An American (And a Brit) In Paris

by Monica McCarthy on December 23, 2013

Love-Lock

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.”
― Thomas Jefferson

After spending a glorious week in southern France untangling the year that was, it was time to take the train up to a city that needs no introduction: Paris.

Paris is a place that took me by surprise. She is such an icon, such a popular destination, that I confess I didn’t want to fall under her spell. Sure, she was la creme de la creme in the days of Hemingway and Stein. And like Own Wilson in “Midnight In Paris,” I fantasize about the days of yore when genius and art and absinthe ran rampant in the narrow alleyways winding around Montmartre. But there wasn’t anything magical about her anymore, right? Right?

I love it when life proves me wrong.

How ignorant of me to forget that certain destinations are popular for a reason… just not always the reason one expects. Of the many lessons travel has taught me, one of the biggest is to keep as open a mind as possible. It isn’t the place that needs to rise to the occasion, but the visitor who must adjust accordingly. The truth is Paris taught us how to raise the bar for ourselves.

Fortunately, I had my wonderful friend Hannah with me who was wide-eyed with excitement. Our only agenda was to drink a Kir Royal, eat as many pastries as possible, and visit Shakespeare and Company. Little did we know those would just be the beginning of a grand adventure!

We skipped out on the museums (and sleep) due to our compacted time table, but what we missed we made up for ten fold. Attempting to recreate our weekend here in my little online journal is proving a monumental task. Our full day in Paris was one of the highlights of my year and among my favorite travel experiences thus far. The food, the beauty, the pinch-me-this-can’t-really-be-happening wonderfulness was almost too much to believe! The weekend felt so luxurious, even though most of our time was spent doing something free: walking, mouth agape at the splendor of it all. There was so much to take in, I hated to blink for fear of missing it.

***

I’m not one for writing travel “tips”but there were three elements that greatly contributed to the quality of our experience, and I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t share them with you in case you may find them helpful.

To start with, this was my first time staying in an apartment instead of a hotel or hostel. Thanks to the wonderful folks at Go With Oh, we had a stunning studio apartment in Marais, an area away from most tourists but close to everything. I honestly can’t say enough positive things about Go With Oh, or the accommodations, or Rebecca, our charming host. Having a place that felt like “home” made the trip even more special because it helped us imagine, if just for a brief time, what life would be like if we actually lived in Paris. Let’s just say I can hardly wait to return.

Second, the early bird does, in fact, get the warm, buttery croissant. We were out the door by 7am on our one and only full day in Paris. This meant that we were always a few steps ahead of the crowds. Whether sipping our chocolate chaud at the iconic Cafe de Flores while watching the sun rise and bathe the buildings in her beautiful light, or lighting a candle and saying a prayer of gratitude at Notre Dame, we could do so without waiting in line or feeling like part of a spectacle.

Last, but certainly not least, in the words of Hemingway himself, “Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” I often pride myself in my ability to travel on my own, and while there are certainly times I prefer the solitude, in this case I can’t even imagine the experience without Hannah. Having someone to share in the excitement of finding the perfect used book, or tear up with over the beauty of mass in a medieval cathedral, or simply to share a pot of moules en frites at a winter market, made the experience all the more sweet. I’m sure Paris is nice for lovers, but she’s also just as endearing when experienced with a friend you love.

***

Whittling down the memories into a few photos feels insufficient, but here is a highlight reel of our time after sunrise and before sunset during our 36 hours in Paris, a city that taught me to shine light on love (in all her forms) again.

Arrive after sundown on Friday night. Navigate via the Metro…

Paris-Metro

To your home away from home in the Marais…

Paris-Apt

Watch the sunrise while enjoying your croissant and chocolat chaud…

Cafe-Flore-B&W

Work off the carbs by walking over the Pont de l’Archeveche and inspecting tokens of amor…

Love-Locks-Bridge-B&W

Follow the sound of church bells to Notre Dame and witness a stunning service….

Notre-Dame-Service

Light a candle in memory…

Notre-Dame-TeaLights

Bask in humility…

Notre-Dame-Cross

Follow the road of books…

Book-Street

Stand where Hemingway, Plath, Fitzgerald and others stood…

Monica-Shakespeare-And-Co

Savor the words…

Hannah-Books

Escape to another time…

Couple-Books

After fueling your brain, head to Buvette for delicious madeleines and bowls of cafe au lait…

Buvette

Image kicking up your heals in Montmarte…

Moulin-Rouge

Speaking of Windmills, head over to Two Windmills as featured in “Amelie”…

Windmill

Enjoy a Kir Royale and a cheers…

Hannah Cheers

Walk past history at the Saint-Vincent Cemetary…

Cemetary

Head towards the view…

Paris-Subway

To the beacon of light and love…

Eiffel-Tower-Graffiti

Take a long stroll down La Voie Georges Pompidou…

Paris-Bridge

Happily stumble upon a Christmas Market outside the Louvre…

Paris-Market

Rise early the next day to say goodbye at the train station…

Hannah-Train

Take a moment while the sun also rises…

Paris-Train-Station

Meet up with your new blog crush and fellow map-o-phile Pret-A-Voyager at the charming Merci Cafe…

Merci-Interior

Take in the streets of Paris with one final solitary stroll filled with gratitude…

Paris-Street

Before saying one last goodbye to the City of Light.

CDG

…“We’ll always have Paris.”
― Howard Koch

flourish

{Note: Accommodations were provided by Go With Oh, but I assure you the opinions expressed are my own.}

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kirsten January 2, 2014 at 6:03 pm

LOVELY!!!!! You’ve perfectly captured my favorite city. In both words and photos.
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Hannah January 16, 2014 at 5:36 am

“Never go on trips with anyone you do not love.” Wise words indeed. This was such a special trip, and one I will always treasure. Thank you for bringing my dreams of my first visit to Paris to life. I always wanted it to be a weekend of love, and it truly was, in so many more ways than I ever expected. Let’s go back soon…
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