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?
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. 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?