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Spending my 25th Birthday in the City of Love

How fitting that I would finally get around to writing my Paris blog the day that France won the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals. I should also mention that I did not do that on purpose but I will say it's given me more motivation to make sure it gets published TODAY so that's a bonus.

If you haven't already read my London blog, do so immediately!! London was the first leg in my European tour this summer and while one doesn't necessarily have to be read in order to read the other, it'll give you a good image of me gallivanting through Europe celebrating life and enjoying a new city prior to my journey to Paris, a city I've visited once before, on my 21st birthday as a matter of fact.

Day 1

We took the Eurostar train from London to Paris which was a smooth and easy ride. The train itself was actually really nice and we were there in a matter of two hours. It was the transportation from the train station to the AirBnB that was less than ideal.

As many of you are aware, it's very intimidating to go from an English speaking country to one in which you're not sure the person next to you even understands what you're saying, not to mention the fact that all the signs are now in a different language as well. While I did study French in high school and college, it's been quite some time since I actively practiced and as a result I was extremely overwhelmed once we got to the train station.

Figuring out the metro situation was a tad more difficult in French but once we had our metro cards in hand, where to go from there was the uncertainty. At one point Adam was able to get through the exit turnstile but it rejected me, locking me out so one of us was on one side of the station and the other was on the other side.

It took a solid hour to get an idea of where we needed to be and how we were going to get there.

Mind you, we told the AirBnb management that we would be there at 6pm and due to our numerous transportation issues, we got there a solid hour/hour and a half after 6pm. We were sweaty, tired and lugging around suitcases only to reach our final destination with no one in site to let us in.

Of course all our AirBnB information was on Adam's phone, you know, the one not working in a foreign country unlike mine. We retrieved the phone number from our reservation which I called and thankfully we were able to get a hold of the homeowners and let them know what happened. They Ubered the keys over to us and we were one step closer to landing in our humble abode.

Despite the two person elevator, we made it to the top floor of the apartment building and opened the door to an absolutely stunning apartment. It was just as gorgeous as it looked in photos. The kitchen/living area was surrounded by floor to ceiling windows which allowed for amazing natural light and even better views.

Views from our 7th floor apartment in the 16eme arrondissement.

Day 2

Let the transportation issues continue. Thankfully our mixup was an easy fix as I quickly figured out that we got on the metro going the wrong direction this morning. We jumped off at the next stop and started going in the right direction toward...Disneyland Paris! It took about an hour to get there from our place by metro.

It's definitely no Disneyland in Anaheim. The park is significantly smaller than the one in Southern California and unfortunately on this day a lot of the rides were either broken or not open. We wandered around and made note of the rides not available at our version of Disneyland so we could be sure to hit those before we left.

After walking around a bit, we grabbed some ice cream just in time to catch the characters walking by in the afternoon Parade. It was pretty funny to feel right at home yet promptly reminded we were in a foreign country the second anyone started speaking.

Day 3

Despite this being my second time in Paris, I still find myself wandering back to my old stomping grounds. While we did that a bit today on our day of exploring, we were able to check out some new sites which was really fun.

I wanted to show Adam Sacre Coeur on top of Montmartre so we hopped on the metro and made our way over to that part of town. Of course it's a tourist destination so it was incredibly crowded from the moment we hopped off the metro.

We began the long ascent up the hill where we were both promptly stopped by this group of men soliciting tourists walking by them with string, hoping to make a friendship bracelet on their fingers. Adam managed to narrowly escape but somehow my guy had me locked in a death grip to the point where I would have had to punch him in the face (or some other unmentionable area) to get away. I sat there and waited at least two minutes as he wrapped his string around my finger and tried to talk to me. About what, I have no idea. Of course at the end of it he asked for money to which I said I didn't have any and he quickly dismissed us as he looked for his next prey.

After quite a walk, we made it to the top of the hill overlooking this beautiful city.

From there we walked behind Sacre Coeur through this little town and bopped around until we went to the Moulin Rouge. Well, by "went to" I mean stood across the street from it and took pictures which was still pretty awesome. Then we continued exploring that area which was actually really cute, until I realized we were only a quick walk from the Pigalle basketball court which I had been wanting to see since I first saw it on Instagram.

I had wanted to see this court since first noticing it on my Instagram and couldn't believe the real deal was just a few blocks away. Within ten minutes we were there, watching young French boys shooting hoops on the most beautiful basketball court I have ever seen in my life, hands down. Adam even jumped in and shot around for a bit.

The famous Moulin Rouge.

Pigalle basketball court in Paris, France.

By this point our stomachs were grumbling and we were ready for some grub! We found a traditional French cafe where we sat down and enjoyed the typical people watching coupled with a delicious Croque Monsieur and some Champs. When in France after all...

When in Paris, do as the French do – people watch!

A Croque Monsieur – a must when visiting France!

Not sure if I've mentioned this yet but it was rather hot and humid in France throughout our entire trip. It definitely affected our time here as we had just come from London where, yes it was hot for a couple days but then it was the typical gloom and doom the Londoners are used to which was perfect walking around weather. France couldn't have been more opposite.

In London I wanted to do nothing more than walk around and explore. In France, I wanted to wear as little clothes as possible and honestly probably shouldn't have worn makeup because it melted off my face anyway.

That being said, after our traditional French cafe meal, we took the metro back to our air conditioned apartment where we cooled down and relaxed for a couple hours, After a quick, unplanned might I add, nap we popped back over to our favorite neighborhood grocery store to pick up supplies for a picnic. We packed our "basket" and walked over to the park just underneath the Eiffel Tower. Yes, you heard me correctly, we WALKED to the Eiffel Tower.

We definitely weren't the only ones with this idea and were actually surrounded by a good amount of Americans only these ones were proving why a decent amount of other countries find us to be obnoxious because they were exactly that, obnoxious.

Nevertheless we enjoyed some cheese and crackers and wine while enjoying a view straight from storybooks.

As we walked home on the last evening of my 24th year of life, we stopped while crossing the bridge home as the Eiffel Tower lit up the night sky with it's sparkling lights.

Day 4 - My 25th Birthday!!

Waking up in Paris on your 25th birthday, can you imagine!? I certainly can, it's how I started this day and is something I will never forget.

We took the metro to meet up with Matthieu, my French foreign exchange student from when I was an eighteen year old about to be high school senior. In other words, I haven't seen him for eight years!

Seeing him from across the street as we walked up out of the metro station was incredible, it was like no time had passed at all.

We did a walking tour of the city and saw some incredible sights that I hadn't seen before. It's definitely helpful to have someone who's a bit more familiar with Paris to show you around. Today was the day we got out of our comfort zone and enjoyed the Parisian landscape with a Parisian. Well, technically he's from Lyon and a newer resident to Paris but you know what I mean.

Just like London, the entire town shuts down on Sundays so we had the streets to ourselves essentially which was an odd feeling but also quite pleasant. No crowds, no tourists bustling by, just peace and quiet and the beauty that surrounded us.

To say goodbye again to my lifelong friend who's become like family was hard, but gave me that much more motivation to make our visits occur more often than every eight years.

We definitely got our steps in that day and made our way back to the apartment to, you guessed it, enjoy some AC for a couple hours before freshening up for my birthday dinner - the piece de resistance if you will.

We made the familiar walk to the Eiffel Tower, this time going inside the spectacular monument and up one level to 58 Tour Eiffel, the restaurant situated just one elevator ride up from the bottom. We got there about thirty minutes prior to our reservation so we took just a few flights of stairs up to the next level. Definitely have your walking shoes ready for this one - it's quite a few stairs. While I'm deathly afraid of heights, for some reason this walk didn't bother me. I think because you're enclosed in this metal contraption without the ability to really look down to the ground below. Well, you can, I just chose not to unlike my better half who was struggling to make his way up.

The views are absolutely worth every painstaking, wobbly step. We found ourselves on the next level up right as the sun was making its way behind the clouds and casting an orange glow over the almost night sky.

Once it hit 9pm, we were back in front of the restaurant ready for our fine dining experience. We paid a little bit more for the preset menu being that it was my birthday and all but honestly that was not necessary to enjoy the restaurant. In fact, the non-preset menu actually looked tastier than the one we had. To be honest, it wasn't about the food (which I didn't enjoy), it was all about the experience. Being able to look out and down upon the Parisian evening landscape knowing we were sitting inside the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France (which was sparkling at this point) on my 25th birthday, sipping wine and enjoying each other's company was everything I could have asked for and then some.

Day 5

The city was officially sad to see us go. We woke up to gloomy skies and rain on our last day in the city. Adam and I had made reservations at Cafe Marly, the Cafe overlooking the Louvre which was the last item on our to-do list of our tour in Paris. We had a leisurely breakfast before it was our time to enter the famous glass pyramid.

Trust me when I say, take the map. The Louvre is absolutely massive, you NEED it. It's definitely an easy place to get lost which we did once or twice. Being that it was our last day of vacation, our last day in the city of love, we were slow moving. While we had been averaging 15,000 steps a day (at least), we struggled to reach even that.

I pinpointed the specific things I wanted to see while visiting the Louvre and each piece of art was more stunning that the last. Her majesty, the Mona Lisa, is just as incredible in person as you would imagine. There was a sea of visitors surrounding the Mona Lisa trying to get up and close and personal or simply snap a selfie with the one and only. I didn't have the luxury of getting up close but at least I can say I saw it in person!

It was incredibly hot and stuffy in most of the Louvre so we saw the things we wanted to see and made our way across town in the rain to Notre Dame. One of my favorite places in Paris, it was a spectacular ending to a spectacular trip in this magical city.

I'm glad to have seen some new and interesting things during my second trip to Paris. While intimidating at first, we managed to conquer the transportation system and take in the sights this city has to offer. I will admit the weather affected my experience a bit this time around.

The humidity in the city made walking around less than pleasant but nevertheless we toughed it out and had the most perfect European excursion I could have imagined.

(Originally Published on July 15, 2018)

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