I have been wanting to sit down and write this blog post for about two weeks now, but the last two weeks have been rough. Since we went on vacation in early August, I came back and had less than two weeks to prepare for the start of Fall classes. On top of that, since I am teaching four classes at three different colleges, this meant I had to prepare three completely different syllabi and course schedules. Don’t get me wrong, the organization I got to do because of this was amazing–hello, detailed planer and wall calendar. Hello, IKEA mini file cabinet that fits perfectly into my room divider. But the actual class planning was a bit overwhelming and left little time for anything else. I’m just now going through all of our vacation photos.
That being said, since Rahul and I had such a fun time writing the last blog post together, we thought we’d do so again! We’ve compiled a list of all our favorite things from our Paris adventure and are excited to share that list with you–in two parts, because I wrote a ridiculously long post. Sorry, guys. Our favorite is obviously Trocadéro, where we got engaged and also now forever known as our Paris spot. Beyond that, we have many other favorites to share. Rahul’s segment will be featured in the next blog post, so be sure to come back for his! Jouir!
PART 1: KATHERINE
1. Eating chocolate croissants at a random café near the Louvre followed by walking along the riverfront. This is probably on everyone’s list of things to do in Paris, and for a good reason. Not only are croissants a staple breakfast/snack item, but the chocolate ones were ultra delicious, mostly because they were a SURPRISE. Rahul bit into one and had a childlike moment of “holy crap this is amazing,” which I, of course, thought was super cute. We then followed the croissant-eating with a walk along the Seine, which was lovely and perfect. I’ll add that this was also right after our ENGAGEMENT, which is why this was one of my favorite moments from the trip. It was earlyish, so the city was still waking up. It was nice to stroll around before the hoards of tourists took over.
2. Picnicking in front of the Eiffel Tower. Again, probably on everyone’s to-do list and, again, for a good reason. We had already seen the Eiffel Tower sparkle a few times at this point, but watching the Eiffel Tower change from an iron structure (and still totally impressive) to a beautiful, sparkling thing over the span of a few hours was amazing. The sun set behind the Eiffel Tower while we were there, which made for some good photos and lovely views. Plus, we had cheese, crackers & wine purchased at France’s version of Target, Monoprix, which allowed us the chance to picnic while Tower-watching which, HELLO, how many times will we ever get to do that?
3. Speaking of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, having dinner inside the Eiffel Tower was definitely one of them. On Engagement Day, we ate dinner on the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower, which was beautiful and surreal. The food was delicious and was followed by several hours trekking to the top of the Tower, where we had a champagne toast and watched the city sparkle. Walking up to the 2nd level was probably one of my favorite parts. Since you are walking inside an open structure, you experience the wind and terrifying moments of “WHAT IF I FALL” all while watching the city grow smaller and smaller beneath you. There was an elevator for the 2nd to top floor though, obvi. We stayed at the top for a good while, and were surprised by the large amount of people still climbing to the top at 11:30 at night!
4. The Louvre…oh, the Louvre. The Louvre naturally belongs on this list because it’s the world’s largest museum, but OH MY GOD is it overwhelming. If I never have to stand in a room with that many people again, I will be a happy camper. I’m talking about the room where the Mona Lisa is housed, of course, because that’s the first place people dash to upon entering the museum, including us. We figured we might as well get it out of the way before moving on to the rest. And while I was impressed by the Mona Lisa, and loved seeing it in person (not so much the shoving to take pictures and get to the front of the crowd, people can be vicious), my favorite part was actually the Egyptian floor, which housed hundreds of artifacts from the Pharanoic Egyptian era. Not only were those floors much less crowded, but it was a part of history I am actually interested in. Plus, they had a SPHINX there. I mean, come on.
I will say, I was also depressed and saddened after visiting the Louvre by the amount of people taking photos of the paintings/sculptures, etc without actually looking at them. So many people just clicked photos of paintings and moved on without ever taking their eyes away from the camera. Maybe the museum should institute a no-camera day, yes? Because otherwise it’s freaking annoying.
5. I also loved Monet’s waterlilies in the Musée de l’Orangerie and the Renior/Monet paintings in the Musée d’Orsay, which also took the prize for most beautiful museum structure, in my mind. The museum is built out of an old train station, which provides it a unique look. It was here I discovered I’m apparently a fan of Renoir, as I have several paintings of his in my apartment, including “Young Girls at the Piano.”
6. After Louvre Day, we trekked to the Arc De Triomphe and had beers in a random restaurant with a view of the Arc. This was one of my favorite things about Paris: eating meals in places with good views. We did the same at Moulin Rouge, by Notre Dame, and alongside the river, as mentioned before.
(photo cred for all of these goes to Rahul)
7. One night, we were wondering around and found Paris’s beachfront. At one point along the Seine, the city had poured tons of fake sand to create a long, fake beach, complete with lounge chairs and umbrella. There was also a beachfront restaurant and performers—err, I mean an awkward mix of tourists and exercisers practicing Zumba, which was fun to watch. We sat in the sand and made various sand creations, including giant shoes. We also watched the performers for a while and enjoyed some beachy drinks (coffee and beer are beachy, right?).
8. Our day trip to Épernay was one of my favorite parts of the trip. A friend of mine suggested visiting champagne country, and we went with only Wikipedia knowledge of champagne and came back as experts! Okay, maybe not experts, but we thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Moët & Chandon, despite the obnoxious people in our tour group who looked at the price of a bottle of Dom Pérignon in the gift shop and said, “oh, it’s not that bad.” The tour entailed wondering through sprawling tunnels that housed thousands of bottles of champagne, where we learned all about the process of making and storing champagne, which was actually fascinating. Plus, the tunnels were a treasure in and of themselves, and totally a place Charlie from It’s Always Sunny would live if the show was based in France. Afterwards, we had lunch and walked to the edge of the town, where we got a gorgeous view of not only the champagne vineyards, but also the town itself. It was beautiful and a nice change from the city streets of Paris.
This was also the day I purchased an emergency sweater and pair of boots because WHOA was France unexpectedly cold. My little Southern heart was not prepared.
9. THE FOOD!! How could I not include the food? I don’t think we had one meal that was just okay. Every meal, from the petit déjeuner (a breakfast of croissant, bread & coffee) to the croque monsieur to the CREPES to the mussels to the wine to the macarons to the okay let me stop before I get out hand…it was all amazing. I love food and Paris, dear Paris, you reaffirmed my belief that IT IS OKAY TO LOVE FOOD. In a society where body-shaming and avoiding carbs are part of the daily routine, it was nice to relax and eat all of the bread in sight.
10. To piggyback off of food, we did a lot of walking in Paris. While this may not seem like it deserves its own category, it was one of my favorite parts of the city. In Paris, it feels as if every single street has something different to offer, and it was nice to explore the city via foot to see what we could find. One of my favorite walks, other than the river, was from Moulin Rouge through Montmartre to Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Even though we didn’t spend a lot of time there, this part of the city featured winding streets that seemed to continually incline. Other than the sex shops (which, let’s be real, about half of those are put there to make the tourists stop and take photos), this part of the city was lovely.
11. On our last day, we visited Promenade plantée, which is a park built literally on old train tracks. We strolled through for a while, enjoying the mix of park forestry and flowers + the city below. It was beautiful & QUIET. While the other parks we visited were lovely also, this one holds a special place in my heart. Plus, afterward, we had Subway for lunch and Pizza Hut for dinner because if you don’t eat at at least one American establishment abroad, you’re not doing it right. JK, we were tired and needed to pack.
12. Even though this isn’t in France, I really enjoyed our day trip to Manchester, England to see a Manchester United game. Rahul is a HUGE Manchester United fan, and when he realized it would work out with our schedule to fly up for the day to see them play, we jumped on the opportunity. Excuse me, once in a lifetime opportunity. Even though I know next to nothing about football, and had to suppress my urge to ask constantly “why did they do that? What’s that mean again? etc etc,” being with Rahul as he got SO SO EXCITED seeing the stadium, entering the stadium, watching the game, seeing them score a goal, and so on, was awesome. Even though football is not really my thing, getting to watch Rahul as he enjoyed one of his favorite things made my day. Plus, afterward, we saw a few players and other important people, including Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs, the latter of whom made eye contact with Rahul while driving away. He said I had to remember this because no one would believe him.
13. Versailles was another overwhelmingly crowded place, but the gardens were lovely. The palace itself was crowded and consisted of people pushing you along to get to the next room. Plus, the tourists that take photos without actually looking at what they’re photographing were back. But the Hall of Mirrors was amazing and the gardens were spacious, not as crowded, and gorgeous. It rained early in the day while we waited in a ridiculous line and laughed at the people who tried to skip line and got in trouble with the guards, but was luckily sunny by the time we got to the gardens.
14. It goes without saying, but Notre Dame and Sacré-Cœur Basilica were two favorites. Notre Dame was, by far, more beautiful inside–plus, we visited during a mass, which was cool–but I thought Sacré-Cœur’s exterior was more impressive. Plus, the grounds of the church are surrounded by people lounging on the grass, amateur performers, and tourists tired from climbing the bajillion steps (no, not us. Of course not).
15. Our dinner riverboat cruise on the first night was, of course, fantastic. I was still getting used to being in Paris (I kept having to remind myself YOU ARE IN PARIS, DUMMY!), but seeing the Eiffel Tower fully (not just the top half, as we had seen other parts of the day, like from the view at the Galleries Lafayette) snapped me into reality, giving me a moment of “Oh shit! I’m actually in Paris.” In fact, I jumped and gasped in genuine surprise when the Eiffel Tower started sparkling at 10–I had read before to expect that, but had totally forgotten and was kind of glad I had because it was unexpected and beautiful. Plus, the cruise itself had yummy food and provided a good introduction to the city.
Bonus: Our hotel and the surrounding area. We stayed in the 13th arrondissement, which is a little more removed from the touristy center and, therefore, quieter and not as overwhelming. We found a small market there which became a staple for late night beer, sandwiches & chips (because what else is there in life, really?), a Cafe Jules, which so happens to be my mom’s nickname, and a delicious boulangerie. This is also where we had our first meal in Paris, which featured the ever-so-delicious aligot. OMG. brb while I salivate just thinking of these.
Okay, I told myself I would cap the list at 15 and I have (sort of). There are so many other things I could include: the Palais Garnier, the Champs-Élysées (and the saga of finding the perfect boots in Zara and only finding one shoe–not pair, but shoe–in my size), Flame of Liberty, mini STATUE OF LIBERTY, Harry’s New York Bar (overpriced but still interesting bar which apparently used to feature the likes of Fitzgerald and Hemingway and claims to have invented the Bloody Mary), Shakespeare & Company bookstore, randomly meeting this couple from Memphis at a restaurant (and then learning the wife went to my alma mater), street performers, mussels & beer, the Latin Quarter, the chunnel ride, etc etc etc. But I will stop and leave you with a few helpful tips for those thinking of traveling to Paris in the near future:
Read up on the city beforehand! This is something I wished I had thought of before I left. Since it’s Paris, I assumed I knew enough to appreciate the city, but I was able to really appreciate the city 1000 x more once I learned the history of Paris. Sorry, Modern European history high school class, it’s been a while so Wikipedia was my go-to for this.
Check times for museums, train stations, etc. This was something Rahul took care of beforehand, which was super helpful.
Don’t worry about restaurant reservations. My guidebook said 1,000 times to MAKE SURE YOU RESERVE DINNER TIMES, which put me into a panic that we were not going to eat in Paris unless we reserved all our meals. But, really, that’s only if you are planning at eating at the super fancy, well-known, super expensive restaurants. So other than our first two meals (the cruise & Eiffel Tower), we just winged it, which worked out great.
Bring comfy shoes. I know this seems like a very DUH suggestion, but I saw so many women wearing ridiculous high heels and struggling to walk. Like, really, you don’t need to wear your studded high heels in the Louvre. Even if this is the fashion capital, no one will judge you for wearing comfortable shoes. Plus, from all the people-watching I did, I noticed many Parisian locals wearing boots, Chucks, ballet slippers, and other practical shoes. I wasn’t thinking when I packed my Toms instead of my boat shoes. Oh well, you live you learn.
LAYERS! Even in August, it was chilly. I was not prepared.
Lastly, enjoy yourself. If you’re like me, then traveling can almost become as stressful as real life because you are pressuring yourself to make sure you see everything, do everything, experience everything. I constantly find myself thinking “okay, this is great, but what’s next? what’s next after that?” I reminded myself to just let go and enjoy where I was in the moment. Leave the crazy worrying for work and real life!
For those of you remember my month-long old post on packing for Paris, I’ve collected some pictures to show how many of the outfits actually turned out. Since it was a bit colder than expected, you’ll notice how I got creative with my layering based on what was available to me.