If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought I’d be doing on my 21st birthday, I would have probably guessed that I’d be in line at the DMV waiting for my horizontal license so I could go out with my friends somewhere. I would have never guessed that on my 21st birthday I’d be packing my things in Austria and getting ready to leave for France the next morning. I would have definitely never guessed that on the day after my 21st, I’d be laying on the grass in Paris watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle and light up the night sky.
The tower glitters at the top of every hour, so naturally I kept frantically checking my phone. I didn’t want to miss it, but now I know that there was really no way I could have. Suddenly, while I was lost in conversation, I heard gasps, shrieks and sighs coming from all directions. My stomach dropped; I thought something had happened! It was actually just the sight of the Eiffel Tower glittering from the bottom of each of its four legs to the highestlight at the top of the tower. Shown above is a low quality picture with a snap chat filter (yay snapchat) of a very beautiful, clear, chilly Autumn day in Paris.
I’m really lucky to have my boyfriend, Zefr, here with me, so we were able to make this trip together! We had an amazing long weekend even though I missed two days (6 hours of class), and I had an exam the morning after we returned. When in Europe, though, right?
Here’s my run down of Paris:
I found an affordable Air B&B in a perfect location. It was about a 5 minute walk from the Arc de Triomphe, which is at the end of the famous street, Champs Élysées. Although it was near a touristy area, the actual apartment was hidden between the narrow streets of a residential area with a nice grocery store and a delicious bakery right around the corner (more on that later). The floor of the lobby was covered with a bright red carpet, the walls were plastered with large marble lined mirrors, and the stair rails leading to the elevator were a dull shimmering gold. Speaking of the elevator, if this doesn’t scream Parisian than I don’t know what does. It barely holds two people with their backpacks at any one time, and it moves very slowly and speaks to you in French as you get on and off ( I’m pretty sure it announces the floor you’re on). If I ever have a chance to come back to Paris, I would definitely want to stay here again.
What we did during the day/ Touristy stuff
Since we only had three days, we ended up skipping a couple of the main tourist attractions. First of all, We didn’t wait in line to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, because honestly, what’s a view of Paris without the Eiffel Tower itself? Instead, we went up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe at night. I’m talking like 10 pm, and that’s what I would recommend doing. Any other time of the day, well, let’s just say I could only imagine the difficulty of ascending the tight windy staircase after waiting hours in that insanely long line. We also, for some reason, got to go up for free. The ticket counter was closed and there was a sign that said free entry! We spoke to some other tourists who had actually had the same luck we did a few days prior, so I guess they do it pretty often. Maybe it’s once they reach a daily quota? Or when the crowds die down? Regardless, it was a beautiful view, and we saw the Eiffel tower sparkle once more! The Arc de Triomphe is a very historical landmark that is rich in history, and it has a very nice little museum towards the top that you we checked out. I actually even eded up buying a French History book from the souvenir shop!
(left: view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe right: Arc de Triomphe during the day)
Among other things, we also skipped going to the Palace of Versailles. I went last time I was in Paris; it’s very beautiful, and I strongly recommend going if you have time, we just didn’t have enough days to spare. Another popular attraction is the Paris Disneyland, and although we have both never been, we opted out considering we have already been to three other Disney’s. It can’t be much different, right? I guess we will have to find out next time.
We did go to Montmarte, though! It was a whole afternoon of wandering small (extremely touristy and overpriced) shops and cafes while going up the hill to the church. It’s the highest point in Paris, and the view up there is great!
After a lot of walking, I took a quick nap on the lawn in front of the church.
Later that weekend, we also biked to the Notre Dame (it was about a 20 minute bike ride). I really don’t recommend cycling in Paris unless you’re used to having buses driving an inch a way from you, or being sandwiched between two cars. The Notre Dame was really beautiful though!
Probably the most iconic thing we did, tied with the Eiffel Tower, was to go to the Louvre. Pro-tip, if you’re under 26, you can get in Friday evenings after 6 pm for free. So that’s what we did. We took the escalator down the big glass pyramid, where we were confronted with the decision of which long seemingly endless hallway we should go down . As we stood around contemplating which hallway to go down, and which one led to the Mona Lisa, something caught my eye. Nintendo DS Museum guides!!
For 5 euros each, we rented a DS that had the entire Louvre mapped out on it. You can explore the artwork in the museum while sitting at the museum cafe and having a drink. All you have to do is click on the art piece to hear and read more about its history in one of several different languages. You can even zoom in on paintings, and view sculptures in 3-D! The most convenient perk, though, is you can navigate with it. No wandering around aimlessly wondering where you are because this thing is more accurate than Apple maps AND Google Maps. You can set destinations and it tells you exactly how to get there, and how long it will take. I could even tell what side of the hallway I was on. I was extremely impressed. And now, for the final and most important section…
I ate so many croissants and pastries in Paris that I lost count. They were all delicious, but the best ones were down tight windy alleys away from the loud traffic noises and off the tourist’s beaten path. People line up early in the morning to grab breakfast hot and fresh, and by the end of the day, everything is sold and the shelves are clear. Below are the pictures from the bakery right under our Air B&B. It was the best one that we tried! The pastry shops in the touristy areas charge 2-3 times as much for a cold and sometimes hard croissant (still better than most of the ones I’ve had elsewhere though). It’s hard to find the good bakeries, but it’s so worth it when you do.
We also had Entrecôte, shown below, which is a famous french specialty that includes steak, fries, and a secret white sauce. We waited in line for over an hour to be seated, and once seated, there was no menu (except for drinks). They brought out a salad and they only asked one question: how do you want your steak cooked? It was really good but the service wasn’t too great.
“Can I have some fresh bread?” I asked. “ This one is hard and old.”
“No. It's fresh.”
Alright then. It was still an enjoyable meal.
We had some yummy street crepes!
We went to Ladureé’s original location on Champs Élysées! Luckily there wasn’t a line when we got there, but only a few minutes later people were lined up down the block. It’s very picturesque, and I really liked the large pink macaroon with fresh raspberries in it, but it was also very over priced. Each mini macaron was about 3 Euros, and they didn’t taste any different than the ones sold at the small bakery shops. It was really nice for the atmosphere, though. It’s very Parisian, the tea was good, and like I said, the special macarons they have are worth the wait and the price!
Speaking of macarons, what do you think of these macarons in the picture below? Do they look like they’re in a fancy bakery? Well, that fancy bakery is McDonalds! French McDonalds is not cheap fast dining like we know it. A burger at the McDonalds in Paris costs 8-10 Euros. I didn’t feel like trying it, but I hope the difference in price comes with a difference in taste too.
And finally, our last meal in Paris was Indian food. I don’t know why I was craving it so much, but
going to this restaurant was one of the best decisions we made on the trip. It was called “New Jhelum,” and everything was amazing from the service to the food. We tried several different types of naan, Chicken Tikamasala, and Butter Chicken. They even handed me a rose as we walked out 🙂
Overall, it was a magical weekend. Till next time Paris!