We now live in an age where anything can be instantly reported live around the world instead of reading it in the paper the next day or learning about it hours later on the evening news. We can also view it not only from seeing on the news, but through social media from the locals posting live videos and photos at that very moment. Technology has come a long way since I was in high school. 10 o’clock news is now old news.
Yesterday the Notre Dame cathedral caught fire while undergoing renovations. It was really sad to hear, read about and see on my Instagram and Facebook feed. My husband, my family members and my best friends were all messaging me about it. It’s just a building to some but to me, Paris holds a special place in my heart and Notre Dame is an iconic wonder. The beauty and history of it is an allure within itself. I first learned about it when I was a kid watching Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And then in AP European History enriched my love for not only European culture and history but France itself. And then last year, I finally took the plunge and booked my first trip to Paris and went to see it in person for myself. Standing in the hallowed halls of the cathedral is entirely something else from reading it and seeing other people’s photos. There’s just something about being able to experience for yourself firsthand. No VR can take that away. Some things you just really have to see for yourself. I climbed up all the steps, all the way to the top too and it was definitely a long climb but it makes you appreciate the workmanship and everything that went into this historic symbol of France.
Despite being there for about a week, I still feel like I haven’t done it all. There’s so much to see and do in Paris! And the things I did do, I want to do it all again. I saw Notre Dame in the daytime, but I would’ve loved to have gone back to view it lit up at night. Something about it is hauntingly beautiful. I hope they can salvage it and rebuild, given this isn’t the first time Notre Dame has fell victim to despair. She is actually no stranger to destruction and restoration over the years since she was built. I am grateful though that I did get to see her in her glory at least once in this lifetime. Hopefully she will be even more sparkly and new the next time we meet.
Notre Dame is a church, yes. And I am not devout or religious at all, but I am tolerant and open to learning about different religions, cultures, and ways of life, and have always had an appreciation for beautiful places like this with amazing architecture. Before I went to Paris last year, I was actually warned by a lot of people that I wouldn’t like it. That Paris is overrated and dirty and that the city is rude and not welcoming to Americans and outsiders. But when I got there, I found it the total opposite of these naysayers. I fell in love with the style and beauty of the streets and buildings. I found it clean and beautiful and everyone was sweet and helpful. I really fell in love. There’s just something about sitting at a cafe and being able to take your time, relax and take it all in, instead of being on the go, in a rush, in a New York City minute. The peonies on every corner of a local florist, the fresh ingredients of a morning breakfast with no chemicals or preservatives, and the twinkling of the Eiffel Tower every night at every hour on the hour. It’s magic.
The Eiffel Tower ended up being my favorite thing to visit on this trip. I actually ran into a mishap with my Airbnb and had to book a hotel last minute, literally when I was supposed to be checking into my reservation. Luckily enough there was a hotel down the block that was affordable, clean and super close to the Eiffel Tower that I was able to walk out every night and view it in all it’s glory. And you bet your bottom dollar, that’s what I did. Every. Single. Night. The lights twinkling and just being there in Paris was an amazing feeling. There’s absolutely nothing that can compare to it. I asked a stranger to take my photo for me one night since the husband stayed back at the hotel during one of my nightly visits to the tower and this stranger did not disappoint! I got lucky as he took a beautiful photo rich with color on his camera instead of just my phone and emailed it to me later that night. I’m still in love with his capture as it perfectly pieced together the magic of Paris in that moment. The kindness of other travelers also in love with the city warms my stone cold heart sometimes.
And because I’m extra AF, of course I planned a photoshoot at the Eiffel Tower. And in my wedding dress, no less. Originally I wanted a red gown but couldn’t seem to find the perfect dress and I wasn’t really too keen on buying something new that I wasn’t 100% in love with either. Until my husband had this genius idea to tell me to go into my closet and try on everything I already owned to see if there was something in there I still loved that would be perfect for the occasion. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t realize my extra-ness knows no bounds. I walked out of my room in my wedding dress, hahaha! I still am very much in love with that gown to this day, so it was the perfect dress for Paris. The photos came out beautiful and I’m still very much in love with those photos today. They were the perfect souvenir to commemorate our trip and I highly recommend the photographer we used, as he worked fast, got all the photos I wanted and even had them all edited and sent to me the same day! You can view some of them here. I was actually looking for a different photographer, but he wasn’t available for my dates and was so sweet to recommend Damien, who was amazing to work with. The quality and the clarity of his photos, as well as how fast he delivered them, you definitely get your money’s worth. He even delivered to me more photos than I was originally promised! My only regret is that we only had time and budget to allow for one location so I chose the Eiffel Tower. In my next travels, I would love to shoot at The Pont Alexander III, the Louvre, the Arc De Triomphe and Notre Dame when she’s beautifully restored.
And being a Disney hoe, of course I could not stay way from Disneyland Paris. It’s actually the #1 most visited attraction in Paris, despite not really being in Paris. It’s more visited than the Eiffel Tower. But ironically, it ended up being the one thing I did not fall in love with. You’d think I would, being a Disney addict. But I can actually report that I did not enjoy the parks as much as I expected to. I left both parks early, both days that I went. I did ride a decent amount of rides in each park though, to be fair. Paris’s Disneyland castle, in my opinion, is the prettiest out of all the Disney castles though. And while the park does boast it’s own unique features like Maleficent’s dragon and the Ratatouille ride, it wasn’t enough for me. Or maybe it was just too crowded for me to want to spend more time there those days, but I opted to return back to the heart of the city of Paris and enjoy the rest of my time there. Or maybe Paris was just that much more amazing in itself that Disney could not exceed the standards already placed by the city itself. Maybe one day, I’ll give it another go from rope drop to fireworks to give a full report.
For the most part, I stayed in the heart of Paris and hit up a lot of famous spots, museum hopping using the Paris Museum Pass, which I highly recommend and is worth every Euro. It got me into all the major museums and famous landmarks and through the express line too. You literally just walk right in with the pass. This is a list of the places I visited with the pass:
Arc De Triomphe
Palace of Versailles
Musée de L'Armée
The total list of attractions you can visit is MUCH longer than this, but this was what I was able to cover during my time there. Like I said, there is much to see and do, and considering France is much older than the US, there is a lot of history here to learn and uncover.
I also did a free walking tour on my first full day in Paris, which was recommended by a friend, which I also recommend if it’s your first time there and you want to get a feel for the city on your first day. It covers the basic spots within walking distance and the tour guides are very helpful and friendly. The way the walking tour works is, well it’s totally free! You just tip at the end at your discretion if you enjoyed it and if you wish, but there’s no obligation. And if you want to go on more tours in other areas of the city, you can also do so with the same tour group for a small fee. We ended up enjoying our tour so much, we booked a tour with them for the Royal Gardens of the Palace of Versailles. It was definitely worth it since that helped skip a MASSIVE hours long line that went down the street just waiting just to get into the gardens. And our tour guide was very knowledgeable and efficient in weaving through the gardens so that we hit everything and didn’t wander around aimlessly circling for hours and getting lost.
I also visited the Catacombs of Paris through a tour booking, which I also highly recommend since the tour booking skip the line as well, otherwise you’ll wait outside for hours, even if you arrive at opening. This was also a very interesting piece of history of Paris to explore, as the tunnels are intricate, long and winding with a haunting sense of macabre as you journey through a spiral staircase descending all the way down to the depths. Oh yes, there was a lot of walking on this trip every single day so if you can’t keep up, this is not your cup of tea kind of city to explore. There are no elevators or short-cuts in this old city for a lot of the places I visited. The Arc de Triomphe, the Notre Dame, and the Catacombs were all one long and very narrow spiral staircase up and down. The French were obsessed with these staircases, clearly. Even my hotel had one.
As for everything else about Paris, I honestly don’t know where to begin because I loved it all. Nothing can really emulate the experience I had, it’s just one of those things you have to go and see for yourself. I personally loved it. But I feel like Paris is just one of those cities. You either fall in love or you don’t. So I’m not going to bother convincing anyone to go, you’ll just have to decide for yourself to take the plunge. In the meantime, I’ll post all my travel photos down below for those interested.
Despite my husband not being in a lot of photos except for the Eiffel Tower shoot, this was actually a very romantic and fun trip. Well, other than him wanting to kill me for dragging him all around Paris when he’s not much of a walker. But we had a lot of fun just the two of us, and he even spoiled me with a new pair of Loubies to add to my small but growing collection at home. It was really nice, even just strolling around the streets holding hands, or sitting at a cafe enjoying my morning coffee or afternoon ice cream. And he was such a good sport taking all my photos for me, for the gram. I know I’m crazy and that I can be unbearable at times, but he’s a very patient cute boy who still always wants to be by my side regardless. Paris is just so beautiful and romantic, it brings out the softness in people. When I went to go look for peonies for my shoot, I witnessed this cute boy stressing over what looked like 1000 red roses, pacing back and forth on his phone as he was double checking to make sure everything was perfect for that night's proposal. So cute and romantic!
I can’t wait til we’re able to head to Italy next in our travels, whenever the wind decides to carry us there. Until then, LA is our next destination together in just two short weeks. This Paris post is also long overdue but I just never had the time to sit down and blog about it. It’s almost a year since my trip but looking back at my Notre Dame photos in light of recent events, I figured why not now that I have all the photos dragged back out. If you have any detailed questions for me for your own trip or if you’re ever curious about going, feel free to leave me a comment below! Maybe one day, I’ll drag my Japan photos out finally and write that entry too. Baby steps, haha.