What to Do on Your First Parisian Adventure

What to Do on Your First Parisian Adventure

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It had been a dream of mine to go to Paris. Maybe it’s every little girl’s dream in French class, but that dream to go to the City of Lights was now real as I leaned over my girlfriend pointing out the airplane window saying, “Regardez! C’est la Tour Eiffel!”

“What?” she asked, not understanding a word I was saying.

“Look! The Eiffel Tower. We’re in Paris,” I said gleefully excited to finally be in France immersed in the language and culture. My goal for the next five-days was to try not to speak English as much as possible and to soak in Paris.

Soak in the city I did doing many of the things that first-timers in Paris do. I saw the “Mona Lisa” at the Louvre Museum and checked out the impressionists at the Musee d’Orsay. We dined at the Eiffel Tower and local restaurants and ate crepes and croissants. I spent some time at the famed Shakespeare and Company Bookstore. I saw the gargoyles at Notre Dame and climbed the stairs to Sacre-Coeur taking in the view of Paris before walking through the artists square around the corner and down the hill through the Montmartre neighborhood to see the Moulin Rouge.

The #ParisWeLoveYou sculpture outside of the Louvre. Photo: Heather Cassell
The #ParisWeLoveYou sculpture outside of the Louvre. Photo: Heather Cassell

I Love Paris

Paris cast a spell on me, as it does with many who flip through the pages of travel and fashion magazines and books filled with spellbinding lyrical prose and photographs that capture the romance and grittiness of the City of Lights. The words and images plant a seed within the traveler’s minds eye beckoning them to visit and it reinforces those who have been to lovingly recall their memories of wandering through the city’s streets. Much like other iconic cities around the world: Berlin, Hong Kong, London, New York, Rio de Janeiro, Rome, San Francisco, Shanghai, Sydney, Tokyo, Venice, Vienna and other travelers’ hearts are left in the city beckoning for you to be enchanted once again.

Travelers who have experienced Paris tend to get a little amnesia about the grittiness of the city that is more than 2,000 years old, according to Discover France. I certainly have. Perhaps, it’s the grey skies that make the perfect backdrop for taking in the iconic landmarks that make a romantic imprint of the city on the traveler’s mind.

Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris” played in my head the perfect soundtrack as I walked from neighborhood to neighborhood and darted across the city on the metro. I strolled through historic streets pausing to take in the picturesque scenes made for paintings and photographs, browsed through shops, and hung out at street cafes and restaurants.

I can’t wait to return to Paris!

Eiffel Tower / AdobeStock
Eiffel Tower / AdobeStock

What to Do

The City of Lights is also the city of innovation rapidly changing while retaining its history. Even during my first five days in Paris, I didn’t get to everything on my itinerary. It’s just another way Paris entices every traveler back to her streets.

Travelers who are nouveau au Paris, will definitely want to take in a few museums and historic sites. The best way to access as many attractions as possible is to purchase a Paris Pass. You will not only receive a discount on the ticket and unlimited metro rides, but you will be placed in the fast track line at all the significant sites. The pass can be purchased online in 2-day, 3-day, 4-day, and 6-day increments and can either be mailed to you in advance at an additional cost or it can be picked up at the tourism office.

One of the first things my girlfriend and I did was get up early to get in line to see the “Mona Lisa.” Knowing a little bit of French helped rather than decipher the map of the Louvre upon entering I simply asked and was pointed in the right direction through the Italian paintings 13th through the 15th centuries to the single room. When we got to the room, for a long minute my girlfriend and I were alone with the “Mona Lisa” and the guard before the crowds descended. Through the bulletproof glass she watched her admirers and smiled.

A full day could be spent at the Louvre, but as magnificent as Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is, for me, seeing the impressionists under one roof at the Musee d’Orsay was another breathtaking museum moment.

Some of the newest additions to Paris’ museum scene are L’Atelier des Lumieres, Fondation Louis Vuitton, and the forthcoming Museum of Fashion housed at the Palais Galliera, which is closed through the end of 2019.

The Louvre in Paris / Heather Cassell
The Louvre in Paris / Heather Cassell

L’Atelier des Lumieres is the city’s first digital museum of fine art located in a restored iron foundry in the 11th arrondissement, a working-class neighborhood turned trendy within some of the city’s hottest restaurants, galleries, and shops during the past couple of years.

Foundation Louis Vuitton focuses on contemporary art from the past 20 years, according to its website. The museum is in a unique architectural structure in Bois de Boulogne in the city’s 16th androssiment.

The Museum of Fashion currently only displays curated temporary exhibits from its collection of 200,000 pieces, giving visitors a taste of what’s to come when it opens permanently in 2019. The museum project is back backed by the House of Chanel in partnership with the City of Paris.

Contemporary artists to fashion designers will also be on display to audiences delight starting this spring at the Lafayette Anticipations – Galleries Lafayette Corporate Foundation located in the trendy Marias District.

I’ll have my day of food and fashion from exploring Julia Child’s haunts and Paris’ markets to touring Gabrielle “Coco” Channel’s flagship store at 31 Rue Cambon and following in her footsteps checking out the boutiques and legendary French fashion stores, such as Louis Vuitton and Hermes. Unfortunately, I will miss the Museum of Fashion at the Palais Galliera due to the museum being under construction until the end of 2019.

Paying the price of our dinner at Le Jules Verne at the Eiffel Tower turned out to be a blessing. We dined peacefully as winds whipped around the iconic iron structure and the rain raged against our window for about an hour during our six-course meal. Before and after the storm cleared, our view of Paris was impeccable from the sunset to the lights twinkling like precious gems below us as the tower itself lit up the night sky.

To work off all of the good French food and wine, we got our exercise climbing the steps to Sacre-Coeur. The Romano-Byzantine cathedral dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was erected on top of Paris’ highest peak crowning the city’s most creative neighborhoods, Montmartre, in 1914, nearly 40 years after construction began. The views are stunning, and the maze of the hilly neighborhood leads pedestrians into interesting galleries, boutiques, cafes and restaurants.

Where to Eat

We dined at the granddaddy of touristy gastronomic affairs at the Eiffel Tower and enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Seine River, but we also enjoyed neighborhood fine cuisine and eateries in the 9th androssiment, the Opera District, where we stayed.

One of our favorite nights out was at Hotel Panache restaurant where we enjoyed a wonderful meal with a selection of small plates we shared from French cheeses to asparagus and summer truffles to a spicy gnocchi. On our final night we enjoyed Moroccan cuisine at Chez Leon. For brunch and desert, we dined on crepes at Le Petit Pont and La Crème de Paris.

We capped off our nights at Snoobar Restaurant / Les Saveurs du Moyen Orient, a Lebanese hookah bar and lounge, across from our hotel.

Our dining experience was random, which is often an adventure, but with foodies traveling with us this summer, our culinary wish list is growing.

Where to Stay

We stayed in the Opera District, the 9th androssiment, at Cosy’s Apartments Cadet [LINK]. The apartment was perfect for our group providing enough space for additional bedding, a kitchen, dining table, and daily housekeeping on a tiny street off Rue du Faubourg Montmartre. The apartment was in a great location within easy walking distance to the metro, which got us to all the sites we wanted to see.

This time we rented a Vacation Rental By Owner in the heart of Le Marias.

Getting Around

Brushing up on your French will make your trip much more pleasant. Parisians are much kinder if you make an effort to speak French. Rosetta Stone, iTranslate, or Duolingo make it easy and fun to learn other languages.

Walking is one of the best ways to see Paris, but the city is spread out from its center. Getting a metro pass, if you don’t get a Paris Pass, will help you zip around the city like a local.

Book your next Parisian adventure with Girls That Roam Travel. Contact Heather Cassell at Girls That Roam Travel at 415-517-7239 or at trips@girlsthatroam.com.

Originally published by Girls That Roam.

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