I wish the French would go a little easier on Americans when it comes to learning and saying their words. I understand that it's easy to bash Americans and their perpetual ignorance of other language and cultures. Learning a foreign language fluently does require a degree of immersion that Americans can't always afford, living separated from Europe by a vast ocean.
One thing I learned while in France is that French is hard. I'm not talking about the funny spelling rules. Sure those can be complex, but they are fixed and once you learn them, you know them (unlike English where the spelling rules can differ wildly). What I find hard about French is pronunciation.
I began to really pay attention to how French is spoken. I tried to imitate the words. So much of French is spoken so differently from not only English, but other romance languages. The placement of the words in your mouth are just alien to me. Vowels are placed very differently. Consonants are touched on with more or less emphasis than you are used to.
I have studied Italian and Spanish and both of those have very straightforward consonants and very clean vowels (make fun of Giada DeLaurentis all you want, but she knows how to pronounce Italian words properly). There is no fudging in in Spanish and especially not in Italian. Those languages don't really differ that much from English either. English is "lazier" with consonants and contains far more diphthongs, but it still places its words in a similar fashion.
Studying other languages doesn't always help you with French. Yes certain words are cognantes, so you can read or understand them, but saying them is a whole different ballgame. I had a very difficult time making my Rs guttural instead of flipping them. Kevin told me I had to work on my merci`.
Maybe the French won't ease up on me, but I don't think I will ever make fun of a French accent. It works in reverse after all. The French must have an equally difficult time properly placing English words.
Day 5 - We began to hear reports that the weather would be improving, so we decided our first order of business would be to see the Eiffel Tower that morning. Fewer clouds would mean a better view.
We decided to walk the whole way there up the Seine. It was a nice walk that took us less than an hour. The sun was definitely starting to peek through the clouds when we arrived.
Lines were long, and strangely enough the line to walk up was longer than the one to take to elevator the entire way. We had had enough walking anyway, so we were happy enough to wait in the shorter line.
So we reached the top. We looked down. We took photos. We posed for pictures. I normally don't have problems with high places. I was fine in Notre Dame and the Arc De Triomphe, but for some reason I was very nervous in the Eiffel Tower. I think a building made of steel girders somehow seems more threatening then solid stone.
I wanted to explore a bit around the Eiffel Tower area, but Kevin reminded us that we still had other important sights to see. Our next stop was the Louvre.
Thank goodness for the museum pass. We were able to get in almost instantly. Once we were down in the pyramid, it was all so confusing. We wanted an audiotour, but it was unclear how to obtain one. The wings shot off in every direction. It was all so intimidating. Where should we go first?
We started with viewing the famous Winged Victory.
Then we went to the Italian and Spanish painters gallery. Here we looked at Renaissance painters, some of which were quite recognizable.
Then we decided to try the antiquities area. We started with the Venus De Milo of course, but then hung around the Greek antiquities for a while. Then I said we should check out the Egyptian rooms.
The Egyptian rooms probably took the most of our time. They went on forever. I don't think we came close to seeing all of them. There came a point where we knew we had truly had enough. We were probably in the museum for 3 1/2 hours.
When we left I suggested we try to find Angelina's for a snack. I had forgotten my map. I tried to remember where it was. I failed miserably. We were going in the opposite direction of where we should have been going. Oh well.
When we returned to our room I had a big bug up my butt. We did not visit Tuilieres when we were at the Lourvre. It had rained on Versailles. The day had grown progressively sunnier and I wanted to walk through a park! I decided to find the Jardin De Luxembourg.
It took about 15 minutes to walk there and I was rewarded with seeing some beautiful scenery at sunset. I wished Kevin had joined me as it would have been quite romantic and he would have had some stunning photos.
Dinner that night was local again. We ate at a Guy Savoy restaurant. We hoped for another beautiful day.
Day 6 - Kevin wanted to go to Pere Lachaise cemetary and see Jim Morrison's grave. I knew we needed a good chunk of time to do this as it's a pretty long metro ride to get there. We lucked out with our choice of days to visit as it was the most beautiful day of the week.
It may sound a bit morbid to say it was a beautiful day to walk through a cemetary, but it was really beautiful and peaceful there. Some of the tombs were amazing in terms of the art work. We saw Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Balzac, Proust, Rossini, Sarah Bernhardt and Oscar Wilde.
For the second half of the day we continued north to Sacre Couer. The neighborhood is interesting in a seedy sort of way. The beautiful day brought out all sorts of people. There were entertainers all around the church.
The church itself was beautiful both inside and out (unfortunately we were not allowed to take photo inside). Climbing all of those stairs to get there helped burn off lunch.
Then of course we had to climb more stairs to go to the top of the dome. We looked down at more views and took pictures.
We left Sacre Couer and took the metro back towards our hotel, but instead of going straight home, we stopped on the right bank and walked along the Rue De Rivoli. We walked from the Chatelet station to Place Des Vosges. This area had the best shopping I had experienced so far. There were all kinds of fun stores. Kevin bought himself two new shirts and a new pair of shoes. I found a shoe store with several pairs that called to me as well, but I was too tired at the end of a long day to choose one and then try to find my size.
We ended it at Place De Vosges, which is an enclosed square with a park in the middle and various stores and galleries around the perimeter. It also home to Maison Victor Hugo. We considered going in, but we didn't have the energy for another musuem. Many of the restaurants looked good, but it was a bit early for dinner and we considered coming back to them later.
On our walk back we were so absorbed in shopping that we weren't really looking for landmarks and walked right by Notre Dame (the turnoff for our hotel). We almost walked all the way back to the Louvre. We turned around and headed east again and made it back to our hotel a bit later than we thought we would.
Once we were back in the room we had to stop putting off the inevitable and began packing for the trip home. It was particularly sad because we had had such a good day. It would be hard to say which day in Paris was the best day, but if I had to pick one, Friday would certainly be in the running.
We stayed in our neighborhood for dinner again. We were too tired to walk anywhere or bother with the Metro.
Day 7 - All good things must come to an end. We met our shuttle early in the morning and made good time to the airport. There were no real issues there except that they ended up searching one of my carry-on bags. It was filled with candy and cookies and I hoped they wouldn't be seized. Fortunatley they weren't. We had a decent flight and made it home by mid-afternoon.
Was Paris everything I expected it to be? I suppose it was, although no place is ever going to be in reality the way it is in your head. We saw some amazing sites, ate delicious food, and had some very educational experiences. I saw many things I have dreamed of seeing my whole life. This was supposed to be "my" trip, but Kevin enjoyed himself immensely, calling Paris the most beautiful city he had ever seen (emphasize CITY, not place).
So many friends and families had suggestions for us as to what to do, what to see, and what to experience. We saw much of it. There were also things we missed. We never spent a leisurely afternoon drinking in a cafe watching the world go by. I never ate a single macaron. I didn't hit any of the cool bars. In the end I'm cool with that. Kevin and I set our own pace for the trip and saw the things that meant the most to us. This was our trip and not anyone else's.
Maybe we didn't see everything everyone recommended or do everything we had hoped to do, but that's our best motivation to go back!