PARIS

My sister, Julie, and one of my best friends, Nicole, were both in Europe for different reasons.  They asked me if I wanted to meet up in Paris, and of course, how could I resist that?  So I booked an overnight flight from Atlanta and arrived in Paris early Saturday morning.  Nicole had arrived the night before from London and Julie was coming in an hour after me from Prague.

Julie and I shared a taxi from the airport and met Nicole shortly thereafter at a cute little café down the street from our hotel.  It was only 10 am, but we hadn’t seen each other in months, so we spent literally hours catching up over some breakfast beers.  It was the best way to start a trip.

I have had dozens of layovers in Paris, but only left the airport once before (for a quick trip to the Eiffel Tower), so I was excited to spend five days exploring one of the most popular cities in the world.  I hadn’t slept much the night before but I knew I had to fight through the day to reset my internal clock.  After breakfast, we headed to a nearby Pantheon.  I have no idea why, but I’ve always had a love for pantheons.  I love the vastness of their interiors, and am awed by the intelligence that comes from hundreds of years ago.  This particular pantheon had a circle of books in the center with a pendulum keeping track of time.  Amazing, right?  How could people have figured out time hundreds of years ago?  I still struggle with the concept sometimes…

We spent the rest of the afternoon browsing the area of town we were in.  We stumbled upon Luxembourg Gardens and spent about an hour wandering the park.  We found a side walking path that we discovered was an area where high school and college kids went to “lock lips.”  It was a comical little path.

After dinner at a restaurant with tables lining the sidewalk, where we spent a few more hours taking in Paris and it’s stunning culture, we headed to the hotel for a change of clothes.  We wanted to experience the nightlife in Paris!

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We found ourselves at a local bar sipping our beers the size of our head.  We got to know the bartender well, who spoke very good English.  He spoke of his dreams to move to The States, Washington DC.  This was hard for me to understand, knowing that just six months ago we had elected a president who was “not so fond of immigrants.”  When I asked about this, he said he knew and understood, but that it was his lifelong dream and he wasn’t going to give up.  I count my blessings everyday that I was born where I was.  It’s such an unfair world.

We had a blast that night, sipping on beers and chatting with people from all over the world.  Anyone that knows me know that I love hearing peoples stories, so I was in my glory.  Soon, it was about 2 am.  Julie wanted to dance!  The bartender told us that there was a nightclub just across the street, so we made our way over.  We stood in line and as we approached the entrance, the bouncer advised us that I would not be able to go in with a wheelchair “because it was very crowded and if they needed to evacuate quickly, they wouldn’t be able to get me out.”  I was sad and disappointed.  We argued for a few minutes but it was clear that we weren’t going to be dancing that night, so we made our way home.

The next morning, the alarm went off way too early.  I knew immediately that I had enjoyed the nightlife a bit too much.  But…we had tickets for the Louvre, and I didn’t want to miss it.  So I pulled myself together and got into the Uber with Julie and Nicole.  There wasn’t much that I wanted to see at the Louvre other than the Mona Lisa.  I had read that the Mona Lisa was surrounded by a glass wall and security guards, and that the room was very crowded.  I went into the experience with very few expectations.  I figured I wouldn’t get to see much with the crowds of people towering over me.  But as we approached the room, a security guard directed us to follow him.  He led us to the front of the room, and escorted me behind the ropes holding the swarms of people back.  I was literally closer to the Mona Lisa than anyone else in the room.  Julie and Nicole took turns taking pictures with me.  When I left, I knew that despite my being rejected from the nightclub, Paris had redeemed itself with my Mona Lisa experience.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon touring art museums.  My absolute favorite was seeing Monet’s water lilies.  I had no idea how large his artworks were. We stopped to see the “Thinker” statue.  Turns out, it’s not quite as big as one might think.  But I’m so blessed to have been able to experience it in person.  We made several stops for coffee at local street cafes in between museums.  I’ve said it dozens of times before, and I’ll say it again, one my favorite things about traveling is the local restaurants, sitting and enjoying the culture.  We did just that in Paris, over and over and over…

The next day, we explored Notre Dame.  It was extremely crowded but it was beautiful, located on an island that we crossed over to by foot.  We then ventured over to the Catacombes.  I was particularly excited about this, but unfortunately, it was also inaccessible and I was not allowed to enter.  For those that don’t know, the Catacombes is an underground tomb, hundreds of feet underground, with thousands of human remains.  I’ve heard it’s quite haunting, so perhaps it’s a good thing I wasn’t able to go.

Of course we had to experience the Eiffel Tower!  We went to the top in an elevator, and got to see Paris.  Paris went on and on and on.  The sky was amazingly clear that day, and the view was indescribable.  We spent our last evening together in Paris at a small, local restaurant.  We talked about how lucky we were.  About all of the tragedy that Paris had experienced.  About what an amazing city it was.  Five days in Paris goes fast.  But five days with some of your most loved ones in Paris goes even faster…

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