The Amazing Soccer Ball Man

The best part of my ascent to Sacré Cœur was watching this guy put on a ridiculous display of soccer ball juggling skills. His name is Iya Traore and he is a bit of a local celebrity in Paris (has been on some TV shows and was a contestant on the French version of "Got Talent"). Apparently, he puts on these shows all throughout Paris and never leaves home without a soccer ball... he's definitely got some skills. The city made for a nice back drop for the photo. 

Basilica of the Sacré Cœur

The basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre (highest point in the city of Paris). Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the excesses of the Second Empire and socialist Paris Commune of 1871 crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ (wikipedia).

If you only have a limited amount of time in Paris, I would suggest skipping this attraction. Yes, the view of the city is nice (since you're basically on top of it). However, the most iconic feature of the Paris skyline is not visible... and not being able to see the Eiffel Tower kind of ruins the moment. For a better view, I would suggest going to the Arc de Triomphe. Also, the panhandlers hanging out at Sacré Cœur are some of the most annoying/aggressive in all of Paris (be on the lookout for pick pockets). You will be constantly hassled to buy cheap tourist stuff, beer, candy, etc. I came here to have a relaxing picnic on the lawn as the sun went down... and ended up leaving early. Some locals warned me that the area is not the safest after the sun goes down.

These are a few photos I took before I left.

Paris - Cafe Nation

Many people go to Paris for the art museums, romance, architecture, or fashion. Those were the primary reasons for my first trip... however, when going back a second time, my motivation shifted. Yes, there are many ridiculously beautiful buildings/women in Paris... and the museums are the best in the world... but all I really cared about this trip was the food & wine. Therefore, I managed to schedule four meals per day. There is too much good food to only have three meals (especially since I had a limited amount of time).

I started my day with an espresso and pastry at a local boulangerie... and just sat there until the city came to life... blending in with the crowd. After a few hours of wandering around, it was time for lunch... and I looked for a cafe with a view. My lunches generally consisted of a 3 course meal + a carafe of wine. After lunch, I wandered around for a few more hours until I got thirsty. Depending on the time, I might have dinner #1 (small 1 course meal) while enjoying a glass of wine... or grab some cheese and a bottle... and find a spot with a view. This was usually around 6PM. After dinner #1, I made my way to the Seine to watch the sunset (usually on one of the bridges... each with a different perspective of the city). During summer months, the sun doesn't go down until around 10PM. It makes for some long days. After sunset, I searched out a restaurant for a proper 3 course meal + carafe of wine. My favorite area for dinner was Saint-Germain-des-Prés. It's relatively easy to get a seat if the weather is nice (because of all the outdoor seating)... but it can be difficult if the weather is bad and you don't speak French. I would recommend making a reservation if you think the weather might be bad (if possible, it is helpful to have a french person call to make the reservation that speaks french). Everything is open very late in Paris. Most of my dinners started around 11PM.

These are a few pictures I took of the cafes while wandering around. Keep in mind that the night photos were taken after a day of drinking wine... kind of surprised that some came out decently.

"To Err is Human... To Loaf is Parisian"

Sometimes the best thing to do on a summer afternoon is nothing... these are a few photos I took while "loafing" around in Paris.

Paris "Love Locks"... an affront to love?

"Love locks" are a custom by which padlocks are attached to a public fixture by "sweethearts"... and then locked to forever seal their love. In Paris, Pont des Arts bridge and Pont de l'Archevêché bridge are filled with them. Couples traveling from all over the world will buy a padlock, write down their initials, lock it to a bridge, and then throw the key into the Seine river. The Pont des Arts is for your committed love, while Pont de l'Archevêché is for your lover (which is why the Pont de l'Archevêché has more locks attached).

The act of locking away your love does seem like a romantic gesture... and to do this with your lover in the most romantic city in the world might seem like a good idea. However, the Parisians aren't so happy with it. Not only is it ruining the architectural integrity of the Parisian landscape... but according to the locals, we're missing the whole point of what love truly means. Here is a quote I found when trying to figure out why there were locks on the bridges: "At the heart of love à la française lies the idea of freedom. To love truly is to want the other free, and this includes the freedom to walk away. Love is not about possession or property. Love is no prison where two people are each other’s slaves. Love is not a commodity, either. Love is not capitalist, it is revolutionary. If anything, true love shows you the way to selflessness."

If you happen to be visiting Paris with your significant other and were thinking about buying one of those padlocks, I would think twice about what your motives really are.

The Nymphs of the Seine

Photo shot from on top of my favorite (and most extravagant) bridge in Paris: Pont Alexandre III... taking in the same view that the Nymphs of the Seine have had for the last 100+ years. 

Le Tour De Eiffel

No trip to Paris is complete until you make one visit to the Eiffel Tower. I've never actually been to the top of it (lines are always too long), but it makes for a remarkable backdrop to any photo. The Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in Paris and can be seen from most parts of the city. It was under construction when I visited (building a new elevator system in the middle of it)... kind of interested to see what it looks like when they are finished. 

Recommend getting a nice viewing area of the Eiffel Tower as the sun goes down... puts on a nice light show.

A Carnival in the Park

As I was walking along the Seine, I noticed a big ferris wheel in the Tuileries Garden. Normally, I think that carnivals are cheesy (try to avoid them at all costs). However, for some reason, a carnival in Paris seemed fitting... and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. I decided to take a walk over and have a look. After buying some cotton candy, I took a few photos.