Let me preface this by reminding you that I am not a planner. This isn’t necessarily a good thing given that proper adulting requires some manner of planning but it gives me wicked anxiety. It is entirely possible that my anxiety could be quelled if I planned ahead more, but that’s another conversation for another post. At any rate, I approached my trip to Paris with more of a laissez-faire attitude and left the planning to my best friend. While I also received a lot of input from people who visit Paris regularly and/or who are from there, there were a few things I absolutely needed to do and some things that quite frankly I didn’t care much about. So this isn’t an official guide to Paris. It’s merely a recap of what I did and what I loved about this life-changing travel experience. There are videos of some of the places mentioned below over on my Instagram if you’re interested.
Where We Stayed
I used Expedia to find a good hotel deal and enlisted the help of a friend who visits Paris on the reggie to help me choose a good location. Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements or districts with the first one being the most central and the others spiral out from there kind of like a snail. We stayed at the Terrass Hotel in Montmartre in Paris’s 18th arrondissement. I highly recommend staying here. We were only about a 15 minute Uber from almost everywhere we went. The room was affordable but not cheap, very cute and comfy with a boutique feel, and the staff was incredibly friendly and helpful. The rooftop bar/restaurant had a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower and the city as a whole. Montmartre is basically a giant hill with lots of small boutique shops, stores, restaurants, and beautiful views. Imagine my pure joy when I walked outside of our hotel and saw that we were right across the street from a pho restaurant. It’s like that shit follows me.
What We Did
Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile and Champs-Élysées
The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is a famous Parisian monument that honors the fallen soldiers from the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and it has the tomb of the unknown soldier from WW1 at its base. If you’re a huge history buff, then this means an awful lot to you and you should venture to the top to get a grand view. I did not as I was cold and hungry. From there we took a leisurely stroll down the Champs-Élysées which is one of the most famously recognizable avenues in the world. There are endless stores and restaurants along the way and it’s kind of central to other worthwhile sites like the Grand Palais.
In the back of what is apparently a really awesome taco restaurant is a speakeasy bar called Candelaria with world-renowned drinks. I personally love speakeasy bars because they make me feel like I’m living out my childhood fantasy of being a spy. The secrecy of it is very alluring, even though other people obviously know about it. The music was really really good. You don’t know how much you appreciate hearing familiar music until you’re in a place where you aren’t expecting it. The drinks were delicious and strong and the bartenders were very skilled and quite easy on the eyes. It was a bit crowded at times, but that’s pretty normal for me living in New York.
Batobus River-Boat Shuttle
This hop-on, hop-off river-boat was affordable and convenient in terms of sightseeing. The Batobus makes 9 stops along the River Seine: The Eiffel Tower, Invalides, Musée d’Orsay, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Notre-Dame, Jardin des Plantes/ Cité de la Mode et du Design, Hôtel de Ville, Louvre, and The place of Concorde. Whew. I’m going to be really honest here and tell you that we did not make it to all of the stops, but I recommend devoting a day to do so as these are some of the most popular sightseeing destinations in Paris. Your pass is good for 24 hours, so you can hop and off at any pickup location for a literal full day. We also had the fortune/misfortune of going during the Tour de France, so a lot of streets were blocked off, and there were barricades everywhere. Fortunately, we caught the end of the Tour de France at Louvre. That, we couldn’t have planned for.
One of the many cool things to see in Montmartre was the Sacré-Cœur, which is, in essence, a beautiful church on a hill dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We walked up an insane amount of stairs to see not only the church but the view from the highest point in the city. If you don’t mind a little hike, this is absolutely worth seeing and there are endless bars, restaurants, and shops along the way.
After a very long day of sightseeing, we made a dinner reservation for Buddha-Bar after a bunch of people reached out admonishing us to do so. Buddha-bar is an international hotel and restaurant chain and I am devastated that there is no longer a New York location. The food was so good that after appetizers and entrees, we opted for a second appetizer. The restaurant itself was beautiful so that the food was equally as spectacular just solidified the experience. I would definitely recommend the sushi assortment appetizer and try any one of their signature dishes.
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles was a non-negotiable, come hell or high water, an absolute must-see for me. I never had any intention of going inside the actual castle, because we got there way too late to stand in that line, only to get inside and not be able to see much of anything because of the crowd. My heart was more set on seeing the gardens and the fountains, and possibly Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet. Marie Antoinette is one of a handful of historical figures who I actually find quite fascinating, so I wanted to see her little retreat but didn’t make it in time to visit. We traveled by train to get to Versailles, which wasn’t very complicated, save for the fact that there were some reroutes. Honestly, it was well worth the hour-plus long commute. We rode bikes around the garden which was far away from the crowds so we were really able to take in the views and the experience of being at an actual palace. My mind still can’t wrap itself around having the kind of wealth that could afford that much land. I highly recommend devoting a full day to experiencing Versailles and if the crowd is too much for you, you won’t be disappointed with exploring the gardens. Just an FYI, most of the area is gravel so it is quite dusty out there. Dress accordingly. Do not wear your finest, dry clean only things here.
Another non-negotiable for me on this trip was that I wanted to get dressed up and have a very fancy Parisian dinner to celebrate my birthday. Lapérouse did not disappoint. In fact, it far exceeded my expectations for fine dining. We arrived back to our hotel late from Versailles, so the concierge made a point to help me move my dinner reservation, insisting that it was the best possible place to have a birthday dinner. Upon entering, I felt like I actually walked into Marie Antoinette’s bedroom (I’m guessing). Everything was pink, pastel, antique, and opulent for the sake of opulence. I have decided that my adult home will be decorated with Lapérouse as the reference point. Little did we know, the concierge got us a private dining room. The staff at the restaurant were amazing and made us feel very special and welcome. The food was…an experience. I’ll be thinking about it for the rest of my life.
My first trip to Europe was simply amazing. I can’t think of another word for it. I can’t wait to visit again and to make travel more of a priority for myself. This trip also reignited my desire to see more of New York, because I live in a pretty dope city too. 32 is off to a great start. Things are far from perfect but are also coming together slowly but surely so I end this with an immense amount of gratitude and excitement for what lies ahead.