In travel posts, it’s quite easy to gloss over everything.
Let’s face it — it’s easy to make things appear much better than they actually were. Thankfully, for my Parisian recap, I don’t have to rely on any trickery because everything from our neighborhood, hotel and interactions with the locals were beyond awesome. Gala and I did, saw and experienced so much of Paris in only a matter of days that it feels impossible to properly sum it up in a way that doesn’t fall short.
I had never set foot in Europe and with the end of my twenties nearing, I felt an impending pressure to make it a reality. As I was growing up, I loved looking at my parent’s photo albums of their Parisian adventures that took place in the late 80s. Though they’re no longer married, they both still look back at those times quite fondly and talk about how Paris was the best place ever to visit. The cheese, the shopping, the champagne, the parties and of course, the history — it all felt like a lot to live up to. Luckily, from the time Gala and I set foot in Paris last week, it all unfolded quite magically.
Based on some research, Gala and I chose to stay at the Hotel du Petit Moulin in the famed Le Marais neighborhood and it was a perfect choice for our tastes. In upcoming posts, I will be covering the hotel and 3rd arrondissement in much more detail. But overall, if you appreciate pops of bright color, independent boutiques, cobblestone streets and feeling of decadence deeply rooted it the past, this is the locale for you.
Paris impressed me in a major way.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Paris was the element of surprise.
All around town, massive residences and impeccably groomed courtyards were tucked behind oversized doors in brightly painted colors. Any time we spotted an open set of doors, we were tempted to peek in. While taking photos of my favorite set of doors, they quite suddenly opened and a man greeted us warmly with “Bonjour!”
In Paris, you never know what’s around the corner.
During a photo shoot, we stumbled upon the grounds of a beautiful old hotel, totally unplanned. It was enchanting.
Handwritten Parisian signs and windows made me smile.
I love type and the whimsical charm of French handwriting was awesome.
Our hotel was a perfect match.
Part of the reason that Gala and I enjoyed our stay in Paris so much was because of our choice in hotels. We were actually excited to return to our room each night because it was stylish, comfortable and smelled amazing. Multiple friends had recommended the Hotel du Petit Moulin and thankfully, we took their advice. Each room features a different theme and we got my first choice, featuring a wall mural by Christian Lacroix and the best bathroom ever. A heart mirror and red tile? Can you blame me for not wanting to leave?
Ahhhhh, the view.
When you’re accustomed to Portland, New York and America in general, nothing is better than waking up, peeking out the hotel window and getting a view of beautiful apartments dating back hundreds of years and cobblestone streets.
Capture memories with a super talented photographer.
If you have a chance, hire a photographer in Paris to record those special moments. Gala and I spent a day of our trip running all over Paris with the insanely talented photographer Juliane Berry. Since I don’t speak much French, it was nice working with her since she’s originally from LA and could direct us in English. She knew of all the best spots, helped us navigate the Metro and we ended the day with her photographing us in our awesome hotel room. We had so much fun and I think that shows in the photos.
Fauchon is the equivalent of a department store for food.
Never have I seen food so artfully executed. The neon pink plexiglass doors at the entrance, the displays of chocolate packaged in rainbow-colored wrappers, the coffee and tea section that features flavors mere mortals never knew existed — it’s truly a feast for the eyes. Everything, down to the tiny sugars for your coffee are impeccably branded. My photos do it no justice. This is one of the top 10 places in Paris that you must visit.
Paris in the rain is still good.
Since we were traveling during winter, we knew the weather wouldn’t be perfect. Still, we didn’t let the occasional bursts of rain and gray skies dampen our fun.
The store window displays are artfully arranged.
The Parisians know how to take seemingly basic everyday items and arrange them in a way that makes you want to buy everything on the spot. Gala and I counted this flower shop as a favorite.
Find joy in the little details.
I loved this car! Fleur power, anyone?!!
The coffee knocked me on my ass.
On my first day in a Paris café, I quickly learned that I’m not an espresso girl! On the next particularly cold day after wrapping a photo shoot, I sheepishly wandered into a Starbucks. And oddly enough, it tasted even better than usual. Could it be the milk?
Make experiences your own.
As silly as it can sometimes be, Gala and I have a penchant for mouse ears. We threw them on for photo shoots, in front of the Arc de Triomphe and a few places in-between. Naturally, some people stared but most found it humorous. It was our little wink and reminded us of home.
Parisians somehow manage to make everything seem classier.
Yep, even the sex shops.
Every pastry we ate was ridiculously good.
Though we normally eat fairly healthy, we totally went all out on our vacation. Pastries for breakfast? Sure, why not! For me, it was impossible to say no to deliciously buttery, perfectly flaky croissants that averaged just one to two Euros all across town. We sampled quiches, chocolate concoctions and more; nothing was off-limits!
Dressing up has never been so much fun.
People make an effort look pulled together in Paris; it’s just not okay to wear your pajamas and Uggs to the supermarché! Gala and I attempted to dress up every single day and people responded enthusiastically. A little effort goes a long way!
Laduree is so…Parisian.
Locations are scattered throughout Paris. For a dash of old world charm, peek into the beautifully decorated windows or, even better, step inside for a world famous macaroon.
The Arc de Triomphe is insane!
I mean, I’ve seen tons of photos over the years….but in person, it is HUGE. I was completely blown away by the detail. Sure, all the chain stores along the Champs-Élysées leading up to it are a total drag but then, BOOM! You’re there, in the shadows of one of the greatest monuments in the world. The nonstop traffic swirling around the base at all hours is a wonder all its own.
Mundane chores are sort of fun again when you’re in Paris.
Yes, even grocery shopping. Gala and I arrived bright and early at a supermarché in Le Marais and no joke, they were playing Marilyn Manson. We wandered the aisles, excitedly snatching up our American standbys (Tropicana!) and indulging in the evils of French sweets. If we’d been in Paris longer, I’m sure we would have found a way to overdose on cheese and chocolate.
Take time to visit the cafés.
This is where the real energy is. Gala and I frequented a few throughout our stay, mostly for dinner. During our second night, I dropped a bread basket, our checks got switched, we snapped an array of Polaroids and the patrons around us were still friendly. At the cafés, alcohol flows freely, piles of bread and cheese are consumed and everyone goes home intoxicated and happy. What’s not to love?
The Eiffel Tower feels much different in person.
It’s really hard to get a sense of scale from photos — the structure is massive. I have a glass Eiffel Tower on my night stand at home and in a way, It felt really odd to finally see something that is so celebrated up-close and personal.
I hope you enjoyed my inside scoop on Paris. Stay tuned for Part 02, covering the architectural beauty and grandeur of Paris.