A few years back I decided that my birthday gift to myself each year would be a passport stamp. So far, I’ve been able to make that happen the last 3 years, with plans to continue this year. Even if I’m not able to gift myself a passport stamp, I will treat myself to a trip somewhere. So how did Paris come about? Funny thing is, I’d never had any strong desire to visit Paris before, but something was digging at me to to go, so I listened and went. Now, I absolutely can’t wait to get back and explore even more of this wonderful, vibrant, and seasoned city.
Something you should know about my birthday trips is I tend to keep them to 4 days, basically an extended weekend. And the first question out of nearly everyone’s mouth is “How do you see <enter city name here> in just 4 days?”. Let me tell you, it can be done and I’ve been doing it successfully for 3 years. I’ll do a separate post later on how I do my trip planning, as well as tips and best practices.
Now, back to the City of Lights. ~insert Sinatra crooning “I love Paris in the springtime”~ Once we landed, we hit the ground running. I had my itinerary in hand, because I’m the sort of person that LOVES plans and schedules. After dropping our bags off, we went about the job of seeing the sites, drinking the wine, and eating the sweet stuff (I have a wicked sweet tooth). The Paris Experience is way too much to fit into one post, so I will make this one more of a high level recap of sorts.
Nothing could have prepared me for the sights, sounds, and smells of the Paris. I was instantly taken in by the architecture, the doors (yes, the doors), the food, the wine, and the life of the city. The top 3 highlights of the trip for me were:
- Visiting the Palace of Versailles. I didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did. We ended up staying 3 hours longer and exploring the grounds more extensively than originally planned. I was amazed at the craftsmanship, the opulence, and sheer magnitude of the palace and its grounds. If you ever get the chance to visit, I highly recommend it. I also recommend (1) you get there early and (2) you don’t get lost on the train like we did. Taking the train to Versailles is quite simple. It’s also quite simple to misunderstand that when you get off at the Paris Metro stop to transfer, you actually go to the train station down the block….not back into the Metro station. I will save myself the embarrassment of admitting how long it took us to figure that out (30 mins wandering around the Val de Seine area of Paris) AND how many Metro tickets we wasted in the process (at least 4. Maybe 6) 🙂
- The house wines. As we wandered and meandered our way around the 4,5, & 6 arrondissements, we made it a point to stop often at the cafes lining the streets. I sampled the wine at each one and was never disappointed, not even once. And most times, I had no idea what I was ordering as I don’t speak the best (or any) French and the servers didn’t always speak English well enough for me to ask questions about the wine (flavor profiles, levels of dryness, etc.). So it became a bit of a game for me, and I like to think that I won that game handedly. 🙂 I may have also ordered a glass of wine and coffee for breakfast one morning, but I will neither confirm nor deny. 🙂
- Montmartre: This is the 18th arrondissement of Paris and it’s probably the quaintest part of the city we saw during our visit. I definitely plan to spend more time there on my next visit. After nearly dying trying to exit the Abbesses metro station–the deepest station on the Metro at 118 feet below the ground. No, we did not know this when we chose this exit. Yes, I really did think I would die before getting to top of the ever winding staircase. But hey, we can now say we conquered it! After catching our breath, we wandered around the cobblestone streets, up and down hills, and did a little window shopping. I had my best meal in Paris at one of the little restaurants there–a lovely bowl of beef bourguignon. Of course you can’t go to Montmarte without visiting Sacre Coeur (Sacred Heart), a Roman Catholic church that sits on highest spot in the city. You’re treated to beautiful, sweeping views of Paris from its steps.