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Avec Amour : France Travel Diary: Casey in the City of Lights

Friday, September 19, 2014

France Travel Diary: Casey in the City of Lights

Yes, we've already had a travel diary of Paris
But after hearing about Casey's trip, I couldn't help but ask her to write it down for the world to read :)

Casey is one of my best friends. We met in college after she broke up with a boy. We bonded over breakups & favorite bands, and she's easily one of the funniest people I know. 

Case and I Circa 2004
Read on, because I truly believe you'll enjoy this adorable tale of a girl's first trip to Paris.
Stay tuned next week for Casey's recount of St Tropez, in the south of France!
I'm not great with flying or traveling in general. I've missed flights, drunkenly left baggage on the plane, gone to the wrong airport, fallen asleep on strangers, spilt drinks on strangers, spilt drinks on myself, got stuck in a plane bathroom and passed out due to taking too much Nyquil preflight while in the emergency row (I wouldn't recommend that, flight attendants don't like it). I only board planes for my pure love of travel, new experiences and adventures, and for the hope of some sort of romantic comedy "Meet cute" at 32,000 feet. The latter has yet to happen.

When I booked my ticket to the Charles de Gaulle Intl airport I had a knot in my stomach thinking about flying over 3,500 miles of ocean. I'm bound to get into some sort of shenanigans but I couldn't pass up this travel opportunity to visit my dear friend Emily. The morning of my flight I obviously dressed to the nines with the delusional thought that I would look half way decent after a red eye flight.
Bags, check. Passport, check. Sleeping pills, check. I board the plane with a giddy excitement. I'm going to Paris! The city of lights and love. I can't get there soon enough. Thanks to modern medicine, I am able to relax and sleep for the majority of the flight. We are about an hour out and the sun is starting to rise. The sunlight and a tap on my shoulder wake me. The flight attendant is asking what I would like to drink. 

"Vodka orange juice please", She smiles at me, only slightly amused. 
"Too early for that? I'll just have a coffee". 

I adjust in my seat and feel that one of the straps of my dress had fallen down during sleep. Oh no big deal, I'll just fix.... oh wait, yup, I was flashing the entire plane and just had a conversation with the flight attendant with one of my girls hanging out. You are welcome Delta.

The pilot comes on and announces our final descent into the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. I look out the window and felt butterflies. There she is. It was a beautiful clear day and I experienced love at first sight. I had a feeling that this trip would be special and I was right.

I only had 4 full days in Paris so I needed to fit in as much as I could. I spent the first day walking and biking around the entire city. (Well at least felt like it was the entire city). Emily's apartment was in the 10th district so our main means of transportation were bikes. The biking in Paris is amazing. The fact that the majority of the bike lanes are separated from the road with a median so you don't have to dodge cars was a game changer (Did I mentioned I'm not great with bikes either?). Also, it's only 8 Euros for 7 –day unlimited access to their rental bikes. Affordable!

I must have driven Emily crazy with how many times I said "Oh wow, that is gorgeous. This city is so beautiful!" It was sensory overload. Why don't I just walk you through Paris via my five senses...feels like it makes the most sense.... see what I did there??

The architecture is enough to take your breath away. From the grand presence of Notre Dame to the quaint beauty of a corner cafe. It seemed as if all of the architects were in love when they drew up the blueprints. There is no lack of detail in Paris. My list of "Can't miss seeing" would be...

Sacre Coeur
Who doesn't like cityscapes? From Sacre Coeur you get a view of the city in all her glory. Be prepared for lots of up hills but the plus side is that you’ll leave with killer glutes. Also beware of gypsies and the guys selling Heineken. They are very persistent but don’t worry, just yell “NO BEER!” in their face. They get the point. 

Notre Dame
"Our Lady of Paris"
There are really few things more beautiful than a church. The buildings are not only artwork but they represent hope and grace.  A place to worship our creator and find solace.  I wasn’t able to go inside of Notre Dame due to long lines and restricted time but seeing even just the outside felt like a privilege.

 The Louvre

I know what you are all thinking…”Did Casey just recommend me to go to a MUSEUM?!?” Yes, I did but I will caveat by saying I didn’t actually go in (again, another time issue).  However, I wish I had the chance to. The outside of the museum is so beautiful that I can only imagine the treasures inside. This is on the top of my list for my next trip.

Pont de l’Archeveche
  “Love Lock Bridge”
True Parisians are rolling their eyes at this suggestion. I know, I know! This is so extremely touristy and cheesy but if you know me I tend to be both. This bridge is adorable. Everything about it suckers in hopeless romantics. Seeing couples placing their locks on the bridge and throwing away the key into the Seine River made me smile. Maybe one day I’ll have my own lock on the bridge when that lucky guy decides to “lock it down”…literally.


“Bonjour!” “Bonsoir!” “Ca va?” “Pardon”. The French language is known for being extremely beautiful that is unless you have no idea what you are doing  ::enter Casey:: I’m about 98.8% sure I offended most of the Parisians I encountered but an A for effort?

One of the things I loved most about my time in France was the way people interacted with each other. Walking into a grocery store you are warmly greeted by everyone from the checkout clerks to the stock boy. I found this to be true everywhere we went. Strangers smile and say “Bonjour!” Even sitting down for dinner you are likely to converse with your neighbor. Don’t be freaked out if they offer you some of their meal or drink; they aren’t trying to poison you. A refreshing change from the do not make eye contact just keep walking city of New York.  

Smell and Taste
I’m combining these two since they really go hand in hand. Walking down the streets, which are filled with bakeries and bread shops, you constantly smell the amazing aroma of croissants and fresh baguettes. I’m a girl who loves food but mostly carbs so I was in Heaven. I kept hearing about how amazing the food is in Paris and I knew I was going to enjoy my dining experiences but this is a different level.  

I’m not going to provide you with a list of places to eat because you really can’t go wrong wherever you go. The French know what they are doing however I will recommend one place. I treated Emily to a nice dinner as a thank you and it was hands down the best meal I’ve ever had. If you are in the 10th district you need to visit “Le Verre Vole”. Their authentic French food and wines are out of this world. It also doesn’t hurt that their waiters were gorgeous ;)

I love this quote because it just makes sense. I can’t really describe why it makes sense but it just does. This section isn’t going to be so much about physically touching Paris as that could be quite the over share but more about the culture and how it feels to be there. 

Coming from the thriving metropolis of New York City (Brooklyn*) you tend to want to rush through things. Walk very fast down the street, eat your meal and expect the check to come right away, be able to get service in a timely manner and not expect almost all of the shops and restaurants to be closed for the entire month of August.  Well you are in for a rude awakening in the land of croissants.  

Meals are hours long because dining is an experience, not just for necessity. People walk down the streets in a leisurely manner because they are taking in each moment and living life, not just surviving.  I swear your heart rate slows while you are there. It was amazing. 

More on the topic of feeling, as a single woman in her mid-twenties, Paris was a treat. It allows you to be adventurous with your wardrobe options, wear bright lipstick and feel beautiful in classy sort of way you might be lacking in your everyday life.

Now for an indulgent anecdote - so humor me guys, because I will never ever in my life be as cool as I was in this moment therefore documentation is crucial. 

After the amazing dinner, about 5 bottles of wine and 4 hours of swooning over our waiter at Le Verre Vole, Emily and I decided to leave to find a place to go dancing (such a girl thing!). We walked for about 30 minutes in a wine haze looking for the venue but did not succeed. We decided we should head back towards her apartment to grab a drink since two young women roaming the streets of Paris at 3:30 in the morning after drinking their fair share of France’s finest isn’t the best idea. 

We pass by Le Verre Vole and I notice the chef, the father and son who were sitting next to us at dinner and our waiter were still inside talking and enjoying a cigarette. The door to the restaurant was open so without hesitation I walk in, sit across from our Waiter, and by this time I’m past the point of no return. What I do next has to be epic, has to be smooth and I need to pull this off. 

I pull his cigarette from his mouth, take a slow drag (I HATE CIGARETTES!), blow the smoke, flash him a smile, and in my best French accent say, “Bonsoir”. His eyes widened and he smiled the biggest smile. We made a new friend that night and my swag level reached new heights :)

Up next, St Tropez!

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