Can you see Paris in a Day?
No! Right off the bat, one day in Paris is a tragedy. I highly recommend several days in this chic bustle of a city. However, life is short and choices had to be made. I had been to Paris 3 times before so this time it got the boot. However, I still wanted to get some of the magic this city has to offer in the short time I had and thus planned out my route strategically.
If you have a layover for the day or just a quick pit stop, there are still some magnificent things to do and see. The metro system is easy to navigate and can get you anywhere you want to go within the hour. The trick is to not overbook yourself. Pick maybe one or two activities you want to do in Paris and then plan out your route before you go using the metro map.
Above I have blue starred a few classic attractions and their corresponding metro stops that would be suitable for a one day Paris extravaganza. Above you have Trocadero and Champs De Mars circled. Both lead you to Paris’s number one icon, the magnificent if not overdone, Eiffel Tower. On the other hand, if you have a shopping addicition – take a stroll down the Champs Elysees. Other popular locals include the Montmartre, Louvre, Notre Dame, and Saint Germain for cafe hopping.
Now the metro map can look complicated, but its actually quite simple. The thick lines are RER trains and the rest are the metro. RER trains are defined by zones and as long as you buy a metro pass for the day, you can travel all RER lines within zones 1 and 2. If you are staying in the city center of Paris, you will always be within zones 1 and 2. Starting at Charles de Gaulle airport, you will always take RER line B into the city. I have put red stars next to big train stations that have baggage storage or “Consigne” locations. For 9 Euro we were able to store all of our bags for the entire day. This was very convenient as we could drop them off and be on our way. Additionally, if you are heading back to the airport at the end of the day, they have storage as well so that you don’t need to tote your bags into the city at all.
Growing up in Southern California, public transportation is almost completely foreign to me. When I started traveling I recognized the ease and beauty of these systems and with a little effort you can be a metro queen too. So how do you tell which platform to take? If you open up the metro map, you can see the final destinations of all the metro lines. You use those final destinations to tell where you need to go when you are in a metro station. Looking at the map, look at the stop you want to get off at, and which direction that is from your current location. Follow the line in question to the very end and that final name will be what you look for on signs in the metro stations. Now you try. If you want to get from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, what lines would you take? Remember there are many lines and therefore several routes to your destination. Typically trying to go with the least amount of stops will help you get there more quickly.
Answer: For me, to get from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, I would start by hopping onto Line 1 towards La Defense. I would take that four stops and get off at Franklin D. Roosevelt station. From there I would switch to Line 9 towards Pont De Sevres. I would take this 3 stops until I make it to Trocadero station and voila! I have arrived at my destination in 7 stops.
My Day in Paris
My eyes are always bigger than my stomach, and when it comes to Paris, I want it all. I overbooked myself as usual and chose three activities for my one day Paris jaunt. I had never been to the birthplace of my favorite cookie in the world. If you have never had a macaron (not to be confused with coconut macaroons), just imagine a gooey genache of your favorite flavor sandwiched between two delicate, airy, crisp little cookies. When you bite into this little morsel it all mixes together and transforms into a velvety chewy perfection. Ladurée is a French luxury bakery and sweets maker house created in 1862. It is one of the top premier sellers of the double-decker macaron, fifteen thousand of which are sold every day. I decided this was a must and I would start the day indulging on the famous Champs Elysees.
Next we made our way over to the Eiffel Tower. For being the most visited paid tourist attraction in the world, its still takes my breath away. Every time I visit Paris I make an attempt to get to the top. For one reason or another, I have never been able to make this happen. Its my romantic notion that this is a sign that I must return to Paris again one day to complete my unfinished business. And once again, it was a failed mission! Time was of the essence and I had to meet with my cousins for lunch. We said a quick hello to the towering behemoth of a beauty, took a quick (illegally free) ride on the carousel, and continued on our way.
We decided to meet up with family in one of my favorite neighborhoods for cafe hopping and people watching, Saint Germain. We ate at the famous Cafe de Flore and had Quiche Lorraine and Salad de Tomate. Since its founding in 1870, Cafe de Flore has existed as a café and second home for writers, artists and intellectuals of the likes of Apollinaire, Camus, Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and frequented by Hemingway and even Truman Capote. In the 1920s and 30s, the Flore was the meeting place of the Right, after World War II of the Left. Forming a triangle with the famous but touristy Deux Magots and the Brasserie Lipp just across the street, the history of the Flore has always been linked with Paris, culture and political ideas. On this day, history in my family was made as I met two distant family members for the first time, Catharine and Pauline. Over a bottle of Chablis we exchanged stories from our lives across the pond and absorbed into that buzz of cafe life that is quintessentially Paris on a sunny afternoon.
Finishing the day by grabbing some Pierre Herme macarons and stopping for some shade under the signature white and red stripped awning of Bar du Marche, I feel like I rocked my one and only day in Paris. I may have not summited the tower this time, but c’est la vie! That just means I will be back for you again one day Paris!
Until then, bisou bisou.