Take 5 Travel: Paris

“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps”-Proverbs 16:9 

Take 5 Travel: Paris

Greetings fellow travelers. As I do my best to bask in the last days of summer, God granted me a unique idea for a mini-blog series called “Take 5 Travel”. Over the next 4 days, I will highlight 3 vacation spots from my summer travels. Each post will contain my top 5 excursions and experiences from each destination, along with travel tips, do’s, and don’ts. 

Mom and I at the famed Eiffel Tower

Overview of Paris 

Bonjour! I’m not sure I’ll be able to do City of lights justice in one blog post (I may have to write a series of blogs about Paris!). The city is like stepping into a 1950s Hollywood movie set. From cobblestone streets to metro lines with cast iron gate entrances to quaint cafes decorated with flower pots; Paris is a living breathing art museum. I shared Paris with my mother and we both agreed that we wanted to go back to Paris in the future (and my mom is not easily impressed!). We were treated to an up-close view of the famous Iron lady herself, the Eiffel Tower, on a cab ride from the Charles De Gaulle airport. As soon as we stepped out of the cab, I declared “Ok, I’m moving here”.  Here’s my Take 5 of why I am probably moving to Paris for at least a year. 

  1. The Seine River Dinner Cruise
View from the Seine River Cruise

  On our second night in Paris I scheduled a dinner cruise along the Seine River. We were blessed with a hotel right next to the Eiffel Tower and 5 minutes walk to the Seine (huge shoutout to the Pullman Eiffel Tower!). I booked our cruise with Bateaux Parisiens and although the reviews about the company were mixed, mom and I thoroughly enjoyed our experience. We were seated in the middle section of the boat and almost every seat was taken. The ride along the Seine is fluid and relaxing; highlights included the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Musee D’Orsay, and the ornate bridges which we passed under. We feasted on wine, cheese, Duck confit, flounder, and chocolate cake. There’s entertainment in the form of a jazz singer with a sultry voice (with whom I shared a dance!). Our server was incredibly patient and kind in answering our questions about the menu. The highlight was engaging in a conversation with two lovely young women from England who gave us great advice about what to see in Paris.  

  1. Musee D’Orsay 

       “You know, I like this museum a lot better than the Lourve” my mom commented as we made our way to the 2nd floor of the “Musee D’Orsay”. I can see why she held that sentiment. Even though the Lourve is a must-see in Paris, the museum is OVERWHELMING AND OVERWHELMINGLY CROWDED. Musee D’Orsay by contrast is housed in a converted train station. The layout is much more accessible and the art is just as fascinating. Each level is organized by the artist. We saw Monets, Cezzanes, Van Goughs, Cabanals, and other Impressionist art. Plus the giant gold clock is pretty impressive and gives off Grand Central vibes.  

  1. The Metro System 
Posing in a metro station

If you lived in New York City without at least one train delay per day, I would have to give you some serious side-eye. In contrast, the metro as its called in France is highly efficient. The ticket machines allow you to choose from several different languages, English included, in order to complete your transaction. During the weekday the trains run every 4 minutes on the dot. Mom and I didn’t experience any delays. The buses not only have designated seating areas for the elderly, pregnant and differently-abled, there’s also a section without seats designated for parents with strollers. New York City transit can definitely take some pointers from Paris Metro.  

  1. Shopping along the Rue di Rivoli    

Paris is renowned for its fashion culture. Christian Dior. Louis Vuitton. Coco Chanel. With these major names in fashion comes a heavy price tag. Mom and I tried shopping at the “Galeries Lafayette” and found that ninety percent of the clothing and accessories were out of our price range. Rue Di Rivoli in contrast offers chic boutiques without extravagant price tags. Mom and I were able to buy authentic Parisien souvenirs along with a trip to Angelina’s known for their rich and creamy hot chocolate. A short walk away is the Jardin des Champs-Élysées where you can stroll in and take in incredible sculptures along with an excellent view of the Arch De Triomphe.   

  1. Authentic Neighborhoods such as Montmartre  
I Love you Wall

On our 3rd day in Paris, Mom and I went on a food tour of Paris. Although the type of food was more like samplings of tiny chocolates and macarons, the highlight was exploring the hilly streets of the neighborhood Montmartre. Partly known as Paris’s “Red light district” (avoid the area near the Moulin Rogue, sex shops, and strip clubs galore), the neighborhood has a local feel. You’ll encounter quaint shops for cheese, wine, meats, pastries and produce. Mom and I ate at a restaurant Moulin de la Galette where I ate the famous Beef bourguignon. We also took a picture in front of the “I love you” wall and walked to the highest point in Paris. Though parts of Montmartre are raunchy, seeing locals go about their day-to-day was a refreshing change from the touristy area of the Eiffel Tower. 

Street on Montmartre
The Famous French Dish, Beef Bourguignon

Other Tips 

  1. DO: Try and learn basic French phrases. Almost every single Parisien we encountered spoke at least basic English. However, locals appreciate the attempt at speaking French and will often go out of their way to help you. 
  2. DONT: Engage with strangers in high-volume shopping areas, particularly in Montmartre and close to major attractions like the Louvre. Every single tour guide cautioned us about pick-pockets and con artists. Make sure to carry your purse across your shoulder and try to use something other than a backpack.  
  3. DO: Take a stroll along the Seine, as far as you’re energy allows you to go. You’ll encounter charming locals, street artists and art students just simply living life. 
  4. DONT: Expect typical customer service. In Paris, it’s normal to wait a while to be served so try your best to be patient as you wait for your wine and cheese plate. 

Over-Rated 

  1. Palace of Versailles: If you toured Versailles prior to the French Revolution, then the splendor was definitely a sight to behold. After the French Revolution, particularly once the royalty was executed, the palace was ransacked and much of the palace is just furniture and empty rooms (although the painting and hall of mirrors are worth seeing. Instead, the gardens outside the palace are a lush and spacious alternative to the claustrophobic crowds of the Palace. 

I left Paris with the feeling of unfinished business. There’s so much I didn’t get to see and neighborhoods I want to see. Am I going back to Paris? Oui! 

Avec Amour! 

  Leah 

Seine River

A Teacher’s New York City Staycation

View from Central Park

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” 

-Proverbs 16:9

One of the perks of being a public school teacher comes from the frequent (or infrequent, depending on the attitude of the educator) breaks that come along during the school year. In New York City we are blessed with both a December break and mid February break (and if you’re a high school teacher you have a Regents week TWICE in January and June. No students for the win). Oftentimes I daydream of traversing across the globe to far off lands, mingling with the local folk, exploring ancient cities and then returning with tales of my adventures. 

Until I look at my bank account.  

The reality of my post Christmas holiday paycheck burst into the door of my travel dreams with a “not so fast sweetheart”. I remember there are spring and summer breaks to consider. Although we teachers are gifted with various breaks throughout the year, the breaks coincide with when EVERYONE ELSE has a break. Airline prices are more expensive during the summer and as a new teacher I do not want to risk my “sick days” disguise to be blown over an accidental Facebook post of me living it up in Jamaica in the middle of March. 

So what do you do when you are bitten by the travel bug, but need an affordable alternative to the hundreds of dollars traveling cross country or cross continent. 

*Cues drumroll* 

Staycation!  

During the week of Washington’s birthday, I decided to discover (and rediscover) places in New York City. I am blessed to call NYC home and with all the marvelous experiences at my fingertips, why not take advantage? Here were some highlights from my staycation on the Big Apple

  1. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum & American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History

3. Greenpoint, Brooklyn 

4. Flushing Meadows Park-Queens, New York 

The photos depict the eclectic mixture of what New York City has to offer. The Guggenheim Museum and American Museum of Natural History are located in what is dubbed “Museum Mile”. Museum Mile stretches along 5th avenue, between 110th and 82nd streets (you’ll have to travel to the west side of Manhattan to get to the Natural History Museum, specifically West 80 street and Amsterdam).  The museums have incredible collections of paintings, sculptures, artifacts and Dinosaur bones! (where are all my Jurassic Park fans at?) 

If you’re looking to escape the inevitable frenetic energy of Manhattan, then the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn have their own unique vibe. I visited Greenpoint, Brooklyn, located in the Northern part of the borough (G train). There I savored  a fresh, sugary, red velvet donut at Peter Pan’s Donuts and ate a classic new york slice of pizza at the famed Paulie Gee’s. If you want authentic Asian cuisine, head to Flushing New York (located in Queens) to feast on dumplings, pork buns, and Peking duck. After, walk off those calories at Flushing Meadows Park, home of the 1939 and 1964 World Fairs. 

By the time the week was over my sense of wanderlust was quenched. I’d encourage everyone to stop and explore your surrounding area. There are  wonders all around us as long as we take the time to seek out our own unique adventure. 

Please excuse me while I plan my next one. 

Signed

The Bashful Butterfly