Since I was a little, little girl I have always dreamt of going to Paris. Never did I think I would go alone, but I truly believe that fulfilling this dream of mine on my own was exactly how it should have gone.
After a short flight from Nice I ended up in Paris but not knowing that there were multiple airports in Paris, I flew into the Paris Orly Airport instead of Charles de Gaulle. This caused a massive amount of confusion and it took me hours to get to my hostel as a result. The only difference between the airports is that Charles de Gaulle has more public transportation going to and from the airport than Orly, making it more accessible even if it is further away from the city center. After circling the Orly airport probably 7 times with all of my stuff and having several mental breakdowns from confusion, I ended up on a “fast train” to the central train station in Paris (I think…still not entirely sure where I ended up. Yikes.).
After exiting the train at whatever station I arrived to, my phone died. In the middle of a sketchy part of Paris. Oh yeah, then it started raining. In this moment I started to kick myself for 1. not buying an external charger (do yourself a favor and just buy one!!!), 2. for forgetting to charge my phone the night before (do yourself a favor and don’t be an idiot), and 3. for not writing down the address of the hostel where I was staying. In my desperation to find my hostel before sundown, I asked in very broken french a taxi driver if he could take me to Generator Paris, my hostel. He was certainly nicer to me than I had expected, but told me that if I didn’t have an address he didn’t know where to take me. I could have avoided the entire situation had I just written down the address so as a rule of thumb: always write down addresses of where you are staying.
At this point I’m desperate and somehow speaking French a lot better than my high school and college French teachers let on. No one can help me, and anyone who I ask is rude and condescending. Should have probably expected that, right? Then… to my wonderful American girl surprise… out of the corner of my eye I see STARBUCKS COFFEE. Oh happy day, all of my problems have been solved. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled myself together so quickly as I did in that moment. I marched up to Starbucks, didn’t buy anything (shame on me), plugged my phone into and outlet, put my face in my neck pillow, and cried for probably 20 minutes straight. Truly I tell you I have never been more scared, frustrated, and vulnerable than I was in the time between getting off the plane and arriving at that blessed Starbucks.
Finally after a nice charge of my phone I left on foot to my hostel. Exhausted from the day, I opted to hang around the hostel for a few hours and check things out before setting out again. The Generator Paris is probably the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in or seen. It was like a full on resort hotel with a club downstairs, 3 bars and a restaurant. One of the bars happens to be a rooftop bar open to the public, and the view from up there is incredible.
*If you are never going to go to Paris and stay in a hostel, just skip the next three paragraphs*
I wish I had taken photos of the room I was staying in, but that was amazing as well. I stayed in a 10 bed boy/girl room and I didn’t feel at any point that my privacy was invaded as a result. The beds had a little privacy extension by the pillow area and the under-bed storage was so nice. Additionally, there was a bathroom in our “dorm” room but also a community bathroom just for girls and just for dudes with toilets, showers, and sinks for extra privacy. I loved it!
The facilities at Generator Paris were amazing, however the community aspect was lacking. Because there was a restaurant and a few bars in the place, they didn’t have a kitchen or allow outside food. Cooking together is one of the best ways to make friends, and in this hostel I had to spend upwards of 12 euros on 1 drink to make friends. To stay at the Generator I paid probably 30 euros a night – which in my opinion was a steal – but they made up for that with extra charges for pretty much everything. For example, just to store my bags in their lockers I was expected to pay 12 euros (?!?!?! huh?!).
All in all, the hostel was very nice and I felt safe being there but I would not stay there again. It all depends on the vibe that you are wanting to have while traveling, and this just wasn’t mine.
~Back to my adventures~
To be honest I don’t remember the order in which I saw everything, but I dedicated two full days to walking around pretty much the entire city. Paris is HUGE so there is a lot I still haven’t seen, but I wanted to see all of the tourist attractions my first time there. Gives me a reason to go back, right? First stop: Eiffel Tower.
I’ve seen thousands of pictures of this pretty lady on the internet but it was really cool to see her in person. During the day it was a little less exciting… but at night, she is très magnifique, especially when she sparkles.
The coolest part of taking on Paris by foot is how many big things I saw just by accident. For example, I was on the way to a restaurant I found online and ended up getting off the metro right next to the Notre-Dame. The same thing happened with the Arc de Triomphe! It was the coolest. My best advice for a solo Paris trip: just walk everywhere. Even if its a mile or two away and will take forever to get to, just walk. You’ll probably walk by something really cool on accident and check one more thing off the list without even trying. Heres a few photos of me accidentally going to the Notre-Dame and the Arc de Triomph (selfie edition… because you’ve seen enough of these structures just by themselves. Just joking, these are really the only photos I took of the structures and they were originally intended for my mother *lol*.)
Next on the agenda: Shakespeare & Co. I really enjoyed this bookstore! It was a big tourist attraction but it wasn’t flooded with people like other attractions. The store had a lot of different rooms with seriously thousands of books, new and used. I am the definition of a bookworm so something like this was so fun for me. I ended up buying three books here: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and a two-books-in-one deal by Jane Austen.
I started reading Persuasion by Jane Austen sitting in the park next to the Louvre…which brings me to the Louvre. Here she is and all of her glory:
That group of people crowded around the bottom of the pyramid? That’s only part of the line to get in. So, unlike many tourists I opted to not go into the museum of selfie sticks and the Mona Lisa and save that for another time, if I felt like it. To be honest museums are so fun and cool but I would probably only go to one if I had nothing better to do. In this case, I had Persuasion (as I mentioned earlier) and that seemed like the better option at the time.
Like I said before, there are many perks to taking a city by foot, one of them being accidentally running into things. I ran into the Paris Opera House entirely on accident and it ended up being one of my favorite buildings I saw. I tried every way I could to weasel myself in to see what it looked like inside but I had no luck.
If you ignore the gaudy tour bus in front of it, it really is spectacular. What I found most striking about it was the gold statues on the top corners. They were so shiny and beautiful, I couldn’t stop looking at them. The reason I ran into this beautiful building is because I was on the way to the Moulin Rouge. Oh yes, I’ve seen the movie, and yes I’m obsessed. I was so excited to see the Moulin Rouge, but take it from me… just skip it. This is what it looks like:
Yikes, right? So apparently it is a real functional performance hall for dancers and such so it was more like a commercial theater than a historical building like I had always thought. The shows are also about a trillion dollars so don’t worry about going, just skip it. Not to mention its in a kinda weird part of town that I didn’t really feel safe in.
On my last night in Paris I made a point to see Paris at night and in turn, see the Eiffel Tower sparkle. I passed over the Pont Alexandre III bridge and was completely enamored with it. The details included in the bridge are just wonderful:
Everything in Paris is beautiful and I enjoyed every day I spent there. I am glad that for now I have checked off all of the “tourist attractions” so that next time I go I can perhaps see more of the countryside and things like Monet’s garden and the Palace of Versailles. I feel as though I learned the most about how to travel during my time in Paris – mostly because I screwed up so much – but also because I was in a big city just trying to find my way.
Next stop: Santorini!