|The wife and I just spent 6 days in Paris. First time in France. We did a bunch of sightseeing and touristy things. It was largely good.
Day 1 - Arrived in the early morning after an overnight flight where we didn't really sleep. Walked around in a mild sleep-deprived daze. Checked out the Eiffel Tower, which has the names of famous French mathematicians and scientists inscribed near the top, several of which I recognized. Got acquainted with the subway system, which is actually quite good once you understand how it works (there's a very simple map of the line you're on, both in the station and inside the train). The Eiffel Tower was big and cool, but I couldn't help but think that it's simply a big metal structure built for the sole purpose of proving that humans can build stuff like that. And that's literally what it is. It doesn't serve a purpose, like housing or office space. It doesn't store anything. It's a skeleton structure. That's a little weird.
Day 2 - Walked around the Orsay Museum, which has a bunch of impressionist stuff. Headed to Montmartre, the hilly section of town where the "adult" stores are located for some reason. Climbed to the top of the Sacred Heart Church, which in French has a bunch of accents and weird symbols so I'm English-izing it.
Day 3 - Checked out the Louvre, which had some famous art and a bunch of pushy tourists. Toured Les Caves du Louvre, a local wine cellar/seller. Headed to the Arc de Triomphe and climbed to the top for excellent views of the Champs-Élysées. Throughout the day we did one of those hop-on/hop-off bus tours and saw a whole bunch of sights. Finished the day with a boat ride down the Seine River, which really wasn't that great, or it was too much to fit into one day.
Day 4 - Took a train to Normandy and went on a guided tour of several D-Day beaches. Stopped at the Normandy Cemetery.
Day 5 - Casually strolled around Paris and stopped at the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Sorbonne, and the Pantheon. Looked for a wine store near our hotel and accidentally found the Porte Saint-Denis, an arc similar to the Arc de Triomphe.
Day 6 - Flew home.
I'm really not into art, but there were a few paintings in the Orsay Museum that I literally couldn't tell weren't photographs. And the Louvre's art was cool and all, but honestly I was way more impressed by the opulence of the building itself. It was a former palace, and it shows.
Normandy gave me an intense feeling of American pride, even more so than living in America does. The ideas of "the greatest generation" and "their finest hour" were very prevalent everywhere we looked and went. The cemetery was full of intense symbolism and memorials, and it was interesting to learn that the American government pays for its continued upkeep.
I found the language barrier to be pretty difficult. I don't know French, and I found it to be pretty difficult to learn. Italian, on the other hand, seemed to follow a pretty straightforward pronunciation system, with the addition of rolled R's. French has a lot of symbols and accents and silent letters, plus nasally sounds that just don't exist in English. It was interesting to be in a place where you didn't know the language being spoken around you, and you couldn't read the signs or menus or anything. It was very alienating, and it was still a Romantic language so it shouldn't have been that difficult for me.
That said, French people were very accommodating. I didn't interact with a single French person that didn't also speak fluent English. But I like to at least make an attempt at speaking the language of the country I'm in. Also on the topic of French people, they were awesome. Literally every single French person I spoke to was kind, friendly, and helpful. I can't even fathom how they got a bad reputation.
Tipping is complicated. Or it's not. It depends who you ask. I really don't care what the policy is, I just wish it was more uniform. And let me put it on the check at a restaurant. Why is that not a thing?
The food was so-so. I'm admittedly not a foodie, but honestly I've had better croissants in America, and French bread was bland and hard and flaky. The wine was good, and we found a few varieties that will be added to our rotation.
The streets were very narrow and circuitous, and the sidewalks more so. That meant we had a lot of "interactions" with fellow pedestrians. This might be where French people get a reputation, because I can't even count the number of people who literally tried to walk right through me. I found it best not to make eye contact, so then other people got out of my way. Side note: Most of the people walking around Paris are probably tourists. So tourists are the real assholes people encounter in Paris.
All in all a good trip. "Six days in Paris" was actually more like "four days in Paris, a day in Normandy, and travel days". Trying to fit all that touristy stuff in that amount of time was pretty exhausting, but I can't imagine doing it a different way. There's just too much to see and experience, and not enough time. Easily the highlight of the trip was sitting leisurely at a streetside cafe, sipping coffee and eating a croissant, watching the people walk by, with the Notre Dame Cathedral in the backdrop. Magnifique! #travel