paris, je t’aime

As the iconic Audrey Hepburn said in Sabrina,

Paris is always a good idea.

For myself, a person who studied French since 7th grade (and even minored in the language in college), it has been a dream of mine to visit the City of Lights. Well, just last week I made that dream into a reality.

I planned a 10-day vacation (including travel days) to Paris and London, with Paris being the first leg. My flight flew into Charles de Gaulle Airport and after a lengthy Uber ride, I left my luggage with the hotel and walked two blocks down to the Louvre. From there, the next few days were packed with long walks along the Seine, visits to some of the best museums in the world, and nonstop bites of croissants, crêpes, soufflés, baguettes, cheese, macarons, and wine.

Everyone says Paris is beautiful. This is not an exaggeration by any means. Everywhere I walked was like being transported into a postcard. Even in the 6-9°C weather, the views were spectacular. I was seeing with my own eyes culturally and historically significant buildings, artwork and sculptures throughout the centuries, winding streets upon where great men and women have walked, and oases of greenery amidst one of the most populous cities in the world. Paris is beautiful by day or night – it’s no wonder people have love affairs with the city.

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Louvre

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Palais Royal
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View down the Seine
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Eiffel Tower
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Musée d’Orsay
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Jardins du Luxembourg
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Versailles
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Hall of Mirrors
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Champs-Élysées

Itinerary:

  • Day 1 (Sunday): Travel day!
  • Day 2 (Monday): Arrived in Paris around 9am. Walked from the hotel to the Louvre, then to the Jardin des Tuileries, before going towards Place Vendôme and then walking east. Found a cute independent coffee shop (Télescope) near Jardin du Palais Royal. Had some tea before coming across Udon Jubey for lunch. After lunch, walked over to the Jardin du Palais Royal and Le Palais Royal. Enjoyed a matcha latte at the cozy Café Kitsuné. Walked around the Forum des Halles and then southeast towards Notre-Dame. Made my way along the Pont au Change to the Palais de Justice de Paris and Sainte Chapelle. From there, walked directly to Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. The line was fairly short, so I explored the inside of the cathedral. Afterwards, walked over to Shakespeare & Company, a small, independent bookstore that was a gathering place for some of the greatest writers of the Lost Generation such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, among others. Walked along the Seine towards Pont des Art, which was a straight shot through Palais du Louvre and back to the hotel. In the evening, had artichoke heart salad with button mushrooms and a beef stew with boiled potatoes and carrots at Café Constant. Couldn’t help but walk towards the beautifully lit Eiffel Tower before finally going back to the hotel for much-needed sleep.
  • Day 3 (Tuesday): Walked across the Pont des Art towards Musée d’Orsay. Explored the art museum for a couple of hours and then walked in the direction of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Stopped by a patisserie for a pain au chocolat. Walked to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Popped by Sadaharu Aoki for a matcha croissant before walking to Sainte Chapelle. Explored the church and then walked towards Marais. From there, walked to Marché couvert des Enfants Rouges. Found a Pierre Hermé not too far from the market and bought macarons.
  • Day 4 (Wednesday): Walked to the Musée d’Orsay train station and took the RER C line to Versailles. Explored the palace and the gardens before taking the train back to the city and walked over to Champs-Élysées. Walked up and down Champs-Élysées, saw the Arc de Triomphe, and visited some of the shops (e.g. Montblanc, Longchamp, Nike). Picked up some macarons from Ladurée. Headed to Musée de l’Orangerie through the Jardin des Tuileries and walked around the museum. Started walking to the hotel and stopped by a patisserie for a matcha crêpé. For dinner, went to Le Soufflé for salad, savory soufflé, and chocolate soufflé for dessert. Took a walk around Champs-Élysées at night.
  • Day 5 (Thursday): In the morning, went straight to the Louvre and toured the museum. Afterwards, went to Yasube for lunch (yakitori and grilled sardines) and then took an Uber to Gare du Nord train station. Boarded the Chunnel to London St. Pancras railway station.
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Gardens of Versailles
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Sainte Chapelle
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Musée de l’Orangerie
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Eiffel Tower and the Roue de Paris
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Flowers at a Parisian market

Tips:

  • Always say “bonjour” when talking to someone in Paris. If you’re looking to ask for directions, get seats at a restaurants, order, etc., the polite thing to do is to first say “bonjour, monsieur/madame” before saying anything else. If you don’t, the other person may even interrupt you to say “bonjour” – their way of saying “Hey look, I’m being polite by saying hello, so you should hello too.” This can do wonders in receiving friendly treatment!
  • Try to make an effort to speak some French. Learn some basic phrases, like
    • s’il vous plaît (please)
    • merci (thank you)
    • pardon or excusez-moi (pardon me/excuse me)
    • au revoir (goodbye)
    • je voudrais (I would like – for ordering food/drinks)
    • je ne comprends pas (I do not understand)
    • je ne parle pas français (I do not speak French)
  • Either walk or take public transportation like the metro. Walking is one of my favorite things about Paris. There are a number of free walking tours.
  • Paris is divided into neighborhoods called arrondissements. They are numbered 1-20, with 1-12 being the most central.
  • When visiting museums, expect security checks. Try not to bring luggages or big bags. Most likely, you will need to store these in a luggage check if you do so. Save yourself the trouble and store luggage and big bags at your hotel.
  • Plan accordingly. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and the Musée d’Orsay is closed on Mondays.
  • The first Sunday of every month is generally free admission for museums. Everyone knows this, so it’ll be pretty crowded. If you want to take advantage of this, go early!
  • For museums and other tourist attractions, go during the weekdays when the locals are working.
  • Go early as possible for the Louvre. They open at 9am, and I would recommend getting there at that time. Buy your tickets in advance or purchase the Paris Museum Pass, which allows you to skip the queues with a Fast Track entry. Also, the entrance from the Carrousel du Louvre (underground shopping mall) is generally much less crowded than the main entrance at the pyramid, so I would advise taking this entrance if you see a very long wait at the main entrance.
  • Take time to sit in one of Paris’ breathtaking parks. If you’re going when it’s warm, pack a picnic.
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Matcha croissant from Sadaharu Aoki
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Matcha latte from Café Kitsuné
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Udon from Udon Jubey
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Pierre Hermé macarons
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Chocolate soufflé from Le Soufflé
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Yakitori from Yasube

Have you ever visited Paris? If so, comment below on your favorite spots? If not, let me know what are some of your musts. In addition, if anyone needs recommendations or more information about the places I’ve been to in La Ville des Lumières, please let me know below in the comments.

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