I expected to not like Paris. Every time traveling came up in conversation, casual or otherwise, people would throw in their thoughts and opinions on Paris. “You have to go to Paris once in your life,” they say, “even if its not the greatest city in the world.”
But there are songs about Paris, movies! Books! Carrie Bradshaw was in Paris! My beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway haunted the streets of Paris. There is art, culture, history, architecture, amazing food, wine, how could you not love Paris-I thought to myself as people drudged the city’s name through the mud.
“People are really rude and do not help you at all. The city is crowded with tourists, blah blah blah blah blah.” Despite people warning me and giving me less than outstanding reviews on the city, I wanted to go anyway.
I am not ashamed to say that I decided to go to Paris because I wanted to see what all the fuss was about; I wanted to see the city of light and the Eiffel tower and eat crepes. And so, I went. Paris became my first stop on my 2015 Europe tour.
I found Paris to be quite an interesting city. I didn’t expect it to be so large, and spread out. Major roads could be seen from many famous sites and the small, old world charm I expected from the city wasn’t really there (at least not where I was expecting).
I spent my time in Paris (and London for that matter) being the typical tourist. I did all of the typical touristy things. But when you only have three days in Paris that’s pretty much all you have time to do. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy with all that I accomplished, but I would have liked to gotten to know the city a bit more.
There were several haunts around Paris that I absolutely adored, and made me really appreciate the city.
- The Eiffel Tower
Yes, typical me, I loved the Eiffel tower. I find it so breathtakingly magnificent. The statue towers over the city, but the structure is rather delicate, intricate, and beautiful. It is sleek and slender, even though it is the center of the city, I find its beauty rather understated.
I went to the Eiffel tower five or six times during my stay in Paris. I wanted to see the tower from different angles in different lights.
I strolled around in the afternoon, mingling on a bench reading a book, gazing up every so often and smiling at this famous landmark that was right in front of me, in the flesh.
At night, I was privileged enough to see the light show that the tower puts on every five minutes at the top of the hour once it gets dark.
So sparkly and pretty. I’m not a girlie girl by any means, but I almost bought a very expensive diamond/crystal studded Eiffel tower replica because I thought it was so beautiful.
- Notre Dam
Notre Dam was my second favorite place in Paris. The church itself is rather beautiful, but after living in Rome and traversing all over Italy where beautiful churches are everywhere, I don’t appreciate them as much. Which is sad, but unfortunately true.
The real treat is hiking to the top of Notre Dam. Although I hate steep uphill climbs, and don’t like to be in tight, confined, windy spaces, I had to climb to the top. I heard the views were amazing. And I heard correctly.
You can see out over Paris, over the Seine River where book and print vendors set up shop to sell to locals and tourists alike. The Jewish district spans out before you, and the Eiffel tower is seen in the distance.
So yea, the views were nice. But there are gargoyles on top of Notre Dam. I never liked the movie the Hunchback of Notre Dam-the character reminded me of someone very dear to me and it made my physically sick watching people make fun of poor Quasimodo. But the gargoyles were always nice to him. They were Quasi’s friends. And I liked these little creatures too.
They were so life like-and I could easily imagine them coming to life, protecting the church from evil of all kinds.
On my first day in Paris I took a guided tour around Montmartre. This is a section of Paris built on a hill-so I got a leg workout.
The place was filled with the ghosts of old artists: painters, writers, musicians, ect. I could easily see them meeting in a park for a coffee, or going out on the town dancing, or going out to lunch and discussing gossip.
Or, maybe I have just watched Midnight in Paris too many times and could easily imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway meandering around this section of Paris.
Either way, I loved it.
There were places that I visited that I liked a lot, adore is a bit of a strong word, but I certainly felt I should add them in, just as a testament to the diversity of the city of light.
It would take years to wander around this museum-and I didn’t even give it an hour. Although I am a fan of history, and love listening to history-I cannot simply walk into a museum and really enjoy it. I need someone to explain things to me, guide me, and make the stories come to life. I had so little time in Paris that I did not even step foot in what is perhaps the most famous museum in the world.
You don’t always have to do the tourist “must do’s” when you visit a city. If museums aren’t your thing, skip them. If hiking to the top of a hill to get a view of the city makes you queasy-rent a car or don’t go at all. You are traveling for you. Do what you want to do.
The Seine River
I am obsessed with bodies of water. I’m a water baby. The feeling of jumping in an ocean, or pool, or river, or lake instantly makes me feel better. So it’s no surprise that I loved walking along the Seine. I mean, there are people selling books, and cards, and magazines by the river, what else could you want?
I also loved the newly moved lovelocks. The mushy part of me thought about how romantic and symbolic all the locks were.
The Paris Catacombs
Although I waited three hours to get in (which I’m not sure was justified), it was interesting to see so many human remains, so close…
It really makes you; as you’re walking along so many skeletons, piled up on top of each other, contemplate your own death. Not the most pleasant subject in the world, but it was a different, darker side to the city of light that I’m glad I got to see.
The Luxembourg Gardens
After crawling around the catacombs this beautiful place was just what the doctor ordered. Parisians sat outside on chairs sunning themselves in the beautiful gardens, contemplating the fountains and flowers.
I felt like royalty, I felt like I was living in the 18th century. This park was so beautiful.
Paris really surprised me. No one was ever rude to me; in fact people were quite helpful. I had a good laugh with a guard at a metro stop. In French I greeted him and asked him if he spoke English (a key phrase I learn when visiting a foreign city). He replied, “only when I’m drunk,” with a smile. I was a little taken aback and said, “well, I hope you’re drunk now because I need help.” We both broke out in laughter, he was very sweet and wished me a pleasant afternoon.
At another time, I was eating dinner from a grocery store on one of the many sets of stairs in Montmorte (where my hostel was located). I saw many Parisians walking up and down the flights of stairs. Young students walked briskily up the stairs, a young couple made their way up slowly, laughing and breathing heavily the whole time, a mom carried her sleeping baby on her back, and groceries in her hand. Then, I saw a father with his son, stop to talk to a woman going the opposite way. I didn’t understand what it is they were saying (I speak virtually no French) but they were so kind, and thoughtful towards each other. Their conversation was sweet, personably, and light. I could tell they were friends and were inquiring about each other’s lives.
I understood in that moment that no, Parisians are not the most outgoing of people. They may not smile all the time, or go out of their way to be your friend. But, they are kind. They love their family, and friends, and have genuine respect and kindness in their hearts for others. They don’t go out into the world and be loud, but instead reserve themselves in order to appreciate what is really important.
And that is my opinion of Parisians, after spending three days with them. Haha. I, of course, can make no vast statements, but I find Parisians to be beautiful people, on the inside and out.
So, those are my favorite spots around Paris and a few of my opinions of the people of France. Do you have any favorite haunts around Paris? Or any cool stories to add? Leave a comment!