Want to gaze on those famous paintings and sculptures you’ve only seen in textbooks? Go to Paris. Want to try those beautiful pastries you’ve drooled over on Instagram? Go to Paris. Want to explore the city you’ve only toured movies? Go to Paris.
Paris is an unusual city because odds are it’s a place you will almost certainly experience second hand before experiencing it first hand. Before our trip everything I knew about Paris was someone else’s interpretation. I’d visited through music videos, songs, books and even Disney movies, but never through myself.
Then I visited in real life and thought oh…I get it now. It suddenly becomes clear what all those writers, directors, and photographers were seeing and although they each had a unique take it’s there. The romance, the luxury, the enjoyment of finer things – it’s all there.
We are still pretty new to the whole traveling dealio so while I know our flights were much cheaper because we visited in the off season I don’t know if we got a good deal or an okay deal. We flew through American Airlines and planned for 7 days on the ground in Paris.
Psst. That’s us leaving Chicago headed to France. It was dark when we arrived in Paris!
My own flat in a charming Parisian neighborhood? Am I dreaming?! We adored this Airbnb and the host, Carol was so sweet and accommodating. If you are traveling from the USA like us then remember housing in Europe is more petite than what you might expect back home. The two of us had plenty of room though and with bakeries, flower stalls, and cafes just around the corner we felt so spoiled.
Welcome to walkable streets! Paris is an extremely public transportation friendly city (love it!!!) so we used the Metro or our own 2 feet to take us everywhere. Which was a great way to burn off all the rich food we were stuffing ourselves with. :)
WHAT WE SAW:
I was first introduced to Notre Dame through Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame and I always found the way the artists portrayed the cathedral tremendously inspiring; like a character all in herself. Then I saw her in real life and instantly got it.
You walk inside and it feels like another world. I don’t think I’d ever been in another building with such a high ceiling! It is HUGE. The stained glass is beautiful and we were surrounded by candlelight and the sound of people quietly praying. We even attended a mass there with a choir. It was a magical.
Okay, I’ll be honest. The day we visited was a little overwhelming for me so I probably won’t be able to give you the best description.
Here’s the story: That day we planned on going to the Louvre so we grabbed some breakfast, took the Met, turned the corner and………..! Suddenly I am face to face with the Eiffel tower peeking out of the fog and the Louvre’s sparkling glass pyramid. Guys, I lost it. I sat down on a bench and cried. I cannot explain how overwhelming it was to see with my own eyes these two beautiful buildings which represented centuries of European culture and art. On top of that I had wave after wave of intense gratitude because I could not believe I was lucky enough to see both in my life time. Poor Andrew sat on the bench beside me and very sweetly handed me tissues.
After awhile I collected myself and we headed into the Louvre. Once inside it was very crowded and very loud which added to the dissonance. Plus I was surrounded by rooms loaded with ancient treasures. Let’s just say I was in complete sensory and emotional overload. It felt like I was walking around in a dream world and to be honest I don’t remember much of it. Still loved every minute though. :)
PALACE OF VERSAILLES
The amount of detail and ornateness on every single surface in this fairy tale palace was incredible! The more I looked the more carvings, gold plating, and sculptures I saw. It was wildly different than what I’m used to back in the Midwest. Our favorite spots were Marie Antoinette’s bedroom (with lovely garden views) and of course the Hall of Mirrors.
We were told the gardens and fountains are mind blowing in the summer but even in the winter I thought they were stunning. It was a welcome break from all the decadence and opulence inside.
We were pretty wiped after touring the palace and grounds (2,014 acres) but luckily there was about an hour long train ride to get back to Paris. Perfect for a nap!
LOVE LOCK BRIDGE
First off I think this is the cutest and most romantic tradition ever! I’m SO glad we were able to visit the bridge before it was removed by the city. (Apparently the weight of all the locks was actually damaging the structural soundness of the bridge. Crazy, right?)
Everyone keeps asking me if we hung our own lock but we definitely wanted to be respectful visitors so I opted for a cute photo instead!
Other favorites included Oscar Wilde’s Grave, the Moulin Rouge, Sewer Museum, Paris Opera House, Arc De Triomphe, Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb, and the Eiffel Tower of course!
WHAT WE ATE:
Everything. And it was amazing. It’s kind of a delightful feeling to come back from a new city and not be able to to recommend one place because every meal/snack/treat was SO incredibly amazing.
I will say something that surprised me was how even tiny neighborhoods had bakeries with rows of decorated pastries that looked fancy enough to serve at a royal banquet or ritzy wedding. But no, they were just hanging out ready to go along with your morning coffee. I felt like a queen at every breakfast!
SO WHAT DID WE LEARN?
Sadly, while we visited the Charlie Hebo attacks happened, actually in the same neighborhood we were staying in.
It was the most surreal experience to watch the city snap from normal to grieving within 24 hours. The next morning Paris was clothed head to toe in #jesuischarlie (“I am Charlie”) hashtags as the Parisians bravely unified against terrorism. I don’t speak french but as I walked through the streets I listened to the entire city discuss it in hushed tones.
After experiencing the Parisians courage first hand we now feel very frustrated when hearing jokes about the French being cowardly. Visiting Paris taught us to be much much more skeptical when it comes to stereotypes about other countries and for that I am so grateful.
We love you, Paris!