TRAVEL WEEK: There's No Place Like Paris
We had finally made it to Paris. The excitement began for me as soon as we landed in the airport. We were in Paris. Paris had been a dream of mine since watching Madeline as a young girl and only grew stronger throughout college while studying art and music. And now, we were here.
We arrived pretty late and were slightly exhausted from a day that we had traveled by boat, plane, bus, subway, and Uber (which worked wonderfully for us in Paris!) and only really had time to grab dinner, drinks, and explore our neighborhood a bit on foot. But that's all that it took to make us fall for the city.
The second day, we grabbed a wonderful breakfast just down the block from our hotel and began getting acquainted with Paris the way we prefer to get to know any new city: exploring on foot. We first headed to Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge crossing the Seine. Luckily, Derek had played Assassin's Creed which weirdly equipped him to be a wonderful tour guide. We made our way to Notre Dame and walked around, taking in the flying buttresses and other architectural features(Derek is an architect, so this added to his tour guide cred). After, we headed back along the Seine and had our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!
We walked past the Louvre, through the Tuiliers Gardens, down the Champs-Élysées, and made a stop at the Arc de Triomphe to go up to the top for a really lovely view of Paris. After that, because why not, we started toward the Eiffel Tower. We arrived once it was already dark and saw the twinkling light show from the lawn right below. We then wrapped up the night like any couple in Paris on their honeymoon: we went clubbing.
The next day we were Versailles bound! Now, even though we had been out very late the night before and had split a pitcher of mojiotos, not even that with the unseasonably toasty 90° plus weather would slow us down here. Versailles is the ultimate is lush lavish luxury. Everywhere you looked there was gilded gold, crystal chandeliers, and mirrors everywhere.
Now the gardens at Versailles ended up being one of the best parts of our whole trip. Honestly, if you love strolling outside, stumbling upon gorgous fountains and stunning statues, you could probably allot an entire day to the gardens alone. We spent hours in them and probably only saw about 1/3 of it.
Our second day in Paris was dedicated to the Louvre. We love a museum, and we knew we'd be there until it closed. The art here is just incredible. I know that's a complete understatement, but how do you possibly describe seeing impossibly large paintings, sculptures you've studied, all the Delacroix, da Vinci, Caravaggio, Michelangelo (just to name a very, very few) just mere inches away from where you're standing.
After the Louvre, because one museum a day apparently isn't enough for me and Derek, we headed to Centre Georges Pompidou -- the largest museum of Modern Art in Europe. Again, it was really quite wonderful and refreshing to see such different types of art and appreciate each for what their differences bring. Because Pompidou was so far away, we were left roaming our neighborhood in the hopes of finding somewhere still open and serving food pretty late in the evening. We went to a place very near our hotel and had a really wonderful, delicious meal with terrific beer, only to find out days later that it was one of Hemingway's late-night go-to favorites.
The next day started with another wonderful outdoor breakfast, touring the Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame--just as amazing inside as it appears on the outside. Next, we headed to Musee d'Orsay, a museum filled with awesome French, Impressionist, and Post-Impressionist masterpieces. This is where we saw Manet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, and so many others.
Afterward, we headed to the Eiffel Tower. As we rode the elevator to the very top, I realized that I completing something from my ultimate bucket list. As we went higher and higher, it became less real, if you can believe it. Once at the top, Derek and took so many photos and then took some time just to take it all in. We ended up staying on the lower level of the tower until sunset and it was absolutely breathtaking. I really can't describe it, so I'm just going to post a ton of photos here.
Our last day in Paris we wanted to dedicate to brunch, day drinks, and leisurely strolling. We had an amazing brunch (photographed below, under a Must-Do) before heading back to the Champs-Élysées. Of course this included a stop at the Louis Vuitton flagship store -- it was huge -- and many other awesome stores along the way.
On our way back, we had to made a stop at the Louvre. As it turned out, one of Derek's favorite paintings, Delacriox's Orphan Girl, was at the Louvre, but the section it was in was closed the day we visited. Finding a painting before the museum closed on our last day in Paris just sounded like an adventure to me, so I was all in. We were speed walking past incredible works of art, masterpieces, and only had eyes for one painting. We didn't even look at the Mona Lisa one last time, we were that focused. After a lot of looking and help from two wonderful employees, we found the painting. It was absolutely worth it and was one of the best adventures I've ever been on.
We ended our last night with dinner at Les Deux Magots, another favorite place of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and the Lost Generation. One more stroll around the neighborhood, and our magical, wonderful, perfect time in Paris was complete.
Must-Do's of Paris
This list should really be three times this long, but I'll spare you the scrolling. Just be sure that you also add the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Champs-Élysées, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Ponte Neuf, Centre Georges Pompidou, and about a month to your trip.
Explore the Vast Garden at Versailles
Get as Close as You Possibly Can to Your Favorite Artists
Shakespeare and Company
Eiffel Tower at Sunset
Fashion In Paris
As far as Paris fashion goes, I learned two things: everyone looks like they have a personal stylist and no matter what the weather, they dress to impress. Whether it was a casual breakfast, walking along the Seine, or late night drinks, it would be easy feel underdressed. A classic capsule wardrobe would do very well in Paris, but most people would add a fun twist. I saw so many belted pleated pants (which I know can sound hideous, but it's totally possible to pull off) that somehow looked casually elegant and now I'm convinced I need to give them a whirl. Everyone literally looks great head to toe, so make sure your shoe-game is on point. Stripes were huge here as well and could go casual or on a tucked-in blouse be ready for the office. And of course, Louis Vuitton. Everywhere.
Just a few last items to round out your vacation pack list.
1. Dry Shampoo: This was simply a lifesaver. I had planned on using this travel-sized wonder mostly during our travel days between all the planes, trains, and automobiles. In reality, I put it to use so much more. The weather was very hot humid for the majority of our trip (over 90° in Paris) and having dry shampoo on hand meant that I could look and feel pretty great in the evenings without having to shower and style all over again. You won't catch me travelling without this ever again!
2. Classic Trench Coat. Even though the majority of our trip was quite warm, I was still happy to have purchased a black trench coat before leaving. This will never go out of style and not only works for various types of weather, but also is a versatile go-to for various occasions and dress. So whether I was running through a rainy morning in Rome or dining outside at Parisian cafes, the classic black trench was perfectly appropriate for any setting.
3. Ernest Hemingway's A Moveable Feast. Silly you if you thought I'd have a "Don't Forget" to pack list and not give a book recommendation! I brought two books with me on the trip and was just beginning A Moveable Feast when we reached Paris. It's an account by Hemingway of his time spent living in Paris and the places he went and friends he met while he was there. I think it's wonderful if you can find a book that's especially appropriate for the place you are travelling, and if you're heading to Paris, there's no beating this.
4. Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Camera. Polaroids are all the rage now. You'll see them at weddings, birthdays, and probably no further than 20 feet away from any hipster who knows what's what. But that aside, they are genuinely a really fun way to capture a moment. In a time where you can easily photograph or film thousands of shots a day, it's something special to have to worry about not wasting or missing the perfect shot. Believe me, we ended up messing up about 1/4 of the film we brought. But I couldn't be happier that this moderately big, awkwardly shaped, 10 photos-at-a-time-max camera was a part of our daily packed supplies. The photos that turned out were worth it all.