On a glorious spring trip to Paris when the “Davinci Code “ movie was first coming out, I was able to take an incredible walking tour based off of the novel by Dan Brown. Our guide was an American who relocated to Paris when her husband received a job offer to live and work in France. I was green with envy because I thought it was a grand opportunity for both of them to be able to live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Our tour started at the Ritz Hotel (near the Austerlitz Column), where Dan Brown’s novel began, and we took a walkingtour throughout Paris and ended at St. Sulpice church. While the tour itself was well worth it and packed with juicy little tidbits about inconsistencies contained within the movie and book, it was the sage advice offered by our tour guide that was the most fruitful. During our crossing of the Pont Neuf Bridge, where incidentally, we were able to obtain photo ops at one of the spots where Carrie and Big were filmed in the “Sex and the City” movie; our guide said this, “When you are walking through Paris, always stop, turn around and look behind you. You will be amazed at what you will see that you would otherwise be unaware of if you hadn’t taken the time to stop and look.”
Throughout the remainder of my trip, I found myself constantly taking a step back and looking behind me – literally and figuratively. Paris is a remarkable place to visit, in and of itself, because it is chock full of history. Everywhere I visited I made certain to really take in and appreciate everything Paris had to offer. Whether I was stopping at an obscure crepe stand across the street from Sacré-Coeur or simply sitting by a small pond where children were playing at Tuillere Jardins; I appreciated and relished the simplicity and freedom of the entire experience.
I had the opportunity to actually spend my birthday in France, and on that particular day, even though I was traveling with a friend, I was able to live and experience most of the day on my own. We went to visit the Louvre together, and then we disbanded and I shed my “tourist moniker” and became a local. I ate from street vendors; wandered aimlessly throughout the Oberkampf 11th Arrondissement, where a host of artists live (because of its economical pricing); and lucked up on numerous shops and bookstores in the Marais area located in the ever popular 4th Arrondissement, where Notre Dame Cathedral is located.
One of the best memories I had during that visit was going to the Hemingway Bar located in the Ritz Hotel. Located down a long, elegant hallway that led me to this intimate venue, I imagined what it must have been like in years past when Hemingway himself frequented the bar. The smell of history hung heavily in the air as I stepped into the establishment and quickly took in the bar area, and looked to my left to the two or three steps that led up to an even smaller alcove surrounded with photos and paraphernalia related to Hemingway; it was a clear reflection on the amount of time he must have spent there. As I sipped my 30 Euro drink and sank into the semi-masculine couch, I watched the bartenders interact with the other staff and the customers who came into the bar, and I thought to myself, “This is living.”