Paris, the city of love. Known for the Eiffel Tower, the museums, the history, the architecture, the culture, the fashion, the food… the list is endless. When I finally realised that my biggest dream of all, to travel all seven continents by twenty-five, was about to become a reality I knew that Paris had to be the first stop. It needed to be somewhere iconic, somewhere beautiful, somewhere that screams “YOU’RE IN EUROPE, BABY!!!
When the plane landed and I felt the tires touchdown on the tarmac a small burst of excitement started to bubble within me, which slowly intensified as I traveled on the train, then the bus, then walked to our accommodation until it erupted inside me when I finally rounded the corner (from my extremely well positioned ‘air bnb‘ apartment, i’ll have you know) and saw that famous tower for the first time.
I don’t think any words can describe the intense feeling of joy I felt in that very moment, unlike anything I’ve felt before. For as long as I can remember the only thing I wanted to do in life was to travel. For the last six years I have sacrificed every thing in my life to achieve this goal and to finally have made it, to have finally reached a goal i’ve dreamt of my entire life, was so incredibly overwhelming. I just stood there and cried, I cried happy tears, I cried sad tears, I cried tears of relief, tears of shock, tears of wonder, tears of pride, tears of gratitude and tears of utter joy. That one moment made all the sacrifices and hardships totally and completely worth it.
Everything they say about Paris is true. It’s so magical and beautiful, even when you get grey, rainy days like I did (though the unexpected cold spell wasn’t so awesome as we had just come from a steaming hot Asia with no winter clothes in tow). My boyfriend, Andy, had been to Paris a few years beforehand and had not overly enjoyed it, so I was a little worried but luckily he had a totally different experience and saw it in a completely different light on our trip. Maybe it’s because he was older, maybe it’s because he was with me or maybe it’s because Paris is not the type of place to go with a group of your guy friends….
We explored the sites and beauty of Paris in the space of four days. Whilst I certainly wouldn’t recommend less I wouldn’t say no to having two more days to wander those picturesque streets.
In most part we walked everywhere in Paris, not only is it (in my opinion) the best way to see anywhere you travel, but it’s also cheaper than transport and healthier for your body and mind. Unfortunately I do often suffer from insane blisters on my feet that pretty much make me cripple so I totally understand that sometimes walking is just not an option for some. Luckily Paris also has a pretty awesome tube system that is easy to understand and get around in.
Some of my Paris highlights and tips:
RISE & SHINE
If you want to get the iconic photo with the Eiffel Tower without thousands of strangers posing behind you in your shot be sure to wake up early and avoid the crowds. Not only will your photo turn out so much better, it’s also such a beautiful thing to not only feel like you have the whole place to yourself but to also watch a city wake up in all its beautiful morning glory.
First We Eat, Then We Do Everything Else.
Eat, eat, eat and eat. One of the best parts of traveling anywhere in the world is trying local cuisines, in Paris that’s made even easier. You don’t have to eat at fancy fine dining restaurants if you’re traveling on a budget like I do, though if you get a chance Paris is probably the place to splurge. Even the small, cheaper cafes and bakeries serve some of the most delicious foods! Breakfast isn’t just a necessity, it’s an experience. Enjoy every mouthful slowly and indulgently.
“A French portion is half of an American portion, and a French meal takes twice as long to eat. You do the math.”
― Elizabeth Bard, Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes.
Whilst we are on the topic of food, don’t you dare even think about leaving Paris without lining up at Laduree for what are without a doubt the most divine macaroons in the world.
Oh and be sure to try the gelato at Berthillion on Ile Saint Louis, one of the two natural islands in the Seine River. It is so delicious! But be careful you go to the right one, the store gets so popular all the gelato stores on the island apparently decided to give themselves the same name. Follow the link above for more info. Yum!
NOTRE DAME DE PARIS
The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. Again, like almost everywhere in Paris/Europe the saying ‘the early bird catches the worm’ rings true again. Crowds here can be crazy, so be sure to get there early so you don’t have to wait in line for hours.
PONT DES ARTS aka THE LOVE LOCK BRIDGE
In 2008 tourists started to attach padlocks, typically with their sweethearts’ names or initials inscribed, to the bridge. The key is then thrown away to symbolise the couples unbreakable love. Close to a million padlocks have since been attached… that’s a whole lotta loving. Whilst many tourists bring unique and personal padlocks from home for this tradition there are some vendors selling padlocks with permanent markers to inscribe for those of us who just didn’t get that organised. It’s not only terribly romantic but it’s also a beautiful little part of Paris. Fun fact: In 1991, UNESCO listed the entire Parisian riverfront, from the Eiffel Tower to the end of the Ile Saint Louis, as a World Heritage Site. Therefore the Pont des Arts is now a part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. I don’t know about you but I want to tick off as many of those off the list as I can, so just another excuse to get to Paris and the infamous bridge, I say!
MUSEE DU LOUVRE aka THE LOUVRE MUSEUM
The Louvre is one of the worlds largest museums and a historic monument. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Phillip II. Remnants of the fortress are visible in the basement of the museum to this day. Nearly 35,000 objects from pre-history to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres (652k square feet). The Louvre is the worlds most visited museum, and received more than nine million visitors in 2014.
Again, get there at the crack of dawn. I’ve never seen so many people lining up in my life, I’m so glad I only had to wait twenty minutes as opposed to five hours.
Also, among the incredible pieces the Louvre house is the infamous Mona Lisa. If you get in early make sure it’s your first priority, the crowds are insane!
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
The Arc de Triomphe stands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, also known as the “Place de l’Étoile”. It’s located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The arches whole decorative style is entirely of the tradition of sculpture from the first half of the nineteenth century.
The triumphal arch is in honor of those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. Engraved on the inside and at the top of the arch are all of the names of the generals and wars fought. There are inscriptions in the ground underneath the vault of the arch which include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I where the Memorial Flame burns and have made the Arc de Triomphe Paris a revered patriotic site. It is 50 metres high and 45 metres wide. These days it’s also used as an extremely busy roundabout, reportedly with a car accident occurring every twenty minutes. Yikes!