During my study abroad trip at Oxford University, I had a free weekend to explore Europe. So a few of my friends and I decided to visit Paris for the long weekend. It was Bastille Day while we were there – which meant crazy crowds and security – butttttttt it’s Paris!
We arrived in Paris in the evening, and after settling into our Airbnb, we decided to explore the city as the sun was setting. As we were walking over there, it was so crazy to just look up as we rounded a corner and see the Eiffel Tower RIGHT THERE.
The Eiffel Tower will never get old to me! As a freshman in high school, I gave a speech on the Eiffel Tower’s history for my public speaking class, and I’ve loved it ever since! When it was first built, many people thought it was an eye-sore. A French author actually ate lunch every day in the restaurant at the base of the Eiffel Tower because he said it was the only place where he couldn’t see it!
But I think we can all agree that it’s a breathtaking monument. I’ve never been to the top because the lines are always crazy, but it’s really fun to explore the park that’s around the Eiffel Tower!
In the morning, we set out to walk along the Seine to the Louvre. It was about an hour’s walk from our Airbnb, but it was a beautiful morning to walk along the river! There’s so much to see in Paris, you just have to walk as much as possible! I think we only took the metro a couple of times because it’s so much better to walk. I mean, just the architecture of each building is incredible and contains so much history.
The Louvre is one of the best museums in the world. I could spend a lifetime there and not see everything there is to see! We were there for hours and hours, but didn’t even make a dent on all that the Louvre holds.
I’ve been taking French for the last 3 semesters, so one of my favorite memories was being able to easily read the plaques beside each work of art. Education pays off! 😉
Favorite works of art from the Louvre:
- all of da Vinci’s paintings
- the Mona Lisa
- the Cour Marly sculptures in the Richelieu wing
- the Great Sphinx
- the Winged Victory of Samothrace
- the Venus de Milo
The first time I saw the Mona Lisa in person, I was SHOCKED by how small it is. When I read about it in art history books as a kid, I always pictured it being enormous, so it was strange to see it in real life! Everyone crowds around it (so hold on tightly to your purse because pickpockets definitely operate in that area!) but it cracks me up to see everyone holding up their phones or cameras and looking at the painting through them!
After leaving the Louvre, we stopped for a snack in the gardens just outside of the museum – the Jardin des Tuileries. I ordered a tarte au sucre from a cart and it was so delicious. I tried ordering in French whenever I could, but the waiters usually respond in English because they can tell right away that you’re not a native speaker! Either way, it’s good practice and I was surprised by how much I could understand!
Friday (July 14th) is Bastille Day in France – kind of the equivalent of the 4th of July! There’s a huge fireworks show by the Eiffel Tower that was AMAZING. Normally, I think fireworks get a little boring, but I couldn’t get bored in Paris! Fireworks by the Eiffel Tower in Paris certainly beats fireworks on a soccer field in my hometown. 😉
On Saturday morning, we made our way over to Notre Dame cathedral. I have a slight obsession with cathedrals, and Notre Dame is one of the most famous in the world – with good reason! The Gothic architecture of the exterior and interior of the cathedral is stunning. The inside is quiet and reverent and I wished that I could have explored every inch of it!
After leaving Notre Dame, we explored more of the city before ending up at some of Paris’ most famous gardens – Jardin du Luxembourg. These gardens are huge, and parts are pretty crowded, but there are some really quiet and relaxing spots in the trees. It’s the kind of place where I felt like I should be having a picnic and writing a novel! It’s just got that vibe!
We knew that we wanted to take a cruise on the River Seine from one end of Paris to the other, but we had a little bit of time before the boat left to see the Panthéon, which is a church turned mausoleum, and get delicious pastries! I got this pistachio and raspberry macaron, which I think was probably the best thing I’ve ever eaten!
The cruise was well worth it because we were able to learn so much about each landmark that we passed. Plus, we got an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower from the Seine!
We had Sunday morning to go see the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées before we took the train back to Oxford. You can go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe but we decided not to because it’s a little pricey. But I bet the view is beautiful! There’s lots to do in the area though – if you like shopping, the Champs-Élysées is the place to go! It’s a long avenue with tons of shops, restaurants, theaters, and an amazing place to buy macarons. I tried ordering macarons in French here with much more success!
There are also a lot of great food carts along the Champs-Élysées, we got the best crêpes ever for really cheap!
Everyone hypes Paris up a lot – but honestly it’s with good reason! I also want to travel more in the French countryside someday soon. What’s your favorite part of Paris?
p.s. check out the other posts in my study abroad series – my Oxford travel guide and London recap!