Co-founder and Editor of Travel & Style Magazine, Stephanie Gray, shares her top 5 most memorable things she experienced when visiting the City of Lights for the very first time.
Hello! I’m Stephanie and I’m thrilled that my Aunt Janice invited me to write a guest post on her blog. This past April my husband Kyle and I finally made it to Paris — a destination I’ve had on my bucket list for years. I’ve travelled extensively for personal and work (I am the co-founder of Travel & Style Magazine and have done freelance travel writing), but was almost embarrassed I’d never made it to one of the most iconic cities in the world.
A trip 6 months in the making, I reached out to Janice to get her tips (instead of telling me she wrote me a blog post because you ask the person who’s been there 20+ times. I love researching, so I took Jan’s tips and gathered online info to create a weeklong itinerary for our trip to Paris.
As you would expect, Paris exceeded our expectations. The food, the architecture, the art and culture — it was just like I imagined it would be. There was so much to love and it’s definitely a city I would return to. As a first-timer it can be difficult to decide what to do, since there is so much to explore. We managed to squeeze in quite a bit, but after reflecting on the trip, these made the top five of my most memorable experiences.
Starting the Morning Like a Parisian
Mornings in Paris became my favourite ritual of the trip. Staying at an Airbnb in the Saint-Germain des Près district (highly recommend), a small corner café called Le Comptoir des Saint Pères became our go-to for le petit dejeuner. Formerly called Michaud, apparently Hemingway and Fitzgerald liked coming here because it was cheaper than the other cafes in the neighbourhood. Every morning I ordered a café crème (espresso with milk) and ate a buttery, flaky croissant. Many locals came in during the week, standing or sitting at the counter with their café and then off to work. After the third day we realized it was cheaper to order at the counter than sit at a table, so we continued to do that. It was a simple and very affordable morning routine we loved.
Visiting the Musée D’Orsay
We visited five museums during our trip, but my favourite was Musée D’Orsay. It wasn’t as crowded as the Louvre and still has plenty of very beautiful art and notable artists, such as Monet, Cezanne, Degas and Van Gogh. The building itself is also gorgeous. It is a former railway station, with a dramatic ceiling and many spots for Insta-worthy photos including behind the clock on the top floor that looks out towards Sacre Coeur. If you love art, this is a museum you can’t miss.
Climbing the Arc de Triomphe
One of the most famous monuments in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe, is not just historical and pretty to look at from the Champs Elysees, but worth the effort to climb 284 steps to reach the observation deck for serious photo ops. Some of my favourite photos are from here and is a wonderful vantage point of the Eiffel Tower. We paid for a 3-day Museum Pass, clustering our museum visits during this time to get our money’s worth, but found that even though it might have cost us a bit more than paying for each separately, skipping the line made it worthwhile (we skipped the line here, saving ourselves at least 30 minutes). The climb is a bit challenging, we passed many people along the way who needed to catch their breath, but if you’re in good health, don’t hesitate to make your way to the top.
Hot Chocolate at Angelina’s
At least three people have told me the best hot chocolate they’ve ever had was here. To be honest I didn’t even have it on our itinerary, but when chatting with my sister Nancy mid-way through the week, she said, “You have to go to Angelina’s.” I decided too many people are saying it’s so amazing, so we have to go and see for ourselves. Ok they were SO right. We went to the location beside the Luxembourg Gardens and got a seat in a back room (the front was prettier, but it was busy so we didn’t really have a choice). I decided to go for the full Angelina experience, ordering the famous African hot chocolate and their signature Mont-Blanc dessert. I personally found the Mont-Blanc a bit too sweet for my taste buds, but the hot chocolate was to-die-for. A secret recipe made from a variety of African cocoa, it’s served in a mini-jug with a side of whipped cream. Prepare to be in chocolate heaven!
Sitting at a Café Drinking Wine and People Watching
This was one of the musts on Jan’s list of things for us to do and it certainly didn’t disappoint. In our neighbourhood were two iconic cafes, one of which was the Les Deux Magots, known for its iconic clientele of the past (Picasso, Hemingway and James Joyce to name just a few). One afternoon we decided we had enough walking, grabbed a table out front, ordered a bottle of wine and just sat and watched the world go by. When the French talk about the joie de vivre, I’m pretty sure this is what they’re referring to.
There were many more favourite moments I had during the trip, including visiting the new Louis Vuitton Fondation, going up the Eiffel Tower, walking through the public gardens and shopping at the Galleries Lafayette, but as for any first-timer I would highly recommend fitting the above in your top five. Promise you won’t be disappointed.