
You cannot go to Paris without heading to the Louvre: a mecca for all art lovers and arguably the world’s largest and most beautiful museum. Originally built as a fortress and then used as a palace, it wasn’t until the French Revolution that the Louvre was officially used as the place to house all of the nation’s masterpieces. Nowadays, the museum is usually very crowded, but the opportunity to see wonderful works of art in such a historical and architecturally beautiful buildings of the world is hard to pass up. Just don’t expect to see everything in one visit – since it would take about 100 days, all day each day, to see every work of art - even if you allotted just 30 seconds to each piece! So pick a few sections (don’t just stop at the Mona Lisa) , take your time and think about the other people who have walked through these walls.
3. MARCHÉ AUX PUCES DE ST. OUEN
I always like to break up a little sight seeing with some nice shopping. And Paris is the mecca of shopping. If you prefer to shop at glossy French fashion houses and buy the latest Dior, than the Champs Elysees is the place for you. But, if you’re like me and you prefer a little shopping adventure at one of the biggest flea markets in the world, “Puces” literally means fleas, head over to the Marche aux Puces de St. Ouen. Skip over the stalls selling printed T-shirts, bootleg Nikes and gold-painted jewelry and head to the antiques. If you look hard enough there are treasures to be found hidden in the dusty stalls. I once found handmade Victorian lace-up shoes, an antique-quality Louis Vuitton luggage as well as a plethora of beautiful jewelry (like the ones you always borrow from your grandmother) old photos, post cards and French books. I guarantee that even if you decide not to buy, the characters that try and sell you fur coats and vintage accessories will make your day a memorable one.