"It's not that great, compared to the rest of the country," they say. "Visit anywhere but Paris," they advise.
Unfortunately, I haven't had the pleasure of exploring the rest of France. But I have been to Paris twice, and I'll admit, I kind of hate that the City of Love gets a bad rap. Because I, for one, love Paris. I love its sidewalk cafés, crowded corners, maze-like graveyards (okay, graveyard: Père Lachaise is my happy place), and rows upon rows of high-end shops. I love that I can eat chocolate croissants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner without feeling the least bit guilty—after all, the French don't get fat eating this stuff—and pretend to be Amelie as I engage in the very therapeutic act of people-watching.
Paris was the last official stop on our Contiki tour, and I'm grateful to have been able to see a side of the city I hadn't before. While the Eiffel Tower is beautiful, and worth climbing (especially when it's all lit up), there are much better things to do while visiting the most romantic city in the world.
Like, for example, sampling floral fragrances at the Fragonard Parfumerie à la wealthy Parisian housewives. Or sitting down to a cheesy croque-monsieur and a glass of wine at the nearest available bistro because your feet ache from walking. Or, if you're a romantic soul, touring the 19th-century opera house that inspired Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel (and eventually Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical), The Phantom of the Opera.
(But seriously, how hauntingly mesmerizing is the Palais Garnier? I was in Heaven just walking through it!)
But if you really want to experience the magic of Paris, channel your inner Satine and attend a dinner and show at the infamous Moulin Rouge. This was the final group activity on our 21-day tour through Europe—our grand finale, if you will—and it definitely did not disappoint. Apparently, I love cabaret! Who would've thought? Sadly, photographs were not allowed inside the theater, but believe me when I say: It was hands down one of the coolest experiences of my life, and the perfect note on which to end our wild jaunt through Europe.