Paris

Romance Shmomance at the Love Locks Bridge | Paris Photography by Rachel Abrahams

When we visited Paris and saw the "Love Locks Bridge", we had no idea it would be the last time we'd get the chance to do so. Since our visit, it's been all over the news how the locks are damaging the bridges (parts of a bridge collapsed from the weight), making things unsafe, and creating more headaches for the locals than they'd bargained for. So, Paris has taken the locks down and decided to replace them (temporarily) with art exhibits until the final glass panels are in place. 

The Love Locks are a phenomenon that have swept all over the world where many countries (Germany, South Korea, Russia, China, Serbia, Czech Republic, and Italy - to name a few) now have love locks covering various bridges, fences, and anywhere locks can easily be snapped on and then the lovers throw away the key. 

Why did the locks become so popular? 

There's a romantic appeal for the public declaration of your love and dedication to each other. I have to admit it isn't something I understand since my most public declaration of love was at my own wedding and otherwise my husband and I tend to keep our lovey-doveyness to ourselves. For many though, the idea of writing their names on locks, attaching that love lock to a scenic location like the Ponts des Arts Bridge in Paris and then symbolically throwing away the key into the Seine river was an act of public declaration which would ensure their love would last forever.

Who says romance is dead? 

Supposedly the tradition began almost 100 years ago in Serbia where a woman fell in love with an officer. They declared their love for each other but when he went off to war he fell in love with another. She died of a broken heart and women have since flocked to the bridge where the couple used to meet and placed their love locks on the bridge to protect their own relationships.  

It was very sweet to walk along the bridge and see the names of couples on the locks, imagining them excitedly picking out "their" lock (whether ahead of time or at one of the multiple vendors selling locks nearby), adding their name and message for each other, and then taking the time to pick the forever location where the lock would spend the rest of its days.

As we walked the bridge, there were a few couples adding their locks to the few remaining spaces. It was a bright and hot day with the locks glittering in the sunlight and adding a surreal effect while moving from one end of the bridge to the other. My husband and I did not purchase a lock (remember - we aren't much for the public lovey doveyness) but I did enjoy getting to walk around and take as many photos as I could.

I've read they have now removed the bridge walls by sections, with the locks still intact, to then recycle the locks and replace the walls with all new glass panels. 

So, the City of Love's most recently trending tourist location has undergone a facelift but it's unlikely those who want to shout their love from the rooftops (or write it in a sharpie on a metal padlock) will be held down for long. I have no doubt that soon enough, a new location in Paris will be selected with a new tradition for couples to share their love with the world. Will it be writing names on heart-shaped rocks and then piling them in front of the Eiffel Tower like a big game of rock landslide jenga? Climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and then throwing paper airplanes from the top with the message of love written inside, to watch them fly around the traffic circle and dodging cars? Or maybe purchasing tiny little gargoyles to paint in whatever colors you want and then give them a home around Notre Dame Cathedral? Yup, all terrible ideas by me which is how you know I am NOT the most creatively romantic person (but if in the unlikely event any of these do become a thing - you read it here first).

The good news is, those who are creative romantics will find a way to express their love again. Look out Paris.  

Napoleon Was Weirder Than I Realized | Paris, France by Rachel Abrahams

When I travel, I like to make lists of things I'd like to see where I prioritize my "CAN'T MISS" items near the top and work my way to the less important "We can go if we have time", but still interested items, at the bottom. Visiting Napoleon's Tomb in Paris was absolutely at the top of my list. As a historical figure, he stands out as having a lot of quirky personality traits alongside a huge ego and I figured his tomb would not disappoint.

I wasn't wrong.

It was gregarious, over the top, and also absolutely gorgeous. It exceeded my expectations, that's for sure. We wandered around, soaking it all in, and I was amazed at the beauty in the room. The loveliness of it all really surprised me but I was happy when we saw his actual tomb where he is buried is GINORMOUSLY MASSIVE, to help compensate for his short stature, or so I thought. He was actually 5'6" - which I was surprised to find out. He was not nearly as tiny as my limited history knowledge remembered him to be (I suck at history though).

Since I was surprised about his real height, I decided to read up on him afterwards and was thrilled to come across some awesomely random "facts" about him. DISCLAIMER: I say "facts" because, as you know, anything on the internet has to be true, right? So, without fact checking or verifying these through Wikipedia (the front runner of truth and knowledge), I give you my favorites:

1. Credited with originating the phrase “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” what Napoleon actually said, as quoted in L’Arche de Noé, was: “A good sketch is better than a long speech.”

2. Napoleon had “Ailurophobia”, meaning he was afraid of cats (although debated as being true). He also was terrified of open doors; anybody entering the room had to squeeze through a barely adequate opening and then close the door immediately.

3. All of his meals were eaten quickly and in silence. He also did not allow people to clap at shows. Once, a singer sang an aria so well, that the Minister of the Italian kingdom broke the silence and shouted "bravo" several times. Then he came to his senses, got up from his chair and crawled on all fours out of the lounge to avoid being found by Napoleon.

And the piece de resistance.........

(stop reading now if you are of virgin mind/spirit and easily offended....everyone else I know that made you even more interested)

4.  The doctor who performed Napoleon's autopsy was feeling vengeful for not being included in the will and cut off Napoleon's penis (yes, you read that correctly) to give to a priest in Corsica (along with removing other organs and body parts for people to take). Legends were whispered amongst the people that he was buried missing his *ahem* member. The family of the Corsican priest released it for auction in 1916 where it was discovered it had never been properly preserved but still was successfully sold. It has been purchased multiple times and now resides in........New Jersey (again, you read that correctly). French officials remain skeptical it really is his and won't exhume his body to know for sure.

So, there you have it. Knowledge is power, my friends. 

Eiffel Tower To Your Hearts Content | Paris Photography by Rachel Abrahams

Eiffel Tower To Your Heart's Content | Paris Photography by Aspiring Images by Rachel

What's the first icon everyone thinks of when imagining Paris? That's easy - the Eiffel Tower.

It's also the number one request I've gotten for photos since I traveled to Paris and I thought it would be fun to just go all out - go big or go home - and post only Eiffel Tower photos. These are all completely different in their styles and I feel like one of these photos will make someone happy.

This was our first time seeing the Eiffel Tower while walking around Paris, delirious from jet lag and our bodies thinking it was still 3AM back on the East Coast of the US. Turned the corner, while searching for some food to nosh on, and - BLAM - there she was. Awesome right? Now, imagine living in one of those apartments where you can see it all the time?? I'm assuming that takes some lotto powerball kind of money, so I guess I'll just keep on dreaming.

After finding our nosh (aka breakfast at pink chairs), we then wandered over to see the Eiffel Tower. It was really close to our hotel and we knew this would be the moment we knew we had officially ARRIVED in Paris. It was fairly early and we had several hours to kill until our hotel would be ready. The grass was soft, the sun was shining, and there were minimal crowds. We sat and just relaxed, taking it all in. Well, the other two people sat down and I kind of stood, laid on my stomach, and rolled around like a turtle on its shell trying to get up because of myrecently broken tailbone. I just couldn't travel to Paris without making it more of an adventure, I guess.

The hardest part about photographing an iconic structure like the Eiffel Tower? Figuring out how in the blue hell to do it differently than everyone else who has ever taken a photo of it. I kept looking at it just trying to find something different and inspiring. I also kept in mind I had two people traveling with me, who weren't photographers, so I had to keep my obsessiveness to a somewhat minimum so they wouldn't be throwing me and my camera into the Seine River.

Did you know you can actually eat INSIDE the Eiffel Tower? There's a restaurant up there that lets you see Paris from an aerial view. It was gorgeous and when the flashing nighttime sparkle lights lit up the Eiffel Tower, the interior of the restaurant was like a crazy disco of lights since we were right there inside the action. I highly recommend eating at Le 58 Tour Eiffel if you get the chance, especially if you don't know if you'll ever get to go back to Paris. Yes, it's touristy. Yes, it's pricey. Yes, the locals will probably say you are wasting your time and can find better food elsewhere but then you get to go home and say you ate INSIDE THE EIFFEL TOWER. Sounds awesome, right?

I will say, it was an adventure explaining to the server I am a vegetarian. He kept offering me the chicken and I declined politely. It was very confusing for him to fathom why I would not be eating the meat in any of the dishes. Eventually, he brought my dinner out with chicken on the side, which I shared with my hubby. He didn't mind getting my extras. It's how we roll.

On our last day we shopped for souvenirs and then we walked along the side of the Eiffel Tower where there were beautiful shaded areas under the trees, benches to relax, and some peace away from the bedlam of tourists. It was really a nice spot to see the icon without the hassle and I would say several locals were taking full advantage.

So, there are some of my many photos of the Eiffel Tower.

Which photo is your favorite? If you won the powerball lotto, where would you buy a home? Are you like I am and will eat/do the touristy thing so you can brag later you did it? Have you read about the 10 Things I Learned While In Paris?

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Ten Things I Learned While In Paris Pt. 2 by Rachel Abrahams

Let's continue the "Ten Things I Learned While In Paris" with Part 2 - Lessons 6-10. Did you miss Part 1? Click here to read lessons 1-5.

Ready? Let's jump right in.

6. See that double decker tourist bus roaming the city? Doooooo it!

Think you'll look like a stereotypical tourist if you ride those double decker hop on/hop off buses roaming almost every major city these days? WHO CARES! I am a huge advocate for riding these buses so you can get transportation to all the major sites, hop on wherever you want and hop off at a destination you are interested in, and get some travel guidance via a recording you can listen to with (usually) provided ear buds or a live guide. In Paris, it was a pre-recorded guide and they gave us ear buds (new ones for the germaphobes wondering out there) and we could select our channel to listen to our language. I know the locals probably cannot stand seeing these buses everywhere but when you are in a major city for the first time, these are available, and the weather is nice - I highly recommend it. When we arrived in Paris, our hotel was not going to be ready for hours so we had some time to kill. Feeling jet lagged we needed an option to allow us to see things while not over exerting ourselves. We wandered to the Eiffel Tower and sat on the grass, amazed we were actually IN PARIS LOOKING AT THE EIFFEL TOWER (yes, I was that excited) and after seeing the buses stop several times we decided to hop on as well. We almost made the entire city loop before my fellow travelers started dropping like flies. The jet lag was getting to us. Outside of that though - I highly recommend it to get your bearings. There are multiple options. The two we saw while there were the Red Tour Buses and Paris L'Open Tourand they typically shared the same hop on/hop off spots.

7. If you want to see the Louvre (or any museum in Paris), get the Museum Pass

I read about it in my travel book, otherwise I never would have heard of the Museum Pass. It made us feel like rock stars because having the Museum Pass allowed us to skip the lines and enter the museums very quickly. I panicked a bit because the book said to buy them ahead of time but I had my fingers crossed they would be available in Paris somewhere and the risk paid off. The first museum we visited, Napoleon's Tomb, had them and I bought a 2 day pass for everyone (after doing my happy museum pass dance). The list of museums included for the pass is LONG and it includes the highly anticipated Louvre Museum. The price is a little high but it is worth its weight in gold. When we walked up to the Louvre entrance the line was miles long and we realized that was just the line to get through security - it didn't even include the entrance! That was an additional line. We saw a little sign to the left and just zipped through with our museum pass and avoided waiting in the blazing hot sun. We did this for every museum we visited. So worth it - especially when the people waiting would ask why we could pass them while they waited (VIP's coming through!).

8. Boulangerie Patiserrie is not the name of the bakery

Every time I read about visiting a bakery in Paris, I had to wipe the drool off my face. I looked forward to eating a beautiful French pastry or bread every day of my trip - and we succeeded. On our first day of wandering, we found this beautiful boulangerie patisserie around the corner from the hotel.  We were starving (and jet legged), so we decided to stop in to see what delicious treats they had to offer. We were not disappointed. We all ordered a pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) and it was definitely the best chocolate croissant of my life. I am not exaggerating. We went back there - every - single - day of our trip. We affectionately called it "pink chairs" for the hot pink chairs sitting out front. I thought the name of it was "Boulangerie Patisserie" but then noticed one day the awning said "Suffren 55" and wondered if that was it's real name. I checked my travel book to discover boulangerie is "a bakery that produces and sells flour-based food baked in an oven" (via Wikipedia) while patisserie is "a bakery which specializes in pastries and sweets. It is a legally controlled title that may only be used by bakeries that employ a licensed master pastry chef" (via Wikipedia). We were enjoying the best of both worlds.

9. Wander around your neighborhood (and learn it's number)

Part of the magic of Paris is how it is divided into neighborhoods or "arrondisements". Everyone has their own opinion on which ones are the best (best food - best attractions - best locations - best people - etc) and we selected our hotel based on how close it was to the Eiffel Tower. This meant we were in the 7th arrondisement which included some of the major tourist attractions, like the Eiffel Tower and Napoleon's Tomb. We quickly located the bakery (see lesson #8 if you want to drool some more), grocery store, mini grocer, ATM, pharmacist, and a handful of cafes (see lesson #3 of Part 1). All were within a quick and easy walking distance and we found by frequenting them, those who worked there began to greet us a little more warmly. It made us feel less like visitors in a foreign land and more like we had our feet underneath us with our own "spots" to get what we needed. Side note: The pharmacy came in especially handy when one of our travelers came down with a cold - on a Sunday when everything was closed. Other than the tourist sites - almost everything is closed on Sundays, so plan ahead for the "just in case" scenario. The biggest thing to get to know about your neighborhood? The number. Every cab we got into needed both the neighborhood number as well as the hotel address. Giving the arrondisement number helped them to narrow it down quickly to where your hotel was located. Several times, we helped direct the driver to our hotel once we were close enough.

10. Get to know Paris before you go....

It's really sad how many times I told people I was visiting Paris and their response was "Good luck. They are so rude over there". I had to wonder - why this reaction? What is really going on here? I've lived overseas most of my life and understand that part of traveling is realizing things will be different wherever you go and that is part of the magic of travel. Alas, we Americans tend to want the checkmark of visiting somewhere but still want the comforts of home when we get there. You can't have it both ways. So, how do you prepare yourself for this? Nerd it up! READ, read, and read some more about Paris. I picked up several books and also read multiple travel websites on hints, tips, and tricks to know before you go. It helped so much. It's where I learned I should teach myself some French. It's how I discovered the offline apps I recommended. I also discovered the tip on keeping your paws to yourself (and found it to be true). It's also how I knew about the museum pass and arrondisements. You following me? I used the learned information of others and it helped me to feel more comfortable, enjoy myself, and grow a little. As a result, I found Paris to be wonderful and will definitely go again. Here are the books and websites I read. I know there are plenty more out there but hopefully these will help you like they did for me. Rick Steves' Paris 2013 (book) | Sixty Million Frenchmen Can't Be Wrong (book) | Stuff Parisians Like (book) | Trip Advisor - Paris (website) | Virtual Tourist - Paris(website) So, I hope these ten lessons learned are helpful for you or gave you a better idea of the small slice of Paris I got the chance the experience. This just scratches the surface of the city and I cannot wait to go there again.....someday.