With every trip that I take, the planning becomes more and more spontaneous. Over the course of about a week in April, I decided to go to Europe (again) over the summer. A few friends would already be there, so why not? My first stop: Paris. I reached out to a good insta-friend Marquel (she was living in Italy) and we decided to meet, for the first time I might add, in the city of lights. As the week got closer and closer, we realized we would be in Paris not only during Bastille Day (day one), but also during the World Cup final (day freaking two)! I must say, I have never felt more French in my life than in that two day time span.
One of the best parts of our trip was staying in the most perfectly aesthetic Airbnb of our dreams! Airbnb posted a photo of this place on their Instagram and I’ve had it saved for almost a year. When Mark and I were looking for a place to stay, I sent this one to her and she agreed! It’s crazy how Instagram has changed the way people travel; I’m so grateful.
Gorgeous herringbone hardwood floors, walls covered in books and art prints, and a view of the Sacré-Cœur from the kitchen window? Yes, yes and hell yeah. Every inch of the apartment was intentional and decorated and personal; we kept saying that it was #goals. The hosts were so nice and I’m sure I’ll never stay anywhere else when in Paris.
Sunrise Strolls Along the Seine
My best advice for anyone visiting Paris, especially in the summer, is to wake up early. And honestly, you don’t even need to wake up at the butt crack of dawn. If you start walking close to 8am (even 9am!), the city is still asleep. I noticed that a lot of cafés don’t open until around 10am or 11am. Save for a few cars whirring by, we had the streets all to ourselves the morning of Bastille Day. We walked along the Seine towards Pont Alexandre III, the most ornate bridge in all of Paris.
As we continued walking, we decided to head to the Trocadéro for the best view of the Eiffel Tower. We passed by the Champs-Élysées and the Palais de Tokyo, the latter of which I’d love to see the next time around. A few cafés were starting to open, so we stopped at Carette for coffee and croissants. It was the perfect pick-me-up in the morning after our fairly lengthy stroll.
Palais-Royal and The Colonnes de Buren
The top spot on my list of must-do’s was definitely the Palais-Royal. Back when I visited Europe in 2015 (when I was a baby in high school!), everything was planned out for us. Things my friends and I would have normally wanted to do were put on the back-burner for any future trip. So for the last three years, I have slowly been building my arsenal of must-visits via Instagram, Pinterest, blogs galore and the like. The Colonnes de Buren welcomed us when we stepped out of the metro. This is the perfect photo spot; it’s fairly empty most of the time and even when it was super busy, you can still find a secluded spot.
Once you pass the columns, you walk right into the jardin du Palais-Royal, a garden lined with trees and those iconic Parisian chairs that surround fountains and courtyards. There are shops, not to mention Café Kitsuné (yum!), lining the gardens. I would come back here two more times during my stay (I’ll get to that later).
After walking around Palais-Royal, we explored around the 1st arrondissement. Stopping in grocery stores searching for vegan chocolate, pretending to know what we were reading in French bookshops, you know, the dream. Our second coffee stop of the day: Lézard Café. I think the fun part of traveling is not only doing and seeing and eating things you have been wanting to, but also stumbling upon places that you would never have seen or experienced if not for pure chance.
Another anecdote of a time that confirmed Marquel and I were destined to be friends: we both wanted to visit the Sezane flagship. Before she arrived at our Airbnb, I was mapping out our itinerary in my head, hoping she would be down to go visit one of my top musts. Lo and behold, as I asked her where she wanted to go, what did she say? Yep, Sezane. Divine. After trolling around the alleyways of Paris, we arrived at opening (mind you it’s 10am). I swear, if my mind could explode onto four walls, this store would be it. It’s practically the French Madewell, so, you know. They even had treats out for a Bastille Day celebration.
Now back to our Airbnb. I cannot stress enough how perfect this space is. Mark and I had an impromptu shoot in our weekend apartment, complete with a vintage silk set she got from her mother.
After recovering from the heat of a Parisian summer, we made our way to my absolute favorite spot in Paris: Île Saint-Louis. A quaint island on the river Seine and home to my favorite ice cream shoppe, I stopped here more times than I could count. As jetlag began to hit, all I wanted was wine and cheese. Honestly, we chose St. Regis at random, as their tables overlooked the river and passersby. (Scroll for a photo of me enjoying my raspberry mojito.)
As the night came to close, the streets flooded with people, lining the river Seine to watch the fireworks sparkle above the Eiffel Tower. To see people sitting on bridges and walls, anxiously waiting for the French celebration, was quite moving. Mark and I watched from the courtyard of the Louvre and, I must say, it was freaking spectacular.
Champion Du Monde
On Mark’s last day in Paris (she had to return to work in Milan, I know right?), we visited the Jardin du Luxembourg. Another spot that I seemed to miss during my trip in high school, we had a nice stroll through the gardens as the tourists started rolling in. After moving me to my hostel, we sadly parted ways. Now that I was alone, everything from then on was (mostly) spontaneous. I knew one thing, however: I wanted to watch France play in the World Cup.
To say the entire city was on the edge of their seat was an understatement. Every bar, cafe, TV in the city was streaming the game. I made my way back to the Palais-Royal and the entire garden was silent. The only thing you could hear was a large crowd murmuring towards the back corner of the gardens. Following an alleyway outside of the garden, I stumbled upon a small pub, hosting a crowd of about fifty, drinking and smoking and ready to cheer on their country. Awkwardly American, I strayed towards the back as the game started. Within the first 10 minutes(?), France scored. That small crowd in a quiet alleyway erupted in screaming, hugging, crying. Soon after, you could hear the apartments above us, down the street, around the corner, all cheering. It was magnificent, but I wanted to experience it in a grander way.
It pained me to walk away from such an intimate crowd; call me sentimental . I decided to head towards the big one: the giant crowd under the Eiffel. By the time France scored again, I was passing a larger restaurant, with every head turned to the single TV in the far corner. More cheers.
After a misdirected metro ride, I finally made my way through the Embarcadero. A small restaurant along the Seine, seated under the Eiffel Tower, erupted in screaming and confetti and blue and red powders flying through the air. France. Freaking. Won. As if I was watching a real life Les Mis revolution unfold, the streets flooded with French-blooded victors, marching (as I learned later) to the Champs-Élysées. Pedestrians stood in the middle of the street to high-five motorcyclists. People riding on the roofs of cars, the French flag waving on their backs. Strangers meeting and hugging. Yeah, it was overwhelming, but my God it was beautiful.
Day Three + Four
Call Me Amélie
My itinerary for the next day was basically to emulate my favorite
French movie movie of all time: Amélie. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and watch it ASAP (it’s on Netflix!). I didn’t get a chance to see Café des 2 Moulins, the cafe where she works, but I knew I wanted to see the Sacré-Cœur in person. Since our Airbnb had a view of the basilica from the kitchen window, I wanted to see it more and more each day.
I must say, although Montmarte is quaint and fun to walk around, it’s exhausting. Everything was uphill (I’m getting winded thinking about it), and in the heat of the summer, I was depleted about a half hour into exploring. After going in what felt like one endless loop, I knew I had to at least see La Maison Rose before leaving. It’s that restaurant you’ve probably seen on Pinterest at least a dozen times.
The Best View in Paris
Something my mom encouraged me to do during my stay was to climb the Arc de Triomphe and look out on the city from the top. After a little bit of research, I read that there were 284 steps to get to the top. Again, I was winded just thinking about it. Surprisingly enough, once I actually started climbing, the trek was not as bad as I originally imagined. And the view was so worth it. I always dreamed of seeing the Eiffel Tower like that and the lookout wasn’t too crowded in the morning.
Berthillon: If you go anywhere in Paris, 10/10 would recommend Berthillon. The best ice cream in Paris and internationally reknowned, I visited the shop on Île Saint-Louis so many times that the scooper recognized me by the third night. My go-to order: sea salted caramel. My dairy splurge for the year.
Season Paris: Mark found this spot for dinner on our first night. She ordered us glasses of white wine and we enjoyed the Parisian air as the city got dark. The actual space was incredibly chic and the food was perfect for a light meal.
Cafe Mareva: Another spot that Mark wanted to visit. This was our last meal together on the day of the World Cup. My smoothie was good, but man I wish I would have ordered her waffle. IT LOOKS SO TASTY.
Musee D’Orsay: During my high school trip, we only visited the Louvre. I remember being fairly disappointed that we didn’t visit the Orsay but I’m glad I had to wait. As a self-proclaimed art history nerd, roaming through museums is a preferred pastime of mine.
If you’ve reached this point, I applaud you for sticking around to read (or scroll for pics) through that whole thing. Most of the time I spent by myself, I left my camera at my hostel so I could soak in the city. Paris just can’t be beat.