Paris has been my favorite weekend trip during my time abroad so far. Maybe it was the fact that it was during my extended spring break, or that I was accompanied by my boyfriend. It could have been the constant pastry food coma that I was in. No matter the exact reason why I loved it so much, some of the best moments of the trip happened when there were no plans.
It goes completely against my nature to explore a new city without an exact plan or destination, and I still did manage to route parts of the trip in order to see what a tourist needs to see, but when I got the chance to put away my phone I did. Of course, getting home from where we ended up called for a little technical help. Paris is a beautiful city and I believe now that the best way to see it for what it is is to wander it without a map. Here’s why:
1. The Best Views Are Not Always The Classic Ones
Almost everyone wants to see the love lock bridge when they go to Paris, but even better than that is the small park underneath Pont Neuf that provides sanctuary from the constant flow of people at the more tourist-focused locations. The walk to and from the Sacre-Coeur just added to the view at the top, so even walking instead of riding makes for a view.
It’s often right around the corner, behind, or underneath the crowded stuff that you can find the real views that are worth seeing and completely taking in. That is not to say that I did not enjoy the Eiffel Tower or Musee D’Orsay, but they just did not capture my attention in the same day.
2. Each Person Is Different.
I cannot honestly say that all locals were nice and welcoming, especially this one waitress who was not having our English, but the people that were willing to have conversations with us made up for it all. Upon entering two random, separate stores, we met two people born-and-raised in France who spoke perfect English. It was because of their language abilities that we got to know the people, making us wish we spoke fluent French in order to make interactions like these more commonplace.
The first was a student working in a small boutique and had a great taste in music. The other was a man who owned Pigalle Basketball and loved sharing the sport’s culture in France with us, not to mention throw a few jokes at my boyfriend. Two very different people, and maybe one more interesting that the first, but amazing to converse with nonetheless.
3. You’ll Stumble on the Best Macarons
You can get Ladurée just about anywhere nowadays, so the real key is following your heart, eyes, and stomach to the local stands. Some of them are gimmicky with their fancy flavors, but macarons come down to the sweetness and consistency to me. I wish I had taken down the name or location of the place that we got creme brûlée and coconut macaroons, but I can say it was a display in the Montmartre area.
The same idea goes for other local cuisine, from pastries to gourmet dinners. Trying a cuisine for the first time makes it hard to decide if it is genuinely good or bad, but as far as my own enjoyment was concerned I was never disappointed by the food we found in Paris. We never tracked down a particular restaurant. Instead we chose what looked best on whatever street we were on. Maybe we got lucky, or maybe Paris is just full of really amazing food.
4. It Truly Is Romantic
I was lucky enough to spend three days in Paris with my boyfriend. As college students, opportunities like that don’t come up very often. Leaning on nothing but each other to figure out what step was next was exactly why I wanted to go there with him in the first place. When I felt the need to navigate the city with a map, he pulled me back to reality and away from my screen. I have him to thank for making the trip as great as it was.
**Edit: Only go with a spouse/life-long partner, not your college boyfriend.
5. You Just Can’t Go Wrong In Paris
Every city has its bad neighborhoods, but there is something about Paris streets that leave me willing to risk it in order to explore. That may sound naive, and part of it may come from the fact that I had a strong, protective male with me, but I also think it shows a shift in my own perspective by the end of the trip. I may not have agreed with my own post upon my arrival the first night, but after even just my first full day I was embracing the city more for what it was; beautiful, interesting, and full of possibilities.
Rain or shine, Paris is full of exciting things on every street. Not with the same excitement as NYC or London, but the kind of excitement that hits home when you see beautiful street art or architecture. I will return to Paris one day. There is no doubt in my mind that I can make that happen. I hope to return with the mindset that I left: leave the phone in my pocket and just keep wandering.
On to the next,