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Mon Amour pour Paris
(My Love for Paris)

Text by: Heather Williams

© Ruby Photography
One evening, while doing something mundane and redundant, probably something like folding laundry while watching a favorite TV show, the most off-the-wall thoughts started coming to me,
I really want to go to Paris. Actually, I really want to go to Paris NOW. And I really want to go while I’m still young, while I would only be leaving one child behind, and while that child is old enough to be okay, yet young enough to forgive me for being gone for so long. I really want to go to Paris NOW before I’m pregnant for nine months, then attached to a newborn breastfeeding for a year (two things I planned on doing pretty soon.) I need to go to Paris NOW, especially while my Aunt Heather has an apartment there and is the kind of person who would make the trip truly magical (and not to mention, affordable).
© Ruby Photography

That was all it took for me to turn those thoughts into a reality. I quickly made a plan to save enough money to get to Paris within one year for my sixth wedding anniversary, a great excuse for taking a trip to the most romantic city in Europe.

My sock drawer became my “Paris Cash Drawer.” I skipped on Christmas presents, birthday presents, an anniversary weekend, took $100 out of every paycheck, and started holding “Paris” garage sales. Saving started to become routine, and I soon forgot why I was doing it. It wasn’t until the minute I arrived at the airport that I started to get really excited. At that moment, it finally hit me that we were ACTUALLY going to Paris!

The plane ride was actually something I was looking forward to. Twelve hours sans a two-year-old with a bladder of steel and a love of reading. So being forced to sit next to a window with a great view and a good book is a real treat for me. There was absolutely no guilt that I wasn’t doing anything productive… my reasoning was that I was stuck in that seat with no interruptions, so I might as well make the best of it. On the other hand, my fidgety and easily-distracted husband, Ryan, has the world's smallest bladder, and smallest attention span, so he doesn't happen to share the same love I have for flying. But luckily, he loves me more than he hates flying.

When we landed in Paris, Heather's husband, Pierre (how appropriate, right?), picked us up from the airport and drove us to their gorgeous apartment, five floors up in a beautiful 1800's Parisian building in the heart of Paris. I was in love already! I remember thinking, "Paris is exactly everything I imagined it would be!" From the balcony, I could look down and see people dining outside in a café, cats scaling the roof tops of the buildings across the street, and I could smell fresh bread cooking in the bakery on the bottom floor. There were even musicians out on the sidewalks playing accordions, and artists with their easel canvases painting within the little neighborhood streets. It was almost as if Heather had hired these people as actors to make my experience feel more authentic. I just couldn’t believe this was real. I was really here!

© Ruby Photography

Our preferred, and most used, method of transportation while in the city was the relatively new, and in my opinion, genius, public transportation system Paris now has — rental bikes called "Velib." There are rental stations all over the city where you pick up and drop off a bike at your leisure. They are perfect for the city of Paris because the whole city is almost completely flat and not very big. But the BEST part about these bikes is that you actually get to see the city as you travel through it, unlike the underground metro where you see nothing but cement walls.

© Ruby Photography
© Ruby Photography

I was a little worried that I might have to dress like a mountain biker to ride them, but I was determined not to let the bike intimidate me out of wearing fashionable clothes. For Heaven’s sake, I brought loads of clothes to the most fashionable city in the world in order to “blend in.” My resolve came in the form of this thought: “If the Parisian women can wear skirts, boots, and scarves while riding a bike through this crazy traffic, so can I.

It was very important for me to live up to the French woman’s fashion standards. I wore outfits every day that made me feel confident walking the streets right along with the most fashionable, rather than touristy, in old jeans and tennis shoes. I wore a lot of boots, scarves, dresses, and coats (the kind of outfits that if worn on a regular day in the States, people would see and probably ask, “Wow, where are you going?”). It was always a huge compliment to me when quite often a stranger would start speaking to me in French. It was then I knew that I had succeeded in “blending in.”

I can't adequately tell you the beauty I witnessed while riding down the cobblestone streets with the Seine River on one side and the Eiffel Tower on the other. So many times during our bike rides I had an “I can't believe I'm actually here experiencing this right now” moment. It was surreal. And thus was our constant love affair with the Velib bikes.

One of my FAVORITE places to eat in Paris (and that's saying a lot, because all of the food in Paris is a-ma-zing) was the restaurant at the Musee d'Orsay! Before eating my salmon, I tried a platter of salad, bread, and stinky cheeses! The waiter said it was his favorite, and of course, I wanted the real French experience. The food was marvelous, the waiters were wonderful, and the dining room was gorgeous! There were incredible wall paintings, chandeliers, mirrors, gold leafing, and giant windows overlooking the Seine River and the Tuileries Gardens near the Louvre. Pictures could never do it justice. I was entranced and could have sat there all day. If you ever go to Paris, this is a stop I HIGHLY recommend.

© Ruby Photography 20
© Ruby Photography 21

After a day of bike riding, museums, and car tours, we dressed up in our best Parisian dinner attire and set sail on a River Cruise Dinner Party on the Seine River for Pierre's 40th Birthday! Needless to say, it was the most enchanting and relaxing way to see the city. The Seine River runs right through the heart of Paris, so we were able to catch a glimpse of everything from a completely different point of view: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, and even the o.g. Statue of Liberty.

Did you know that the Eiffel Tower sparkles at night? Well, it does every hour on the hour, as soon as the sun goes down. I didn’t have very high expectations before I saw it. At first I thought, "Sure, the Eiffel Tower is alright, but what's all the fuss about?" I soon learned what the fuss was all about. It's like watching a new kind of firework. But as I looked up from the upper deck of the boat, my heart skipped a beat. It was like the most romantic dream, as I watched the entire Eiffel Tower sparkle while sailing along the Seine River.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

Everything was perfect. The night, the view, the people, the music, the whole River Cruise was so wonderful. And the food! Oh the food! There was a 5-course meal that ended with every type of dessert and pastry one could ever hope to try. Bite-sized, and just as cute as they were delicious, French pastries filled my sampler plate, and I took them to the front of the boat to eat while slowly taking in the view. The whole thing was another one of those surreal, “I can't believe I'm actually here experiencing this right now” moments.

On one of our bike excursions, we traveled to Notre Dame Cathedral. I was as surprised by the tiny details in the huge cathedral as I was by the amount of real-life gypsies standing out in front of it peddling money. I kept my eye out, hoping to spot a sexy gypsy on the arm of the famous hunchback, but unfortunately didn't see them.

After giving ourselves a tour of the inside of Notre Dame, we crossed a bridge, sat on the edge of the Seine River, listened to street musicians play, and treated ourselves to mango and coconut ice cream with the enchanting Cathedral as our backdrop. It was perfect.

We also made sure to stop at the Musée du Louvre, the world’s most famous and visited museum, known for its display of the Mona Lisa but also for its size and grandeur. It was much bigger than I had imagined, and I was not surprised to hear that it used to be a palace for French royalty and is almost as big as the city of Paris itself. We were told that the Louvre is almost impossible to navigate on our own, and we’d probably get lost without a guidebook. We picked up "Rick Steve's Guide to Paris,” which was a great help. We walked through our favorite, and the most famous, parts of the museum in a couple of hours, instead of a couple of days. We were able to see the Venus de Milo, the crowned jewels of France, and of course, the Mona Lisa.

© Ruby Photography

Sitting outside the building, inside the peaceful courtyard with the famous glass pyramid entrance, listening to the soft trickle of the water fountains, I realized the building itself was also a magnificent work of art and a rich piece of history. I learned that each King of France added their own section to the building, so the architectural changes within each time period added splendor and character to the beautiful structure.

On our last day in Paris, we did exactly what I wanted to do from the moment I started saving my pennies six months earlier. Now that all the must-see sightseeing was complete, we spent a leisurely day in the city, taking it all in: the culture, the feelings, the smells, and the views. We made sure to stop in every cute little shop we saw just because. I think I spent a little too much time in a vintage, French book shop. I was enamored by the first sight of their children’s book window display. I absolutely LOVE children's books, so I figured this would be a great souvenir for my daughter and much better for her than the sugary treats we brought home for everyone else. I had piled so many in my arms but knew that I had to narrow it down. Now that we're home, though, and all our fancy chocolates and macaroon cookies are eaten, I now wish I wouldn't have narrowed down my Parisian children’s books so much. I could be enjoying those for much longer than the chocolates and cookies lasted.

To make the day even more perfect, we snapped loads of pictures in our fun, mock photo shoot, rode bikes, took slow walks through the famous Tuileries Gardens holding hands, “people-watched,” dined at cafés, and purchased little pastries to nibble on here-and-there.

© Ruby Photography

Towards the end of the day, we decided to ride our bikes back to the Eiffel Tower. The moment we arrived, it started to rain and I mean REALLY rain. Luckily, we had an umbrella, so we cozied up under our shared umbrella, and Ryan kissed me in the rain… under the Eiffel Tower. It was so amazingly romantic, more than I could even describe. The type of moment where you think, “this only happens in the movies and makes you wish life was really like that.” I truly experienced Paris as the “City of Love.” I fell in love with my husband all over again. Now throughout my life, while going through my daily routine, I will forever take time to stop and look back on how it felt to spend six glorious days soaking in this exotic city and all the new experiences it had to offer with the love of my life.