Dreaming of Paris

April 06, 2020 · by Peyton Johnston

Ah, Paris. 

Even just saying the name seems to create the warmest emotion of wonder and romance. I can close my eyes and be swept back to its cobblestone streets filled with the sweetest scent of freshly baked breads and luxurious perfumes. The breath-taking grandeur of iconic monuments and palaces juxtaposed against quaint cafes and boutiques on every corner transport you back to another time. Everything you’ve ever imagined to make up the quintessential Paris is truly found there: older gentlemen skillfully painting on the Pont des Arts as ferries drift by on the river Seine beneath, coffee and crepes that taste so good you want to cry, the sounds of an accordion drifting through the wind from the underground metro, and gardens more immaculate than anything you’ve ever seen. Her atmosphere has an unexplainable sense of hustle-and-bustle mixed with this peaceful simplicity. There’s a sparkle--almost magic--that permeates the air.

If you’ve been there, you know…You know there is nothing like Paris.

Before I snap out of my daydream and come back to my quarantine reality, I thought I could take you down memory lane with me to visit some of my all-time favorite Parisian sights…Because let’s be real--we could all use an escape from the living room couch right about now, am I right?!

First thing’s first: let me tell you a bit about my experience in France. I got the most incredible opportunity to go on a three-month-long mission trip to this beautiful country in 2018. It was the most amazing experience of my life with too many God-moments and life lessons to tell! But that’s a story for another post. While I was there, I ministered in the cities of Bordeaux, Longwy, Arras, Amiens, Melun, and Paris. Melun is where the France UPCI headquarters church is located, and that’s where I lived for the majority of my trip. Since Melun was only about a 40-min bus/train/metro ride from Paris (yes, it took all three to get there!), I got to take many adventures to the infamous city--I even got to go to Alliance Francais in the heart of Paris to improve my French-speaking skills!

My adoration for Paris and its people grew so deep, and I knew I had to share it with my family back home. So one year later, my mother, stepfather, grandmother (who I affectionately call “Nana”), and I all boarded a plane on a trip across the pond!

  1. So let’s relive my first favorite memory: Living like a local. On your next trip to Paris, I implore you to experience it as much like a true Parisian as you possibly can. Get an Airbnb instead of a hotel room. My family and I had the absolute BEST experience doing this! You get to see, taste, and learn a whole different side of Paris. Learn a few simple French phrases and don’t be afraid to use them! You may get a few sneers because of your sad American accent, but most locals really appreciate the effort. Though most Parisians speak English very well, it still will make communication much easier. AND you feel tres chic speaking French, trust me! Also, use the metro. It’s much easier than you think! Know a few essential locations (like where you’re staying and a couple of major sight-seeing locations) and then just get lost! I always felt so safe walking around the city by myself no matter what area I was in. Some of my best memories are from when I decided to take a stroll without a map or itinerary. There is something to be discovered in every nook and cranny, so don’t be afraid of wandering! Eventually, you’ll stumble upon another metro station and you can use the maps to find your way. Here are some pictures of our Airbnb and some street sights:

2. Listen…The Eiffel Tower at any angle is stunning. But in my personal opinion, nothing beats the view from Palais de Chaillot. Rain or shine, day or night--it’s a cliche place for a reason, y’all.

3. I had the privilege of stepping into Notre Dame before its tragic fire destroyed so much of its grand architecture and rich history. I’m so grateful for that. It was one of my favorite places in all of Paris. I visited often and every time it was as though I could feel its countless stories of the past surrounding me--like I had become a part of its story. Though it will never quite be the same, I’m glad that the cathedral is able to be restored. My hope is to someday revisit it and become a part of its new chapter. (Be sure to explore this area well. You’ll definitely want to check out the old Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, little pop-up shops along the river, and Cafe Panis across the street!)

    4. Oh, Napoleon. He really did know how to show off his wealth. And he surely did not hold back when he executed his vision of Palais Garnier, the striking opera house. I have visited twice now and would go again to take in all its splendor. My dream is to actually attend an opera someday! (Oh, and don’t miss this gorgeous Starbucks just a short walk away…Yes, of course, I recommend trying the local coffee, but seriously--just LOOK at this place!)

      5. Just a few blocks away from Alliance Francais was my little paradise of pure serenity: Le Jardin du Luxembourg. I would leave a little early before school, pop into the neighboring patisserie to grab a cafe au lait and croissant, and then grab a chair by the garden’s fountain. Sometimes I’d read, other times I’d just sit in the sun, breathe in the fragrant air, and listen to the happy chatter around me. *Sigh*...I have all the heart eyes for this place.

        6. You must, I repeat, MUST take a ferry tour of the city on the Seine. At sunset, preferably. End of discussion.

          7. My final piece of advice: Try ALL the things! Taste the stinky cheese and creepy-looking (yet deceivingly delicious) escargot. Buy a ticket at the hole-in-the-wall theatre to see a French play that you won’t understand a word of, yet will still thoroughly enjoy. Splurge a little on the amazing hot chocolate at Angelina’s after you explore the art of the Louvre. Brave the walk across Champs-Elysees to stand in the middle of the road just to get the perfect shot of L’Arc de Triomphe. It’s all worth your while. It’s all part of the magic that makes up the city of love. It’s all Paris.

            *Disclaimer: there is so much of Paris I have seen that I couldn’t fit on this page! If you want any more pictures, videos, tips and tricks, or stories of my travels, please feel welcome to message me on Instagram! My handle is @peytonbrianne...I hope this has inspired you to start planning your own adventure!

            Peyton Johnston

            About Peyton Johnston

            Peyton Johnston is from Terre Haute, Indiana, where she recently started working as the Catering Coordinator for Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. She's passionate about music, youth, and global missions ministries at her church. Peyton is an enneagram 3w2 who’s known for being an avid list-maker, drinking far too many hazelnut cappuccinos, traveling far and wide, and wearing all black more often than the norm. She's in pursuit of living an intentional, grace-filled life that wholly reflects her Creator.