Ahh, Paris! City of lights and romance, art and architecture, amazing food and wine. It’s one of my all-time favorite cities.
There are, of course, the iconic sights, like the Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe,
the River Sienne and the Tuileries,
and the Louvre, which is equally as lovely in rain or shine. Stick around for a day or two and you might get both!
As a tourist, you’re sure to enjoy all of this. But as a traveler, you get to see even more! After such a great experience couch surfing near Venice, I thought I’d see what Paris had to offer in the way of sofa accommodations. I wasn’t disappointed. An English teacher named Sylvie answered my query and offered me her couch in her small flat. The thing about couch surfing is that it’s not about the size of the accommodations, it’s about the generosity and heart of the people hosting. Sylvie and I both love art and travel, so had common interests from the start. She opened her home to me, and shared something amazing…
She tangoes with a group late at night, dancing in front of the Eiffel Tower!! She invited me to go watch and it was magical, hearing the music, seeing the dancers swirl and turn, in front of the twinkling lights. I even got asked to dance, however between wearing my tourist gear (jeans and flats) I didn’t exactly look the part (the female dancers wore dresses and heels), and the fact that I’ve never danced the tango in my life deterred me – who wants to fall flat on their face in Paris?!
We also climbed up to Montmartre, and slipped into Sacre-Coeur just before closing one evening, where we each lit a candle.
In addition, Sylvie gave me tons of directions and suggestions for making the most of my brief 3 day stay. I was a short metro ride away from almost everything, and it was fun staying in a regular neighborhood vs. in a touristy hotel. The metro is easy to navigate, and relatively clean, cheap and safe
Having been to Paris a few times before, and having such a short time here, I knew I had to prioritize. I wanted to go to the d’Orsay as it’s my favorite art museum in the world! The architecture of the old converted train station and the views from the top are worth the visit alone…
…but add in the works of the likes of Matisse, Monet, Morisot, Gauguin, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Bonnard, and many more of my favorites, I could spend all day there.
Eventually, after 5 hours in the museum, on visual overload, it was time to wander some more, my other favorite thing to do in Paris. Not just the tourist streets, like the Champs Elysee,
but the quaint and beautiful neighborhoods, where you never know what you’ll see – art is everywhere!
I’d never been to Ille Saint-Louis, a tiny island behind Notre Dame, and would love to go back when I have more time, just to look at the signs, peek in the windows, and gawk at the galleries and architecture.
Hotel de Ville is another place I’d never been, and discovered it’s not a hotel at all, but the City Hall. It’s a place where tons of tourists and locals alike congregate, and I happened by right at the golden hour when everything glowed.
Even if you’re not in shopping mode, like me, it’s still worth a visit to Galeries Lafayette, a gorgeous department store with stained glass, polished brass, and chandeliers, and designer shops within the shop so exclusive that they have armed guards minding the doors. What’s in those purses anyway, diamonds?!
Sometimes, synchronicity creates amazing events, like a private tour of the top of Notre Dame! I was wandering around, trying to find a restaurant I’d gone to 7 years before, not remembering the name, only that it was somewhere near Notre Dame, and covered with wisteria. I thought about stopping at the famed cathedral, but I’d been inside once on a previous trip, the entry line was long, and I was starving. My head said go straight, but my heart nudged me to turn left, so I followed my heart, right to the wisteria-covered restaurant!
Frederico, the man in charge, said it was almost closing time, between lunch and dinner, but that I’d just made it. He reminded me that this was the oldest building in Paris! It was pricier than I’d remembered, but I had free accommodations and was eating mostly home-cooked meals, so this was my splurge. And it turned out to be the best splurge ever, as Frederico said, “What are you doing next?”
He invited me, as well as a couple of American guys, to go on a private tour of nearby Notre Dame he’d organized for some of his friends. The 2 guys declined, but I gave an immediate yes! A few others couples joined us, and one was from my home state of Michigan, and later on Facebook I learned a friend of mine in Atlanta knows Frederico as well. It truly is a small world.
We raced along the Paris street behind Frederico, dodging traffic, and followed his tour guide past the very long line, into a special side door, as people looked on, wondering who we were and why we had such privileges. I thought it would be just a standard tour, but the guide led us up, up, up a narrow spiral staircase to the top of Notre Dame, where the flying buttresses soared over our heads, and the views of Paris were incredible!
And we got to slip into the secret rooms downstairs where the treasures of the church are stored.
Yes, Paris is a beautiful city!
If you’ve never been to Paris, put it on your list. As visits to cities go, in my book, Paris is perfect.