My “love affair” with Paris began 20 years ago. It was a spontaneous decision to visit a place I’ve never been, and on my own traveling to Europe for the first time ever. My previous trip to Europe had been to England, while in college, with 19 other girls plus our professor.
My first trip to Paris was basically a long weekend….something many people think is nuts when traveling from the U.S. But, my last long weekend to Europe was in 2013, so I am still doing it.
I read stories occasionally to suggest that Americans don’t receive as much vacation time as other countries…and we don’t use what vacation time we do receive. I can confidently say I am NOT one of those Americans. I use every hour of paid vacation time (PTO) I receive, and I still make short trips to destinations that are far away because I don’t think I do receive as much PTO as my friends abroad. For the record….my shortest “long” weekend was to Singapore. That was a blast!
But…back to Paris…my first trip to this beautiful city, the “city of love” was when I was living in Washington DC. I left the U.S on a Thursday and never really adapted to the time change. I flew Air France, and was very impressed with the service.
I like walking around new cities because it helps me get my bearings. My first day in Paris started with a walk from my hotel (can’t even remember where it was located) to the Louvre. It seemed like the right place to start my short visit, in this very famous city.
(Picture from 2009 when taking the kids to Paris for the first time.)
I was then, and am still now, overwhelmed by the Louvre. The building is lovely and impressive, and just too large to really enjoy for a short visit – without a plan. I naively thought I could quickly see the whole thing. Ah, so young and stupid!
If you go to the Louvre, set a manageable amount of time (2-3 hours), go early, and see the Mona Lisa. There are lots of other sources for more tips to make the most of a Louvre visit. I won’t publish them here because it isn’t my favorite Paris activity. (One more tip…you might want to consider getting a guide to really maximize your time there.)
The next thing I remember doing from 20 years ago was the Eiffel Tower. I went to the top, but never seem to get good photos from up there. This is my favorite photo, but it was taken last year, and obviously taken from the ground.
Eiffel Tower tips – get your tickets online ahead of time. Watch out for pick pockets. Try to avoid going up on a windy day. Enjoy a glass of champagne at the top, but don’t bother with the crepes on the ground as you can find better ones nearly every other place in Paris. And, if you can afford it…. eat at Le Jules Verne. (Lunch is the most economical meal.)
The one thing I remember wanting to do in Paris 20 years ago, but I missed out on due to jet lag, was to walk to the top of the Arc de Triomphe at dusk to see the city as the sun set. My favorite travel tip: always leave something to do on your next trip! Not that I ever need an excuse to return to Paris, but I do have one.
And speaking of jet lag….there are apps now to help you with this. And there is always caffeine when you arrive! When I travel to Europe from the middle of the U.S. it is typically a 8-9 hour overnight flight. I like to leave on the 9 pm flight. I don’t eat much at the airport or on the plane; and I try to sleep, even though sleeping on airplanes is not optimal. I do NOT take a nap when I arrive. I push through the fatigue by doing a lot of walking, which again, helps you familiarize yourself with your surroundings. I eat an early dinner and then go to bed early the first night.
The rest of my first ever weekend in Paris is a blur now, but it was just the beginning of my love affair with Paris. Each subsequent trip is another chance to see the things I love, and discover new ones too.
I love starting my day in Paris with a visit to the local bakery – boulangerie. It is such a treat to buy fresh bread to be eaten that day and perhaps a pastry also. No trip to Paris is complete without eating a fresh croissant, and a fresh crepe made right in front of you.
There are too many wonderful places to visit, and things to do in Paris to list them all, so I will close with some of my favorites.
Seine River boat cruise
Foundation Louis Vuitton
Shopping/eating on Rue Cler
Shopping/eating on Place de la Madeleine
Versailles (outside of Paris)
What are your favorite Paris sites/activities?
Go. to. Paris! Now! Yes, you!!
I will not be in Paris on this 20th anniversary of my first visit. I had a wonderful trip to Paris in February of 2015, so this year I will be on the beach in Mexcio. Salud!