Paris Travel Diary

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

I don’t know when I started dreaming about Paris. It must have been back in college, somewhere between watching one too many Audrey Hepburn movies and pondering the possibilities of studying abroad.

I never did get there until last fall, but the years only intensified my fascination with the city.

In my mind, my boyfriend and I would stroll the banks of the Seine with a baguette in one hand and a bottle of wine in the other. We’d ride bikes through the city, exploring the hidden alleyways that you see only in romantic movies and blog photos. There would be cobblestone streets everywhere. And maybe, just maybe, the theme song from “Midnight in Paris” would be on repeat.

A sweet kiss in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Click for more cool photos.But nothing ever lives up to such outsize expectations, and my experience in Paris managed to be both a bit of a disappointment and a dream come true. The weather was almost always grey and dreary, and we spent most days in the company of two other friends trekking from monument to monument.

Still in a testament to the city’s greatness, I loved it anyway.

The Louvre in Paris.Velib bikes in ParisWe arrived at Charles de Gaulle Airport on a late morning and took a train into the city, watching highways and quiet communities turn into a cluster of city buildings. A little more than an hour later, we met our Airbnb host and checked into the cutest apartment ever. It was so quintessentially French, with its tiny, but comfortable proportions and modern decor. It was everything I had dreamed of.

Not long after settling in, one of our friends joined us to have lunch and go explore the neighborhood. We stayed in the 15th arrondissement, not known for much other than family homes and a few small cafes, which actually made us feel more like locals.

We’d wake up to the sound of children walking single file to school or someone hammering shingles onto a roof not far off. One entire wall of the apartment was lined with windows, and I never got used to the pleasure of watching Parisian life unfold on the streets below from our little balcony.

Rooftops in Paris. View from our AirbnbWhat I remember most about Paris are the little moments: picking up sandwiches from the boulangerie down the street and eating them around our coffee table; trying to read the French instructions on the washing machine in our apartment before finally hitting a button and hoping for the best; laying those clothes out onto a drying rack in the kitchen and watching the sun stream from the full-length window; or simply coming back home to our apartment after a long day out.

We grew familiar with the slightly musty smell in the hallway and I’d listen to the sounds of dinner or the TV behind the neighbor’s doors and imagine what their Parisian lives must be like.

There were grander moments too, like our day trip to Versailles. Another ride on the RER and a short walk, and we were entering the imposing gilded gates of the palace grounds. You don’t see the true beauty though until you enter the palace and pass through each treasure-filled room, including the famous Hall of Mirrors, finally landing in the Gardens, which seemed to stretch on for days.

Paris: Versailles palace gatesGardens of Versailles, ParisPalace of Versailles, ParisPalace of Versailles, ParisFrom the main castle, we took a long walk over to Marie Antoinette’s estates, where we taunted some crazy fish in a pond and got lost looking for a house that we must have walked past a million times without knowing.

I love New York City museums, but the ones in Paris had a different feel, although maybe that’s just the starry-eyed little girl in me. There’s a sense of grandness in the places themselves, yet everyone seems to be at home. It must be amazing to live in a city with so much culture in your backyard.

Paris Edited-69Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa at The Louvre in ParisLike all good tourists, we visited the Louvre, but it was packed with people, clamoring in one massive, swaying crowd to see the Mona Lisa, which honestly did not impress me as much I’d expected. Instead, I’d advise you to turn around and feast your eyes on Paolo Veronese’s massive painting of The Wedding at Cana.

The Louvre itself is beautiful, but I think it would be more enjoyable in quieter moments – perhaps in the evening when it’s less crowded. It was closing time when we left, and it definitely felt saner by the end of the day. We had fun walking through the palatial rooms and imagining what it would be like to live in them (#bedroomgoals and such) but it was a bit overwhelming and we didn’t see even a quarter of the collections.

I personally preferred the tranquil, open atmosphere at the Musée d’Orsay, where you can sort of flit from room to room between Van Gogh and Monet, while resting for a moment at one of the many recreational areas under the gorgeous windowed ceiling.

The beautiful Musee d'Orsay in ParisGiant clock at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

To be honest, it took me a while to get used to Paris. I remember taking our first walk from our apartment toward the center of the city and thinking “this could be very well be Queens.” There was nothing much to see when we first started out, apart from a few small shops and some unspectacular buildings. But then, we rounded a corner and got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, and I knew we had arrived.

The Eiffel Tower, ParisThe Seine | ParisFrom there, it was a short walk along the Seine, until I was finally up close, standing underneath the most iconic arches in the world (not counting, McDonalds, I guess.) There’s a special feeling when you accomplish something you’ve dreamed of forever. You can almost feel that dream being taken down from the shelf where it’s been tucked away for all this time and dusted off for you.

A few nights later, we finally ascended the Tower for gorgeous views of the city. I can still remember my excitement as we climbed into the elevator. But that mid-September night was cold and extremely windy at those heights, so we only lasted a few minutes up there.

That’s fine though because we’d also been to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, where the view was equally amazing. From its position at the center of a circle, the city unfolds symmetrically, giving you a 360-degree view that includes the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Cœur, as well as the bustling Champs-Élysées below.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris | View from Champs Elysees.View of Paris from the Arc de TriompheArc de Triomphe, Paris(Photos by Jhaneel Lockhart and Carlos Mendoza)

We were in Paris for eight days total, which still didn’t feel like enough time. (In the middle of our trip, we took the bus to London and then flew over to Rome and back.) There’s nothing like “coming home” to Paris – seeing the streets you’ve already become accustomed to in less than a week, the impeccably-dressed people and the familiar outdoor cafes. (Stay tuned for a separate post on where we ate.)

And the trains – don’t get me started on the trains! From the cute little billets to the door knobs you have to turn to get off the train car, every trip on the subway felt like an adventure in itself. Perhaps we got lucky because we traveled mostly on weekdays (with the exception of one busy Saturday afternoon), but it was such a departure from the overcrowded, dirty New York City subway system. I’m convinced the subway says a lot about a city. In Paris, it says historic charm, with modern minimalism.

In the end, Paris came through for me like I always knew it would. It took me about two weeks to stop searching for ways to move there and spend my days writing à la Hemingway. That dream isn’t totally dead – it’s just shelved away for now. This city has my heart and I’ll be back for sure.

FOR MORE PARIS | See the 5 best restaurants we tried in Paris and our travel vlog on YouTube.

 

 

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60 Comments

  1. October 15, 2016 / 2:01 pm

    I just watched the video! Thank you so much for posting it. I ALMOST felt like I was there, too! ???????????? One day!

    • October 17, 2016 / 1:05 pm

      Thanks for watching! I’m glad you liked it ???? I hope you get to visit soon. You’ll love Paris!

        • October 17, 2016 / 9:07 pm

          Haha. Sounds like a plan!

  2. September 9, 2016 / 3:40 am

    This post is amazing, the way you describe your life long dream of seeing Paris is how I feel about Spain. I can’t wait to go, but I know that like you said it will be disappointing and fulfilling at the same time. And simply because our grandiose daydreams don’t take reality into account. 🙂

    • September 9, 2016 / 12:09 pm

      Thank you! I hope you get to visit Spain soon – I’d love to go there someday. And I definitely hope it’s more fulfilling than anything else! 🙂

  3. June 18, 2016 / 1:32 pm

    Found you on community pool and had to check out your diary because I am also a lover of Paris. It’s been 30 years since I’ve been there. Reading your journal and seeing your beautiful pics was a great reminder of how beautiful this city is. Thanks, and keep writing!

    • June 18, 2016 / 2:35 pm

      momapom – thank you so much! So glad you enjoyed the post. And hmm.. What was Paris like in the 80s?

      • June 18, 2016 / 3:41 pm

        From your pictures, I would have to say Paris is cleaner than it was in the 80’s. Although, I believe it is one of those places that stands still in time. We visited several places in Europe, and since I was just below drinking age for the U.S. at the time, I am sorry to say, some of it is a blur. : )

        • June 20, 2016 / 11:20 am

          momapam – sounds like good times! 🙂

  4. June 17, 2016 / 10:15 pm

    Everything looks incredible! Lovely post! xx

  5. June 14, 2016 / 12:29 pm

    I absolutely love this! The pictures are breathtaking and the vlog is so cool too! I am thinking of starting a youtube channel of my own as well! Do you have any tips?

    • June 15, 2016 / 9:38 pm

      Hi One More Shot, I’d say the most important things are to post consistently, promote your videos on social media, leave thoughtful comments on other people’s videos and just keep going – all things which I haven’t been doing, but should.

  6. June 13, 2016 / 7:10 pm

    I really loved your post and you took some amazing photos! i look forward to seeing more posts from you 🙂

  7. June 13, 2016 / 4:56 pm

    I’ve only ever spent a couple of days in Paris but I love it! Great photos and how lovely that you were able to stay in an area full of locals (the brilliance of Airbnb!) Did you get chance to visit Montmatre and the Sacre Coeur? One of my favourite areas to look out across the city – and very Audrey Hepburn, the location of one of my favourite images of her 🙂

  8. June 13, 2016 / 2:21 pm

    I really like your photos! So professional and really capturing the moments of your travels.

    Happy Blogging X

  9. June 13, 2016 / 12:29 pm

    I’m just hopping over from the WP Community Pool and have fallen madly in love with your writing! I love how you perfectly conveyed your feelings about the city. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • June 13, 2016 / 1:46 pm

      Thank you, Diya! That’s so kind!

      • June 13, 2016 / 10:54 pm

        My pleasure 🙂

  10. June 10, 2016 / 11:23 am

    I’ve only been following you for a few days, but your content is superb! I pray that one one day I am as great of a writer as you are 🙂

  11. June 8, 2016 / 11:19 pm

    What an incredible trip! Looks amazing. I too have always dreamed of Paris. What a great dream to have too!

  12. June 8, 2016 / 4:37 am

    I totally agree with you on the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, I also just looked at the painting on the other side, which was much more impressive to me ! I love your pictures 🙂

  13. June 7, 2016 / 10:44 pm

    This was a lovely post. Your photos are really nice as well.
    I could actually relate to some of it because I had the opportunity to visit Paris myself.
    And that part about the Mona Lisa I agree with you completely! Haha!

    • June 7, 2016 / 10:51 pm

      Thanks, Shin! And yeah, the Mona Lisa was a bit of a snore.. :-/

  14. June 7, 2016 / 10:23 pm

    I absolutely love this post Jhaneel! Do you mind if I post this as a tweet on my twitter?

    • June 7, 2016 / 10:28 pm

      Sure, thanks for sharing!

  15. June 7, 2016 / 7:47 pm

    I expected something grand in Paris, and though liked it, it was very reminiscent of New York. The country side is beautiful though. I like this post I’m giving you a follow.

    • June 7, 2016 / 8:02 pm

      Thanks, ReignofFaith. I think truly all big cities are a variation of the same thing.. I’d love to see the French country side.

  16. June 7, 2016 / 7:38 pm

    I really enjoyed this post! It’s a great summary of your trip and your photographs are truly stunning! Bravo! 🙂

    • June 7, 2016 / 8:00 pm

      Thanks, Giulia! Glad you liked it!

  17. June 7, 2016 / 6:55 pm

    Ooh it sounds amazing! I live in England so Paris isn’t all too far away but still haven’t had the chance to go (this summer, fingers crossed!). I loved your writing style – you injected both your personality and captured and the atmosphere perfectly. The area where you stayed sounds amazing – I definitely want to stay somewhere similar when I visit. I also loved that you included so many photos – you look like you had a great time 😀

    • June 7, 2016 / 8:24 pm

      Hope you do get to go this summer. I loved England and hope to go back soon! Glad you liked the photo 🙂

      • June 8, 2016 / 10:03 am

        You should definitely come again and try to spend some more time here. There’s lots of lovely sites – both in and out of London 🙂

  18. June 7, 2016 / 6:14 pm

    I just got back from Paris myself. It is an amazing city that could occupy your imagination for years. But, it is also a big, loud, and bustling city which has its positives and negatives.

    • June 7, 2016 / 7:19 pm

      Oh nice! I think being from NYC, nothing can feel as loud and bustling, but I did get a bit of that when we went over to the Champs-Elysees. Way too many people!
      What was your favorite part of the trip?

      • June 7, 2016 / 10:57 pm

        Going to see Monet’s garden at Giverney which is a cheat answer because it’s out of town. We saw a Gregorian choir at the Notre Dame and a ballet at the old Opera house. Both of those were pretty epic. Thanks for asking.

        • June 7, 2016 / 11:04 pm

          Those all sound awesome! I’m sad we didn’t make it to Monet’s garden. I’d love to do that and visit the Opera house on my next trip.

          • June 8, 2016 / 10:47 am

            Always good to keep things on the list to do for next time. I’ll be posting photos from the garden soon so you will be able to check it out.

  19. June 7, 2016 / 5:26 pm

    Great post summing it all up, and I loved the photography! I’ll try to get around to watching the vlog as well!

    • June 7, 2016 / 5:34 pm

      Thanks, Robert! Glad you liked it. The vlog is a bit long, so you might need to grab a cup of tea haha. It was my first ever. I’ve since learned to edit more!!

      • June 7, 2016 / 5:36 pm

        Lol, duly noted! One of these days I want to do a video post so I’ll know where to go for the video editing skills!

        • June 7, 2016 / 5:37 pm

          Looking forward to it!

  20. June 7, 2016 / 4:53 pm

    Such wonderful pictures! Loved reading it..

    • June 7, 2016 / 5:39 pm

      Thanks, Jan! So happy that you enjoyed reading 🙂

  21. June 7, 2016 / 4:47 pm

    Looks like a blast you two. How many other paintings were covered in that much Glass? Wow.

    • June 7, 2016 / 4:51 pm

      We did! And not many, actually. I guess the Mona Lisa is in such a special class that they don’t even want anyone to breathe on it haha. Notice how far back we were standing? That’s the closest you can get.

      • June 7, 2016 / 5:04 pm

        Wow. And it’s so tiny too. I think a crazy person once stole it, someone else threw acid on it and another hit not with a rock. So the glass is needed now. Too bad the few ruin it for the many. You traveling to the next place?

        • June 7, 2016 / 5:33 pm

          OMG. Although I’m actually not that surprised.. People are insane. And I’m heading to San Francisco next month.. but I still have a Rome and London post to do so stay tuned!

          • June 7, 2016 / 6:04 pm

            Wow. Global traveler. Did you travel hack for air miles?

          • June 7, 2016 / 6:06 pm

            Those were some of my first few trips. But I’ve got some reward points saved up that I’m hoping to use for at least a few upgrades on my next trip! I am still such a noob though and need all the advice I can get.

          • June 7, 2016 / 6:09 pm

            I’m saving on the united card now. Gonna do American next. Might as well get the miles

          • June 7, 2016 / 7:16 pm

            I’ve been using Chase – the Sapphire Preferred is pretty good if you spend a lot on travel and dining. But I might have to get the United card soon. I’ve heard good things.

          • June 7, 2016 / 7:36 pm

            Key is to get to 65k it’s for the international trip. I’ve heard chase sapphire is the travel hack card because no atm fees

          • June 7, 2016 / 6:16 pm

            I had to look it up after I read your trip

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