Hello friends! I hope you all enjoyed the last few weeks of summer! Personally, I am super excited for fall! I can’t wait throw on some cozy sweaters, go apple picking, and eat lots of pumpkin flavored things! In other news, I just turned 30! And celebrated this milestone in the most spectacular fashion I could think of… A trip to a city I’ve dreamed of visiting for as long as I can remember! For the last couple of years, this has been my secret to aging gracefully..I plan a vacation around my birthday. Therefore, instead of bumming myself out about getting older, I just get excited about my upcoming vacation! You can read about last year’s trip to Iceland here, here, and here!
I couldn’t think of a city better than Paris in which to ring in the big 3-0! It’s just so..iconic! I’ve yearned to visit this magical place forever, and my obsession has only continued to grow over the last couple of months (as in, I’ve been watching Midnight in Paris, Amelie, Funny Face, and the last two episodes of Sex & The City basically on repeat).
And it certainly did not disappoint! I’ll be spreading out the details over a couple of posts. You know, so as not to overwhelm you with all of the amazingness of it all!
Here are a few highlights to start! I’ve also included some resources at the end of the post that I found particularly helpful throughout my (extensive) planning.
It goes without saying this is one stunning city. We stayed in an apartment in Le Marais, which was around the corner from the beautiful and serene Place des Vosges. Strolling through this adorable square, I had the chance to observe a little sliver of the Parisian lifestyle I’ve heard so much about – laying on the grass with a nice book, or enjoying a bottle of wine with friends. Not something you come across often in Massachusetts, I’ll tell you. Possibly because drinking wine in public is
frowned upon illegal, but still! It made me realize that I need to make more of an effort to seek out time for the things I enjoy more regularly.
The weather was (surprisingly) great throughout our trip! One day was somewhat cloudy.. but zero rain. And although I really shouldn’t be complaining, I was kind of hoping to see Paris in the rain at least once. But beautiful, sunny weather makes for lovely strolls along the Seine.
On our first day, we inadvertently covered most of central Paris on foot. I absolutely love the architecture throughout the city. Particularly, the apartment buildings with the Parisian roofs and wrought iron balconies..
The amount of detail is simply astonishing! Just imagine how long it must have taken to build this masterpiece!
This is actually Hotel De Ville (which seems to be similar to a city hall) and according to Wikipedia, the reconstruction took 19 years.
And I literally couldn’t get enough of the winding cobblestone streets and charming alleyways throughout the city. I got lost for hours and didn’t mind it for a second (until the throbbing foot pain set in..). I particularly enjoyed those around Le Marais and the Latin Quartier.
Although I can totally understand why this is the most visited city in the world, the amount of tourists we saw at some of the major attractions was like nothing I had ever seen before. While this may have caused us to avoid some of the so-called ‘must see’ sights of the city, one simply cannot come to Paris and not see the Eiffel tower! And it didn’t matter how many times I saw it..every time I caught a glimpse of this monumental landmark, I couldn’t help but squeal. If you plan to visit yourself and would like to go up the tower, make sure to buy your tickets in advance. Trust me on this one…unless of course you have a desire to spend 2-3 hours in line with mobs of other tourists. With tickets, we waited about 15 minutes. If you have your heart set on going to the summit, I would suggest booking well in advance. The summit tickets were sold out when I was booking a week ahead of the trip, plus I heard that the view was better from the second level (since you are close enough to be able to identify the monuments) so I didn’t sweat it much.
On our final night in the city, we grabbed a bottle of wine and some snacks, and set up on a bench in front of the tower to watch it sparkle! It’s an experience that I know I’ll never forget. To say it was breathtaking would be an understatement.
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s kind of hard to take a bad picture of this place…
Since this is such a heavily visited city, there is a significant amount of information out there on everything from finding the perfect croissant to the best picnic spots around Paris. And truthfully, the amount of information available was a bit overwhelming at times. Included below are a few of my favorite sources as a first time visitor to the city of light! Feel free to share any tips you may have as this certainly won’t be my last visit to this magical place!
Guidebooks: Rick Steves’ Paris 2014 was my favorite of the 4 guidebooks purchased for this trip. Packed full of basically everything you need to know, Rick did not disappoint us once! Tips on everything from avoiding the crowds, to self guided walks, to daytrips from Paris were all very detailed! A close second was the DK Eyewitness Paris Guide, which was also full of useful information plus great visuals!
Language: If you are planning to visit Paris, I highly recommend trying to pick up a bit of French before you go. Although many people speak English, we noticed an astronomical difference in the way we were treated following my pathetic attempts to
butcher the language speak French to the treatment of others who made zero attempt. I would at least make an effort to learn the basics! I used a combination the Coffee Break French podcast and the Duolingo iPhone app. The podcast is great for multitasking (It kept me entertained in traffic AND during laundry!), and the app is great for visual learners (also works offline, so you can keep yourself occupied on the plane!)
Navigation: We got lost A LOT. That is, until we discovered the ‘save map for offline use’ option on the Google maps app. I have no idea how it does it, but it knew where we were despite the fact that I had neither cellular data or wifi. Also, this Paris Metro app was a total life saver! It allows you to plan your route and works offline. Win!
Blogs: There are a staggering amount of amazing blogs out there devoted to the city of Paris! A couple of my favorites – Paris in Four Months is packed with absolutely stunning photography. Even if you have no plans to travel to Paris, I bet you change your mind after these pictures! Pret a Voyager has a wealth of practical info, city guides, and some adorable illustrated French lessons! Paris by Mouth has everything you need to successfully navigate the Parisian food scene, including dining guides by neighborhood and other useful lists (such as restaurants that can be reserved online, and those open on Sunday). David Lebovitz was also a favorite for everything food related. The recommendations are always spot on (especially the one regarding the Bastille market – a must do on Sunday morning!).
As mentioned, I’ll be spreading the details of our trip out over a couple of posts. Stay tuned to see more of our adventure!
Fun fact! l’usine means the factory in French. True story.