Growing up with a French teacher for a mother means that French sayings, Eiffel towers, croissants, and berets have been etched into my blood since day one. If there’s anything the Knechts excel at, it’s having odd obsessions, and Shannon Knecht is the Queen (Or in her terms, Goddess of the Universe) of all things François. So when I studied abroad for the first time and mentioned a possible trip to Paris, mom sheepishly stated that she wanted to take me there a couple years down the line. Over the course of my college career, we hatched a plan to whisk ourselves off to Paris for a week after my graduation.
However, once I decided to work at my camp in Croatia right before my senior year, she suddenly booked our tickets to the city of lights and claimed ‘we wouldn’t know where I would be after graduation.’ Thus commenced spending the beginning of an amazing summer in Paris with my very best friend.
We hopped on a plane from Kansas City and breezed past customs, grabbed a taxi, and spend through the beautiful streets of Paris to drop off our bags at Hotel Le 123 Sebastopol – Astotel. The hotel was decorate like a movie theatre, with bright stage lights, red star carpets, and 50’s movies playing at every corner. Our room was decorated like a boxing set, complete with a set of gloves and a film director chair. It was a lovely hotel, but it was situated in a sketchy part of Paris, so I wouldn’t recommend booking there. Plus, if I had been on my own, I definitely would’ve been staying at an Airbnb, so I have my mom to thank for that.
After putting our stuff away, we immediately headed out to the Seine and started sight seeing. I was dying to see the Louvre, so we walked over there first. I had no clue that you entered through the pyramid in the middle, so that was pretty interesting. I adored their collections and couldn’t believe how small the Mona Lisa was! It was also nice to walk around the gardens surrounding the Louvre and look at what was once a brilliant palace for the Kings.
Once we finished at the Louvre, we attempted to hit the musee de Orsay. It was very crowded, so we had to stand in line. I was so jet lagged, I started falling asleep on my mom’s shoulder! But I insisted that we see the museum, because we were busy with tours the next couple days. I was elated to see their impressive collection of Greek and Roman statues, Monets, and the huge clock that everyone talks about. I have to say that I think I like the Musee much more than the Louvre!
Since we were so jet lagged, we headed back towards the hotel by walking along the river. I loved the bouqinistes, which are little pop up book and art shops along the Seine that are locked during the night. They really made the streets come alive and had some beautiful souvenirs.
We ate at a restaurant right near our hotel, where the waiter told my mom to stop speaking French. She was a bit embarrassed, but we got on with our meal and enjoyed some Coke along with it. Then, around 6 pm, we headed straight for bed. I know you’re not supposed to let the jet lag put you to sleep so early, but I had seriously shut down by this point.
The next morning, mom and I set out on another walk around the amazing sights of the city. We started out at Notre Dame, which was way more beautiful than I thought. I loved the stained glass windows and couldn’t help but think of The Hunchback of Notre Dame!
Then we saw the Sainte Chappelle, which was mom’s favorite. They really won in the stained glass department and the architecture was to die for. I couldn’t believe that one city could have so much history, culture, and life booming inside of it!
Then we took a walk over to the Eiffel Tower to see it in the day time and had some pastries. It was seriously better than I’d ever dreamed!
After that, we ate some amazing Nutella crepes along the river and just walked around. Then we took a bus tour, which I proceeded to fall asleep on. I ended up waking up right as we were passing the Arc De Triomphe, which was magnificent! After that, I stayed awake because I didn’t want to miss anything else.
Then we took a Paris night tour, which consisted of a boat ride down the Seine to see all the famous monuments and a trip up the Eiffel Tower as it glittered in the dark. It was so beautiful to see it glisten as we were actually standing inside of it, and I was so thankful to be able to check that off my bucket list!
The next day, we took a day tour with a nice Parisian named Agathe through a company called Localers. She basically gave us all the history of each monument, showed us the little known spots of the Jewish Quarter and the Place de La Bastille, brought us to where Hemingway had lived, and introduced us to an amazing coffee shop. It was nice to hear about the city from a local’s point of view and be able to understand exactly what we were looking at. As our tour was ending, we saw a bunch of policemen blocking off the road to Shakespeare and Company. Agathe asked them what was wrong, and they said there had been a terrorist shooting at Notre Dame! We were very thankful that we weren’t there, but also spooked that it had happened so close by. After saying goodbye to Agathe, we weaseled our way through the closed street to get to Shakespeare and Company. This shop was on my bucket list, and I was not going to let some terrorist rain on my parade!
The shop was actually one of the mostbeautiful things I have ever seen. There were books in every nook and cranny, lining the walls from top to bottom. The walls leading up the stairs were painted with the faces of the greatest writers of all time, and the atmosphere was cozy with a side of cramped. It was everything I ever dreamed of and more! I was so entranced that I ended up buying a bag from there. It was one of my best purchases – I still use this bag almost every day!
After the bookstore, we ate some more crepes, found some macaroons, and walked back to our hotel. I found a really cool French Revolution poster at one of the boutiniques and kept my eye on it for the rest of the trip.
Our last stop was the Palace of Versailles. The last time mom had visited Paris, she hadn’t been able to see the Palace, so she was very eager to check it off her bucket list. It was a very dark and gloomy day, but I totally didn’t dress appropriately and ended up being extremely cold the entire time. Luckily most of the Palace is indoors, so it worked out.
This Palace was like nothing I’ve ever seen – it was so extravagant, with such ornate decorations, pink walls, golden furniture, and statues lining every hallway. They had murals of every family member, 5,000 waiting rooms, humongous beds where people would clothe them and bathe them, and the BIGGEST GARDENS EVER. I have never seen such fine gardening! It was like we had literally stepped back in time and were living amongst Mary Antoinette (Before things went south…). I loved every minute of it and didn’t want to leave!
Mom ended up leaving the next day while I had a couple of hours to kill before my flight to Croatia. It was really heartbreaking to have my best friend leave after we had had such a wonderful week together and I didn’t necessarily want to be alone in Paris, but I knew that I needed to get over it and see more of the city before I left. I ended up taking the Metro to the Catacombs, which is the famed underground cemetery where skulls line every wall. It was very easy to get a ticket and you just walk straight underground with a headset that tells you all about the history of the place and where some famous people’s remains are located. It was extremely musty, dark, and cramped, but I actually really enjoyed seeing it and I’m so glad I made myself get up and go.
After heading back to the hotel, I packed up my suitcases, headed back to the restaurant for one last crepe and Coke along the river, and took an Uber to the airport. I was so glad I had finally gotten to see the city, but I will say that I was a bit let down by the place. I think it’s a bit too overhyped, but all the same, it is truly a magical place filled with love and life.