I’ve been to Paris twice now and I just have to ask, why does everyone find this city so damn romantic? I have to say, I don’t get it. Now don’t get me wrong, both times I definitely enjoyed myself (July 2010 and June 2017); Paris is an incredibly fun city. It just doesn’t make me swoon.
And I can even say that I’ve experienced it in very different ways: the first time I went, I was studying abroad in Rome and I went to spend an extended weekend with a friend who happened to be studying abroad in Paris at the time.
I was in college, I was single, and I was poor. We ate crepes and spent hours at Notre Dame. I ate the one vegetarian option at each restaurant we went to, because in 2010, Paris wasn’t exactly vegetarian friendly. We walked through the red-light district for the required Moulin Rouge pic. I went to the Opera House and the Louvre while she was in class and I was skipping my own. I slept in her dorm room because I couldn’t afford my own place. We went dancing at clubs until hours I can no longer stay up for. I made the trek up to Sacre Coeur and got to behold
the most romantic city in the world a metropolitan city.
Skip ahead seven years. My husband and I have well-paying international jobs with a seven-week summer vacation to fill. We wanted to visit friends in London and then take the train to Leysin where we’d spend the bulk of our summer. Who wouldn’t want to stop in Paris on the way for a few days of baguettes, wine, cheese, and, of course, shopping? Especially now that I could afford to see Paris with a different bank account!
Ever the Millenials, we ignored the high prices of hotels and opted for an Airbnb. Late to the game, this was the first Airbnb we’d stayed in just the two of us – our actual first Airbnb was in São Tomé this spring when we rented a place with two coworkers and some family.
There was some pretty hilarious confusion (or at least we thought so) during check-in. Our host had left the building fob for us to find and as I was in the lobby looking for it, a couple asked us if we were staying at the Airbnb on the fourth floor. Well guess what? We were. So they handed us the key fob for the building and a key. We got to our room and found our separate key hidden where expected and assumed the one on the fob was also for the front of the building.
We went out for lunch (Chipotle, Chandler’s last chance at it), a wine shop, and I experienced my first Parisian shopping moment (having been way too poor to buy clothes the first time I was there!).
We got back to our Airbnb, showered off (because Paris was experiencing an excruciating heat wave) and while Chandler was still in his towel, we got a knock on our door. It was our neighbor, frantically asking if we by chance happened to know where his key was.
Turns out, there was an Airbnb next door to ours and since the apartments don’t have numbers on them, all the renters could ask us was floor number. They had given us the wrong keys! We handed them over to a furious apartment owner – sorry, dude. Not our fault! I then went back down to the lobby and within about 30 seconds more of searching, found our fob still waiting for us. Whoops.
But our cranky neighbor aside, we were seriously enjoying our apartment and the view it provided. We were about three blocks from the Louvre.
If you want to be a tourist, it was a wonderful part of town to be staying in. If you want a few quiet, relaxing days, I don’t especially recommend it. We loved it. We spent our first afternoon wandering around the neighborhood, eating our London cheese, and drinking our Parisian wine. FYI, if you’re nearby, I heartily recommend stopping by La Derniere Goutte for a nice conversation and a couple great bottles of wine.
The next day found us up bright and early, grabbing breakfast on the go at the boulangerie around the corner – one of the only things open.
Our plans for the day started with the Sainte-Chapelle cathedral. It’s not too far from Notre Dame, but I hadn’t made my way over on my last visit. At 10 euros it’s a pretty steep price (for only 7 more you have access to all of the Louvre), but the stained glass windows are more than worth it.
There are 1,113 scenes from the New and Old Testaments depicted across the cathedral’s 15 windows, each of which are 15 meters high.
Stunning as that room is, there’s only so much time my husband can sit staring at windows, so about 30 minutes later we were off to shop. Initially we had planned on going to the Musée d’Orsay next, but with temperatures reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit by noon, we decided to do our shopping in the morning.
We vaguely started making our way to Le Marais and I finally hit my shopping jackpot, having no problem spending 500 dollars at a single dress shop. I’ll definitely be heading back to Héroïnes next time I’m in Paris! Add a great pair of shoes for both myself and Chandler and we were feeling pretty successful by the time we made our way to Miznon for lunch. I dare you not to happily gain five pounds eating any of their veggie pitas from cauliflower to potato to egg.
After a successful, albeit hot, morning, we were ready to spend the rest of our afternoon at the Musée d’Orsay. I have to say it, as a whole, I prefer the Musée d’Orsay to the Louvre. The Louvre has some absolutely incredible pieces, but d’Orsay on a whole has a more connected feel. And it is way larger than I had anticipated (more bad research on my part!). Also, I’m a sucker for the Impressionists, so the 5th floor was pretty much the most incredible thing I’d ever seen.
That said, even I occasionally have a limit to the number of similar paintings I want to see at one time. For example, I call this one: “I tried four times to vaguely paint this cathedral” by Monet.
Or “this one only took me two tries” by Monet.
And yes, I know Monet painted in series and no, he’s not the only artist to do this. However, never before have I seen so many of the same paintings side-by-side. No matter, they were still lovely. So were the Degas statues, although my camera just couldn’t do them justice.
The following was one of my favorite shots of the day just do to the sheer size of the paintings and how small they made the tour group look.
And how could I not think of home when viewing Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s bronze Statue of Liberty. If only there was more to feel patriotic about right now…
The building itself was absolutely beautiful and did an incredible job of hiding its massive size. I love that it feels like an old train station.
Near the end we encountered a rather unexpected exhibit that had some unusual, but rather lovely pieces. Sans audio-guide and not being able to read half the words on the French signs describing the pieces, I can’t really tell you much about the painting below, but it was captivating.
And as amazing a day as we had, I didn’t quite find it “romantic.” My title mentions the word uninhibited and that’s the way the Parisians made me feel, especially when it came to clothing. The locals, especially the woman, have this “I don’t give a fuck” attitude that feels especially liberating. I bought bold colors I wouldn’t normally wear (something nine months in Accra hadn’t gotten me to do) and I felt very comfortable in my skin for the first time in a long time.
For those reasons alone I’d say everyone should go to Paris, just don’t expect to fall in love while you’re there.