ON top of Paris


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It was nearly 11:00 p.m. at night and there we sat, somehow finding ourselves at one of the most incredible restaurants in the world. I wasn’t sure how we got there, how we pulled it off, but there we were, sitting among what seemed to be the rich and famous, being poured endless glasses of wine. As we went through our 4 courses, I observed the other patrons around me. They probably had this night planned for weeks, their table reserved long in advance . The couple next to us was celebrating an anniversary. Everyone was dressed up. My tourist get-up of jeans, tennis shoes and a jacket were completely out of place. It had been a long day of sightseeing and my hair was on its last leg. Although we were not prepared in the slightest, it made the experience that much more satisfying.

How did we manage a spot at this table? Well, it was very simple really. All I did was ask! Although I was well aware that the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower was expensive, required nice dress and reservations far in advance, for some reason, I took a chance and simply asked. Now, I’m a firm believer that speaking up, questioning and asking does not make you look dumb, rude or ignorant – rather, it opens doors. You never know until you ask and the worst thing someone can say is NO. But if you keep asking, you will notice that you will get far more yes’s than no’s, and if you don’t get a yes, you often get something that leads you closer to what your looking for. So, I asked and the answer was YES!

It was nearly an hour before the restaurant closed for the night, and by some magic miracle, they let us in. They let us in without reservations, looking like slobs. I noticed after we were seated, they turned others away. We couldn’t believe our Luck! We were the last ones let in for the night!

It was the last night of our trip and our last night in Paris. It was perfect.

 

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Paris Cemeteries


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Since Halloween is in just a few days, I thought it seemed appropriate to write about one of my favorite things to visit on my travels – the local cemeteries. I could spend as much if not more time in a cemetery as I could visiting a museum or church (just ask my husband who has to drag me out of them.) I have always wanted to plan a trip where I visit all the famous graveyards throughout Europe and beyond. Cemeteries fascinate me. They say so much about the history of the area, their culture and who they were. Throughout history, burials have been an art form and a very important part of the culture. In the states, nothing compares to the graveyards I’ve seen in Europe.  Paris particularly has a set of some of the most famous graveyards you can encounter, which also hold many famous people.

My graveyard visit was definitely the highlight of my visit to Paris. To me, the feeling that day was nostalgic. It was a perfect early spring day. The air was cool, it was sunny and everything was quiet and calm – still. Prior to arriving at the graveyard we had made a steep walk down the hill of Montmartre from Sacre Core through a more residential area of Paris. The area reminded me a bit of San Francisco.

We stopped at a local bakery and bought French pastries that I had never heard of or seen before. We passed by some small shops and cafes and it was mostly quiet as we walked down to the city. I remember looking down one of the streets and seeing a giant narrow staircase that looked like something out of Dr. Seuss. The alley that held the staircase was bathing in the soft afternoon sunlight and stillness. I remember thinking- this is everyday Paris, not the hustle and bustle of the inner city. About halfway down to the inner city, we stopped at the graveyard we’d been looking for. This walk was probably my fondest memories of my visit; It was sporadic, unplanned and perfect.

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The graveyard itself is placed in a very unique position as it is in a hollow of an old quarry in an underpass of the road under street level. During the French Revolution, this abandoned quarry was used as a mass grave. The perimeter of the yard is lined with high cement walls and coming from the opposite end of the entrance, we had to walk around the wall to figure out how to get in. It was a bit difficult trying to figure it out, but it was definitely worth it. The walls themselves made the graveyard that much more alluring and interesting, perhaps intimidating.

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There weren’t any people there when we visited and it was eerily peaceful and beautiful. Actually, it was more sad than eerie. It was quite emotional to be there. The place had been overtaken by cats, as much of Paris is, which only added to the nostalgia of it. Most of the graves were not graves at all, but small mausoleums. The mausoleums were gorgeous, Gothic, detailed, and morbid. I had never seen anything like them and I was head over heels. There were small ones, grand elaborate ones, some that housed entire families and others that housed one person.

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Many of the actual burials which were almost all above ground had dramatic statues that portrayed extreme emotion. I felt almost scared looking at them but at the same time, I felt like I could cry. I was absolutely captivated and wanted to know the story behind each and every one.

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Our main goal of our graveyard visit was to find Jim Morrison’s grave, and according to my guidebook, it should have been in that graveyard. After a half hour of searching, I found a quite rough looking grave-keeper and asked for his assistance. He didn’t speak a lick of English, but I figured everyone knows Jim Morison right? He seemed confident enough that he knew just where it was and led me through a five minute walk clear to the other end of the graveyard. This walk through the graveyard is stained in my memory and I don’t really know why. I just remember looking at the back of the man as I followed him and wondering what his story was. He interested me. I liked him. He seemed nice, even though I couldn’t really talk to him. What I remember the most was the distinct smell of his small, hand rolled cigar as the scent floated back to me all along the way. That cigar smell, the man, the silence and the graveyard made such a combination that the memory is one I often think about. There are some things I really remember from my travels, and others things I don’t, and this one was one that stuck. It isn’t necessarily a good or bad memory, just an interesting one.                     

The walk ended with him pointing to a grave that was NOT Jim Morrison’s but it was ok; the man was very kind to have walked me all the way to what he thought I was looking for.

When I got home, I researched and found that we were at the wrong cemetery all along. There are actually 4 District Parisian cemeteries – Montmartre in the north, Père Lachaise Cemetery in the east, Passy Cemetery in the west and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south. Père Lachaise Cemetery is the cemetery with Jim Morrison.

Now that it’s all said and done, I’m actually glad I ended up at Montmartre Cemetery. I had it all to myself and that was one of the best things about it. I’m sure Père Lachaise is much more crowded as it is the largest and best known in Paris.

For anyone planning on touring any of these graveyards on your trip to Paris, know that Montmartre it is an easy downhill walk from the famous Sacre Core and that the area also has much cheaper souvenirs than inner city Paris. Montmartre Cemetery also holds graves of many famous composers, playwrights, actors and architects just like its counterpart, Père Lachaise.

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Photos with an asterisk on the bottom left of them were NOT taken by me. All of the rest are mine.

Bohemian Like You.


The blog post that I attached below is from a fellow blogger and native French citizen (not from Paris.) I just had to re-blog her post and encourage others to read her other posts on Prague as well. 

My response to her post:
I couldn’t agree more. I am from the United States and I have always hated how overrated Paris is here. EVERYONE wants to go to Paris, like it’s the only place in Europe worth visiting. I thought Paris was far dirtier than any other city I’d been to in Europe, and I didn’t really feel any “magic” there at all. Don’t get me wrong, of course there were beautiful things to see, but it was definitely not on the top of my list of favorite traveling destinations. I have always said to people that the most romantic place you could go in Europe is Prague. It is just magical there, not to mention much cheaper than Paris! When I was in Prague, I couldn’t help but notice the plethora of doting couples, contrasting to what I saw in Paris. As one of my followers mentioned, the image of Paris grew heavily popular after WWI, being the hot spot for many famous writers, artists, fashion designers and poets, thus making it a highly desired destination.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Czech Republic has only recently become a known and popular European hot spot to visit and Prague is slowly becoming one of the top tourist capitals among the most popular cities like Paris, London and Rome. Why you ask? This country has only been free of its communist rule since as recent as 1989. This amazing country is now available for the masses to come fall in love with it’s sights, history and culture. Prague is also one of the few European capitals to survive WWII bombing, so it is very well preserved. Many people just don’t think to go to Eastern Europe for vacation, but this is why I encourage people to do their research and not just book a trip to a place a travel agent or society is telling them!

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Stella in the sun

I was always excited to see Prague. But I never expected to fall in love.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   It was absolutely amazing to have my lovely Libertine as my tour guide for those last 4 days, but it didn’t feel like it was enough. And boarding the plane back to Paris for a weekend of debauchery didn’t feel as exciting as it should’ve been after the bliss of Prague. Of course once again it was great to see my friends, some that I’d seen a couple of weeks before but hadn’t spent enough time with, or those I hadn’t meet up with yet.

mimi's   Still, my heart longed for the real city of love.

“A friend of mine says that tourists go to Paris for the historical and romantic effect, but in truth what they are looking for is in Prague.” I could not agree with you more Lib.

How is it…

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Shit


European Bathrooms:

*The majority of bathrooms in Europe are what most Americans would consider outhouses.

*Be aware that the bathrooms are almost always too small and probably won’t have the necessities to clean yourself up.

*In some places you may be lucky if there is a toilet seat.

*You might want to consider carrying a napkin pack with you at all times.

Experience in Rome:

When I was in Rome I went into a horrible bathroom that didn’t have a toilet seat or toilet paper. I was desperate, and I couldn’t find a bathroom anywhere for hours so I went for it. When I went out to wash my hands I lathered them with soap and then realized the water was not turned on and there was nothing to wipe  my hands on! Ugh.

Experience in Paris:

When I was in Paris I went into a café bathroom and when I began to wash my hands a man walked up next to me and begun washing his hands. I looked over my should and noticed there were urinal lined up next to the stalls. I was in a unisex bathroom and didn’t even realize it, I have never been in a unisex bathroom in my life. It was a very awkward experience. 

Experience in Vienna:

In Vienna, I saw a toilet that cleaned itself after you flushed. The seat actually made a mechanical 360° turn spraying cleaner on itself. Very clever! I didn’t see another one of these until last March, 2014 when I was in Ghent, Belgium. I attached the video below. 

Disclaimer:

Not all bathrooms in Europe are bad and there are actually some very nice bathrooms. In most restaurants and hotels you will find good bathrooms. What I like most about European bathrooms, is that most of the stalls are like small rooms where they go to the very top of the ceiling and to the very bottom of the floor. They are very private. There aren’t giant openings for people to look in at you like in America. I actually prefer European bathrooms for this reason.

Tip:

Take note that in many bathrooms if you can’t find the lever to flush, look up and their most likely will be a string for you to pull. If that’s not the case, their may be a dot on the wall that you need to push in to flush!

None of this is necessarily bad, it could be a good story to tell when you get home and It’s all part of your European experience!

 

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