“When spring comes to Paris, the humblest mortal must feel that he dwells in paradise.” Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
Agreed, Mr. Miller. Paris had not made the top of my travel list- it seemed too cliche, too big, too crowded when compared to the smaller places I have been discovering. Friends signed up for the Paris Marathon and invited me to come along, and the perfect opportunity for a visit arose.
The first week in April spoiled me with beautiful weather and great company. My travel bestie, RWH, and I met LB at the airport, and then headed into town. First order of business after check in- get to the marathon expo for packet pick up. Huge expo with lots of cool stuff, including several wine tastings. Who knew there were so many wine themed races in France? Here we met with our buddy BM who came in from Germany. After the expo, we headed to a Thai massage place where we had scheduled foot massages for all of us.
By foot massage, they meant “lower half stretching/beat down.” It. Was. Awesome. We all changed into giant linen capris, settled into our own little chairs, and got worked on for over an hour. Small plates of fruit and tea were the perfect after massage snack. The knot in my quad that has been present since Australia is gone and has not returned.
Saturday was the day I had been looking forward to the most; we were renting bikes and riding out of the city to Versailles. Huge shout-out to Sam at Paris Bike Company- we all rented beautiful road bikes from him that fit perfectly. Sam was a great communicator and fun to visit with at his shop. Also his store kits are super cute and I obviously had to snag one.
The ride was leisurely and fun- the only part that was less than ideal was the bumpy roads around Versailles, and some of the cobblestones. We hit every red light on the way back, and when I checked Strava it turned out that the winners of the marathon the next day ran faster than we were riding. Haha!! I did get a little hangry and had to apologize to everyone for being insane while I waited for my lunchtime Coke to kick in.
Post ride, RWH and I found what we had really been looking for- CHIPOTLE. Y’all, until you live in a place where there is no such thing as “fast casual,” or “not Italian,” you just won’t understand. Raise your hand if you live in Vicenza and went to Chipotle in Paris. Ya, see! We aren’t the only ones. We took our burritos, sat on the lawn under the Eiffel Tower, and just hung out in the sun. Saturday was one of my favorite days ever.
Sunday was Race Day for the other three, and Sherpa Day for me. I rented an approximately 165 pound bike by the hour and rode around the course, ringing my cowbell and looking for my friends. Runners loved my sign about beer and I got lots of smiles. RWH got hungry on course, so she called me to ask for snacks, and doing my Sherpa-ly duty I hooked her up. The cowbell also works well to shoo pedestrians off of the bike path. IT IS A BIKE PATH PEOPLE, the sidewalk is RIGHT THERE —->
Two of my vet school friends and another friend of ours from Tech came in on Sunday, so we had dinner and then met up again Monday for a tour. We toured with “Paris by Martin,” and I highly recommend their company. Pepe, our guide, was knowledgable, fun, and felt like an old friend. He had great recommendations, including where to get the best eclairs. My favorite part was learning about the old brothels (Hidden message in the balcony so patrons know where to go) and visiting les passages couverts- the old indoor markets.
My other favorite part of the trip was waking up at sunrise to go for a run- the city was so quiet and just beautiful in the early light.
So yes, the Eiffel Tower may be the most visited tourist attraction in the world. And yes, it might be hard for Americans to pronounce Champs- Elysees. But Paris, with her clean lines, tree lined boulevards, blooming flowers, and stately architecture is a must see. The best part about living in Europe and getting to travel so much is learning to appreciate a city for everything that is there for the people who live there- parks on every block, local bakeries, and flower shops. Go to Paris, tour with Pepe and Martin, and skip the lines for the Mona Lisa (Pepe has a much better smile). Ride a bike, shop for treasures in les passages couverts, and enjoy crepes from a street cart. It will be your little piece of paradise.