Paris – the most romantic city in the world, renowned home of the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, haute couture, Edith Piaf, and the Tour de France. For most people, the city is a dream. But for me, it is a little bit more than that: it’s the city where I was born.
My parents were Americans living in Paris when they had me, and after six years decided to return to the U.S. to raise me (and my two siblings) closer to friends and family. For a brief shining moment (or at least a few, defining early years of my life), I was French. C’est vrai!
That was 18 years ago. Now I am a full-fledged American and have forgotten much of what I learned when I was small; I can only speak the French I learned in school. But I haven’t forgotten my origins, and a recent trip to France to visit some family friends reawakened an interest in the fascinating history and culture of the beautiful city where I was born.
I had three weeks to reconnect with the many faces and places of Paris. But you don’t need that long – whether you have a day, or a weekend, or a week, just a handful of Paris experiences will make your visit truly special. And here are a few that are both simple and unforgettable:
1. Taking a walk
There is so much to see in Paris, so many ornate monuments, cathedrals, fountains, parks, and museums, that any trip will just scratch the surface of its many charms. From iconic attractions like the Eiffel Tower, l’Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, and the Musee d’Orsay, to less well known sites like Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, la Fontaine de Saint Michel, and countless others, you could spend weeks touring each and every location. Or worse, you could waste much of your valuable time rushing from place to place trying to tick things off of your itinerary. That’s why, to me, a simple stroll is one of the best ways to get to know this gorgeous city. There is nothing like walking down a bustling Parisian boulevard, eating a baguette or crepe that you bought from a street vendor, and admiring the ornate, ancient architecture and beautiful sculpted gardens that you pass. You’ll understand and appreciate their context, intention, and beauty much more moving around them slowly than you would jockeying among crowds trying to get in or passing through on your way somewhere else.
2. Eating the food
If anything is important to the French people, it is their food. In France I had my first taste of duck, enjoyed the simple luxury of a fresh baguette from the local boulangerie every day, as well as sampled a wonderful assortment of cheeses, delicious croissants, pain au chocolat pastries (a personal favorite), wines (I had a glass with nearly every meal), and of course, warm crepes right from the stand. The fruits and vegetables are fresh, the courses are carefully and artistically arranged, the meals are delicious, and the French people take time to enjoy it. Restaurants are filled with more than tourists; Parisians spend long lunch breaks in restaurants and cafes, talking and enjoying each other’s company. Dinner can last for hours, and Parisians savor each course as they discuss the intrigues and issues of the day. The French approach to food represents a different way of life, one in which people celebrate what they have; meals are rituals, rather than something to be rushed through or eaten in front of the television. So grab a seat at a cafe and enjoy!
3. Cruising on the River Seine
A final Parisian experience that is an absolute must is a cruise down the River Seine. The river passes by many ancient and beautiful bridges as well as some of Paris’ most famous attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay, and Notre Dame Cathedral. And at night, the city sparkles as bridges and major sites all along the river are lit, casting colorful, dreamlike reflections on the water. (It isn’t called the “City of Light” for nothing.) All visitors should see the city in this slow, contemplative way – floating, serene, magical.
Paris offers these sorts of experiences and so much more. If you would like to be a bon vivant in Paris – to live a little bit of the French good life, even for a day – TakeTours can get you there. Our vendors offer multiple Paris tours and excursions to acquaint you with this romantic and beautiful city. Or, you can let Paris be your gateway to other countries with one of our flexible European tours. It’s up to you!
–Emma Gifford is a full-time college student and a summer intern here at TakeTours.com. Her favorite travel destinations include Quebec City, Quebec and Paris, France, and she has plans to visit many more exciting places in the future.