I think it’s fair to say that Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and I’ve only seen it in the winter! Every city has its own character, and Paris is unique in its beautiful architecture, roadside bistros and cafes, the flower shops in most plazas, and way the city seems to glow at night. This beauty, combined with the historical and cultural significance of the city and nearly all of its landmarks, draws thousands of people to the city, creating a unique mix of cultures and languages, as locals, tourists, travelers, and visitors share the city. It also creates lines and queues, everywhere in the city, reminiscent of your favorite amusement park.

We were aware that the Louvre fills up quickly, so we had planned to get there early and beat the crowds. Unfortunately we overslept and everyone beat us to the line. We decided to save the museum for another day and instead went to Notre Dame, the famous cathedral of Paris. Notre Dame is enormous and entrance is free, so there should be plenty of room inside and no ticket window to create a traffic jam, and yet there was still an enormous line extending from the beautiful facade of the cathedral. The line seemed to be moving at a good pace, however, so we queued up and made our way into the cathedral.

I’ve been to Notre Dame three times and it never fails to impress me. The grandeur and immensity of the building is simply awe inspiring. The height of the interior and the beauty of the two enormous stained glass windows, as well as the numerous chapels that line the cathedral, is simply astounding. There are pews lined up for worship and for silent prayer, where we sat for a few minutes enjoying the voices of the choir as they echoed off the walls. Walking around the cathedral, one sees lots of visitors taking pictures and admiring the beautiful architecture and enormity of the building, but also people praying, lighting candles and kneeling before a chapel in prayer. The beauty of Notre Dame is that it serves as a religious experience for some and a breath-taking secular experience for others. It is a place that combines the spiritual realms of life and religion while allowing people from all walks of life to appreciate its grandeur.

After Notre Dame we walked down the island to St. Chapelle, only to find another long line. After a cold, cloudy day of finding lines everywhere we went, we decided to save St. Chapelle for another day as well. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Concorde to see the famous ferris wheel and the Champs Élysées stretching out before us towards the Arc de Triomphe. We walked through the beautiful gardens next to the square which had a great view of the obelisk and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. I brought my parents to the Christmas Market and we walked along as before, enjoying the festive atmosphere and the sidewalks filled with people and drinking our vin chaude. After a delicious ham and cheese crepe we headed back to the hotel to rest before going to the Moulin Rouge.

We had a quick, but delicious dinner at Indiana Cafe, an American-style French restaurant. I had (can you guess?) a salad! Delicious, crunchy lettuce with tomatoes, tortilla pieces, juicy chicken, and a delicious balsamic dressing. But I digress. We took the metro to the stop near Moulin Rouge and entered yet another line after a brief coffee break at the Starbucks across the street. We eventually made our way into our tightly packed seats and found ourselves across from delightful fellow Americans from Florida. What a pleasant surprise to find people with whom we could talk before the show!For those who have seen the movie Moulin Rouge, a personal favorite of mine, the actual show is quite different. It’s more or less a dance show but with less clothing and a few acrobatic and talent acts like juggling and ventriloquism. All in all it’s definitely an experience worth seeing, but nothing that needs to be visited more than once or that shines in quality of dancing or singing. The most impressive acts are of the acrobatics and talents, leaving the audience on the edge of their seats as a performer balances his partner on one hand while lifting her with his arms alone, or a juggler simultaneous manages 7 pins. The ventriloquism was also quite impressive and definitely hilarious. The show was fun and a good night out for our second night in the city!