Paris

Catch up time. Over the next few days I’ll be catching up on the last month and a half or so, including Paris, Barcelona, the end of the season in Toulouse, an awesome stop over in Ireland, and finally my trip back to New York.

First I’ll start with Paris. So back around the beginning of May I took a trip to Paris, one of the places that I was determined to visit before I left Toulouse. I mean I was in France. How could I go to France and not visit Paris? As far as a lot of people back here in the States are concerned, there is nothing in France besides Paris.

I had heard from plenty of people how great Paris is, although a lot of people in the Southwest of France did not speak very highly of it. They prefer their slower, laid back style of life. They spoke of how rude the Parisians were and this and that. Much like people from the South/other parts of the U.S. speak of New Yorkers. So I didn’t take that too much to heart. Nonetheless, I did feel when I was going to Paris that I was going just to go. I honestly had low expectations for my visit. I was wrong.

Paris was AWESOME! From the moment I arrived until the moment I left I was thoroughly impressed and amazed at the city. I was also fortunate enough to have an awesome tour guide in my good friend, Ryad. I actually met Ryad last year when I went to Biarritz for a tournament with our U18 girls team from Galway whom I was coaching (the same weekend I met Philippe and my whole adventure to Toulouse ultimately began). Ryad is also the one who had a “Welcome to Toulouse, American style BBQ” for me the week I arrived in Toulouse. Not long after that he had moved up to Paris for work. Fortunately for me, as I was planning my trip to Paris, I spoke with Ryad and not only was he happy to host me, but he was actually off work the few days I would be there. Excellent.

I took an early flight from Toulouse Tuesday morning getting into Paris a couple hours later. Ryad met me at the bus stop and so my tour began. First things first. I needed to use the toilet. I asked Ryad “Where do you think I can piss?” “The bar,” he responded. And so it went. What better way to start off the day in Paris then a casual beer at noon in the bar after which Ryad gave me the quote for the trip “It’s always a good time for a beer.”

We made our way to his apartment in the west of Paris so I could drop off my bag. As a typical American tourist, I felt in a bit of a rush as I knew there were so many things to see and I only had a few days. Ryad, however, true to his southern French culture, couldn’t have been more relaxed and was thrilled to take his time getting out there to see the sights. I’m thrilled that he did that. His laid back mentality is what truly helped me to enjoy Paris as much as I did.

That first day after stopping at his apartment, we headed over to see the Notre Dame Cathedral.
IMG_4829It was as impressive as I had heard/expected. Next we went for a walk along the Seine,
IMG_4834IMG_4836to see some of the bridges, and the beautiful Parisian architecture as we headed over to the Latin Quartier to grab some food (and beers of course). The Latin Quartier was a great section of the city with bustling streets and bars and restaurants full of life.
IMG_4841After sitting down and enjoying a good meal, it was time to head back out and walk along the Seine through the middle of Paris once again. What did we end up seeing right away??
IMG_4851GALWAY IRISH PUB!!!! I couldn’t believe it. Ryad knew that I had lived in Galway, Ireland last year and insisted that we go in for a point. Didn’t take much convincing for me.

After the pub, we continued walking a bit, crossed the Seine, and next thing you know we found ourselves at the Louvre. This was an incredible place. We didn’t go inside to see the museum until a couple days after but it was so genuinely impressive from the outside.
IMG_4884It was particularly impressive when you take a step back and realize this used to be a castle for one king. This massive structure was technically built for one dude. You joking me? But also, as we were walking through and talking about how old it was, how old the Notre Dame Cathedral was, like so many things in Paris, Ryad said to me, “It’s when I look at things like this that I think about how small I am in the history of things.” That really was a crazy thought and so true, especially for an American, with how young our country in in comparison to these other places around the world.

So we kept walking out in front of the Louvre and we were just chatting away as Ryad casually said to me, “Well here is where you can see her for the first time.” I had no idea what he was talking about. Was he setting me up on a blind date or something with a French girl or what? But no. He was talking about the Eiffel Tower. I soon found out that it’s a “she”.
IMG_4886That was my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Next we hopped on a bus to head over to the Place de L’Opera and saw the National Academy of Music…once again another extremely impressive part of the city.
IMG_4887We stopped in this area to grab a beer again. Then continued walking and down the Rue de la Paix, I believe, and saw a lot of the really expensive shops and whatnot before heading out to the Rue de Rivoli and the big park out there with yet again another great view of the Eiffel Tower. IMG_4902So at this point, we had already had a pretty full day. We had walked a bunch, seen a bunch and grabbed a few beers. It was time for dinner. We met up with Ryad’s girlfriend to grab dinner at a place that was supposed to be “The Best Burger in Paris.” They were thrilled to have me there with them so that a “real American” could really tell them if the burger was that good. They were. In fact, the burgers were out of this world.
IMG_4923Now, when we had gone inside to eat, the sun was still up. After dinner it was dusk. Not quite dark but the sun had begun to go down. And at this point it was crazy to me and I literally thought I was in a movie. It was like a silence fell over the city. The hustle and bustle and noises of the day were finished, the streets and sidewalks had emptied out. But a lot of the restaurants and sidewalk cafes were all full, but silent. It was at this point, not to sound corny or anything, that I finally realized how Paris can be made out to be some romantic city.
IMG_4925After the big dinner and the fact that it was a nice, warm and calm evening, we decided to continue walking a bit. Also, I had heard that I needed to see Notre Dame at night. I saw it as it was getting dark…
IMG_4931and then after it was really dark and lit up.
IMG_4938It was after this that the streets and the city started to come back to life a bit.
IMG_4943Naturally we went for one more drink before it was time to call it a night. Excellent first day in Paris.

Given the fact that my flight to Paris was early Tuesday morning, the really long day Tuesday, and the fact that Ryad actually had something to do in the morning, Wednesday was a day where I caught up on some sleep. Not to mention, I felt much more at ease at the fact that I had seen so many things on Tuesday and realized that I definitely had plenty of time and would see everything I wanted to see. So Wednesday I chilled for most the day at Ryad’s and even helped him put together a bit of newly purchased furniture from Ikea.

What I should also mention is the fact that Ryad insisted we go see Sacre Couer (Sacred Heart) and the Eiffel Tower Wednesday evening. I had looked at the forecast and saw it was supposed to rain on Wednesday but he insisted that it would be best if we did it that day and for me not to worry the weather will be fine. Sure enough I wake up and it’s pouring. I was not happy. However, after an hour or so, the weather completely cleared up and it ended up being a beautiful afternoon/evening. Once again, I should have had faith in Ryad.

So we headed out to Sacre Couer which was amazing.
IMG_4951The stairs were a nice little challenge but well worth the view once you got to the top.
IMG_4954IMG_4964And when you walk around to the side you get get a little view of the Eiffel Tower.
IMG_4966From the time I got to Paris, Ryad had kept telling me that it was much better to see the Eiffel Tower at night. I had to admit I thought it was pretty cool during the day. But, once again, he was right.
IMG_4969It was imperative to walk down under the Tower, or “look up her skirt” as Ryad put it (remember the Eiffel Tower is a she).
IMG_4984This was the second time I felt like I was in a movie. I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Paris, France looking right up at the Eiffel Tower. I mean I had spent the last 2 years now living in Europe, but STILL I was so genuinely impressed by what I was seeing and where I was. You can ask Ryad, I just kept laughing to myself and shaking my head because I couldn’t believe it all.

So we passed through to the other side, where there was a huge park that was full of people enjoying the fantastic view. There were groups of college kids partying it up and listening to music, while there were couples sitting enjoying bottles of wine, and old couples just sitting on benches taking in the view and each other’s company. Once again it was a hell of a sight to see. We continued walking through the park and I wasn’t sure where we were going. But once I figured we had walked far enough into the park I asked Ryad if maybe we should turn around. “No, I want to show you something.” It was a basketball court. With the Eiffel Tower perfectly situated behind the backboard. “NO WAY DUDE!” I’m pretty sure that was my response.
IMG_4992There were a couple guys there with a basketball. Ryad told me to give him my camera, go take the ball and he’ll take photos of me ballin in front of the Eiffel Tower. I was hesitant but then he yelled at me, so I obliged. He took a couple photos of me shooting in front, some of which didn’t come out too good, but if you’re friends with me on Facebook, then you’ve seen my cover photo and this is the one that I thought came out best.
IMG_4994Awesome photo. After the Eiffel Tower it was time to head over and see “The greatest street in the world” according to Ryad. Champs-Elysées. This, too, was an impressive place.
IMG_5007IMG_5005That concluded my second day in Paris. Now it was on to my 3rd and final day. I was flying out Thursday evening and the only thing left that I really had wanted to see was the Louvre. So we headed to the Louvre Thursday morning to give ourselves enough time to see as much as we wanted to see. Keep in mind, the Louvre is HUGE and you really can spend hours in there.
IMG_5087I took tons of photos but theres no need to share all of them on here. Just a couple of the more famous ones like the Mona Lisa…
IMG_5051Venus de Milo…
IMG_5082And a painting of what appeared to be John Belushi in Animal House…
IMG_5050All in all an absolutely fantastic trip to Paris and I couldn’t be happier about the fact that I decided to go before I came back to the States. If I do end up back in Toulouse again next year I will certainly be heading back to Paris. I would also like to say a HUGE thank you again to Ryad for being such a generous host in showing me around and letting me crash in his apartment. Thanks a lot brotha and hopefully I’ll see you again soon. Finally, if anyone is on the fence about going to Paris, I 100% advise you to go. It’s a gorgeous city full of life, culture, and history well worth seeing.

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