Paris was my first excursion out of the UK, and coincidentally it is the city I have dreamed of visiting for as long as I can remember. For years my birthdays have been filled with Paris-themed gifts, and my French classes throughout high school were always the highlight of my day (maybe because of the frequent crepe days…)
The trip was booked through CAPA, my school in London, so the itinerary was mostly planned out for us. We arrived by train and took a nauseating bus ride to the hotel, and the rest of the trip can be broken down into:
Dates: Friday, February 5 – Sunday February 7
In 5 words or less: Seriously touristy but seriously beautiful
Things I loved:
- Our bike tour. I will forever be the biggest advocate of bike tours after this experience, as I have rarely had as much fun as I did biking in freezing weather through busy city streets in these three hours. Please. Do a bike tour in every city.
- Meeting our new buddy Samson on the bike tour. Sadly, no one else will ever be able to share in my exact experience of meeting the perfect human being that is Samson, but hopefully you can find someone that is at least half as wonderful as this charming hospitality major from Pennsylvania. He was the best lunch companion and Eiffel Tower photographer we could have asked for.
- Le Louvre at night. The outside is strikingly gorgeous at night, and you can’t argue with free student entry on Friday nights to this mind-bogglingly expansive museum.
- Climbing La Tour Eiffel. My Fitbit has caused me to become a slave to stairs, and for once in my life I was thrilled about it. The view from the first platform did not even come close to preparing me for this view from the second platform. Warning: selfie sticks run rampant on this trek. So do girls whose cameras accidentally swing out while walking up the stairs and hit little children in the head (definitely not speaking from experience or guilt from making a four year old cry.)
- Macaroons from Ladurée. I don’t even want to tell you how much I paid for these macaroons, but they were worth every unnecessary Euro. They were so good I ate every single one before I could even get my camera out to take a cliché macaroons-in-Paris shot. Now, you might be walking the streets of Paris and see a patisserie and think “hm, those macaroons look like the real deal.” No. Your mind is playing tricks on you. Ladurée is the realest of deals, and if you opt for a plain old macaroon in a random storefront…well you just made the worst decision of your 2 day Parisian life. I’m really serious about desserts. Seriously. Go there.
- Montmartre. If you’re looking for the picturesque, Epcot version of Paris, go to Montmartre. It’s situated at the top of a huge hill right around the base of Sacre-Coeur and is filled with tiny cobblestone streets lined with quaint shops, artists painting portraits, accordion players and endless crêperies. Don’t get me wrong–this is an extremely touristy part of town. But it’s so adorable I didn’t care, so back off, Euro-backpacker-too-cool-for-tourist-attraction haters.
- Attending [part of] a service in Notre Dame. Holy beautiful. Notre Dame is incredible in so many ways, but the ten minutes of the all-French service we sat in on was enough to get the vibe that this church is, for lack of a better word, dope. On second thought, there are probably 1,000 better words to describe this church, but I’m pretty content with that one.
Things I would pass on:
- Our walking tour. But this was 99% because of our guide. The enthusiasm you would expect out of a tour guide living in one of the most beautiful cities in the world was sufficiently lacking. And he’d never seen Les Mis which was just….??? Paris is a huge city, so the bike tour was much better anyway.
- Any restaurant that looks like a tourist would even slightly consider going there. All restaurants geared toward tourists were pretty gross. Sadly, my food experience in Paris was disappointing, but it was mostly my fault. Take the time to seek out a good restaurant, specifically one at which you’re not frightened to eat the escargot.
- The hotel we stayed in. It was nice, but it was in the 17th Arrondissement, which is pretty far outside of city center. Now that I’ve stayed in a variety of accommodations throughout Europe, I would always suggest staying as close to the action as possible, even if it means staying in a less-than-glamorous hostel. It makes everything easier, albeit less sanitary.
- Trying to force nightlife. We were exhausted but determined to experience Parisian nightlife which was…anticlimactic. Sometimes you just gotta feel lame and go to bed in order to survive the next day.
- “Shopping” on l’Avenue des Champs-Elysées. I will never understand the concept of vacationing to go shopping, and this skepticism was alive and well in Paris. l’Arc de Triomphe, which is at the top of Champs-Elysées was great to see, but I find little fun in parading up and down a street that you have no intention of buying anything from. However, this is were Ladurée is located, so I can’t completely knock it.
If I had one more day, I would have:
- Moved slower. Paris deserves time to be thoroughly enjoyed when you’re not rushing from monument to monument. I would have loved to have a baguette and glass of wine on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, or to have a second and third cup of coffee at a few cafés.
- Gone to the top of l’Arc de Triomphe. I’m a sucker for a panoramic view.
- Seen the Eiffel Tower at night.
- Done more research about cool places off the beaten path.
- Spent more time in Le Louvre.
- Gone on like, 7 more bike tours. I’m seriously so into these things.
Luckily, I’ll be returning to Paris in May with my mom. I can’t wait to experience the city in a returning visitor’s light and see new things. Because as every Pinterest travel board says, Paris is always a good idea.