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A Second Chance for Paris

I am going to be honest with you, I did not love Paris the first time I visited. I liked it, I just did not love it like I thought I would. As one of the most popular and romanticized cities in the world, I went in with high expectations and Paris did not meet them.

Maybe it was because I was a college student trying to squeeze in all that The City of Light had to offer in a long weekend. Maybe it was because the weather was unseasonably cold and I spent an inordinate amount of time buying sweaters and boots to stay warm (and no, not fashionable Parisian ones). Maybe it was because I did not stay in the best neighborhood and found Paris to be dirty rather than romantic. I cannot fully put my finger on what made me feel so let down by Paris, but I tucked my memories in the back of my mind and would recall a few fond ones only when prompted by Francophiles.

At the Sacré Cœur in October 2008

At the Sacré Cœur in October 2008

I could not decide if I needed to give Paris another chance or if it was just one of those popular places that I would have to accept not falling in love with. Fast forward five and a half years and thankfully it turned out to be the former. When my mom approached me with the idea of having our annual mother-daughter trip be a trip to Paris for my grandmother’s birthday, I immediately agreed. Excited at the prospect of giving the French capital another chance, I was determined to do everything different this time around. I focused on what I had not liked the first time and made conscious choices when planning. And guess what? Spoiler alert: I fell in love with Paris.

What is not to love?

What is not to love?

Everyone has that place, that place they think they should love, but just did not. Or that place that circumstances prevented them from truly enjoying, either due to bad weather, misaligned travel plans or jet lag. Paris was one of those places for me for a variety of reasons, and I am thrilled that I had the chance to truly understand what makes the city so fantastic. It also turned out to be an important learning experience and by understanding what prevented me from having the best time in Paris the first time around, I was able to make this past trip even more enjoyable.

How did I learn from my first trip? Here are my 5 key lessons which contributed to making my second trip so great.

  1. Time of Year: After having froze on an unseasonably cold October weekend, I was determined to see Paris in its prime, the spring. The Parisian Spring was nothing short of perfect with warm sunshine allowing for strolls along the Seine and picnics in the Luxembourg Gardens. I was no longer ducking inside to escape the cold, but basking in the sun at the outdoor cafes. The weather is always one of the most important and most unpredictable factors of trips and fortunately this time it was on my side.
Beautiful time of year to cruise the Seine

Beautiful time of year to cruise the Seine 

  1. Length of Stay: Don’t get me wrong, I love the long weekend. It is one of my favorite and most utilized trips throughout the year; however, for a city that requires a lifetime to even scratch the surface, a long weekend was insufficient for my first trip to Paris. For my second, third or fourth trip, it would have been more appropriate, but not for my first. And come to find out, my three jam-packed days were very un-Parisian. The Parisians know how to slow life down, sit at a café and let time pass and I did not allow any time to imbibe that part of the culture. It was one of the biggest things I did wrong. This time I was determined to double the time I spent in the city, adopt a more relaxed pace and assimilate into the Parisian way of life. A leisurely week spent visiting museums, exploring neighborhoods, picnicking and relaxing are just what you need to fall in love with Paris. I cannot remember the last time I spent a whole week in one place. It felt so nice to slow my pace down and I will be looking to do it again in the near future.
Plenty of time to relax at Angelina

Plenty of time to relax at Angelina

  1. Lodging: Shoving four college students in a run down hotel is a way to cut costs, but it is surely no way to see Paris. The hotel had made us feel like tourists and this time I had desperately wanted to feel more like a local in a lovely Parisian neighborhood. Our beautiful and homey apartment in the 7th arrondissement became our haven. With the smell of the croissants wafting up to our living room and friendly neighborhoods greeting us in the hallways, it felt like our home. More on the apartment later, but it will be changing the way I travel in the future.
Our cozy kitchen

Our cozy kitchen

  1. Company: While my study abroad friends were great travel companions to Paris as well as many other places, there was something incredibly special about traveling with my mom and grandmother. I had the distinct pleasure of watching them see the city for the first time. With similar interests and tastes, we had a fantastic time together and I know it is a trip that we will all remember fondly.
IMG_3299

The best traveling companions

  1. Research: While this is usually my forte, I arrived in Paris five and half years ago with an idea that I should see the Eiffel Tower and the Louve. Ha! How wrong I was that that was all the French capital had to offer. This time I researched the best neighborhood to stay in, the best time of year to go, where to eat and which museums to visit. We received wonderful recommendations from people who had visited Paris, which allowed us to plan our days with plenty of time to wander and rest, but also left us feeling like we had seen everything we wanted to. My research allowed me to skip tourist traps, score reservations at top restaurants and attain the authentic experiences that I had been craving the first time.
Trademark clock at the Musee d'Orsay, which I had sadly missed on my first trip

Trademark clock at the Musee d’Orsay, a must see in Paris

In a classic example of live and learn, giving Paris a second chance was one of the best travel decisions I have made. As you can see, it was not Paris, it was me. I did not understand the true essence of the city and therefore did not plan or navigate my time there appropriately. I now understand what Audrey Hepburn meant when she said, “Paris is always a good idea.”

Do you have a place that you did not love the first time and wish to return to?

What are your feelings toward Paris?

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21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Packing my Suitcase #

    Great post!! I have been to Paris several times and lived there… and I have to say that you can live there your whole life and you would still not know the entire city! I agree with you that many factor contribute to a good and bad experience in a city, like you mentioned the weather, where you stayed, the people who were with you! Im happy you gave Paris a second chance! 😃

    June 26, 2014
    • Thank you! How wonderful that you were able to live in Paris, it must have been nice to delve deeper into the city! Some of the factors were my fault the first time around and I am excited that I got to give Paris another chance too. Thanks for reading!

      June 26, 2014
      • Packing my Suitcase #

        Yes I live there for a few months and enjoyed everyday to do something different…but still when I go there nowadays, there are still a lot to see and something new to do! 🙂 you’re welcome!

        June 27, 2014
  2. I gave Paris about 5 chances and it let me down 5 times.. weather always bad, people unfriendly, city dirty. Last time in May we even got attacked and robbed (luckily it was only 20 bucks) in broad daylight. The French males around us simply watched instead of helping.
    Nevertheless I never gave up. One day I’ll make it to Paris and have a wonderful time 🙂 I even picked up French classes last year to make the whole thing easier.
    Oh well, the rest of France makes up for crappy Paris. 😀

    June 26, 2014
    • Oh no, Suze that is terrible to hear I am sorry. I really hope that you get to have a positive Paris experience, it really makes all the difference. I am itching to get to the rest of France, I hear that it is so different and I feel like I would just love it 🙂

      June 26, 2014
  3. Megan Quail #

    I love this post– it has totally inspired me to give places I didn’t love the first time around another chance. I’m also dying to hear about this Paris apartment!

    June 26, 2014
    • Thanks, Meg! It is such hard thing to physically do because sometimes the bad memories are seared in our minds, but it was so worth it in this case! More on the Paris apartment to come – it was the best!

      June 26, 2014
  4. It looks and sounds like you had an AMAZING time on your second trip to Paris! What a special trip to share with your mom and grandmother. PS the apartment looks so quaint and cozy! ❤

    June 26, 2014
    • Thank you, Kimberley! We had the best time and the apartment made all the difference. It was fantastic to have that cozy home base to come home to. I will be looking to stay in apartments more often in the future!

      June 26, 2014
  5. Ah, I love Paris! I had planned on visiting this year in Spring. And we had booked an apartment for similar reasons as you! But my morning sickness had other ideas and in the end I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from home. Not to worry, though. Paris isn’t going anywhere and I know I’ll be back.

    June 26, 2014
    • Oh Clare, that stinks that were unable to make your trip! I know how excited you were about staying in the apartment. No, Paris is definitely not going anywhere and hopefully it will be a great weekend getaway for you after you have your baby!

      June 26, 2014
  6. Michael Maider #

    Bridge,

    Summer of 84, love was in the air, Paris will always be a special place.

    Uncle Michael

    June 26, 2014
    • I’m glad to hear it! I think Joanie, Mam and I will recall the Spring of 2014 the same way!

      June 29, 2014
  7. Julie @ Adventures of the Red Headed Traveler #

    This echos so much for how it was with Madrid for me. I visited for the first time during the winter (well, a Spanish winter lol) but the weather was terrible and I ended up getting sick. I stayed in a terrible hostal (creepy owners) and just wasn’t all too impressed with the Spanish capital. I visited again a few months later when my dad was in Spain and the gorgeous weather paired with staying in a lovely hotel made me just adore Madrid then.

    I’m so glad that you had a wonderful time and more importantly, got to share it with both your mom and grandmother. It’s such a one of a kind place.

    June 27, 2014
    • Sometimes those factors are just uncontrollable! Getting sick is one of the worst things because you don’t want to be anywhere but your own house then! I’m glad you gave Madrid another chance, I loved it there.

      Thank you, Paris was wonderful 🙂 I am happy that I have fonder memories there now!

      June 29, 2014
  8. So glad that your second trip to Paris was a better one! It’s one of my favourite cities and I’ve been back again and again – now I usually do one touristy thing and spend the rest of the times wandering, there’s always something lovely to see.

    My place I didn’t love but want to revisit is probably Amsterdam – the first time the weather was awful and our hotel was horrible, the second time I had terrible laryngitis. Got to see if it’s third time lucky one day!

    June 29, 2014
    • Thanks, Lucy! That is a great way to see the city. Paris is perfectly designed for wandering and exploring. How nice that you get to go back again and again.

      Amsterdam is a lovely city too. I hope that the third time works out for you because it is a charming place to visit. When I visited there was light snow falling on the canals and it was just magical. No matter what you do, so many factors have to align for it to be a great trip!

      June 30, 2014

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