Why I went here? My first time to Paris was in 2009, when it was part of my “grand tour”. It was the second of the major European capitals I visited. I returned in 2011 to meet up with friends and to connect to a trip to Turkey. Paris is one of the cities I’ve read and studied a lot over the years. It was always something of a dream to visit here and practice what little French is left in my memory.
Best time to visit? Springtime in Paris is gorgeous. The trees and the gardens are in bloom and the weather is mild. There’s plenty of sunlight and less tourists to contend with.
Best way to get there? Direct flight from DFW to Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport is the most efficient way to reach Paris. From the airport, you can take the RER which has stops in several major stations in central Paris (i.e. Gare du Nord, Saint Michel/Notre Dame), which can then allow you to transfer to the Paris Metro, or you can take a cab. Depending on where you’re staying in the city, you may pay up to 60 Euro so if you’re not press for time I suggest you take the trains. The cost is ¼ of a cab.
What to see/do? Paris is the city of romance and the epitome of that is none other than the Eiffel Tower. This magnificent structure of steel built for the World’s Fair in 1889 stands in the middle of Paris. The tower has two viewing levels, both worth stopping by in order to get different views of the city. Another iconic landmark of the city is Notre Dame. This Gothic designed cathedral was built in the 12th century and was not completed until the mid-14th century. It is famed for its stained glass windows, its organ and its church bells. For a different view of Paris (and in my opinion a better one), head up to Montmartre and climb up to the Sacre Coeur. This other famous basilica of Paris was built in 1875. The climb is a steep 234 steps, but a 360 degree view of the city from its highest peak is one not to miss. For art, visit the Louvre or the Musée D’Orsay. The former is home to perhaps the most famous painting in the world, The Mona Lisa. The museum has extended hours on Wednesdays as well as a discounted rate, but unlike most Parisian museums, it is closed on Tuesdays instead of Mondays. The D’Orsay, is another one of Paris’ premier art museums. It houses the greatest and most impressive collection of impressionist paintings (think Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir). The museum’s location was once a railway station and the clock that can be seen from the Seine is one of the most recognizable images of Paris. Finally, I consider the city itself as a work of art and the best way to see this art is to cruise down the river Seine. There are several boat operators on the banks near Île de la Cité and Pont d’Alexandre III, most famous of them is Bateaux Mouches. Paris is most beautiful late afternoons to early evenings so consider that time of day when booking.
Food and drinks: France is known for its exquisite culinary delights: from delectable pastries to aroma inducing main courses. The French love for incorporating butter and using the freshest ingredients make our dining experiences as tourists, extraordinary. Of course, there are must eats while visiting and for me, one of them is crêpes. Now, crêpe is the dessert version, often made with fruits and cream, nutella or jam, however, there are also what you call galette, which you can find in some crêperies around Paris. Galettes are what I refer to as “main course” crêpes because their fillings are composed of meat and vegetables. Try both when given the opportunity. My friends and I go to Galette Moulin, in Montmartre, for our crêpes and galette fix. For a traditional Parisian dining experience head on to the Marais district and to a restaurant called Le Petit St Paul. This small bistro is frequented by locals (it was recommended by a Parisian I met herself) and is relatively easy on the pocket. Order the “plat du jour” or ask for the waiter for their daily recommendations. As for drinks, wine, wine, and more wine. Even though France makes decent liqueurs, it is wine making that they have perfected into an art form. Not only do they produce the most wines in the world, but they are also one of the top consumers. It is unlikely that you will get a bad glass anywhere you go.
Where to sleep? Paris is divided into twenty sections called “arrondissement” and the majority of the tourist attractions are located on the 1st arrondissement. However, this area is also one of the most expensive areas in Paris therefore if money is no object, stay here. Cafes are abundant; the area is also just minutes walk from the river and bustling nightlife. If saving pennies, try the 5th and 18th arrondissements (Latin Quarter and Montmartre areas respectively). Hostels and cozy bed and breakfasts are aplenty here. Apartments can also be rented in some cases.
Daytrips: If time permits for you to venture out of Paris for a day, visit one of the palaces France is quite well known for: Versailles or Fontainebleau. The former is a palace commissioned by Louis XIV and was the official residence of the Bourbon kings and queens until the French revolution. The extravagant palaces (yes, there are three) and the gardens are the draw here. For a more restrained version of Versailles, visit Fontainebleau. When Napoleon crowned himself emperor, this is where he stayed. Fontainebleau, in my opinion is better than the Versailles because grand though it is, the palace’s décor isn’t as overwhelming as its palatial cousin. It is also nowhere near as crowded so there’s time to truly examine the rooms you visit. The palace and the city that now surrounds it were built around the Forest of Fontainebleau, an old royal hunting park, which in turn, provides a more soothing atmosphere. For additional information including fees and opening hours about these two châteux, click here.
Why I would go back? Paris is a beautiful city and for me, it brings out the artist wannabe within. There is just something whimsical about this place, which is certainly not a nouveau discovery. Even though it is not one of the most endearing cities to me, I cannot deny its utter beauty, and that, is one of the reasons that draws me back for a visit. My last time in Paris, I went on a walking tour of the Marais district and I realized that there is still so much to learn and discover about this city. And of course, the food…that in itself is enough to make me fly across the Atlantic! Finally, some of the people with whom I have made friends with live here, therefore to visit them, il faut aller à Paris.