Paris, My First Visit...
For Cameron - an absolute firecracker and one heck of an awesome lady!
P'Niche Personal: My blessings keep on adding up. Not only have I been fortunate enough to share Paris with my brilliant niece, Breton, for a second time, with her brother, Joseph but now, Joseph's delightful long-term girlfriend, Cameron, was kind enough to offer some thoughts on her Paris experiences - a first timer's perspective and highlights...
We'll free flow through some questions, thoughts, and tidbits in this casual discussion in hopes that some insights shared can be helpful to those of you who are lucky enough to be planning for Paris "pour la première fois..."
P'Niche: Ok, let's get into it! How did you plan and prepare for your first trip to Paris?
Cameron: I feel very lucky as this is not my first trip to Europe as I have been to Italy in the past, so knew to make sure my passport was up to date and to set aside time for proper planning. I loved getting inspiration from various blogs, vlogs and podcasts.
In terms of packing, bless those people who can do carry-on only, but I knew I was checking a bag.
In fact, I packed a bag within a bag so I could do a ton of shopping. I simply paid for the second checked bag on the way home. Money well spent...
In addition, I used packing cubes to organize my items - especially my costume for the Masquerade ball!
P'Niche: Clever girl! So, how did you feel landing in Paris for your first time?
Cameron: I was so excited! That said, I was incredibly jet lagged from the overnight flight and knew I had to try and stay awake to acclimate to the time change.
We stayed in a very popular part of town for tourists, so I knew to be on alert for pickpockets and other scams. I made sure I carried all of my items securely in my (zipped up) cross-body bag.
That said, I felt safe the entire time I was in Paris and Versailles. So safe in fact, that I had no hesitation to make riding the métro one of the first things I did in Paris.
P'Niche: Ooh, tell us more!
Cameron: Well, one of the few "thorns" I experience on this trip was the Paris traffic! One night, we were stuck and nearly 45 minutes late for our dinner reservation. I am sure some prefer the bus system, but for me, it's my Navigo pass and the métro all the way!
P'Niche: Any other thorns before we move to "Roses?"
Cameron: Yes, actually. The lack of air conditioning came as a surprise to me (even though I head read about it beforehand). Luckily, I kept my fan from the Versailles ball. At first, I thought it might look funny, but lots of people used them all around town!
P'Niche: Ok - let's get to the good stuff - those Roses!
Cameron: So. Many. Roses!
First off, the Versailles Masquerade Ball was a night I will never forget! It was doubly special for me as it was the seven year anniversary with my boyfriend, Joseph. We both had an absolute blast partying all night together.
I really hope to be able to get back to Versailles to see the inside of the palace as well as the surrounding town. I know some of your friends (who were such fun to meet!) stayed there during the ball weekend and it sounded really charming. I'd love to explore more.
P'Niche: Any other notes about the ball itself?
Cameron: Yes - I was nervous about being able to stay up all night, but I need not have been. We were smart in taking espresso shots before leaving the hotel for the evening. It helped get us through until around 4:30am, when we started to crash, but that's around when Versailles started offering coffee and breakfast, so we made it through with ease.
One more thing, I know you mentioned wearing yoga pants under your outfit, but I was more comfortable in biker shorts with pockets, as I tend to get warm.
Oh, what a night it was!
P'Niche: Yay - I am thrilled you enjoyed! What other Roses and highlights can you tell us about?
Cameron: The History! Originally, I thought I was going to be most charmed by Parisian fashion and food, but was really drawn in by the history. It was an unexpected (and wonderful) surprise.
Seeing the French philosopher René Descartes' (truly, a big hero of mine) burial place in Saint Germain Abbey was so moving - I even got a bit choked up.
Another great highlight was seeing the Panthéon. I am also a fan of the French philosopher/writer Voltaire, so to see his area in the crypt was truly special. That area of Paris is a definite "must" for any history buff!
P'Niche: Nice! Any other "musts?"
Cameron: I mean, let's be honest, it was my first visit, and I wanted to see "Paris' Big 5," so we made our way over to the Eiffel Tower early on.
While the tower was amazing and impressive, even more fun was walking around the neighborhood to see what other great angles we could view it from.
We found this great little park, where we could sit and enjoy a few moments. There was not one tourist in sight, so it felt quite special and intimate to enjoy Paris in this way - I really recommend people allot time to just walk around Paris - there is just so much to discover!
P'Niche: So true! What were some other highlights?
Cameron: For sure, Le Louvre. We did a bespoke tour with Claudine Hemingway which was such a top 3 moment for me.
One thing to note about the museum is the sheer size of the space. It is almost intimidating at first glance.
We chose to focus pretty much on the Denon wing that day and when I return to Paris, I have to make sure I get a multi-day pass to truly enjoy and appreciate the many works of art.
We did go a bit further and briefly see the Napoleonic apartments as well - just stunning!
P'Niche: Amazing! What else struck your fancy?
Cameron: The Princess Diana Memorial Flame blew my mind. I know this started as a different type of gift to France, but appreciating how much both my mom and I just adore Princess Diana, to see this touching tribute was deeply special.
Knowing that they have recently renamed the area "Place Diana" was also incredible to see.
Again, it was one of those moments, where very few people were milling about, so we got to take some extra time to soak in the moment (and get soaked - it was absolutely pouring that morning - so don't forget to pack your umbrella!)
P'Niche: Ha - such a great memory! Any foodie moments you care to share?
Cameron: The one that jumps to mind first was dinner in your French family's home. They were just great! You always hear that French people can be considered aloof, but I never found that to be the case at all. Especially if you tried to speak French.
One funny moment at a restaurant was when I asked in French for "Les Toilettes" and the host answered me back in French. I was too shy to ask what he meant so just went back to our table, when the most charming French gentlemen stepped in and discreetly told us where to go. Let go of those silly clichés and your trip to Paris will be the better for it!
P'Niche: Here, here! Any other meals you loved?
Cameron: I really enjoyed Le Procope. For me, this was the best meal of our entire trip.
I loved that they highlighted the many historical figures that used to eat here and offered items on their "Revolutionary Menu" that those visionaries enjoyed.
I had the traditional beef cheeks and the profiteroles for dessert and everything - from vibes to presentation to service was tops.
Oh, and pistachio macarons - YUM! My new go-to treat.
P'Niche: Awesome! Any last minute advice for first timers in Paris?
Cameron: Yes - get out exploring as early as possible. We visited Montmartre on the early side and were rewarded with having the I Love You Wall all to ourselves for a quick romantic break. When we left, the line for photos was over 20 people deep.
Every minute of your time in Paris is precious, so make it count!
P'Niche: That is so true! Any closing thoughts?
Cameron: I will definitely be back to Paris. In addition to visiting all of the "greatest hits," Joe and I would love to explore France from Normandy to Nice.
My best advice would be to book that ticket. We've seen these last years that nothing is guaranteed, so it is up to us to make every moment count.
Embrace the culture/s you are visiting and really drink in the unique ambiance and atmosphere around you. Try to stay calm through travel hiccups. Load up those Paris Travel Apps to your phone and make it happen - bon voyage!
So that's that, P'Nichers - a personal and inside scoop about Paris "first time around." Merci, Cameron, for trusting P'Niche with planning your first Parisian adventure, I cannot wait to see where your very bright future takes you next...
So, P'Nichers, with Cameron's thoughts, when is your first trip to Paris going to be set in your calendar? Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!