Travel Diary: Paris, Je T’aime!

As I mentioned last week, I’m spending the month exploring Europe and I’ll be chronicling my journey for The Frisky. My boyfriend Nick and I began our trip in Paris. We spent a few days there on our own and then my mom and my brother Devin joined us. Well, they tried. Unfortunately, their first experience with the Paris Metro system played out like a formulaic sequel to “Home Alone:” Devin boarded a train and the doors closed before my mom could get on. Neither of them had a cellphone or directions, so they spent the next two and a half hours riding trains back and forth through the city trying to find each other while Nick and I waited for them at the Metro station — terrified that they’d been abducted — and chain-eating croissants to cope with the stress. Luckily Devin found a kindly Scottish farmer to guide him home and my mom found a payphone under the Eiffel Tower, but wow, what a crazy day (apparently my family has bad luck with trains). More thoughts on Paris after the jump…

I loved wandering through new neighborhoods, soaking in the history and the beauty all around us and, more importantly, stopping every 10 minutes for a nutella crepe.

So, it’s been said a thousand times before, but Paris really is a magical city. I fell in love with it almost immediately: the food, the history, the people, the fashion. Every street is more charming than the one before it, with flower boxes perched on windowsills and teeny tiny Parisian dogs prancing down the sidewalks. I don’t think we made it farther than a few blocks from our apartment on our first day because I had to pause on every single corner to gasp dramatically and take in the view.

Everyone says French people are terribly rude to tourists but that wasn’t our experience at all. We encountered sweet, friendly people everywhere we went — at the restaurants, bookstores, perfume shops, fruit stands, and bakeries. Even in our most vulnerable, tourist-y moment, when we were late on our way to catch a train to London, standing on a street corner balancing five suitcases and a crumpled map, people were eager to help us out.

We booked an apartment in the Montparnasse neighborhood through airbnb.com, a site that connects locals with tourists looking for lodging, and I would highly recommend it. Our place was centrally located, super affordable (70 bucks a night? Oui!), included a full kitchen, and the guy who rented it to us was able to give us great tips about what to do in the neighborhood. We didn’t use the metro system too much (especially after that traumatic first experience), opting instead to walk everywhere, which was a delightful sensory experience but a terribly painful one for our feet. Still, I loved wandering through new neighborhoods, soaking in the history and the beauty all around us and, more importantly, stopping every 10 minutes for a Nutella crepe.

We stayed in Paris for a week, and every day was packed with activities, but I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what this amazing city has to offer. We’re going back for a few more days at the end of the trip, and I can’t wait.

Some random stats so far:

Snails eaten: 5
Miles walked (in seven days): 35
Total blisters acquired: 8
Lesson learned: For the love of god, wear comfortable shoes
Type of sandwich my boyfriend bought at the Iceland airport: Smoked lamb salad
Minutes after he ate it that he realized it was the worst decision he’d ever made: 5
Most valuable book: Rick Steves’ French Phrase Book
Most frequently used phrase: “Je ne parle pas Francais!”
Language I kept speaking by accident: Spanish
Unexpectedly amazing meal: Falafel at Chez Hanna
Unexpectedly awful meal: A quaint little cafe that served us tasteless steak fries and half-frozen green beans
Life-changing experience: Drinking a bottle of prosecco under the sparkling Eiffel Tower
Most embarrassing moment: Popping the cork on said bottle of prosecco only to have it fly 10 feet and land between two French women who seemed to be having a very serious conversation.
Number of days it rained constantly: 2.5
Number of waterproof garments I brought: 0
Most awkward thing I said in a cheese shop: “Let me show you my salami, then you can tell me what to do with it.”
Number of turtles seen in the pond under the Eiffel Tower: 3
People who thought the Eiffel Tower turtles were better than all the other attractions combined: 1 (my mom, a former zoologist)

Please feel free to leave any tips, recommendations, or stories from your own Paris experiences in the comments. Next week: Italy!

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