Earlier, I’d written that as kids, my sister and I imagined Europe was black-and-white, based on my parents’ old home movies. Actually visiting there dispelled that notion, as reality tends to do. But the days we spent in Paris definitely felt black-and-white. We’ve been dogged by lousy weather since we left Charleston, and our few days in Paris were no exception. Grey, cold, rainy. Ugh!
This picture of the Eiffel Tower looks pretty much the same in black and white as it does in color. The only color we saw much of in Paris during our visit was green — it’s a city with a lot of trees.
Here’s the same photo, in B&W with only green picked out. Sort of makes my point!
The only place we really saw much color was in the flower markets on Ile de Cite.
My principal goal in visiting Paris was going to Roland Garros, one of tennis’ four “Grand Slam” tournaments. While I won’t go so far as calling myself a tennis fanatic, I took up the game when I was 14, played on my high school team, and have been a player and fan – with a few hiatuses – ever since. Attending all 4 Grand Slam events – the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open – is on my bucket list. By attending Roland Garros, I’m now ¾ of the way there, having also been to the US Open many times (it’s do-able as a day trip from Maryland) and the Australian. Wimbledon next year?
Me and Rick in front of Court Suzanne Lenglen.
I’d arranged to get tickets through Championship Tennis Tours, and requested first round tickets on Court Suzanne Lenglen, one of show courts. When the tickets are purchased, there’s no knowing who will be playing and on which court. CTT and the scheduling gods came up trumps for us. CTT came up with a VIP package that gave us access to a separate entrance to the grounds and lounge where endless champagne flowed – which turned out especially useful during the several rain delays we endured.
A champagne lunch in the VIP lounge under Court Suzanne Lenglen.
And the schedulers gave us Rafael Nadal against Robby Ginepri of the US. Rafa is the No. 1 player in the world, the defending champion of Roland Garros, and the most dominant clay court player of all time. Not bad!
Rafael Nadal serving, and returning. Which view do you prefer?
We didn’t have much time left in Paris after a day at Roland Garros, as we’d planned this trip while I was working and needed to get back to work. Which, of course I still do.
The view from our room.
Since we only had one full day to look around, we did a quickie tour by Metro, tour boat on the Seine, and lots of walking.
Ile de Cite and the River Seine.
The tour boat was super-cheesy, with lots of schoolchildren aboard, but gave us a good orientation. We got to gawk at many of the sights along with them, starting at the base of the Eiffel Tower and ending past Notre Dame.
More views of the Eiffel Tower.
Breathtaking Notre Dame.
Then we walked along the banks of the Seine for hours, despite the cold and wind. My impressions of the City of Light were clouded by the weather and by the crowds – for example, we’d hoped to visit the Musee d’Orsay (the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays), but the lines would have consumed the better part of our day. At least we visited an interesting exhibit on tattoo art at the Musee Branly.
The unusual plant-covered exterior of the Musee Branley, and the exhibit we toured.
We didn’t go into the Louvre, but walked the grounds.
As limited as our self-tour was, we confirmed that Paris is nevertheless a stunning, life-filled, historic, beautiful, stylish, vast city deserving of more time than we had available. It’s also crowded, maddening, confusing, and loaded with traps for the unwary (e.g. pickpockets and other scammers).
And it can be very expensive. We ended our tour with a stroll down Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré, one of the famous shopping streets in Paris. As much as I wanted to bring home a high-end souvenir from Hermes, I was out of luck (I’m hopeless with square scarves, and so would not be willing to spend several hundred Euro to play with one. And the huge crowd of foreign shoppers – which made the store feel like a Coach outlet before Christmas with a sale on – was off-putting). At last, I spotted gorgeously-colored handbags in a shop window, and felt like a kid in a candy store, when I discovered I could buy an orange leather tote bag body, add a fuchsia zipped pocket, and aqua handles. Except the body was 500€, the pocket was over 200€, and the straps were 195€. Each. Bye bye beautiful orange bag….
Locks placed on bridge railings by lovers.
And goodbye to our European adventure.
I’ll have more thoughts to share about our sailing odyssey and our travels in coming blog posts, but right now I’m facing going back to work next week.