We’ve travelled many places, and one question I am often asked is “where is your favorite place to go”. I crave variety so there aren’t many places I would go back to time and time again. One place I would always go back to is Paris, by far my favorite city. Of course, I fell in love with Paris long before my first trip there. Through movies like Gigi, through the music of Edith Piaf, and through the novels of Victor Hugo I’d already formed a romantic image of Paris in my head. And I have found that the City of Lights, so full of romance, beautiful architecture and interesting history, never disappoints.
“America is my country, and Paris is my hometown“Gertrude Stein
The Millennium Tour
We took our first trip to Paris in 2000, and even though we hadn’t officially gotten married yet, it felt like a first honeymoon. The first thing we did was take a River cruise on the Seine. I highly recommend this for first timers, it’s a great thing to do while you’re trying to get over your jet lag and a fantastic way to see all of the sights along the river. The first time the boat rounds the curve and you see the Eiffel Tower is breathtaking. For me it was love at first sight.
Along with seeing The Louvre and the other major sights, one of my favorite experiences was taking a stroll up the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to admire all of the great design houses. And speaking of the Louvre, I suggest buying a Museum pass. It’s overwhelming to try to see everything the Louvre has to offer in a single visit. Breaking your visit up into manageable chunks over a series of days and times makes for a much better experience. Plus the pass gets you into many more museums, including my personal favorite, the Musee d’Orsay.
The Best Honeymoon Ever
Our second trip to Paris was in 2008, for our honeymoon. Even though my husband and I have been together since 1992, we weren’t able to get legally married until 2008. It wasn’t even a question that Paris would be our honeymoon trip, and this time we spent 10 glorious days just exploring the city. Every morning we would wake up with no agenda, deciding over coffee and pain au chocolate which part of the city we would explore that day. One of the sights we hadn’t hit on our first trip was the Musee Rodin, and I highly recommend it. The museum is a beautiful building by itself, enhanced by spectacular artwork.
Another of my favorite experiences was just spending a day walking through neighborhoods, such as the Marais or St. Germain, wasting an hour or more sitting outside a cafe watching the world go by. It was on this trip that we also found our favorite hotel, The Relais Saint Charles, one we’ve gone back to again on our next two trips. It’s a 10 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower and very close to a metro station that’ll get you anywhere you want to go. The Bistro Dupliex down the street became one of our go to places. It isn’t fancy, just good affordable food served by very friendly waitstaff.
Speaking of waitstaff, I’ve had a number of people ask how I can love Paris so much when the French are so rude. I must say that’s never been my experience. The French just expect some polite formalities first. Case in point, I was behind a tourist in a cafe line who, when it got to his turn to order just blurted out “a ham sandwich”. No bonjour, no s’il vous plait. The server just looked at him and said “bonjour monsieur”. The tourist blurted out his order again and the server said “bonjour, monsieur” again. This went on for a few minutes until I leaned over and said “he won’t serve you until you say hello”. The tourist said “oh yeah I forgot we’re in Paris where everyone’s rude”. I could only shake my head and think “you were the rude one, sir”! In Paris, like in life, you get what you give.
Just a Short Hop from Dublin
In 2015 we moved to Dublin for my work. We loved our time as expats, and one of the huge benefits of living there was how easy it was to travel to other parts of Europe. We took advantage of the fact that Paris was an inexpensive 90 minute flight away to visit again, this time over Christmas and New Year with our niece. It was her first time there and being able to see the city anew through her eyes was a treat.
We had a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration on the Champs de Mars overlooking the Eiffel Tower. We found a small shop that sold us a bottle of champagne that we passed between us. Those who know me as a Boy Scout won’t be surprised that I was worried about drinking in public, but I was quickly put at ease by the fact that everyone else in the crowed around us had bottles of bubbly or some other libation as well.
We visited the many wonderful Christmas markets and took a nighttime Illuminations bus tour, perfect to see the City of Lights lit up in her holiday best. We did have another Ugly American moment though when the bus got stuck in traffic on the Champs d’Elysee. The audio system also got stuck on a very irritating song (you can listen to it here if you’re curious), and one frustrated tourist started yelling at the bus driver about how it was driving him crazy. Of course several of us had to loudly point out to him that all he had to do was take his headphones off to get some relief!
Using up those frequent flier miles
While we were living in Ireland I’d accumulated a large number of BA frequent flier miles. After we moved back to the US they were due to expire and the only city I could find with availability was Paris. Quel dommage! So in 2017 we we were forced to make another trip back. This time we only stayed a couple of days in Paris and then visited Giverny and Normandy. I loved Monet’s house, and the WW2 sites in Normandy were beautifully heartbreaking. Go to the American cemetery at sunset to hear them play taps, I guarantee you there won’t be a dry eye in sight.
We were scheduled to make another trip in 2020, this time yet another river cruise. This one is a gay cruise with Brand g vacations which unfortunately had to be rescheduled to 2022 due to COVID. Brand g has been wonderful about rescheduling and I can’t wait for the next trip so that I can see my beloved Eiffel Tower again!