The first time I visited Paris, I was 20 years old, blissfully naïve, bright-eyed, and simultaneously ecstatic and fearful for the months to come. I’d only been outside of North America once before and had never traveled alone—I had no idea what to expect exactly.
That first night in London, fresh off a transatlantic flight, I vividly recall crying in my attic hostel room. What had I done? What was I trying to prove—and to whom?
I’d never felt so alone—fear of the unknown can undo even the most staunchly self-sufficient soul.
But all it took was arriving in Paris that following day to erase any uncertainty I had; that first week in the French capital—my official and final au revoir to the fear that held me captive—was responsible for helping me assert my independence; for making me fall in love with travel in the first place.
By the time I took that three-hour train trip to Paris via the Eurostar, the doubt that I could navigate Europe for a month alone had faded in the distance with the gloomy London skyline; I was ready to make the City of Light my own.
In the week that followed, I climbed to the top of Notre Dame, drank pinot in the Latin Quarter, photographed the Eiffel Tower from every angle, attempted to pass for sophisticated at the Louvre, window-shopped along Champs-Élysées. The people there were glamorous, the energy intoxicating, the city skyline unsurpassed. It was so unlike the 20,000-person rural Tennessee town in which I was raised. In no time, I was officially and unapologetically smitten with Paris.
It’s been 12 years since that initial visit, and Paris has become somewhat of a constant in my semi-regular journeys to and around Europe; I’ve now been at least a half dozen times, and each trip is so different than its predecessor. It helps that many flights from the US pass through Charles De Gaulle Airport, making it easy to schedule a weekend stopover (for “business” purposes, of course… if you’re in the “business” of eating all the cheese and drinking all the wine, that is).
In my early trips to Paris, I tackled all the touristy parts: the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, the Opera House, Musée d’Orsay. Nowadays, I let my stomach guide my travels, and I’m more interested in Paris’ day-to-day life, as I am with any city I visit: what the locals do, where they eat, what they drink, what makes a place tick. Each time I’m back, I seem to unearth a new patisserie; discover a new, charming family-owned boutique hotel; find a new favorite cup of coffee in Saint-Germain or a new-to-me corner in the 7th arrondissement that I claim as my own.
Paris is a city of hidden gems—they’re everywhere you look.
On my most recent visit, the May before last, I had two free days and no agenda whatsoever, so I set out on foot and took photos of everything I saw. After all, there’s no place better than Paris in springtime. And there’s no better way to explore a city than to get lost in it.
There’s one thing I’ve yet to do in Paris, however, and that’s something that’s been weighing heavily on my mind. I’ve explored it on my own, I’ve toured it with family, I’ve visited with friends, but to date, SVV and I have never done Paris as a couple. That’s something that absolutely must be remedied; we’ve visited more than 30 countries together in the past decade and never the world’s most romantic city? For shame. (What I’m saying is this: If any of you hold the key to teleportation, please let me know and I’ll make sure we remedy that, like, tomorrow.)