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We didn’t make any travel plans before we left home, other than we wanted to get to Finland to meet Santa Claus, and to see the uncles. From there we winged our trip and went where our flights could take us, booking rooms along the way. As far as standby goes, we got about as lucky as you can get. Once we started flying we made every flight we tried for on multiple airlines- Finnair, Flybe, Lufthansa, and Air France with nary a hitch. We were really very fortunate. When we fly airlines other than Greg’s we have to pay airport fees so it’s not free for us like when we fly domestically. Still, it’s very cheap and more economical than trains even.
We had five days at the end of our trip- a vacation after our vacation, really- and we debated about where to spend them in Europe. We thought about Berlin, Frankfurt, Bavaria, Krakow (I really want to go to Auschwitz). In the end we decided to spend them in Paris- the City of Lights. The City of Love. What better city to spoil ourselves with some of our hotel points I keep trying to talk everyone into?
I first went to Paris the summer of 2012, a few months after Greg and I started dating, with my sister, her girlfriend, and my brother. We were in Europe for a month for the Olympics and we all met in Paris to start our trip. Greg was contracted to work in Alaska for the summer, and though I had seen him less than two weeks before we left I was still so heartsick I could hardly stand myself. Sometimes I cry now when I think about how sad I was without him. I was in Paris a few days before everyone else and looking back I can’t imagine what I was thinking going to the most romantic city in the world alone. Luckily I met someone staying at my hostel (hi Magda!) and she and I explored the city, taking my mind off Greg for a little while. But once my family got there I didn’t have to pretend to be strong anymore and I turned into a ball of heinous emotion the rest of our trip. Maybe my brother or sister has a picture of me bawling in front of the Eiffel Tower? I know just what Audrey Griswold was going through, missing Jack. Consequently I thought Paris was dirty and smelly and disgusting and overrated and one of the worst first world cities I’d ever been to.
But now that Greg and I are disgustingly happily joined in matrimony I was willing to give it another chance. We flew from Frankfurt direct to Charles de Gaulle- the furthest airport from the city it serves that I can think of. After dousing myself in duty-free purfume (Chanel Coco Mademoiselle this trip) we took the train into the city, transferring a couple of times to get to the Opéra Metro stop, where our first hotel awaited us- the finest hotel either of us had ever stepped foot in, let alone stayed in- InterContinental’s Le Grand Hotel, which I reviewed in a separate blog post. All you need to know now is that the lobby had a huge Eiffel Tower made of macarons.
At check in we were treated like actual millionaires and got a free upgrade to a room with a balcony and a view of the real Eiffel Tower. We played it cool until we got into the elevator then both of us burst out laughing because they actually let us in. The Warckens! Cheapskate Royalty! The Walmart parking lot sleeping, hotel toilet paper using, coffee creamer stealing Warckens got two nights at Le Grand for $140. A room that was advertised for €880 a NIGHT. That’s over $1000! A night! Oh the difference the miles and points game has made for us!
After a quick recon of the hotel we set out to explore Paris in her best light- nighttime. We were trying to find half price tickets for Le Crazy Horse- the famous cabaret- but instead found a little old French lady who could barely walk. Greg offered her his arm and helped her down the street until she finally told us she was looking for “le boose” and made a motion like she was driving a car. Oh! She needs a bus stop! It was so cute.
We dropped her off at the nearest stop where she thanked us profusely, then we ran away, laughing and holding hands. Because that’s what you do in Paris- you laugh and run and hold hands. GOD is it better than sobbing like a schoolgirl along Champ de Mars. We never did find where to buy half price tickets so we gave up and I took Greg on the Metro to surprise him with one of my favorite views of the city from Trocadéro. Once we were above ground I made Greg close his eyes and I held his hand and talked him through the crowd and down the multiple staircases and led him to the overlook before I let him open his eyes.
He was so happy! What exactly makes that tower so amazing? Good marketing? Media? I don’t know, but whatever it is, it works. Greg said the only thing that could make that view any better was if fireworks started blasting off the tower. I asked what time it was “Six o’clock.” And then, just then, she started to sparkle.
It was absolutely magical, and I stood and wept openly. My brother told Greg to tell me to reenact my previous Eiffel crying scene for him, but this was as good as it got. I just didn’t have it in me to get down on my knees and sob into my hands with my head on the ground in front of hundreds of strangers. Seriously, that happened.
We were told there was a Christmas market along Champs-Élysées so we took the Metro back to Charles de Gaulle – Étoile and walked the length of Champs-Élysées to Concorde. I won’t tell you where we ate dinner because I promised Greg that if he didn’t tell I wouldn’t tell, but it starts with an “M and ends with a “ost expensive royale with cheese in Europe”. Just kidding- that’s in Switzerland. Anyway, it was Greg’s idea.
If you can believe it we were a little Christmas-marketed out. Or maybe Paris’ just didn’t compare to Cologne’s so we gave up fairly quickly and went for a ferris wheel ride instead. I’m not sure why, as neither of us are very fond of them and it cost us €10 each, but we were caught up in the lights and had to see them from above. It was fun while it lasted but next time we’ll stick to the Arc or the Eiffel for better, more reasonable, less terrifying views.
We didn’t make any plans for the rest of our days in Paris, other than a cemetery, a cathedral, some catacombs, an Arc, and an Eiffel. The rest of our time was spent walking, eating, shopping, getting lost, holding hands, and smooching in public. Mmmm… Paris was made for smooching in public.
Greg is a huge fan of The Doors. In fact I think ‘Touch Me’ was the last song played at our wedding. Was it Greg? Help me out. Anyway, so I surprised him with a trip to see Jim Morrison’s grave. Jim’s was the only grave we saw with a fence around it, and he definitely had the most flowers. Full disclosure: We did not visit Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, or Alice Toklas. We Warckens are simple folk. We like books about bears and mountains and games involving thrones.
We didn’t partake, but you’re supposed to inscribe your names on a lock and throw the key into the Seine to symbolize unbreakable love. Unfortunately the bridges aren’t unbreakable, and Paris is cracking down on the romantic madness. Read all about it.
To be continued!