Bonjour, mes amis! Some thoughts on our recent trip to Paris, France!
Pont au Change (the Napoleon Bridge) in Paris
The mister and I just returned from a milestone anniversary trip to Paris. I want to share with you some of the highlights, but also how we decided upon Paris, and some our impressions from visiting this beautiful city.
Visiting Paris had been a dream of mine for a couple of decades. (I confess that I am a bit of a Francophile.) Fortunately, my husband was willing to help indulge my wish and I think he quite enjoyed the trip as well. He happens to speaks español, not français, but that will have to be a story for some other adventure - I am hoping there will be more trips in our future!
Research and planning are more typical in my approach to life, but this trip felt different. It represented a shift in me - from cautiously approaching decisions - to allowing myself (perhaps, requiring of myself?) more spontaneity and adventure into the unknown. It all stared in early January, when I was looking at Julia Engel's Paris visit in winter (from Gal Meets Glam). It was the first time I considered visiting Paris in the winter instead of the typical warm-weather season.
By mid-January, Ashley Wilson (from At Home with Ashley) shared on her Facebook page/blog this exploration inspiring quote:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do
than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
― H. Jackson Brown Jr.com
Needless to say, the combination of my long-held desire to see Paris, Julia's photos, and Ashley's quote propelled me to follow my zeal and newfound willingness to ditch the exhaustive planning an international trip might require. Instead, we got an Airbnb recommendation, from my cousin Whitney, booked it and then bought our plane tickets. That was it! We were to leave in less than six weeks.
Okay, okay, maybe some of you have taken larger-scale trips on a much more spontaneous level of timing, but for me, this felt pretty big and out of my usual comfort zone! I figured by having the plane tickets and accommodations arranged, we could keep the itinerary pretty open and take it day by day. But note: DO BUY your Eiffel Tower tickets as soon as possible! We learned that the hard way.
Eiffel Tower and Paris skyline as seen from rooftop terrace at Printemps
Equipped with our passports, a bit of broken French, and an eager anticipation, we embarked upon our journey. About two weeks before our departure, I had read through the Rick Steves’ 2017 Paris book (there are many companies offering online and print sources for travel planning tips) which proved to be very helpful (okay, so I did do a little planning). Without it, we would have never know about the free access to the rooftop terraces at the department stores of Printemps and Galleries Lafayette along Rue Haussmann. We enjoyed the view while resting our feet, hearing murmurs of French conversations all around us, and, of course, sipping some wine.
Paris was wonderful, delightful, and exhausting all at once! I was intent upon beginning my conversations with the locals, en français. Admittedly, it all required a lot of energy to navigate. Under the influence of jet lag - unfamiliar surroundings, speaking (and listening) in a different language, and deciphering the métro and train systems took time, but the awe and enjoyment factor was well worth the effort!
As I rambled through my basic French, quickly the locals would realize I was from the US and would deftly switch to answering me in English. I am amazed at how many people, in other countries, speak multiple languages – something that is impressive to me! I do believe the people I spoke with at least appreciated (or were amused by) my attempts to communicate in their language, even though their use of English proved to be much more effective and efficient!
I am glad I continued to initiate conversation in French, because by the end of the week, speaking French was so much easier – more and more vocabulary returned to my memory. I could have easily given up and functioned solely in English, but I would not have improved my French that way. Now I am missing the challenge of speaking French. I am looking for ways to keep learning and progressing! Please let me know if you have found anything helpful to improving foreign language learning.
An evening view of Notre Dame and the Seine river from the Left Bank
The most meaningful aspect of this visit was to finally see, for myself, this grand and magical city. Paris does not disappoint! It was beautiful during the day and most enchanting at night - especially strolling along the Seine. The lights glistening on the water, with Notre Dame majestically watching over the city - who could forget this moment? This photo engages my romantic side and will likely be the image imprinted in my mind as an indelible memory of Paris.
We walked to almost all of our destinations and logged over 45 miles over seven days. We did take the RER train to and from the airport and also to Versailles, but walking helped us create a mind-map of the city and well as helped to keep us awake! Just keep moving...
A key benefit of visiting Paris in March (considered mid-season) is that we avoided the huge crowds of late spring, summer, and early fall (high-season). We did have crisp temperatures with sunny to partly-sunny days most of the time, but it wasn’t much different from our Seattle home.
favorite things in Paris
What was my favorite part of our visit you might ask? Well, I loved the cobblestone roads, the patina and texture of the walls, and most of all, I was drawn to the colorful doors throughout the old city. We took something like 75 photos of doors alone! Yeah, well that is what happens when you send an interior designer and an architect to a feast of architectural details.
Since I primarily look at home design and lifestyle for my blog content, I am interested in how a visit to another place or culture influences my approach to design.
Things I learned from my short stay in Paris:
History (even antiquity) can have a place in my concept of modernity - a mix and match approach intentionally combining the old and new
Aim to do a few things very well rather than doing too many things in a mediocre way - do what you love, love what you do
Appreciate and take good care of what I already have (better sustainability!) - if the French can preserve ancient structures why are we so quick to tear everything out and start new in the US?
How can I meld my experience and exposure to create something meaningful for myself - visiting other cultures forces us to look at our ethnocentrism with new eyes
More on these themes and location visits (and more pretty pictures) in coming posts. I hope you have a wonderful first week of spring. And most of all…thank you for reading my blog posts!