I have had an obsession with all things French for as long as I can remember. The city of Paris, with it’s iconic landmarks and stunningly picturesque neighbourhoods. The language and how incredibly romantic it sounded, both spoken and sung. The fashion and its luxury brands – I can’t begin to tell you how many berets, scarves and t-shirts I owned emblazoned with the phrase ‘la vie est belle’ and ‘je taime’ – not to mention necklaces and charms of the Eiffel Tower. My bookshelves were filled with French cook books, language books and autobiographies. As a teenager I decorated my bedroom in the beautiful old French Provincial style, my books and knick knacks proudly on show. My favourite Christmas present to date is the French lessons Mike bought me one year – I never missed a single class.
I was obsessed.
Yet, the idea of Paris seemed like a dream. A place I thought I would obsess over my whole life, yet never actually visit. The idea of it was too unreal, too far-fetched. That’s why when planning our first trip to Europe last year, and realising we had an extra week after finishing up in Turkey and before I had to go back to work – and Mike suggested “Why don’t we go to Paris?” – I didn’t jump up and down at the idea. Paris? Us? Me – go to Paris? It wasn’t possible – was it?
But it was and before I knew it, we’d booked our flight from Istanbul to Paris – this was actually happening!
First things first was deciding where to say – I insisted that we had to stay near the Eiffel Tower – I wanted to ensure that every day we’d have the opportunity to walk right by it and drink in the atmosphere of such a magical place. Upon learning that hotels in the 7th arrondissement were essentially expensive shoeboxes, we turned to Airbnb as an alternative. We found a room in the most perfectly Parisian apartment with a French and German couple that had incredible reviews, for half the cost of a basic hotel that was a short stroll to the Eiffel tower – the perfect alternative to our stay in the city of love.
The morning we flew to Paris I was incredibly nervous. Would it live up to my expectations? I’d heard from many others who had travelled there that it was ‘just another big city’, ‘full of rude people’ and ‘dirty’ – was it really going to be like that? I prayed that it wouldn’t be, not after putting it on a pedestal and dreaming of it my whole life.
From the moment I was greeted with my first ‘bonjour’ by immigration at Charles de Gaulle, I knew we’d made the right decision in coming to France. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I repeated the greeting, handing over my passport for its very first French stamp.
We took the train into the city, following the instructions provided to us by our host on how to reach their apartment. Changing at Gare du Nord, we took the final train to our destination. Lugging our bags up the stairs, we came out from the underground into the glaringly bright light of day, a little blinded and confused as to where we were.
I was looking out towards a river, hazarding a guess that it was the Seine; its ornate wrought iron bridges crossing back and forth to the opposite side. Slowly turning to my right, I saw green leafy trees lining the roads, people sitting lazily outside a cafe on black and white striped cane furniture, the street lined with picture perfect buildings – and then I stopped.
Grabbing Mike’s arm, I could speak no words as I pointed towards the roof of the nearby building. I can’t describe what I felt in that moment – there she was. The tip of the Eiffel Tower reaching magnificently for the perfectly blue sky, the rest of her obscured by the streets of Paris. I actually think I almost cried – it was the most surreal moment I had ever experienced. Mike grinned at me, as I laughed unbelievably, my eyes glassy as I comprehended that we were there, in Paris, together – a moment I had dreamt of my entire life.
We had the most incredible week in Paris – from dining on the Eiffel Tower, finding the best jambon et fromage croissants for breakfast each day, waiting in endless queues to visit the most spectacular sites, spending an afternoon on a lake in a rowboat at the Palace of Versailles, attending the Moulin Rouge, devouring macaron after macaron at Laduree and having my phone stolen – both the highs and lows of our time there all equal parts incredible.
I’ll be writing further detailed posts about our time in Paris in the future, but after the recent events of the last week I felt compelled to share my memory of Paris. What happened there is a tragedy, but it should not put you off visiting this incredible city – the awful reality is that these tragedies can strike anywhere, anytime. We will definitely return to Paris again – one day, I’d even like to live there. There is nothing that could deter me from once again experiencing all that is has to offer – nor tarnish my memory of falling in love with the city of love.
La vie est belle.
Choosing to stay in an Airbnb apartment was definitely one of the best decisions we made when we visited Paris. The location, the abundance of knowledge provided to us by our hosts, and the practical help they provided to us when we ran into trouble is something we could not have had if we’d stayed in a hotel on our own.
With incredible properties in over 190 countries, Airbnb is a fantastic alternative to traditional accommodation when travelling. If you sign up to Airbnb via this link, you’ll earn $28 AUD credit towards your first stay – give it a go and be inspired to travel differently!
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