We’ve made many great memories in Paris …. an added bonus was spending my birthday here. Despite the great sites and food, I will forever remember this vacation as the one where I saw my wife unleash her brand of justice on the world …
Iris scares off swindlers in Montmarte.
Montmarte is a region on the north side of Paris known for the arts, the famous Sacre Couer church, stunning hilltop views of Paris … and lots of pickpockets and con men. These are some of the things these swindlers do:
- Overtly hassle tourists by following them.
- Tie unsolicited pieces of string around tourist’s fingers … and charge 10 euro.
- Tell tourists, “You dropped something” and pickpocket them while they bend down to look.
- Flat out threaten to stab people if they don’t hand over money (obviously happens more at night).
There is very little police presence in Montmarte, so I was on full alert to bravely and heroically defend the welfare of my delicate Korean wife should the need arise.
As we walked up the Sacre Couer hilltop, we faced our first wave of con artists. Four guys approached with their stupid strings in hand. I geared up like an offensive lineman ready to open a hole for his running back. All of a sudden, I see Iris power walk ahead of me and bellow:
“OFF! GO AWAY! NOW!”
I would have taken the time to appreciate the fact that I married the Korean version of Tomb Raider, but I was as in shock as the con men were. The swindlers left us alone. I will never knowingly tick her off again.
Experience Versailles, which is like something out of the Bible.
I’ve read a lot about heaven. Gold streets, precious stones, pearly gates, radiant light, majesty, splendor, and so forth. The idea of a heavenly city takes on real meaning when you visit Versailles. It’s amazing that Louis XIV and progeny lived like this. We struggled to find just one bit of white space … when we did, it was marble.
The gardens are so grand that people rent golf carts or bikes to get around. The pools are large enough to boat on. Many studies have been done on how much it cost to build Versailles … a conservative estimate is $2 billion. Versailles was my favorite of all the places we visited. Truly, an embarrassment of riches.
Stroll through Marie Antoinette’s little fantasy village.
To escape court life, queen Marie Antoinette often retreated to her own chateau on the grounds of Versailles called the Petit Trianon. If that wasn’t enough, she had her own small village built nearby called Hameau de la Reine. It was complete with a few small cottages built around a small lake. It was like walking through the Shire from Lord of the Rings, only French style.
Thing is, people didn’t live here. This was a fantasy world where the queen would often “live like a peasant” and chill with friends. Not surprisingly, Hameau de la Reine was seen by the French public as another sign of her frivolous spending. Can’t argue with ’em there.
Cruise the Seine River.
After returning to Paris from Versailles, we took a one hour cruise on the Seine. We saw a lot of the river (you can’t help it if you visit Paris) but it was great to see things from the river side. It was perfect timing as the cruise ended up finishing around sundown. If you visit Paris, you just have to do this.
Visit the Orsay Museum and the Louvre.
I was amped for the Louvre, though I ended up more impressed with Versailles. Still, it was amazing to see some of the masterpieces like the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo firsthand. I loved Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code so I just had to visit the inverted pyramid … which in the book is where Mary Magdalene is buried. Didn’t find her.
Iris and I enjoyed the Orsay Museum more because of the Van Gogh exhibit. Since my mother is a painter, I learned to appreciate paintings growing up … the techniques, strokes, use of color, etc. Da Vinci’s strokes were almost invisible, and his work had a dark veneer to them. Van Gogh’s strokes were short and quick. Pictures don’t do these paintings justice. Seeing them up close was just amazing.
View Paris at night from Montparnasse Tower.
Finally, we took a quick hop to Montparnasse Tower. Montparnasse Tower sticks out like an ugly sore thumb. But, it provides a great view of Paris … partially because it’s so high, and also because you can’t see it in the skyline if you’re standing on top of it. This night happened to be my birthday … it was an unforgettable way to turn a year older.
If you can, save up and go to Paris. Pictures, no matter how nice, do not do it justice. It’s the one European city I have always wanted to visit, and I’m so glad we did. If you ever plan to visit Paris:
- We stayed in the Les Halles district near the metro station … area is a bit rough at night, but what city isn’t?
- We stayed at the Citadines Prestige hotel. Good, solid hotel and in walking distance of the major sites (except the Eiffel Tower).
- Consider purchasing a 7-day Velib bike pass. Biking in Paris is so fun.
- Find a bakery nearby your hotel. We frequented Boulangerie Julien but beware … you’ll be forever ruined for croissants.
Special thanks to our family and friends that took care of our two dogs Simba and Rami while we were away. That’s love, right there. This isn’t a travel blog, but if you have questions on visiting Paris just ask and I’d be happy to share our experience. Thanks for reading!
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