I never quite understood how people fall in love with places so declarations of love for cities like New York and Paris were always met with cynicism.
Never having been to Paris (and, well, the Big Apple), tales of the Eiffel, the Mona Lisa and even pretentiously lugging around baguettes were interesting yet annoyingly hyperbolic. Even books on how to dress like a Parisian, though rampant, were severely misunderstood and easily dismissed.
A five day trip to Paris last April changed all that. Unfortunately, I went during Easter weekend which meant hordes of tourists that I did not expect. Everyone on break seemed to have flocked to the city that every spot had at least a hundred people taking photos. Imagine, just at the love lock bridge you had to fight for your photo space lest random lovers photobomb. Needless to say, the lines were unforgiving – at the Louvre, the Eiffel, Notre Dame, etc. All the lines seemed endless and hopeless.
So, no, I didn’t get to see the Mona Lisa nor get to count the glass squares at the Louvre a la Dan Brown and come up with my own conspiracy theory. I didn’t get to see the view from the Arc De Triumph nor the restaurant at the Eiffel. I didn’t even bother going to the Trocadero. What I did do though was hang out in Champs-Élysées and eat. And shop. For some reason I think the food in Paris is amazing (my mom swears it’s the cream) and the shopping divine. Even the line at Ladurée was intense but I didn’t pass up the chance to try world-famous French macarons.
Walking along Avenue Montaigne and just seeing the ateliers of Valentino, Dior, Chanel and other Parisienne designers was a hair-raising and exciting experience. (So was my pretentious banter with sales people about the latest collections of so and so designer. “Raf Simmons is amazing, no?“)
I did take the hop-on hop-off bus for two days so I got to at least see the sites and walk around the great palaces while listening to a recap of history lessons I should’ve paid attention to way back when. Full disclosure: my mom and I both fell asleep on the bus while going around. Even the gorgeous city couldn’t provide enough adrenaline to sustain two weary tourists.
All in all, it was such a beautiful experience. I think the city makes you feel certain emotions strong enough to make me want to buy The Hunchback of Notre Dame and read Victor Hugo’s tale of the place (or hey, maybe that’s because of the gypsies.) Honestly though, the city is amazing and every corner is photogenic and opulent. The structures, the buildings, the mood, the locals riding their bikes, the street art, quaint hotels and apartments, the French accent, the smell of pastries wafting through patisseries – all of them were experiences I wanted to take in and remember forever. Even the snobby Parisians and the smelly train station added to the charm of the place. (Though, really, the metro stinks.) I really do want to go back to Paris and explore this time around. I’d have my fill of eclairs, fashion and give myself ample time to fall in love with the city.
One day I’ll be head over heels in love with it. Kidding, I already am.
TIPS ON WHAT TO DO AND WHERE TO GO IN PARIS:
Again, I didn’t get to go inside the sites but even if you don’t queue, visiting each one is an experience in itself so here’s a roundup of some of my suggested tourist and fashion spots.
If you’re headed to Paris, I suggest you don’t go on big international holidays lest you not see sites. The big deals were Le Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais (where Chanel holds its Paris Fashion Week shows), the Les Invalides (a museum where Napoleon Bonaparte is buried), the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Opera Garnier, the palace Trocadero and walking along Champs Elysees. Most, if not all of these, can be seen and reached by taking a hop on hop off bus. The bus company I tried was Les Cars Rouges. If you want to take photos or lock your love and declare impenetrable love to the world, you can head to Pont des Arts, a bridge brimming with padlocks. Take a bus to Versailles too, I heard it’s beautiful.
In terms of fashion (here comes the fun part), here’s where you need to go. Champs-Élysées for high street shopping. Avenue Montaigne, Rue Saint Honore and Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, Saint Germain des Pres (for the likes of Paco Rabanne and Sonia Rykiel), and Galeries Lafayette which is a huge upscale department store. For Chanel addicts, try to have tea at the Ritz Hotel where Coco Chanel lived and visit the original Chanel atelier at 31 Rue Cambon. You can also check out the fashion museum, Musée Galliera, for a look at Parisian costumes and a gallery of some of the best Parisian designers.
Have fun in Paris!