|Paris in bloom
The first thing we discovered is that Paris in April is cold. It is so much farther north than Albania that the warm spring weather we had been experiencing at home had yet to settle into France. Despite the cooler than expected temperatures and rain showers our first day, the sun came out and we had a fabulous weekend exploring the city. As an added benefit of being that much farther north, the days were long. Very long in fact. Our first night there we were surprised to have sunlight at nine at night; in Tirana this is what we experience for a few brief weeks at the end of June. The second thing we discovered about Paris is that it is expensive. Perhaps the prices seemed even more inflated since we were coming from a country where an entire pizza costs you four dollars. A single Paris meal cost us more than what we spend on groceries for an entire week in Tirana. But it was so good, and we were on vacation after all, so we stopped looking at the prices and just enjoyed ourselves.
So what did we do all weekend? We played tourist of course. We put many miles on our feet as we walked from one end of the city to the other. And when we got tired we hopped on the Metro (I was once again reminded of how much I miss living in a place with safe and convenient public transportation). We explored the Louvre, climbed to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral, and strolled along the Seine. We sipped wine in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, but due to striking workers were unable to take the elevator up to the top.
|Atop Notre Dame Cathedral
And this being Paris, we ate then we ate some more. Paris is a food lovers paradise and I was not disappointed. From buttery pastries washed down with rich cappuccinos to basic meals of bread and cheese the food did not disappoint. We ate classic French food and I discovered what all the fuss is about rose wine. It was a good thing that we walked as much as we did since we did a lot of eating. Craving ethnic food that just isn't available in Albania, we ate at a Lebanese restaurant one night. Oh my was it ever good. And I quickly realized that despite my concerns while I still have a hard time understanding the spoken language and an even more difficult time speaking it, my ability to read French menus is pretty darn good. There were no surprises when any of our meals arrived at the table. The most difficult part was choosing which items we wanted to eat.
|Dodging traffic in front of the Arc de Triomphe
But my absolute favorite thing about Paris was the city herself. Sure her landmarks are impressive and the food was amazing but I loved the broad boulevards, narrow cobblestone streets, and expansive parks and green space. Not the world famous ones, but the ordinary ones. The city greened before our eyes as we noticed the leaves popping out over the course of the weekend filling once bare branches with green. Garden after garden of brightly colored daffodils, tulips, and other spring flowers lined the streets. For being such a large city everything was orderly, people were well mannered and it was easy to maneuver as both a pedestrian and a motorist. Broad sidewalks allowed for easy passage on even the busiest of streets. We walked for miles stopping at sidewalk cafes when our feet needed a rest. We watched street performers--some good and some not so much---, sat on park benches observing the people around us, and joined other tourists in watching the light show on the Eiffel Tower. Mostly we just absorbed everything that is Paris in the spring. To me, that is the ultimate Parisian experience. I can't wait to go back.
|The Eiffel Tower at night