I think that Paris is a city that everyone dreams to visit. Every person has a different preconceived ‘dream idea’ of what Paris will be like before they experience it for the first time. Maybe they dream they will waltz through the beautiful streets wearing a béret and eating a baguette, or picnicking by the Eiffel Tower, enjoying delicious French cheese and wine! Maybe they dream they are strolling the Champs-Élysées shopping at Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Chanel, or noshing on macaroons, pastries and tea at Maison Ladurée.
I dreamed all these things before arriving in Paris for the first time. Granted, I only had one night, and two days to explore the city of romance and light, but I made the most of it, and although I didn’t bring my béret (there was no space in my pack) and I didn’t visit Maison Ladurée, (the lines were a million miles long… next time!) Paris was every bit as wonderful as I had imagined. The streets – the shops – the cafés – the architecture! All incredible!
We stayed at the Acacias Étoile Hotel, which was located very close to the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, one of the most famous monuments in Paris. The Arc de Triomphe stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. We also had the Argentine Metro Station steps from our door, which made taking the Metro throughout the city a breeze!
Even though time was somewhat limited, we knew we wanted to take our time at the Eiffel Tower. We stopped at a bakery for baguette’s, a fromagerie for fresh French cheese, and a local wine shop to select a fabulous bottle of French red wine. We took everything and picnicked in front of the Eiffel Tower on the Champs de Mars for a couple of hours, eating cheese on bread, drinking wine and marvelling in the general fact that we were in Paris. At first I felt a little silly spending hours sitting in front of the Eiffel Tower, especially when there were so many other things we could be seeing and doing. But we so enjoyed this moment, and I have such wonderful, vivid memories of the Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower because we really took the time to enjoy and appreciate it.
At the same time, we wanted to get a feel for as much as Paris as possible. Our strategy was simple – endlessly wander. We didn’t go inside any museums or tour any historical monuments this time around. We just walked, and enjoyed. In doing this, I felt like we saw a lot more of Paris then most people do in just two days. We wandered along the Seine, discovering Île de la Cité and the Île Saint-Louis. We walked Saint-Germain, stopping in a lovely bistro for a light lunch and enjoyed real champagne, escargot and onion soup on a patio.
When you have limited time to explore a city like Paris, you want to do your best to hit the highlights, but deciding what to see and for how long on a limited time schedule can be difficult. It’s important to remember that being in the moment, and really appreciating what you’re seeing and experiencing, is how you’ll make memories that last. It doesn’t matter that you tick off every major attraction the first time you visit a city or country, what matters is that you make the most of the time you do have, and fully immerse yourself in the experiences you do have time for. If you don’t see everything you want to see the first time you go somewhere, you can always make it a point to return someday. This all being said, everyone travels and experiences differently. Finding your own way to do things – the way that fulfills and drives you – whether it’s slow and steady or quick and efficient – is the best way to do it.
What I loved most about Paris is that I really felt that ‘joie de vivre’ that people speak of. The city is busy and bustling with locals and tourists, yet we never felt rushed or frantic. Perhaps it was our state of mind a little bit, but I truly think it was just what happens to you, and how you feel, when you’re in the magical city of Paris.
*All photos & opinions are my own.