4 Amazing Things to Do In Paris France for New Travelers
“A person needs, at intervals, to separate from family and companions and go to new places. One must go without families in order to be open to influences – to change.” – Katherine Butler Hathaway
The quote above is a good reminder of the adventures I have been on and how they have changed me. But the change in my perspectives of the world didn’t start with Peace Corps. They started in Paris, France in 2012. I spent two weeks in France and Spain for a study abroad program and the adventure changed my life. There are a few parts to this story because it took place over several days. Watch out for following posts to hear the rest of the journey!
On the flight to Paris, France from Miami, Florida, which is nearly nine hours, I found no sleep but instead found the night sky and its bright moon. The pink and lavender dusk crept up slowly creating a glare on the turbine outside my window. Once daylight fully took over the sky, the clouds became apparent resembling fluffs of white whipped frosting on a cake. From this high up, the clouds have created magnificent vapor mountains, hills, and meadows within the sky.
I’m drinking a small cup of coffee with milk and sugar and listening to the band Peridot, formerly known as Hillary Reynolds Band. Somewhere in the cabin, there is an aroma of peaches, perhaps lotion, or perfume, and my travel companion Valerie is conversing with an elderly woman. I heard another woman laugh a few seats over. She had a distinct laugh, innocent and childlike, which put a smile on my face.
I had one row of seats to myself, but yet, couldn’t find rest. It was a curse that I could never sleep on planes, trains, buses, or even in cars. But I was delighted to be awake. This trip from the US to France and Spain was my first international travel and I wanted to be awake for all or most of it.
I press my face up against the window looking down at the ocean. We were 36,000 feet in the sky but I could see small wisps of white from the power of the waves below. Valerie stops talking to the elderly woman and begins telling me about how clouds stay in the air and that when they get too heavy, that’s when they pour rain.
Arriving in Paris
It was early morning when we arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France. The nine-hour plane ride left us feeling tired and most of us wanted nothing more than to get to the hotel but our professor and leader of our group had other plans in mind. We met up with our tour guide, Jean-Claude who quickly became known as JC to me and my travel companions. For the rest of the day, JC took our large group of 22 people around Paris, in a zig-zag to keep us awake and help us avoid jet lag. That first day in Paris was a blur, except for lunchtime when I enjoyed the glorious taste of a true tuna and cheese crepe for the first time in my life.
When the day was over, we found our way back to Hotel Campanile to rest for the evening
The next day, I woke up at 5:30 am energized and ready for the day. I sat in the window in our small hotel room looking out in the courtyard below. The room was small and without much room for our luggage. Valerie and I shared the double bed in the room and she was still sleeping by the time I mixed up a cup of instant Folger’s coffee. The aroma woke her up.
As soon as she was ready, we met our two other companions, Trisha and Jon downstairs for a heavy carb breakfast of pastries, yogurt, and cereal. That day, we eased into the adventure by taking a bus tour around the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe. Afterwards, we would get dropped off at the Louvre and spend the next nine hours wandering the massive museum and finding ourselves something to eat.
This trip was set up completely through EF Tours, but we were led by two of my college professors who were comfortable with letting us explore, get lost, and enjoy our adventures.
While Paris, France is definitely touristy in a lot of ways, there was plenty to explore and places I hadn’t even heard of. It’s a good place to start traveling, especially if you are a beginner. During my travel in Paris, there were a few places I would recommend people go to, which I absolutely loved and feel most wouldn’t know too much about.
St. Chapelle Cathedral
Jon found the St. Chappelle Cathedral in a travel guide and insisted we go there to see the interior. From the outside, the cathedral looked ordinary and it was wedged between several other buildings. When we entered the lobby, I looked around at the blue velvety arched ceilings. A few people were scattered around looking at souvenirs and art. I thought, this is nothing, I wonder why it’s even in a travel guide. But we soon discovered a set of narrow winding stairs that took us up to another level. When we emerged into the second level, the sight of what was in the room took my breath away. Stained glass windows reached from floor to ceiling stretching all around us. A magnificent combination of colors shed a purple and red hue on the interior of the cathedral. It was a worthy sight and pictures don’t do it justice.
Sunset Picnics at Montmartre Beneath the Sacre Coeur
If you want an easy way to wind down at the end of the day, or exploring the likes of Paris, France has tired you out for the day, taking a walk up to Montmartre is a great way to end your day. There is a grassy knoll situated right at the base of the Sacre Coeur. People are encouraged to bring blankets and food or purchase beer from vendors nearby. There are street musicians playing music nearby too. The best part of sitting beneath the Sacre Coeur is getting to watch the sunset and the city of Paris light up.
Angelina’s Café and L’Africain Hot Chocolate
After you go to the Louvre, make sure you stop by Angelina’s Café on the Rue de Rivoli. It’s not far from the Louvre. When you go in, order their L’Africain Hot Chocolate. It is unlike your average powdered hot chocolate. They craft it in their kitchen and serve it in a small pitcher and a few teacups. Its rich dark chocolate taste is served with an unsweetened whipped cream to cut the rich flavor a little. Natives of the area will come inside just to have the hot chocolate and conversation. And if you are feeling hungry, they have an impressive menu of gourmet food that’s to die for.
Climb to the Top of the Tour Eiffel
This is a definitely a touristy thing to do in Paris, but it is worth it. Jon, Trisha, Valerie, and I bought tickets to the top for 9 euros and climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower and in the rain! The Eiffel Tower is made entirely of metal so be careful walking up and down. If you have the time, you can also send postcards to your loved ones from the souvenir shop in the Eiffel Tower.
For those making the trip to Paris, I suggest staying in the city for more than four days because there is SO much to do! Staying on the outskirts of the city is also a great choice because lodging will be cheaper and the Metro is so convenient you can get from point A to point B fast and easily. Thankfully, the city is small and easy to get around if you’re walking or want to take the Metro.
My adventure in Europe doesn’t stop here! We still have many places to cover and I will be sharing them in the weeks to come so stay tuned!