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  • Writer's pictureCaylie Poola

WEEKENDER GUIDE: Paris, France

Bonjour! coming to you live from Paris. Well, actually I am currently writing this in Florence, but I was in Paris less than a week ago so that counts for something right?


Before coming abroad, Paris was my #1 place to visit. If I had to pick just one place in Europe to go, I would have told you Paris. Something about the idea of going to Paris kept me entranced in daydreams when packing and planning to leave for abroad. So, the fact that I was able to spend 3 nights and 4 days in this magical city was a. dream come true. I also visited a few days after my 21st birthday. Something about that made me feel extremely reflective, on my life, goals, dreams. and how lucky I am to be making it to the place I have wanted to go for years now during such a pivotal time of growth in my life. At least thats how it felt.


During my abroad program at the halfway mark, we get a fall break. A FULL week off of school and Paris was the first stop of our 10 day long journey around Europe, and a great way to kick off an unforgettable week. We arrived Friday evening, and left Monday morning. Most abroad weekends allow only Saturdays to be our full day but having Sunday here too made all of the difference. I would definitely urge you to plan visiting Paris when you have at least 2 full days to explore the city!


Anyways-enough of the chit-chat, lets get to it. Here is my weekender guide to Paris, although I would argue that 3 days and 4 nights was not nearly enough time, and I could probably go back every weekend and leave feeling like there was more I wished I had time to do.

Where We Stayed


As usual, we stayed at an Airbnb. The location was incredible, on a main road with a view of the L'Arc de Triomphe and a small little balcony that allowed us a perfect view to people watch and catch a glimpse of the incredible monument. The apartment was a studio, which was perfect for the 4 of us who were staying there and had a pull out trundle bed with a queen size bed. It was perfect for a few nights, most of which spent outside of the airbnb itself and roaming the city instead. The only downside to the apartment was that it was 6 flights of stairs up and had no elevator. This would have been perfectly fine, but because we were on fall break and gone for longer then a weekend we had checked suitcases and it was an extremely narrow staircase -- this made QUITE the journey upstairs. We laughed so hard at how pathetic we looked going up the windy long staircase and suppressed the feeling of sweat and tears we were experiencing simultaneously.



The View From Our Airbnb



Where We Ate


*Every night in Paris pre-arrival we had already booked reservations for dinner, knowing it would be less stressful having it all figured out. We did this for most of fall break, and do this for most trips in general which is a HUGE tip of mine if you are traveling when abroad*


Our first night in Paris was debatably our favorite. We absolutely LOVED this restaurant and the entire vibe of it. Our waiter was absolutely amazing and bought us a bottle of expensive champagne, talked to us about his dreams of visiting America and his love of US media -- the food was also delish. My friends surprised me with a chocolate mousse with a candle in it for my birthday, which was a really cute gesture that made the night for me. I also had the most tasty mashed potatoes I have had in my ENTIRE life here. Just saying. (Dad don't worry I still love your homemade mashed potatoes)

Dinner #1 in Paris: https://www.astair.paris/



Celebrating 21 in Paris


For breakfast in Paris, it is without debate you need to go to Cafe de Flore. This cafe is beloved around Paris, and known around the world for seating many of the glitz and the glam who have visited Paris throughout history. It is famous for a reason, and has the most charming exterior of flowers that makes it hard to miss. Here we dined like typical Parisians do in the morning, which we quickly realized is carbs and coffee. Croissants, bread and jam, I mean europeans LOVE their toast. Unfortunately you cannot make a reservation here so we made it a point to wake up early and go right away, we lucked out and got a table within 5 minutes, but saw the line grow within the next hour. Even if you don't have a trip to Paris planned in the near future, I recommend you take a look at Cafe De Flores website and look at photos of the place! It is seriously magic.

Breakfast #1 in Paris: https://cafedeflore.fr/?lang=en



The Exterior of Cafe De Flore


Lunch in Paris came recommended to us by one of the friends I was traveling with, Sydney. Sydney had been to Paris before and insisted the only way to enjoy a crepe in Paris is from a street cart. So, it only seemed appropriate to do so. After a visit to the Louve we walked around aimlessly until we found a street cart that was not trendy, overpriced or a tourist trap. When it wasn't instagrammable, we knew it had to be good. I had a crepe with apricot jam and it was heavenly. The rest of my friends had variations of Nutella crepes. I don't honestly have the specific name of this place, but I recommend you just walk around until you find one, because they are all over Paris and it was an amazing culinary experience, TBH.


Enjoying a Street Crepe


Our second night in Paris we had dinner at another delicious restaurant. The place, beautifully decorated in pink accents and comfy chairs with an actual live DJ playing music softly in the back, Mon Square was a great low key spot to grab dinner! The place like the night before had a menu filled with authentic French dishes -- which we absolutely loved as a break from the pasta heavy typical Italian diet. https://www.monsquarerestaurant.com/


Our next morning in Paris I had been eyeing the cafe named Carette, and envisioned enjoying one of their infamous cups of hot chocolate with a bowl of whipped cream on the side to personally scoop into your mug. I had seen videos of this all over social media, so as soon as I caught what the name of the place was -- I was there. Once again, we went early, and its good we did. This place was debatably more crowded then Cafe de Flore. However, I think its always a good sign when you are eating somewhere abroad and the native language of the country you are in is what is being primarily spoken around you. We sat, enjoyed croissants, jam and delicious hot chocolate. It was a picturesque morning. Once again, you cannot book reservations for Carette, so just plan on going early or waiting a little -but totally worth it. https://www.instagram.com/caretteofficiel/?hl=en

Enjoying My Hot Chocolate at Carette


Our last evening in Paris was spent enjoying dinner at probably the most authentic French bistro that exists. We cancelled our reservations for the previously planned place (after finding out it was Italian food) and found the perfect hole-in-the-wall spot that was able to accept a reservation for the evening with a few hours notice. Here we were probably one of the only Americans they had served in the past year. They didn't have an English translation of the menu (GREAT sign) and here we tried truly the complete French dining experience. Escargot, French Onion Soup and Creme Brûlée. The service was great and we were seated in the coziest loft extension of the restaurant. 10/10 go here if you are ever in Paris. https://www.auperelouisrestaurant.fr/


What We Did


In Paris I made it a priority to book things to see and do, but NOT overbook myself either. Traveling while abroad, it is impossible to see everything you want to when you go somewhere. And if you do, then you're probably not truly experiencing it all and taking it in like you want. So, we dedicated Saturday as our touristy, museum, sightseeing day and then left Sunday open to shop, stroll and romanticize our last full day in Paris.


When arriving Friday, we decided to go to the Louve after dinner that night and see it for ourselves. It was absolutely breathtaking at night, and lit up perfectly. It was so fun to people watch everyone in the area at midnight, just scootering around, playing music, in front of a world renown museum. Like, casually?!


Saturday after finishing breakfast at Cafe de Flore we walked over to the Notre Dame. This was extremely powerful to see in person. Since the beautiful cathedral caught on fire, the community within Paris has come together in monumental ways to restore it. The world, in general, has come together in many ways to save it. Because it is being restored, we couldn't get extremely close to the actual building but really enjoyed reading and observing the display that is wrapped around the building explaining everything from the history of it, the fire, to what is happening today and what still needs to be done. Definitely something I won't forget and you have to see while in Paris. The streets leading up to the Notre Dame are filled with street artists who paint the most magical pictures of Paris, so we also took a stroll around that area and bought some of our own to bring home with us and cherish forever.


The Louve

Obviously, we went to the Louve. This does not require much explaining except for the fact that we booked our skip the line tickets about 2 weeks in advance, which we were really happy about. We had a 30 minute time window to make it into the museum and the line looked very long, so it was helpful having those. The Louve is HUGE, I honestly hadn't realized it was that big, which may be my own fault. It is impossible, like actually, to see it all in a day. We chose to spend most of our time on the wing closest to the Mona Lisa and then made our way around a bit, but there are parts of the museum we didn't even fully enter. And we were there for 3 hours, just saying.



Waited in a line just to get close to the Mona Lisa


Montmartre, Paris

Unfortunately I did not make it over to Montmarte during my time in Paris, but on one afternoon half of the girls I was traveling with decided to go and based off of their experience, I feel it is only right to recommend it to you all here. It is definitely top of my list for next time I am in Paris. Montmarte is a charming village on a hill in Paris that is filled with so much character. Cobblestone streets, authentic bistros and cafes. If you google it I promise you will recognize it from some travel magazine or Tik Tok video.


Champs-Élysées

This is the main shopping area/avenue of Paris and was a must see for a shopaholic like me. This is where the scenes from TV shows like Gossip Girl featuring Serena and Blair with big designer bags and romanticized days spent shopping in Paris are filmed. I was excited to see for myself what it was all about. Here my travel buddy/bff/roomie Maddie, a fellow shopaholic, and I decided to spend the afternoon together and enter the many designer stores, parfumeries and more that lined the avenue. We both had decided prior to arriving in Paris that we were going to buy one memorable designer item while shopping here, to have forever, and to know we bought together while in Paris (I mean how cool is that?!) We also took note of the tax refund you receive about a month after purchasing anything designer, which ultimately took a pretty decent percentage off my purchase. It was a really fun and exciting experience to walk into a designer store and *actually* buy something. We were treated like princesses, and we kind of felt like them too. I will truly NEVER forget that day in Paris because I had dreamt about being there for years, and if you're going to buy yourself something nice, I feel like it should be in Paris. Right?


The Eiffel Tower at Night

We visited the Eiffel Tower about 3 times during the time we spent in Paris. The first time we saw it I started crying. Overwhelmed with how massive, beautiful and majestic it looked in front of me. This was one of the major moments since being abroad that I felt completely in shock that this was my life, and I was actually standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. I was in Paris. 3/5 of us had a teary eyed moment in front of the tower, and I FaceTimed my parents from the distance showing them and all gushing in the insanity of the fact that I was actually seeing it in real life. I would 100% to plan on seeing the Eiffel Tower at least once after 8PM, this is because every hour the tower lights up for just 5 minutes. But it is unbelievable. It is mesmerizing. I have to say, the Eiffel Tower is even more beautiful and grand then I imagined it would be - which says a lot.





Tips for Paris Travel


Overall I felt very safe in Paris. I was not alone much at all, but I imagine if I was, I would have felt confident and secure walking alone/asking for help. Before going, I was convinced the French people we would encounter would be unhelpful, rude and HATE Americans. Well, I can happily report this was the opposite of how I felt. We met the most kind and helpful people while in Paris. All of our restaurant and taxi experiences were great. People actually loved that we were from America and many had many questions for us about where we were from, and shared stories with us about their dreams to one day see New York City and Chicago.


Pickpocketing

When walking around Notre Dame, my friend Kasey was stopped by two women asking her to sign a petition on a clipboard. They seemed genuinely kind and good-hearted, but luckily a nearby pedestrian let us know that signing petitions and clipboards here is actually a way for them to pickpocket you. While you're signing the clipboard, the second person will pickpocket you -- and you'll walk away having no idea! Kasey checked her bag and thankfully everything was in there, but it was something we kept in mind the rest of our trip.


Taxis

Our first morning we struggled to find a taxi that could seat 5. And no one gets left behind. EVER! So, we looked for an Uber. Luckily, a taxi driver saw us looking lost and stopped by to help us find a 5 person taxi which are rare, we were told. He mentioned that while in Paris, using the taxi's rather then Uber would be greatly appreciated. He explained how great the taxi system here is and when being a tourist in Paris, a great thing you can do to positively contribute to the city is to continue to support them. Lets just say we did not open the Uber app for the rest of the trip.


Truthfully, there is no way you will be bored when visiting Paris, whether you have 10 things booked or nothing at all. My favorite memories spent in Paris are the moments that were unexpected, unplanned and filled with the raw emotion and feeling of being somewhere I had always dreamt of going. We spent hours enjoying meals, laughing, talking and people watching.


"Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris." - Paula Mclain






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