If you aim to find pure elegance, the world’s finest cuisine, and life-chaning aromas from an endless selection of bakeries and creperies, look no further than Europe’s one-and-only City of Lights. Paris is the epitome of all things sophisticated. It’s singlehandedly the most attractive city in the world. And I could not be more fortunate as a money-scrambling college kid to experience it with my parents (Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this, I’m still full from that souffle. That’s my way of saying thank you for an incredible vacation).
Because American culture (I’m thinking films mainly) tends to treat Paris as a magical, autonomous entity (rather than just as city) that has a mind and character of its own, I had a pretty clear picture of what I thought I would be seeing in my 5 days there: crowds of people gathering around a spontaneous street orchestra; waitresses in some tiny cafe yelling at the top of their lungs to the kitchen staff two feet away from the dining tables; painters on the street whose art would fit in just perfectly next to the works at the Louvre or Pompidou. And yes, most of my expectations were fulfilled. But the one thing that took me by surprise was the elegance of the entire city. By the end of my Parisian exploration, I couldn’t fathom turning a street corner without seeing incredibly wealthy architecture, a historic monument, or a row of cafes and bakeries displaying edibles that were nothing short of works of art.
Despite an initial cold first day in Paris filled with plenty of rain, I got 3 days of sun (unheard of in Denmark) and weather above 60 °F. It was heat I hadn’t experienced since my arrival week in Copenhagen, which of course means that I was incredibly unprepared for the warm weather. Putting all the ensuing sweating and humidity aside, we took advantage of the weather to walk the entire city–which allowed me to see most of the city’s monuments walking to-and-from other destinations within the city. In the end, it would be unfair of me to complain about the Parisian heat, because sunshine and warmth (as I’ve discovered) is a luxury in Scandinavia.
The fact that we were walking almost everywhere allowed us to avoid the often overcrowded Metro system in Paris. Although the city boasts about having an efficient underground Metro system (it is quite efficient; the trains come about every 3 minutes) that can get one anywhere in the city/surrounding areas because of the various tracks and lines, getting on the Metro multiple times a day was not exactly worth the 2 euro fee per one-way journey, especially when trying to see as much as humanly possible in one day. This did require extensive planning of what to see on what specific days, but it was well worth our time walking to these attractions everyday. Plus, it didn’t hurt that there is something to admire on nearly every street corner.
The upside to all this walking was that it got me excited for what turned out to be the main attraction of this trip: FOOD.
There was so much of it.
WAY TOO MUCH OF IT.
From countless bowls of French Onion Soup, to sweet and savory souffles and crepes, and finally to the mountains of pomme frites and bernaise sauce on top of juicy steaks, I think it’s fair to say I ate my way through this city. The greatest thing about France: it’s practically illegal to have a bad meal. Though you do pay a (hefty) price for the most delicious cuisine, it’s well worth the experience of sitting down outside at a street cafe, ordering a cup of the hottest cocoa (practically melted chocolate), and people watch from the comforts of a heat lamp or a warm blanket.
Instead of stuffin’ my face all day, I guess I did end up seeing most of Paris’ attractions. The 5 days I spent in Paris were filled with non-stop visits to different museums and monuments. Which, of course, can be exhausting; but I left Paris feeling like I saw most of the city and knew exactly what I would like to go back and see some other time (because I will definitely be going back in the near future).
Sainte Chapelle, the gargoyles of Notre Dame, Point San Michel, Luxembourg Gardens, Musée d’Orsay, Rodin Museum, Les Invalides & Napoleon’s Tomb, the impressionists at the Orangerie, the traffic at the Place de la Concorde, crepes by the Eiffel Tower at night (and taking the elevator to the top during the day), the Louvre, Arc du Triomphe, Versailles, and Pompidou. The list goes on…
Perhaps my favorite part of all these visits was being able to see Paris from many different heights. Taking the stairs up to the top of Notre Dame and the Arc du Triomphe provided impressive views of the city. And, of course, taking an elevator ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower was memorable not only because of the fear this slow elevator ride where glass windows allowed me to see the frightening ascension of this 320 meter structure, but also because I got to see Paris from a height from which I had yet to see any other city. Though the morning was overcast, seeing the fog roll in over the entirety of the River Seine was impressive and unforgettable.
If I could move to Paris, I’d do it for the food (assuming I had the money for it). But the thought of being surrounded by so much elegance, sophistication, and art makes me want to go back to Paris to see all the alternative attractions this incredible city has to offer.