My sister and her husband visited for two weeks in February, and had chosen Paris, Rome, and Florence as their destinations. A better time couldn’t possibly have been had, but I had also chosen to take a break from this blog for a while. Thus, a two month pause. I have been considering a different approach to the way I store my memories here, and that required some reflection. I also want to be more helpful to the handful of people who may actually be reading this (as opposed to those clicking “like” on something they haven’t read in the hopes I will return the circle-jerk-like favor). So there will still be photos and a slightly sarcastic attitude, but I am paring back on the volume of shitty photos to the few I actually like. Also, succinctness is my new goal.
So. Paris. Again. But it’s never boring, I swear. There is a neverending stream of things to do in this city. Here are a few more, from our third extended trip there.
*I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed in a tour of the Catacombs. Six million people, dating back to Roman times, are buried here; their bones line the walls several feet thick in a dark and damp maze of caverns underneath Paris. The tour has both an educational/historical benefit as well as a creepy one, making it appealing both to adults and older children. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable, the 2 1/2 hours of the tour flew by, and–much to our pleasant surprise–the tunnels stay at a constant temperature year round. So for us, it was a break fom the freezing February Paris rain. If you go in the summer, it will provide respite from the searing heat. A win for everyone.
*If you’re looking for an alternative to the overpriced, overrated Moulin Rouge (a general consensus among everyone who has ever been there; I did the research), give Chez Michou a try. It’s less than half the price of that other cabaret that you only know about because of a Nicole Kidman movie, and far more enjoyable. If you don’t trust me here, check out the review on TripAdvisor. It. Was. A. Blast. Downsides: the food is so-so and it is a little more cramped than I was expecting, but those are common complaints at most cabaret shows (Moulin Rouge is certainly no exception). I wish the lighting had been a bit better as none of my photos turned out, but sometimes that is a boon for weary travelers who need to put their cameras down and enjoy themselves in the moment.
And did I mention these are drag queens? There were some pretty effing amazing ones, too; though many were French pop stars I didn’t recognize, no drag show would be complete without a Cher or Celine Dion. Both of whom blew us away. Celine is pictured above, but unfortunately Cher turned out blurry in all of the photos (which was likely another stab at realism for the club). Yes, the act is about 70% French, but the whole thing is so well done that fact shouldn’t deter anyone. The club is frequented by actual Parisians, which is something that cannot be said for the aforementioned competitor. The decision is an easy one.
Some suggestions: You need to book well in advance, overcome your fear of sitting shoulder to shoulder with French people, and train your bladder. Once the show starts, it is too cramped to get up to pee. So prepare for that; you do not–repeat not–want to cross the floor in front of a drag queen while she is performing. Take my word for it or pay the consequences.
The Montmartre is the literal high point of the city, providing some of the best views. There also happens to be a Jesus Castle (Sacre Coeur) at the top of the climb, so enjoy that however you see fit. It is sort of pretty as churches go, even if you’re an atheist and sick to death of cathedrals (ahem). Just don’t take pictures. It’s not allowed. Buying prayer candles ironically for your friends is allowed, but photos are forbidden. So don’t be a rule-breaker.
Definitely stand outside and enjoy those views though. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate. They make the hike up the hill very much worth it.
There is not much I can say about the Palace of Versailles, and almost no way for me to capture in photos how stunning the place is. Though getting there requires a bit of travel, this should be a top priority for any visit to Paris. The historical significance along with the mesmerizing beauty of the place should overcome any fears about being crushed by the doors of the metro on the way out (which can and will happen if you’re not careful). There are both private and group tours available. We hired a private tour guide from Viator, at quite a reasonable price (just 50 Euros per person). It is possible to take the tour without the guide, but they can and do add a great deal of context that makes the journey that much more memorable.
Visitors in the warm months can enjoy the gardens, as well as what I’ve heard is a spectactular fountain show. I will have to return for that bit, as the February weather during our stay was less than agreeable to a stroll around the green.
As I’ve previously made clear, I tend to enjoy modern art a great deal more than portrait/Jesus art. I also want to strongly influence anyone who visits Paris to avoid the Louvre. Unless you’re an art historian and have at least a month to spend at the Louvre, it is too large and too intimidating for a standard tourist only visiting for a few days. The Mona Lisa is indeed a very pretty painting, but the more minor musems can be enjoyed a great deal more and with less hassle. The Centre Pompidou is an excellent alternative. If it’s popular artists you want, it has that in spades (Picasso, Kandinsky, Warhol, etc.). There are also sculptures and paintings of genitalia, so be sure to take your mom.
The design of the building is quite a treat too; it is well known as the “inside-out building” for its groundbreaking architecture. It also has a series of external escalators with some pretty nice views of Paris (for anyone not on view overkill from the Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, or Montmartre). A worthy way to spend a few hours, it is centrally located in the Marais district–not too far from Notre Dame.