Ah, the city of love. Paris is one of the most romantic places in the world and truly one of the most vibrant cities on the planet. There’s no feeling quite like the feeling of walking through Paris. This was the second time I’ve been to Paris but granted, more than a decade passed between these trips. One major difference in this trip? It was unscripted. What I mean by that is each day I only had one thing planned for the day. The rest of the time, it was just free time to walk around and soak up the city.
Strolling through the city in no rush gives you a real sense of place. Instead of desperately looking at your map to figure out your next destination and how long it’ll take to get there or if you’ll be late, you’ll be stopping to take in the little things.
Full disclaimer: I only walked around the city aimlessly with a personal WiFi hotspot during daylight hours to stay safe. I was alone for much of my wandering, but I was obviously smart about it – and you should be too.
I stayed at the Timhotel Opera Blanche Fontaine. It was a pretty no-frills hotel. There was an elevator which is always a plus as you’re dragging your luggage behind you. It’s located in the Montmartre district, within walking distance to Moulin Rouge. It’s a very artistic district and you can walk the streets and find artists sketching and painting passerbys. The room I had was an absolute dream, with a large bathroom, a separate sitting room with a balcony that had an outstanding view of the Eiffel Tower. I was pleasantly surprised by the size and comfort of the room, given the hallways are quite small.
This hotel puts you in a great spot to walk around and explore. By night, we walked along the more frisky streets of Boulevard de Clichy. Moulin Rouge is located on this street, positioned next to bustling nightlife, strip clubs as well as more tame restaurants and cafes. We had a delicious dinner at Le Sanglier Bleu that left everyone satisfied before heading to Moulin Rouge.
The next day, I spent strolling along the streets bright and early with one simple goal: walk my way to the Seine River. I walked down Rue Jean-Baptiste Pigalle to Rue Saint-Lazare passing cafes, theaters and shops. I stumbled into Galeries Lafayette, a major high-end shopping center in Paris. I never would have sought out going here, since I’m not really into high fashion. But being here was really wonderful. The dome building itself is fascinating – ornately designed and picturesque no matter which way you look. One of the most interesting parts of the building can be found on the third floor, where the Glasswalk suspends you midair with glass beneath your feet to look below.
From here, I walked passed an opera house Palais Garnier. It turns out this was built at the bequest of Napolean the Third. It’s one of the most well-known opera houses in the world and serves as a symbol or icon of Paris, similar to Notre Dame. Without simply passing it by and looking it up, I would have never know.
From there, I walked to the Louvre. I’ve been inside the Louvre many years ago when I was about 14 years old. I remember seeing the Mona Lisa like yesterday. But I didn’t remember the grounds quite as thoroughly. Walking the around the Louvre was equally captivating, seeing people from around the world gather around the fountains and displays. People were taking engagement photos there, family photos, Facetiming loved ones who couldn’t be there.
Across the Seine I went, where locks of love adorned the popular bridge Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor. It was a windy day, but the footbridge served as a reminder of why Paris is called the City of Love. So many people who had come to this very spot to put a lock on the bridge to commemorate the love they felt that day. It made me wonder how many people stayed together in the years following placing their lock here. It’s comforting to think that a part of their love is preserved right there, just frozen in time, in that moment.
After crossing the Seine, I set off to the Eiffel Tower. I remember being there years ago, but it’s actually changed a lot. It’s much more touristy, and honestly a bit dirtier than I remembered. Again, I walked the grounds, grabbed an Americano and chocolate croissant and just enjoyed the day.
Getting “lost” in Paris is one of the greatest ways to see the city in my opinion. I’m not one to ever shy away from an experience because it’s too touristy. I have no shame in signing up for a Big Bus tour and putting a headset on. But sometimes a city is easier to grasp just the way it is. Not looking for fun-facts at every corner or trying to learn about the history and conquests of rulers over time. Sometimes, part of the adventure is just seeing a city the way it is, in that moment. I’ll never forget the days I spent simply walking, looking, chatting with other tourists and locals.
Do you prefer to spend the day with a plan or just wandering?
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