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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. 1 | Paris Photography Paris Travel Tips by Rachel Abrahams

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While I can't, in any way, claim to be an expert on Paris I can say on my recent trip I learned a few things while there that really made my time memorable. I've put together my list of "10 Things I Learned While In Paris". I've broken it down into 2 parts to make it more manageable (and keep you coming back for more! Just kidding). I hope you learn something from it! Here are my lessons learned 1-5 and I will post the rest of my lessons learned later this week.

1. Take the time to learn some key phrases in French

No one expects you to become fluent in French before you go but taking the time to learn some key phrases will really help you go far. It's polite, it opens the door, and many people appreciate you trying. Most everyone I met knew English but you could always tell they appreciated my *attempt* at French. I even had someone correct my pronunciation of a word in French but they did it in the nicest way. The French are very proud and particular about their language, so this can be commonplace but DO NOT let it undermine your confidence. Go for it! I learned my greetings (hello, goodbye, good morning/evening, goodnight, see you later/tomorrow), numbers, asking for a table for 3, the words for fish and shellfish, how to tell people I am allergic to fish and shellfish (Yeah, I am THAT person. I've been told Asia might kill me. Thoughts?), and telling a cab where to take us. I did this using the free podcast Coffee Break French and making note cards.

2. Download travel apps that work offline

I've never traveled before with a smartphone and when I discovered there were apps I could download which allow me to travel around Paris and not need my 3G or LTE signal, I was stoked! My go to apps while wandering around the city were the Trip Advisor City Guides - Paris app and theTime Out Paris app. Both allowed you to use them offline and included excellent features like top 10 lists of each type of activity, descriptions, contact info, addresses, and more. My favorite feature of all was theTrip Advisor City Guides - Paris' GPS that allowed you to find out what was near you and would use an arrow to point you in the correct direction. It wasn't always perfectly accurate but it was a huge help anyways. I also downloaded the Google Translate app but this can only be used with WiFi, which I typically couldn't access WiFi until I was in my hotel room. It did come in handy in the hotel when we needed a floor fan and the front desk clerk, after not understanding my request, pulled up Google translate and let me type in fan in English and she translated it to "ventilateur".

I also had my SpeakEasy French app with me and this was EXCELLENT to look up phrases in French. It's broken down into categories (Communication, Emergency, Getting Around, etc) and also allows you to hear the pronunciation of the phrase. I had to save the phrases into my Favorites while on WiFi and then could access those favorites while offline.

3. They aren't kidding - there are cafes everywhere

We only ate at 1 location twice (it was close to the hotel and we were tired) and we ate out at practically every meal. Like New York City, it is entirely possible to never eat at the same place twice while in Paris. When we were hungry we would just wander down the street and knew we would come upon a cafe. It was beautiful (and hot) while we were there, so we got to enjoy the outdoors. The cafe's post their menu outside for everyone to look at and, as I learned, they usually have an English menu available as well. If you ask, they will get it for you. We usually would just ask for a table (in my attempt at French) at whatever cafe we found and almost every spot figured out we were American (or English speakers) and would automatically bring an English menu out. If you're nervous about the food being different and not knowing what you are eating - don't be. Yes, it will be different (that's part of the fantastikness of traveling) but most places will have the English menu to help you out. It's an excellent experience and be ready to R-E-L-A-X and take your time. None of this American nonsense of rushing to sit, rushing to eat, and rushing to turn the table over. The staff will let you sit there as long as you want. They are getting paid the same either way (not like American servers with the miniscule wages plus tips as their salary).

4. Bonjour is the best way to start every conversation 

Walking into a store or restaurant, getting into a cab, approaching a help desk - anywhere - that you walk up to a stranger and need assistance it is customary to begin the conversation with "Bonjour". Just saying "Bonjour" (Hello) and then making your request is perfectly fine. No need for all the additional semantics like "How are you?" and "Nice weather today". "Hello" and "Can you help me with...." are sufficient. It is considered especially rude to walk into a store and not say "Bonjour" to the shopkeeper, even if that's the only thing you ever say to them.

On a side note - while shopping it's also rude to touch everything, especially clothing. As Americans, we like to paw everything so just keep your mitts to yourself and remember "Look with your eyes, not with your hands" (right mom?). If you are in a nice boutique and you like something, ask the shopkeeper to assist you.

5. There are tons of "sales people" on the Eiffel Tower green

Every night, Eiffel Tower lights up with a beautiful sparkle of lights for everyone to ooh and ahh at while sitting on the grass. I wasn't aware until we returned, but until recently the greens in front of the Eiffel Tower were off limits but while we were there everyone hung out on the greens waiting for evening to come and the light show to begin. Most made a night of it with their own picnics, drinks, and blankets. It was wonderful and was only marred by the roaming "sales people" with bags of booze/cigarettes/wine asking everyone if they wanted "Beer? Wine? Champagne? Cigarette?". At first, we would politely decline but if you're there long enough they would inevitably swing back around and ask again and we began acting like they weren't there. I think in the 2 hours we were there they swung by at least 30 times. In addition, there were other people walking around with hoops of miniature Eiffel Tower statues and glow toys for the kids. The police are cracking down on these entrepreneurs, which we saw a couple times when they would show up and the sales people would scatter like the wind. It was quite entertaining.

So those are my first 5 lessons learned. Let’s continue the “Ten Things I Learned While In Paris” with Part 2 – Lessons 6-10. Click here to read lessons 6-10.

That Time I Broke My Tailbone In Central Park | NYC Photography by Rachel Abrahams

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Full disclosure: You have my full permission to laugh. I would (and do!) laugh at this story.

Approximately 3 months ago, I went on an amazing trip to New York City, NY and Paris, France. My husband and I visited Paris once before but it was for only one day and the majority of our time was spent on a bus traveling to/from the city. For this visit, we wanted to do everything on our wish list, and then some.

We started off in New York City for a couple days because despite having gone multiple times, there were still many things we had not seen or done. It was amazing. We visited the Statue of Liberty, the top of the Rockefeller Center building at sunset (so crowded!), and multiple locations that were all memorable. We topped off our last day in NYC with a bike ride through Central Park and this is where things went downhill for me.

After renting the bikes and getting them “fitted” to our height, we circled most of Central Park and stopped at specific locations. I am so short I had to make a choice, either have my seat 1) low enough so my feet could touch the ground when stopped but my knees in my chest while pedaling or 2) too high off the ground but more comfortable while pedaling. I went with the 2nd choice. It was a fantastic way to see Central Park because it is so large and we were lucky, on that day, there was no traffic within the park.  As we pedaled up a small hill to our last stop, to visit Strawberry Fields (John Lennon) memorial, everyone was ahead of me and I stood up on my pedals to get some extra push going and that’s when it all fell apart.

My flip flop slipped off the pedal, I fell downward, my tailbone slammed the seat edge, and I was stuck dangling there mid-air because my feet couldn't touch the ground. I was in so much pain and was trying to stay conscious and not vomit over the side, all while angling myself and the bike downward so I could touch the ground. No one else saw it happen and when they turned to see where I was, rather than admit I was hurt I lost my mind like a crazy person.

My husband asked me if I was OK and I proceeded to ramble / yell / froth at the mouth about how I hated riding bikes, where could I return the bike, when would this be over, this was the worst idea known to mankind, and told him I was taking the bike back and didn't care about stupid Central Park. Mind you, this was filled with some super salty language. Quite a few f-bombs and other creative unsavory words that would make my grandmother blush scarlet. I was like a pirate after a bottle of rum who had just stubbed his toe and forgotten to take his meds that day.

As I went on my crazy lady rant, my husband looked at me with such confusion. He’s known I've always wanted to see the Strawberry Fields memorial, especially since I had the poster of the memorial hanging in my room starting at 15 years old.  He looked at me like I had lost my mind (I had) and said “What is wrong with you? Just get off the bike and walk up the hill. It’s RIGHT THERE” as he pointed to a distance of less than 50 feet away.

Still not admitting I was hurt, I heaved my leg off the bike so I could walk it up the hill. Once I got to the top and started turning a normal shade of coloring from purple to semi-red, I then explained to my husband what happened and finished with “I think I broke my tailbone”. All he could do was shake his head because, if you know me well, this isn't surprising news. I am always hurting myself.

By the way, our flight to Paris was scheduled to leave in several hours.

We visited the memorial and I walked the bike back to return it (the location was literally at the bottom of the hill we were on). As we got closer to the flight departure time, I knew and feared the pain was going to be tremendous on the flight and I wasn't wrong. I couldn't sit, stood instead, had the flight attendants ask me multiple times if everything was OK (Yes, everything is fine. No, I’m not planning on doing something terrible). It was 8 very very long hours.

The good news is, I toughed it out (the worst was trying to stand up from sitting and sitting in the taxi cabs), slept on my stomach, took tons of pictures, visited every single thing I had on my list, and was teased about my “broken butt” constantly. I had to laugh because yes, this is EXACTLY a story I could add to my “Rachel’s List of Stories”. I've been told I could write a book – like the time this guy asked me for directions while he was in his car and it took me several (far too long) seconds to realize he was stark naked behind the wheel. To be honest, I was distracted by how sweaty and red he was. I’ll save that story for another day though…..

P.S. It’s 3 months later and it STILL HURTS. It’s definitely improved but I still can’t sit too long, sit in cushy seats (like the couch or movie theater), sit comfortably in a car, or exercise extensively. I've read it takes forever to heal. They weren't wrong.

P.P.S. (or is it P.S.S.?) I will be posting more Paris photos in my next several posts. Sorry for the tease photo above :-)