As much time as I spend away from home, I should know how to take a vacation. I don't. I suck at it. Don't know the first thing about planning one. How are you supposed to predict having fun? Traveling for work is like being on auto-pilot, my mind and time are already occupied. It's in the offseason where the challenge begins - when my mind and time are both free.
No it's not you say, start by booking your flight and hotel, and quit being ridiculous! Nope. Just deciding when to go and where to stay gives me the same too-many-choices sweaty feeling I get inside a place like Home Depot. United gets me, they know I can't commit, so they only charge $50 for a flight change when you book with miles. One time I changed my flight 3 times while on vacation. It was Vegas, though, so I'll leave it at that :)
Air BnB came through in the clutch. My apartment had all the essentials - a coffee maker, a balcony on which to drink that bold and beautiful coffee, and wifi. Say it like "wee-fee". Bref, you're a Parisian. Time to act like one.
Parisians get a bad reputation that I don't get AT ALL. The same people who told me how rude they are don't understand the concept that a little effort goes a long way. Or know how to be quiet. Take the Metro for example. Locals travel at lightning speed - stay to the RIGHT and keep moving - and they did it almost silently. On the train, heads weren't buried in cell phones. I watched them just....be. It was intoxicatingly different from the city life I'm used to. In a few days I'd meet up with my family and the Ohio University Marching 110's who were there performing on their spring trip. But the first 48 hours reminded me of football season in November. Nothing but rain and heavy clouds. Out of fear of losing precious battery life, I didn't take many pictures and I don't travel with a camera, yet. However, "le snap" featured stops at the Eiffel Tower, Musee d' Orsay, and the Opera.
Getting around underground proved to be the best way to see the city. The key was staying patient when I got on the wrong train or got off at the wrong Metro stop. That's what happened here when I walked upstairs to this memorial at the Place de la République. It's one of the many tributes honoring the victims of the terrorist attacks across the city that took the lives of 130 people on November 13th, 2015.
The sky was a striking contrast from the thick, moody clouds that had been hanging around. It was so blue it didn't seem real. The plaza was packed end-to-end with music and laughter. There was so much JOY. People were carrying on as if the memories left on these steps had life and were enjoying the day right beside them.
The spirit of everlasting life floats all throughout Paris, especially in places like this. I stumbled upon the largest graveyard in the city, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, only after finding out the Picasso Museum was closed. Strolling through a cemetery would typically creep me out but heard this was a hidden treasure must-do on a nice day. Remind you of New Orleans? It should - it draws comparisons to the St Louis #1 Cemetery, except the monuments here are empty. Burials take place in underground tombs. I didn't know I was so close to the final resting place for the Doors' Jim Morrison, and more than two million souls, many who came from death camps.
"Imagine that. One man felt a certain way about a group of people, inciting enough hate around the world that millions of people died, 9,387 of them right here on this beach. Words Matter."
I said that standing next to my dad and brother on Omaha Beach looking up at an impossibly difficult climb toward Normandy. We stood in awe, thinking about the bravery and sacrifice of the American, British, and Canadian soldiers, most of them barely older than my brother, and how they could so fearlessly face death to fight the German Nazi Party during World War II.
The hike up the bluff was so steep we had to sit down a few times and catch our breath. At the top, my dad and I sat in the Normandy American Cemetery, admiring the shapes the meticulously lined crosses made in the lawn, also perfectly manicured. He can appreciate a solid buildout, Bricknick is a mason after all. I turned to ask if he was ok, I got a slight nod in return. The look in his eyes said it all.
We headed back to the collonade just in time to catch my sister and the 110's assemble on the monument steps, in near silent unison. Then they delivered a patriotic performance that really put an exclamation point on the day. Sadly this was the only time I'd see them live on this trip, but they went on to drop in at the Eiffel Tower and march alongside Mickey in the parade at Disneyland Paris. Look for the coolest college band in the country to go prime time in the 2017 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!
I saved the Louvre for next time and used the last sunny day to book a tour with Street Art Paris. If you know nothing or everything about street art, it doesn't matter, as long as you have an open mind. Thanks to a friend introducing me to it, I pay a lot more attention to the images I used to casually admire when I walked by. Now I know they reflect the meaning of today's times. Take this tour and you'll finish it with a genuine feel for the diversity in Parisienne communities, and see an open-air gallery that's constantly changing! Here are a few of my favorite images from these artists: Manolo Mesa, Ives One, Hopare, Jordane Jone, and Kashink.
It's true. Overplanning kills magic. I'm fine with getting (a little) lost. With the unknown. That's the best place to find yourself. So while I doubt I'll host a travel show anytime soon, I made the most of my six days in Paris by learning some history and leaving the rest to mystery.