The trip was mostly spent in Belgium but we flew into and out of Paris, and we got a chance to see some of Paris. We mostly saw the major tourist attractions, but when it’s my first time in a country, I don’t mind.
After having spent a lifetime reading about Europe and finally getting there, I had an idea what to expect, but I didn’t expect to fall in love with it to the extent I did. I would go back in a heartbeat, even with the problems they’re having now.
Do I worry about terrorism? No. In fact, the date we flew to Paris was September 11. It was completely uneventful, though the one thing I didn’t want to do was have any layover in the US, especially on that day. No doubt it would have been nothing but a hassle.
I took so many photos during that month, it was ridiculous. I still haven’t gone through and completely organized the photos from that trip. The photos I’ll post here are mainly from one of the days in Paris where we went to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.
The first place I had to go when we arrived at the Louvre? To see the Mona Lisa of course! Does everyone comment about how unremarkable the Mona Lisa is? I certainly did. Really, it was nothing special.
The painting in behind you was far more impressive, if not for the sheer size! The Louvre was full of paintings like this. In some of the galleries, every surface was a work of art, with the walls, ceilings and floors distracting you from the pieces on display.
I had heard that it would be wise to allot several days to be able to see the Louvre, but we only had the afternoon. It was immense. After seeing the Mona Lisa I ended up in the Egyptian section, which I was quite happy with.
With all the gallery themes in the Louvre (I counted 46), it occurred to me that I could live in Paris for a year, attend the Louvre every weekend and just visit one gallery. Every week it would be something new. With so many galleries, I think it’s impossible to do the pieces justice by trying to pack it in in just a few days.
La Tour d’Eiffel
The Eiffel Tower is probably one of the most recognizable monuments in the world, and I really enjoyed it. I would have preferred a nice blue sky and to be able to see far off into the distance around Paris, but at least the top deck wasn’t in the clouds.
We were in Paris in October, so I guess there are no guarantees on the weather. The lines to get in to the tower weren’t long, so there’s one benefit to travel in the off-season. The view at the top of the tower really is spectacular, no matter what the weather.
I travelled to Europe with one carry-on bag, and that was it. I resisted the urge to buy anything I’d have to lug around (until the very end), so I decided that the only real souvenirs I’d buy would be fridge magnets.
It was a decision I would not regret. Later in the trip, before we left Belgium, my daughter picked up an extra suitcase for the clothing she’d bought, so I shared that space and added nearly 10 pounds of chocolate, and nearly 8 pounds of my favourite kind of soap (hard to find here).
I think my favourite part about fridge magnets as souvenirs, aside from the small size and light weight, is that they are something I see every single day. A couple of my favourites are the Eiffel Tower magnet and the one from the Arc de Triomphe. How could I have left Belgium without a magnet of Mannekin Pis?
There is a small Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, sitting on a shelf by my desk, so I see them every day as well. These just serve to remind me what I am working for, and bring back fond memories of the places I’ve visited.
I hope that France and Belgium quickly get back to normal, though I suspect it may be a while before that happens. It’s easy to say, another thing altogether to do, but life continues on. Let’s hope it continues on with healing, and no more terrorist attacks.