All trains are going to Paris! My favorite sign in all the world is located in the train station near Versailles. As Audrey Hepburn famously once said, “Paris is always a good idea,” and I’m inclined to agree. The City of Light has a certain irresistible magic, from the historic sights and art, to the incomparable fashion and exquisite cuisine.
Paris has so much to offer–countless books, films, and songs have been written about this iconic city, and it would be near-impossible to cover it all in a single blog post. As I mentioned in my previous travel post, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Since there is so much to see and do in Paris, I’ll be breaking this post into two sections: sights and shopping/fashion.
It’s hard to capture in words or even pictures what it’s like to stand underneath the Eiffel Tower. Though it’s one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, I was always a bit afraid that once I finally saw it with my own eyes, it would somehow be less than I imagined it to be. But truthfully, my fears were quite unfounded. I felt blissfully overwhelmed beneath the massive structure, as it stood tall and proud against the vibrant blue sky.
58 Tour Eiffel
River Cruise on the Seine
Our first day in Paris was my birthday and my darling husband surprised me with dinner on the Tower at 58 Tour Eiffel, followed by a river cruise on the Seine. I highly recommend both–though make sure you give yourself plenty of time for dinner, as it’s multiple courses.
We hit it off with the sweet couple at the table next to us, who was celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. Somewhere between the champagne and dessert and coffee, we completely lost track of time and missed our boat! Thankfully we could just wait half an hour and go on the next one–though I must admit there was something kind of romantic about dashing from the Tower to the Seine at sunset in a desperate attempt to catch our boat!
Arc de Triomphe
One blustery afternoon we climbed the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and were greeted with a gorgeous, panoramic view of Paris. It was also the perfect vantage point to see the roundabout within which the Arc is located and the twelve streets that sprawl from it.
There were several things in Paris that surprised me. The first is that I preferred Sainte-Chapelle to Notre Dame. Of course they’re dramatically different in size and style, yet we visited these churches back to back on the same day. As such, it was impossible for me not to compare them. Though far smaller than Notre Dame, I fell in love with the elaborate stained glass and gilded grandeur of Sainte-Chapelle.
The second thing I was a bit surprised by is how underwhelmed I was by the Mona Lisa. Though I don’t consider myself an expert, I’ve seen quite a bit of art over the years on our travels. Masses of people are crowded in the room to see the Mona Lisa because it’s such a famous work, and honestly? It was just okay. It’s a must-see if you’ve never been, of course, but there were so many other pieces in the Louvre that I enjoyed far more (such as Raphael’s La Belle Jardinière, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Apollo Gallery–all pictured above).
We visited the Louvre on a Wednesday, during their extended evening hours, which I definitely recommend because it’s way less crowded (and look how the lights of the pyramids glow during twilight!). You can actually get close to the more popular works without having to wait very long. I loved wandering through the Louvre and can’t wait to go back, as it’s one of those gigantic museums that you could truly spend days and days in.
Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie
The third thing is something that I was very pleasantly surprised by: how much I adored Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie. Monet spent the last thirty years of his life painting this exquisite work, and he designed the curved rooms that they’re housed in himself. I could’ve spent hours sitting before these tranquil, ethereal images.
Simply put, the palace of Versailles was beyond my wildest dreams. I had never quite fathomed how truly vast the palace and grounds are until we tried to walk it all in the pouring rain!
After the beautiful palace tour, it was unfortunately raining buckets when we exited to explore the expansive grounds. Despite being Oregonians who are quite accustomed to the rain, once our boots and “water-proof” jackets were soaked through, we decided to call it a day. I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t make it out to the Petit Trianon (Marie Antoinette often resided there), but we were sopping wet and quite miserable.
On our next trip we will be a little more flexible with our schedule and hopefully be able to visit Versailles on the sunniest day that we’re there. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from travel, it’s that something will invariably happen that is out of your control (inclement weather, holiday closures, strikes, renovations, etc.), but you have to make the most of it and do the best you can. As the French say, “C’est la vie!”
Shopping and Fashion
Something that was bucket list for me was shopping at the Chanel Flagship boutique on 31 Rue Cambon. Gabrielle Chanel first opened this location in 1918, and it had long been my dream to purchase the Chanel classic flap in the black caviar leather. Fun fact: this location is the only Chanel boutique in the world whose shopping bags are white with a black font (normally it’s the opposite: black shopping bag with white font).
We also enjoyed perusing the Champs-Élysées. We had lunch at Fouquet’s next door to Louis Vuitton (by far the biggest Vuitton store I’ve ever seen!). The food here was excellent (I had the steak-frites), and the terrace seating was an ideal spot for people-watching on this famous boulevard.
We also stopped at Ladurée for tea and dessert; not only were the macarons incredible, this famous sweet shop was absolutely beautiful. If you like macarons and pastries, this decadent place is a must (they also have multiple locations in the US!).
Christian Dior Exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Another fashion highlight for me was visiting the Christian Dior Exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs that celebrated the 70 years since the renowned fashion house began. Seeing the evolution of Dior over the years was incredible; being so close to some of these elaborate dresses, you truly could see the immense craftsmanship and detail that goes into making couture designs. Unfortunately this exhibition was for a limited time and ended in January of 2018.
What to Pack
Beret: H&M (similar) Striped Shirt: H&M (similar) Gray Topcoat: Zara (similar here and here) Bag: Chanel (similar here and here) Striped Dress: Monteau (similar here and here) Lace Top: Rose and Olive (similar here and here) Sunglasses: Chanel (similar) Watch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similar)
Of course this would vary depending what time of year you visit, but above is a sample of what I would pack (most of these items I did in fact bring on our trip). As I’ve said before, it’s easier when traveling to stick with a neutral color palette. Choosing pieces that have a variety of textures or prints helps add interest and detail (such as lace and stripes), yet staying within a classic palette makes it easy to mix and match.
The gray wool beret in the top left corner I recently purchased from H&M–I definitely regret not buying one in Paris! I saw so many girls wearing berets there, and I wish I had purchased one. Ah well–next time!
The Chanel classic flap pictured above is my beloved purchase from Paris. I linked some lovely similar options that have a comparable structure and shape.
This Friday I’ll be wearing some of these same pieces and doing a special post for Mother’s Day Weekend: outfit ideas for brunch with the moms in your life, great last-minute gifts, Paris-themed book recommendations, and a selection of my favorite black-and-white striped dresses that are currently on sale.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I would love to hear in the comments what you guys enjoy doing in Paris or what you hope to one day do there!
P.S. One of our favorite restaurants was Au Père Louis. It was close to our hotel in the Latin Quarter, and if you’re ever in that area I highly recommend it! It’s a charming little place with AMAZING food.