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Spring in Paris

spring in paris

Winter has dug it’s ugly claws into Washington D.C. and it just will not let go. Just this week I woke up to a blanket of white snow outside my window. As much as I love the glow of freshly fallen snow outside my window, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! It’s almost April! NO MORE, PLEASE!

Spring is almost here, I can feel it. When I walked outside this morning to my car, the air smelled different. It smelled less like ice and more like warmth holding the promise of spring. Please weather, I need spring in my life before I lose my marbles. All I want is to throw my wool coat and Bean boots in the closet and never see them again.

Take me back almost a year to the date. Fresh off the plane in France, one of my best friends M and I made our way towards out little boutique hotel in the center of Paris. This was my third trip to the City of Light, and the I was praying that Paris would finally woo me. Third time’s the charm, right?

spring in paris

Sigh, if only. I want to love Paris, I really do, but she is SO hard to love sometimes. My time was split about 50/50 ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the magical nature of the city, and the rest of the time cursing Paris for being a temperamental b*tch. No other city I can think of has been so difficult for me to love.

Perhaps what I loved most about my week in France was getting to experience spring in Paris with Paris attraction tickets. When the trees turn green again and flowers begin to crop up and blossom, the landscape comes alive again for me, and I have an infinitely happier travel experience. Being attuned to seasonal changes has always been one of my strangest personality quirks. Do you prefer traveling during a specific season?

The downside of course being constant, chilly rain, but once blue skies peep through the clouds and the sun shines again, my negativity immediately dissipates. Owen Wilson famously said in Midnight in Paris that Paris is most beautiful in the rain. WRONG, Woody Allen, WRONG! As much as I love that movie, rainy days, dramatic clouds, and jumping in puddles, I hate having wet feet, and I would have to say that two thirds of my trip to Paris can be categorized as having wet feet. Not cool.

spring in paris

Welcome to Paris! Bust out the boots and the umbrella!

Intrinsically I think of places in terms of color, and when I think of my last trip to Paris, I think pastel, cloudy skies and bright green trees. I love greenery, and sometimes while living in Spain, I was left wanting in terms of green landscapes, which was frustrating. Paris is a sprawling metropolis yet I was able to find evidence of spring almost everywhere I turned.

Here are my favorite green spaces and places in and around Paris.

Jardin des Tuileries

These are the beautiful public gardens along the Seine in the 1st arrondissement of Paris between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, I always make sure to stroll through it when I’m in town. With the top of the Eiffel Tower peeking over the trees in the distance along with twinkling fountains and hungry pigeons, it’s a really lovely space for me in Paris. Of course it helps that it has always figured prominently in my history lessons, being built by one of my favorite and feared queens of France: Catherine de Medici in the 16th century. There is just something so magnificent about being able to walk around such historically famous place in the world nowadays, at least for me.

spring in paris

Champ de Mars around the Eiffel Tower 

I’m about to publicly admit something painful as a blogger. I’ve never climbed the Eiffel Tower NOR do I wish to climb it.

Why? Several reasons, the first being the fact that it’s always MOBBED with tourists and has horrendous lines every time I’ve gone near it, and secondly because it’s expensive and I’m cheap. Finally, I love taking pictures of the Eiffel Tower itself, and if I climb it, then it won’t be in any of my pictures. Is that just ridiculous?

spring in paris

When M and I were in town, we spent a good chunk of time lolling about in the field around the Eiffel Tower, the Champ de Mars or watching the tower twinkle after sunset on the hour from the viewing platform across the river. Sitting perched on the edge of the platform, we talked about life as the sky turned from bright blue, to cobalt to inky black and as the Eiffel Tower came alive with light.

Our last day in Paris was so warm and sunny, we grabbed snacks and laid out on the field in the shadow of the tower, reminiscing about our trip. It was a great way to say au revoir to Paris.

spring in paris

spring in paris

Père Lachaise Cemetery

Morbid confession: I kinda have a thing for old cemeteries. I think they are haunting and beautiful, ghostly reminders of the past. They also make for great photographs. Since I spend a lot of time thinking about history, to visit the place where great legends are buried, is like a dark pilgrimage for me.

Père Lachaise is the largest cemetery in Paris, in the 20th, and it’s filled with overgrown crumbly tombs, skeletal tall trees and and ivy-covered iron gates, not to mention it is the burial place of some of the finest figures in recent history. M and I spent a warm afternoon, searching out the tombs of our great heros, taking funny photographs and trying to absorb as much history as possible.

spring in paris

Père Lachaise is almost like a small city, with its own cobbled streets with names and mini-boulevards. But above all, I loved how verdant and green it was. Starkly contrasting the pale stone of the forgotten tombs, the burst of color from all the trees and ivy almost made the cemetery come alive again. Magical.

spring in paris

spring in paris

Montmartre

Ever since I came to Paris when I was sixteen, I have been in love with the bohemian, artistic neighborhood that overlooks the sprawl of central Paris. Me and every other tourist that comes to town.

M and I spent a beautiful late afternoon perched on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur nibbling on expensive Pierre Hermé macarons and watching the sunset while street musicians whiled away the day below. Before the early evening rain shower started, we walked around the back streets, admiring the ivy-covered pastel buildings and inhaling the heady scents of the hanging wisteria.

spring in paris

spring in paris

Notre Dame

Smack in the center of Paris, Notre Dame is the heart of the city. Nestled on a tiny island in the center of the Seine lies perhaps the most magnificent cathedral in Christendom. Surrounded by medieval stones and ancient green trees, it truly lives up to its fame. But by far my favorite part of Notre Dame is going up. Following in the footsteps of Victor Hugo and his Quasimodo, you can climb up the bell towers for unparalleled views of Paris.

I love how the bright green treetops of spring contrast with the rusty blue rooftops of old Paris. Pensive gargoyles just add to the ambiance.

spring in paris

spring in paris

Versailles

When Paris just gets to be too much, escaping to Versailles is my perfect cure. I’ve written about how I detest the palace and it’s formable storms of tourists, but the gardens are a different matter, particularly the rustic escape of Marie Antoinette: the Queen’s Hamlet.

We spent a miserable morning, standing in line in the pouring rain, jostling elbows with rude tour groups inside the palace and fighting for a place in line to order a much needed espresso. As much as I love history and French history to boot, Versailles royally pissed me off.

spring in paris

spring in paris

However, that has absolutely no sway on my opinion of the gardens around Versailles. The gardens and hamlet are indescribably beautiful in the spring. Without a tourist in sight, M and I truly fell in love with Versailles chasing ducks in the gardens, petting baby goats through the fence, and frolicking among the flower fields and medieval village. If you only go one place in Versailles, go here!

Mimicking my mood, as soon as we said goodbye to the crowds inside, we were met with sunshine and flowers and few people in the gardens.

spring in paris
spring in paris

spring in paris

spring in paris

spring in paris

spring in paris

Giverny

I’ve saved the best for last. If you are going to visit Paris, visit in the spring so that you can fully experience Monet’s house and gardens in all their blooming glory. Giverny is perfect day trip from Paris, and we held out til the last day putting all our hopes on the weather forecast. For once, it didn’t disappoint.

Stepping off an early morning train in Vernon, we were welcomed with blue skies and a soft breeze that smelled like spring. Heaven. Dashing ahead of the mad crowds alighting from the train, we were first in line to rent bicycles to make the easy 7km journey to Monet’s gardens. With the wind in our hair and our scarves flowing behind us, we laughed and made our way slowly towards Monet’s house.

spring in paris

spring in paris

Passing green pastures, small mountains and beautiful yellow flower-filled fields, I completely fell in love with the French countryside. No wonder Monet was so inspired by this region.

We spent hours wandering around the lily-pad strewn pond, snapping a million photos and soaking up the sunshine. We were in heaven. After saying goodbye to Monet’s house, we peddled our way into town looking for a spot for lunch. Propping our bicycles outside a little garden restaurant, we proceeded to stuff our faces with a several course lunch and a big bottle of rosé.

Ok France, you win this time. Spring in Paris rocks.

What do you think of when you think of a spring destination? Does Paris in the spring hold a certain appeal to you too? Have you ever been to any of these places?

spring in paris

spring in paris

spring in paris

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28 Responses to Spring in Paris

  1. Mike March 29, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    I had a similar experience with London. Overall I liked the city, but coming from sunny, warm Granada it was tough to put on my coat again and bust out my umbrella. It, too, was a sprawling metropolis with scattered green spaces, so I was very appreciative of the small green spots I found. I’ll be sure to check these places out in Paris when I do eventually go!

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:22 am #

      It’s hard coming from Spain that’s for sure!

  2. Val March 29, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Yeah, I’m with you on Paris, except I wasn’t converted in the end. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely worth a visit, and the sites are gorgeous. The crepes are to die for as well. I think I am in love with the idea of Paris more than the city itself.

    My biggest problem with Paris was the stuck up Frenchies I encountered, on more than one occasion. One time, my 16-year old younger sister and I were getting on the metro to head into the city and this much older guy (think late 30s) and his girlfriend were getting on as well. Well apparently we weren’t moving fast enough for them, so the girl pushed my sister. So then I pushed her back, because that’s not cool and then the guy had the nerve to shove me. It just put me off, understandably. I just have always gotten a vibe from the people that they think they are so much better than everybody else. (Yes, I have a French friend who is a sweetheart and of course there are exceptions, blah blah blah.) And then there was the one time this guy begged me for my phone number by the Eiffel Tower after I stupidly told him I was single. Yeah haha.

    I also traveled to Versailles, thought it was beautiful. And Monet’s house was stunning! BUT, my favorite part of France had to be Nice and the French Riviera in general. Absolutely amazing and a completely different feel than Paris. There was also a medieval town called Eze nearby that is built into a mountain and it was absolutely amazing.

    • Elizabeth March 30, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      I agree, Val, Eze is beautiful! But my heart remains in Northern France (ie more north than Paris), since I lived there…it can be industrial and gritty, but it was my first love :P. Still, I can see myself vacationing on the Côte d’Azur…

      • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:27 am #

        Me too fellow Elizabeth haha

    • H.D. Lynn March 30, 2013 at 8:15 pm #

      I had someone hold the metro door for me when I was running down the platform.

      • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:27 am #

        That’s nice!

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:28 am #

      I am totally adding Eze to my list, thank you!

  3. Sarah March 29, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    *Not Matthew McConaughey in Midnight, it’s Owen Wilson!

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:21 am #

      oh man, that was the biggest fail ever! Midnight in Paris is one of my favorite movies ever!

  4. amelie88 March 30, 2013 at 2:36 am #

    You take some really awesome pictures. This makes me want to get on the next plane back to France (maybe this summer, my family is having a huge family reunion in the Loire Valley). I’ve been to every single destination you named on this list except for Jardin des Tuileries (though I’m pretty sure I’ve walked by it) and then some. I’ve been visiting for France for so many years, I have nearly crossed off all the major touristy Paris things (including doing some places twice). However Paris is like NYC–you are never finished seeing “everything” in the city, which is why I love it! There are some really random museums and chateaux around Paris I want to go to like Chateau de Vincennes and Fontainebleau (always seeing those on the metro stops!). I also am pretty used to the weather. You just kind of make do. I’ve been too many times to count, so a little rain isn’t going to ruin it for me. :) Both times I visited Disneyland Paris, it rained. We still had fun!

    Also technically Giverny is not Paris, that’s Normandy. :D But I’m glad you included it!

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:26 am #

      TAKE ME WITH YOU! LOIRE VALLEY CASTLES GAHHHH!!

      I just stuck Giverny in as a good day trip from Paris, tried to change everything to “in and around” Paris but I might have missed a few haha

      • amelie88 April 5, 2013 at 1:21 am #

        Always welcome to come join me :D (but I think you will be in NZ by that point!). If you haven’t hit up the Loire Valley yet, you should add it to your list!

  5. Vanessa March 30, 2013 at 2:53 am #

    Great post! I can totally relate to the water-logged shoes and grey skies… my second trip to Paris was that and only that. It was so cloudy that I could even see the top of the Eiffel Tower! Crazy! But the next year I lived in Paris for the whole year and got to see all of its seasons, thankfully! Love that you mentioned the Tuileries: tourists seem to get bogged down in monuments and forget about this awesome refreshing space. I spent many ‘a lovely afternoon here eating the roasted chestnuts sold at one of the gates. <3 Thanks for bringing back the memories!

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:24 am #

      Woah! Tell me how you got to live there for a year!!

  6. Elizabeth March 30, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    We can’t seem to get rid of the rain here in Sevilla, either, and it s driving me loca! Also, Giverny is SO overlooked by many tourists, but it is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, in my opinion. Monet’s place is my secret dream house.

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:22 am #

      Totally 100% agree!

  7. H.D. Lynn March 30, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Dang it, I want to be in Paris again. I was there last spring, and I will disagree with you about the rain. It’s less crowded, so it’s way better. When it was cloudy, bf and I had a bread-cheese-wine-fruit picnic in the gardens in front of the Eiffel tower. I completely agree with you about not wanting to climb it! It’s a lovely area when it’s not crowded, and the clouds and pending rain drove everyone away!

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:16 am #

      I was there for a big holiday weekend which is why it was so crowded I think

  8. Audrey | That Backpacker March 31, 2013 at 2:53 am #

    Yeesh! I visited Paris in late spring and it was just like you described it. I didn’t pack accordingly so I ended up being cold and wet the whole time. But warming up in the cafes with crepes sure made up for it! :)

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:15 am #

      exactly!

  9. Lauren March 31, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    I went to Paris last summer and our day trip to Giverny was my absolute favorite part! I adore Monet and it was my childhood dream to visit. It was definitely worth the trip, but I wish we had rented bikes like you from Vernon instead of taking the bus!

    And when we went in the summer the weather in Paris was still unpredictable. I remember climbing the Eiffel Tower and out of no where the sky became so dark and ominous; lucky for us though because it made a short line! :)

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:12 am #

      Seriously Giverny rocks!

  10. Dan April 2, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    I appreciate that you called Woody Allen out on some of the shit he says.

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:05 am #

      hahaha

  11. Thomas Dembie April 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    Great article! I’ve spent 2 Springs living in Paris and think it’s a great time of year. You have an excellent list of places to visit! One of my other favorites is the Jardin du Luxembourg.

    • Liz April 4, 2013 at 1:04 am #

      Oh yeah! That’s a good spot!

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