Paris

This was the city around which the entire trip was planned, and it was everything we thought it would be: overwhelmingly spectacular in art and architecture, frustratingly self-assured, filled with layer upon layer of complex design and history. It has the world’s best food, some of the most famous art, and governmental entities that raise bureaucracy to an art form.

Using only an older iPad for a camera, and hampered by grey, overcast spring weather, these pictures do not do the city justice, and it is impossible to capture the spirit of the city in 10 pictures anyway. While these scenes will show the major landmarks of Paris, they do not capture the smell of fresh bread as you walk down the street each morning, nor the joy of sitting in an outside cafe across the street from Notre Dame watching the city come to life, nor the beauty of Luxembourg Gardens.

No, Paris isn’t in these pictures. It is in the smile of Alex, our repeat waiter who patiently tried to teach us some French and convinced Ellen that steak tartar was a great idea. For the uninitiated, this involves raw hamburger and raw egg. She bravely ate it and decided it was good, but will not order it again.

It is in the charm of Roberto, a fellow tourist and Mexican engineer with whom we shared two hours of conversation waiting in line, in the rain, to see the priceless art of the Louvre. It is in the anniversary dinner on the Eiffel Tower, which lasted four and a half delightful hours. Amazingly, everyone involved thought this was perfectly normal and expected.

It is hotels with wrought iron balconies, nutella croissants, streets where nothing is at right angles, hidden courtyards, open air markets, pay toilets down narrow stairwells, efficient trains, and strong coffee that likely won’t be what you thought you ordered. And when you digest all of those experiences, you find a whole other layer, like the Asian-French fusion restaurant five doors down from our hotel that offered the best food of the trip. But we didn’t discover it until the last day.

Yes, we have barely scratched the surface of this fascinating city. That is why we are anxious to go back.

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