Long post alert! Much verbiage and pictureage ahead!
Audrey Hepburn knew what she was talking about. Mom and I originally had planned for our trip to just be to the south of France, but then decided since we'd be "in the neighborhood," we really needed to see Paris. No brainer, right? And so we ended up having about 3½ days in the city, broken up with the south in the middle. (If you missed my post about the south of France, click here!)
^ First picture I took in Paris! ^
I wasn't exactly sure what to expect. I was in Europe for the first time, and in Paris no less, supposedly the most romantic place on earth. I tend to be really excited but try to keep my expectations low, because I know things are never as perfect as they appear in pictures, and people tend to rave about things to the extreme. I had high hopes of thoroughly enjoying the city, but I had heard mixed reviews. You know the line. "Paris is overrated." I had been told it was dirty. You hear all the time that the French people are snooty and unfriendly to Americans. In spite of such glowing reports, I knew I needed to experience it for myself in order to form my own opinion. ;-)
And.... I loved it! We had amazing weather our whole trip long (so I did miss out on taking Sabrina Fairchild's advice of getting some "real, honest to goodness rain" on my first day in Paris. Ah, well. C'est la vie). I remember driving to our hotel the morning we landed with my face practically glued to the window and thinking, It really looks like that!! My heart can't handle all the darling shutters and iron gratings with flower boxes on them! (Seriously. A very favorite element of Paris, that). I love that basically all of the architecture is white or light colored, so the entire city is incredibly reflective (so many reasons the nickname City of Light is appropriate!). I enjoyed how much slower paced everything seemed to be. It definitely still felt like a big city but in a way very distinct from Chicago or New York. People didn't seem to be rushing about in a mad hurry; the traffic was horrendous but nobody seemed very perturbed by the fact; you do get the feeling that people stop and savor life a little more than we're used to.
Of course, you could make the argument that maybe there's a little more to savor over there, but that's another topic. ;-)
One of the best parts was how often you would see a woman walk by with a big tote bag and a baguette sticking out the back, or a business man in a suit carrying a briefcase, but with a baguette tucked under his arm. This city has it figured out, folks.
I mentioned before that I'm not a super touristy person; it doesn't thrill me to pack as much as possible into each day and just rush from landmark to landmark. But when you're in Paris for the first time, of course you want to see a few of the main attractions. I felt we had a nice balance of touristy-ness and just wandering around-ness. We checked into our darling little boutique hotel, with an elevator (pardon, I mean lift) that was so tiny we weren't sure the two of us and our two carry-on suitcases would fit. (We did. Barely.) Henri, the concierge, did his best to turn us into full fledged tourists. :-) We still did our own thing, but he was very helpful with his knowledge of how to get around, and his lunch recommendation was delectable, and two doors down.
Salmon pie (swimming in some kind of creamy heaven) and creme brûlée! To die for!
Our street! :-D
The first day we pretty much just walked around and got our bearings. Our hotel was in a very ideal location, pretty much right between the Louvre and Notre Dame.
I especially loved walking along the river.
Biggest meringues I have ever seen in my LIFE.
And biggest palmiers.
Since we'd had a fancy lunch we decided to just get sandwiches from a street vendor for dinner, and eat them by the river. SO GOOD. I'm all about fancy French food, but I have to say that was one of my favorite meals.
We ended the night at a cafe across from Notre Dame, eating a sinfully delicious Nutella tiramisu, and listening to an old man play the accordion while the city lit up.
I know. It's real, people.
I got such a thrill out of our window!
Part of breakfast (admittedly it had nothing on the breakfast in the
, but we didn't know that yet. ;-)
The second day we decided to actually go to the Louvre and go in. Alas, it was closed because the workers were on strike. (Our original flight in was cancelled due to a strike as well - apparently Paris is the city of strikes. They schedule them. Which is convenient, because you can at least look up when the next one will be and be prepared. The next one was scheduled for the day we were supposed to come home - ha! Thankfully they cancelled it.)
So we decided to go into Notre Dame instead! Which is free, and the line looked long but moved quickly.
Pretty awe inspiring to think of the amount of work and engineering that goes into a structure like this.
Had to go back for a giant palmier. Because I was in France.
And you just should eat a giant pastry when you're in France.
We took a baguette to the Luxembourg Gardens for lunch.
And had French onion soup (or, I guess it's just onion soup there ;-) for dinner at a cafe where the old gentleman waiter (who reminded me of my great uncle) didn't speak a word of English, but we managed to get what we wanted.
We knew we were coming back to Paris after our southern leg of the trip, so if you can believe it, we didn't see the Eiffel Tower during our first stay. We stayed in a different hotel practically at its base for last part of the trip, and I will say, I recommend finding a cute little hotel instead of staying at a big, more mainstream one. It was fine, but it wasn't the same adorable experience we had in the first hotel.
There it is! It was pretty surreal to be looking at it as large as life!
Unfortunately at that point my feet were absolutely killing me, so we didn't really get to see much of it... next time!
America needs to up their signage game.
We splurged big time and took a ritzy dinner cruise on the Seine! SO much fun. We got all dressed up and had a fancy 4 course meal while floating down the river as the sun set. It was delicious and such a lovely experience. It was neat to watch the bridges light up and float under them.
The boat was window-enclosed, so unfortunately most of the pictures I took of the scenery have window glare or reflections, but that's ok. It's all about the memory, really.
That brings me to our last day! I have loved a certain vintage Hallmark card for years and wanted to recreate the outfit, and it struck me that it would be a darling outfit to wear in Paris. So the incomparable Lily whipped it up for me (I'm telling you, this is the best gig in the world!) and I promised her I'd get photos of it in front of the Eiffel Tower. (You can read her post about it
We took a VESPA TAXI!
If you know me well, you know I have a thing for vespas (I blame Roman Holiday). Well, these little two seater jobs were just too cute. They were a bit overpriced, but our feet were beyond sore, and you're only in Paris for the first time once, so we just went for it!
We took the vespa from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, because we decided to see if the strike was over and we could go in, and it was!
We didn't have a ton of time, and I'm far from being an art aficionado, so we decided the Napoleon apartments looked like fun. WOW. Sumptuous, luxurious, and lavish to the extreme.
Wouldn't mind a staircase like this in my house.
That chandelier was probably the size of my bedroom.
Two favorite nooks. :-)
After that we wandered a little until it was time to go. We figured we were there so we
should see the Mona Lisa, just because.
Loved this incredible portrait gallery! Not so much for the portraits as for the GOLD.
There. I saw it.
And I still don't like it.
I found this darling tea room called Angelina online before we left. Later I found out that apparently it's famous and a popular tourist destination. A favorite haunt of Audrey Hepburn's, I think, and known for their hot chocolate.
The other end of the Champs-Élysées
(Still on the bucket list - ride a bicycle in Paris).
We debated what time we should actually go up the Eiffel Tower. I knew I didn't want bright midday sun for taking pictures, so we decided we'd risk long lines and wait until later. We got there later than we intended, but the timing worked out perfectly. We were up at the top for the sunset.
I know so many tourist tips tell you not to bother with actually going up the Eiffel Tower, and I would agree it's probably not for everyone. But this is one of my favorite memories of the trip. It was a very warm day and we were overheated from walking around all day, but up at the top with the sun going down it turned perfectly cool and breezy. There were a lot of people up there at first, but then it cleared out a little and we got a spot at the edge, and just stood there quietly, arms resting on the railing, watching the sunset deepen into darkness, and all the lights of Paris come on. Magical.
Macarons at Laduree were on my to-do list, but that was on the
Champs-Élysées and we didn't make
it there. Thankfully they are in the airport, so we still got some and were able to bring some home to share. :-)
I think the Marie Antoinette Tea flavor was my favorite.
I still look at these pictures and think, "I took that! I was there!" It was such a wonderful, delightful experience and I can't wait to go back. :-D Thanks for following along with my travels! Au revoir until next time!