Last December, my dad had the chance to visit France when I was still there completing my studies. He took two and a half weeks off work and went all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to attend my Ph.D. thesis defense in Bordeaux, which was one of the most life-changing moments of my 26 years on this planet. After the defense, we headed to Paris for two days, the nth time for me (where n > 5) and the first time for the father. For him, it was finally time to see whether the Paris that he had heard so much about would live up to his expectations.
The official “dad is in Paris and here is proof with the Eiffel Tower right behind him” photo. He was generally pretty impressed with Paris, remarking that most of the prominent landmarks (namely the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Montmartre, L’Arc du Triomphe) were indeed quite worth the fame and reputation. It must have been somewhat of a culture shock too, since he hadn’t traveled for quite a while prior to this trip, and North America (or Toronto, really) is nothing like Paris in terms of architecture, atmosphere, and customs.
The Paris Hôtel de Ville (city hall) stands with a grandiose air behind a little Christmas carnival. Of course, as the city hall of arguably the most famous city in the world, it was a lot more audacious (the word I like to use to describe Paris) than the city hall in Bordeaux, which would appear too ordinary in comparison.
This is Place des Victoires in Paris. Unlike Place de la Victoire in Bordeaux, which is a central hub of student life and activities, Place des Victoires in Paris is a quiet little community square. The statue in the middle seems to be a monument commemorating King Louis XIV, the Sun King of France.
One of the more unexpected encounters we had during our exploration in Paris was a Christmas band playing right in front of the Palais Garnier, the Paris opera house. Didn’t get an opportunity to catch a show at the opera house? No problem, the local Christmas band, dressed up in festive clothing, is ready to entertain the public! I always love seeing these random large bands playing music in the middle of some public square or something, and this always seemed to happen in Paris. Plus points for Paris right there!
During this trip I found a new place to view Paris from high up. Previously, my favourite “high place” in Paris was on top of L’Arc du Triomphe, especially during the night. This time around, my dad and I ventured into Les Galeries Lafayette, and without any intention to shop, went to the very top of the building, a first for me. The view from the top was actually rather spectacular, as we were able to see the Eiffel Tower erected in a distance and the opera house right in front of us. Not a bad discovery at all!
Dad is definitely lookin’ quite suave right there 😉 We were still on top of Lafayette here, and the structure seen behind him would be the back of the opera house.
At some point during our trip, we visited Ms. Mona Lisa in the Louvre, and while we did have some interesting discussions about art and culture inside the museum (not that I knew what I was talking about most of the time), we weren’t nearly close to exploring the entire place. I did notice this random courtyard outside the window though, an area of the museum that I had never seen before. The Louvre was like a maze anyway, and I couldn’t tell which part of the museum this courtyard belonged to or how to even get out there (if possible).
Montmartre was another destination on our list, and the street leading up to the Sacré Cœur from the metro station was crowded with tourists and scammers (yup, that street is definitely a very infamous spot for street scams to take place) alike.
During the night I decided to take my dad on one of those short cruise tours along the Seine, just to get a feel of the “City of Lights”. This time I knew where the boat would depart, unlike a while ago, when my friends and I walked an hour just to find the departure point as we were uninformed. Already, the Seine was starting to light up along the banks and the night, where the City of Lights come to life, was beginning to shine.
Unfortunately it was super cold that night, and although my dad and I had wanted to stay on the upper deck (which was entirely outdoor and exposed to the cold) to enjoy the lights on both sides of the Seine to the fullest, by the time the tour was a little more than halfway over, we gave in to the cold and went into the lower deck, where the boat was heated. Yet, whether in the scorching heat or the freezing cold, the lights of the Parisian night never fail to impress me.
Finally, here is the Notre Dame cathedral lit up at night with a gigantic Christmas tree accompanying it. Amusingly, my dad commented that the Notre Dame is the only landmark, out of the ones we’ve visited, that failed to meet his expectation. He said that it was completely different than what he had in mind, lacking the majesty and impressiveness that was so well portrayed in some movies that he had seen a long time ago. Sorry dad, Paris is not perfect – that much I could tell you with certainty 😛 At least he liked most of what he saw in Paris, and I was glad that it was an enjoyable trip for him. Who knows when and if he’ll ever have a chance to revisit…