The memories that remain with you the longest aren’t the landmarks you saw or the things you bought – they’re the experiences you have with people and the feelings you get. I could go on for hours about all the amazing meals, nights out, nights in, and inside jokes I had during my five months in Paris, but no amount of storytelling skill would convey the reality of each personal experience.
So instead, in order to make this way more accessible, I’ve decided to share my top four memories of Paris, that is, the images I get in my head when I think of this city. These were the magical moments.
Autumn Leaves and Springtime Gardens
One reason, among millions, why Paris is so charming, is because of its green spaces. There are so many parks and trees that provide a nice relief from the gray stone color of the buildings.
And the floral design in the major parks are so beautiful! Whoever the landscape designer is should be applauded, because the wild bunches of flowers bring such life to the parks! These were both taken at the Tuileries, you just HAVE to come here during spring or summer.
Le Musée D’Orsay
My absolute favorite time period in Art History resides here, at this magical palace of beauty. The museum is housed in a renovated train station – a fancy one, bedecked in gold, with a massive, arched, coffered ceiling.
You’re not allowed to take pictures of the art, but they have one of the largest collections of Impressionist paintings, as well as lesser known artwork from the time period, including a small room dedicated to the Nabis. There’s also some Van Goghs and a fantastic miniature cut-away model of Opera Garnier.
MONTMARTRE – all day, err’day
If you asked me the place I visited most, it would be Montmartre, by far. I can’t even remember how many times I spent an afternoon ambling about there. Although I lived in the south of Paris, and Montmartre was at the very opposite end, I still made the trek out there because it’s just THAT good. I was lucky enough to live on Metro line 12, which had stops at both the Musée D’Orsay and the base of the Montmartre hill, so it wasn’t too much of a hassle to get there.
My favorite route up to the butte was from Metro Abbesses. Less tourists, and zero obnoxious salesmen forcing you to look at their eiffel tower keychains or string bracelets (don’t even get me started on how damn annoying they are). Using this route, there are a number of small boutiques and cute restaurants to check out. I particularly enjoyed the vintage shop Vintage Desir for it’s cheap prices, and Chîne Machine for its higher end inventory. Be sure to head downstairs into the stone basement at Chine Machine! Lots of amusing things to try on, including giant fur coats, wacky 80s prom dresses, and the like.
One of my favorite sections of Montmartre was near the vineyard, near La Maison Rose and, further down the hill, Au Lapin Agile. That Bohemian charm still remains here, even if it is usually swarmed with tourists. Just avoid the sales men that lurk at the bottom of the hill near the carousel… they are bad news. And another piece of advice, if you see a stand selling sausages on baguettes with grilled onion, buy one. You won’t regret it.
Saving the best for last! The two islands that sit in the middle of the Seine river are perhaps the most quintessentially Parisian. You have Notre Dame here, St. Chapelle there, a famous ice cream shop over yonder, little booksellers lining the river banks, a charming park, Shakespeare and Co. across the river (technically not on the islands, but close enough!), AND MORE.
My preferred plan of attack: visit St Chappel with it’s amazing stained glass windows, pop into Notre Dame, then make your way down side streets, over a bridge to the quieter Île-Saint-Louis, stop at any vendor to get a fix of Berthillon ice cream (my favorite flavor is caramel beurre salé, aka salted caramel), then amble across another bridge and down to the river bank as you savor the ice cream snack. You could even be ambitious and bring bottle of wine to drink by the water’s edge. CAN YOU GET ANY MORE CHARMING?!
I find the back of Notre Dame much more beautiful than the front. Theres even a little garden in the back with plenty of benches.
There’s still so much to share about my Paris study abroad experience! I have a few more planned before I depart for a new new life in Versailles in one month! On the planner – “Le Musée,” “Marché aux Puces,” and “Restaurants.” After that, I’ll be able to share my new experiences settling into French life. <3
*Top image made with A Beautiful Mess app
Vintage Desir – 28 rue Yvonne le Tac, Metro Abbesses (also one in the Marais)
Chîne Machine – 100 Rue des Martyrs, Metro Abbesses
Berthillon Ice Cream – 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, Metro Cité + walk
Shakespeare & Co – 37 Rue de la Bucherie, Metro Saint Michel