Ah, Paris! *spoken in a French accent* is the reaction that’s met me nearly every time I told someone I was going to Paris. Paris is the city of love and romance. A cultural center for art, fashion, croissants. I’ve always wanted to visit Paris but never really knew much about it beyond how dreamy I thought it to be.
When I went to Italy a few years ago I flew into Paris for a layover. It was my first time on land in Europe. We landed at CDG airport as the sun came up casting a green glow across sprawling fields of yellow flowers, that I later learned to be fields of rapeseed. I awoke from a long flight and whether it was the effects of the Advil PM, or the fact that I had listened to The Flaming Lips album The Terror on repeat for the past 8 hours, there was something magical about that sunrise.
Last summer was crazy busy with planning a wedding and though we really wanted to go to Europe, we knew that we would just want to relax after the wedding so we did a quick beach trip and saved Europe for this year. It just so happened that with some foresight and a lot of messing around on Kayak, we scored an amazing deal for a Euro trip over our first anniversary. Go us.
This summer ended up being just as busy as last summer, and maybe we didn’t do the planning that we should have but I think that ended up making the trip perfectly us. We had a flight to Paris and a flight out of Amsterdam and the rest would fall into place. I am not the type of person to pick up a Rick Steves travel book anyway, but it helps to know a little bit about what you’re doing. I’m thankful for friends and my boss who gave us some wonderful insider tips.
We probably did the most research on Paris and which neighborhood (arrondissement) we wanted to make our home for the few days we were there. I was leaning towards St-Germain-de-Pres but we ultimately decided to stay in Le Marais, and we couldn’t have been happier with our decision!
Our flat was right on a main street, Rue Vieille-du-Temple. We surrounded by lively bars, cafes, street vendors, local father & son butchers, gelato shops, boutiques that sold makeup, clothes and emitted a fragrant scent of perfume that I later came to realize fills all of the streets of Paris. We could walk anywhere and if we didn’t want to walk anymore the metro stop was a few blocks away.
We left Denver on Thursday morning and landed in Paris on Friday morning. Both o fus hungry, tired and jet-lagged we showered up (and Nespresso’d up) and got ready for the day. Running on zero real sleep in one of the dreamiest cities in the world, in the rain, we were in a haze.
There is SO much to see in Paris. We armed ourselves with a Museum Pass. Typically the type of tourists who thrive on seeing neighborhoods and immersing ourselves in city streets and the local scene, we knew we were going to be attraction tourists in Paris. You can’t truly experience Paris unless you immerse yourself in the amazing history and architecture that the city has to offer. We checked a few off of our list on this trip.
Picasso Museum – All Picasso, all day. The man had a tumultuous love life and they really tell the story and trace how the love of his life, Olga and all of his mistresses are expressed and evolve throughout his work.
Notre Dame – Meaning “Our lady of Paris” in French is the famed cathedral that I’ve learned is a perfect example of French Gothic architecture. The details both outside and inside are incredible and it’s hard to believe that something of such quality was made by hand. The plaza surrounding Notre Dame was swarming with people who take photos in front of the cathedral’s twin towers, and wait in line to go inside to view the equally breathtaking stained glass that adorns the interior, and to light prayer candles in this ancient holy place.
Pompidou – Home of the Museum of Modern Art. The Pompidou is a neat multi-level steel building with really great views as you move throughout the levels of the museum. From Impressionist to Abstract to Surrealist and everything in between, this museum houses some cool stuff. My favorite was the Herve Fisher exhibit. Definitely a new favorite artist.
The Louvre – We almost didn’t go to the Louvre but we had to, right? We saw the famed pyramid in the courtyard and skipped the line to get in (thanks, Museum Pass!)This place is massive and crowded. There are endless halls of quite amazing paintings. The old oil paintings that I saw both in Italy and now here have colors and details that rival modern 4K television. The Renaissance subject matter is very human – wars, beasts, sex, gluttony. We saw the Mona Lisa and we saw Venus. Neither piece lived up to their hype in my opinion but still very cool to see these pieces of history.
Arc de Triomphe – The Arc de Triomphe stands at roundabout on the Champs–Elysées, which is said by some to be the most beautiful avenue in the world. You have to go under the street to get inside. We figured that out after a few minutes of watching people play live frogger through a 12 intersection traffic circle. Once inside, we climbed a spiral staircase that seemed to go on forever – 284 steps of forever – and we were handsomely rewarded with an incredible view of the city from the top.
Eiffel Tower – We had one thing scheduled in each city and in Paris it was our Eiffel Tower tour. I planned it so that we would be in the Eiffel Tower on August 27 at 4pm (albeit local time), which is exactly one year from our wedding ceremony. The Eiffel Tower is the epitome of a tourist attraction. It feels like you’re going into an amusement park or waiting in line for a roller coaster the whole time you’re there. Being there in person is overwhelming. The cynic in me thought “It’s smaller than I thought it would be”, “I don’t feel any special mystique about it”, “So – f-in – touristy”… but being there, at this wonder, on our anniversary and thinking about how special and care free the day was and how here we finally were, in this moment – it was nothing short of magical. We went it all the way to the summit and sipped champagne at the top.
A few more highlights…
We drank wine, ate cheese, held hands and simply strolled.
We ate Fois Gras at Le Dome du Marais. I still hate myself for it, but damn was it good.
We walked along the river Seine. I didn’t get to go for a run in due to rain and general exhaustion, but if I had, this is where I would have run.
We sat for breakfast on a bistro patio in the 6th, while a group of performers played live music on the street corner.
We had some killer falafel and gelato within steps of our flat.
We made friends with an Aussie who runs a cocktail bar in Le Marais. Had one too many Absinthe mixed drinks. (Really, if you’re in Paris, go see Julian at to La Resistance)
We raced to the train station on the morning we had to leave for London. Still in a haze. Maybe it was the drinks, maybe it’s just the city.
Ah, Paris! The all encapsulating phrase that describes how stunning she truly is. Until we meet again, au revoir ❤