Paris: The City of Love

Paris. Poets, artists, playwrights, writers, journalists, statesmen, and more have all written about it. All came to Paris and walked away in love.

It’s hard not to fall in love with Paris. It’s a magical place, and I can see why so many flock here. Paris exudes culture, sophistication, and style. And, like millions before me, I too fell in love with the city.

I remember the exact moment. It was about midnight, and I had only been in Paris for two hours. I was meeting friends for a night on the town, and I hadn’t seen much of the city yet since I arrived late. But the second I got out of the metro and stared at the Arc de Triomphe and marveled at the Champs-Élysées, I fell in love. Paris was it—the highlight of my time in Europe.

But with just two days in Paris, I only had time to see the big sights and walk around. Two days does not do this city justice.

One of the first things that struck me about Paris was how spacious it is. Paris is filled with wide streets, lots of little squares and plazas, and large parks. In European cities, especially ones as old as Paris, you rarely find such openness. It’s usually only in the newly built areas. Old buildings were usually built close together, and any trip to London, Barcelona, Rome, or Prague will have you wondering how people moved about. But Paris is different. There’s a lot of open space here. The space makes the city feel much less busy and far more relaxed. You can walk, you can move, you can dodge that car. It’s refreshing.

With my limited time here, I stuck to the major sites. I walked down to the Louvre and marveled at its size, wondering if Dan Brown would use it again in his books. I didn’t go in, though—the Louvre deserves more time than I could give it on this trip. I stared at the Arc de Triomphe and strolled down the Champs-Élysées. The Champs-Élysées is always busy and always expensive. With so many tourists and expensive shops, though, it’s not surprising. I spent my first night there club-hopping. My Parisian friends showed me the local nightlife, which doesn’t end until 8am. Parisians party hard.

The highlights of the trip came on my second day. I spent six hours wandering the streets of Paris, falling in love with it more and more. The city is beautiful. Stupidly beautiful. All of it. Nothing else can be said, and I’ll let each photo tell you a thousand words.

I enjoyed the Latin Quarter. This historic area is filled with tiny, winding streets that turn at weird angles to open into little café-lined squares. Despite being so close to Notre Dame, there were few tourists wandering around. The streets there were much quieter, and it seemed like a nice area to eat and relax in. I was glad to get lost in it for quite some time.

Another great place was the Jardin du Luxembourg. This huge garden behind the Palais du Luxembourg is a local favorite on a warm summer day. Tree-lined paths zigzag across the area, connecting parks to picnic or nap in and tennis courts to play on. There’s a large central fountain and a little place to race boats. The park is filled with people relaxing and eating. One thing that amazed me about the gardens was the large amount of chairs. In fact, most parks in Paris had chairs. Chairs that were not tied down, because no one takes them. They’re just there. I was surprised because in most other places I’ve been, people would take the chairs and slowly they’d disappear, too costly to replace.

And how could I forget the two biggest sights: the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.

The Eiffel Tower wasn’t that impressive the first time I saw it. It was raining, and the tower seemed to blend into the gray clouds overhead. Yes, it was cool, but it wasn’t breathtaking. Then I saw it a second time. On a clear blue day, the tower stuck out in the sky, reaching high above the surrounding buildings. Walking towards it, I got more excited, and the second time I saw it towering above the Seine, I was impressed. Really impressed. However, I was not impressed with the two-hour wait to get to the top and skipped that. But what a sight! The Eiffel Tower, or the “metal asparagus” as Parisians used to call it, is mesmerizing. It’s the symbol of the city of love, which is evident by the large amount of couples caressing each other on the surrounding grass.

Notre Dame was cleaner than I thought it would be. I expected a grim structure giving the Gothic architecture an even more dark and mystical feel. Sadly, it seems the building has been cleaned over the last few years. I think it takes away from the history and foreboding of the structure. C’est la vie, right? The inside was pretty standard, and the front reminded me of the duomos in Italy. The real beauty of Notre Dame is its buttressed oval rear. This part is breathtaking, and the Gothic art here is very intricate and well designed. The downside to Notre Dame is the sea of tourists who crowd this place each day. They swarm around like flies to honey, and I quickly decided to leave. It was nice, but not worth the annoyance. Instead, I marveled at it from afar—away from the crowds.

Paris was amazing. I loved it all and will come back as soon as I possibly can. It’s everything I thought it would be and more. My next post will give tips for traveling around the city and offer more practical advice. But this is my Paris love story. So many of us have one.