The 5 Must-See Views of Paris

This may come as a surprise to some but the view from the summit of the Eiffel Tower, as impressive as it is, is not the best view of Paris, in Paris. And while the Eiffel Tower is definitely not absent from this list, and some may argue that every view in Paris is the a stunning view of Paris, here is my top 5 favorite views in Paris.

#5 The Big Wheel at Place de la Concorde

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You know the big wheel in the background of all the photos of the Champs Elysee? Well ironically, it actually is called the Big Wheel and you can take a ride on it for a birds-eye view of the Jardin des Tuileries and the Place de la Concorde. After your two rotations and alternate views of sites such as Cleopatra’s Needle, you’re in the perfect location to take a walk through the beautiful Jardin, and during the summer months, the Fête des Tuileries.

#4 Notre Dame de Paris

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The only thing that comes close to being as awe-inspiring as when you first walk into view of Notre Dame while strolling the Ile de la Cité, is the view from the top of Notre Dame. I may be bias since the Hunchback of Notre Dame (a.k.a. the most underrated Disney move of all time) was one of my favorite movies growing up, but the gargoyles undeniably add something to the view. After getting up close and personal with the gargoyles of Notre Dame, grab yourself some sorbet at Berthillon and spend some time walking through Shakespeare & Co. Probably my best way to spend an afternoon.

#3 Eiffel Tower

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Of course I couldn’t leave the Eiffel Tower off of this completely; it still provides one of the most extensive views of Paris. The view also offers you the chance to see the intricate design of the different streets and areas of Paris; you can almost see the breakdown of arrondissements.  Highly recommend you purchase a pre-timed ticket when visiting the Eiffel Tower, unless you enjoy five hour lines. Also highly recommend you take the time to fully enjoy each floor (first floor, second floor, summit). You’ll end up spending at least some time waiting for the lift to the next floor anyway, might as well take in the mild change in views and angles from each spot.

#2 Arch de Triomphe

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The view from the Arch de Triomphe gives you that same breakdown of the Parisian avenues but also includes a view of the Eiffel Tower, giving you that picture perfect shot. You’re also getting the complete reverse view that you would get from the Big Wheel, looking directly down the Champs Elysee.

#1 Tour Montparnasse

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Tour Montparnasse will forever be my favorite view in Paris, until I find one that proves me otherwise. Ironically, the actual Tour Montparnasse is rather unbecoming, standing dark an over-modernized, high above the Parisian skyline. However, the view from the observation desk is like no other, with a full 360 degree view of Paris, while close enough but not too close to the tower itself. We visited the observation deck early enough that we were able to capture some daylight photos, as well as stunning sunset photos. I had already felt one with Paris from the moment I arrived, but it was during our few hours sitting above the city that I truly fell in love.

 

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Reminiscing on My First International Experience

The sound of the planes engines seemed louder than usual, though not much more than the snoring of the couple seated behind me. We were 40,000 feet in the air and as I sat cramped in my window seat, head on the window and legs curled up into some yoga-like position, all I could hear was my voice asking “How did I get here?”

Alexander Graham Bell once said, “When one door closes another opens.” There is no better way to explain how I ended up aboard an Avianca flight headed towards Nicaragua, a country that up until a few months prior, I had never even acknowledged. I suppose you could say that I had a cliché outlook on travel. I dreamt of the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower and my hair blowing in the wind as I rode the Bateaux Mouche down the Seine. I mentally prepared images I would take from each angle of the Palace of Westminster; I envisioned myself on the trip I had originally planned to be on, a trip through Florence, Italy. This trip, however, had a prerequisite art class that ended up booked solid within a week and so I ended up in Liberation Theology, the only elective that wouldn’t disrupt my three-day week schedule. Unbeknownst to me, this class had a required service component and those who wished could provide those hours during a service-learning trip to Nicaragua.

The next thing I knew, we were driving to our first hostel through the streets of Managua past brightly colored, connecting, one-story homes. Within the next few hours I experienced more than I had in my twenty-one years. I felt the wind through my hair as we rode a speedboat through Lake Nicaragua, a lake that seemed to stretch on for miles in all directions; fed a monkey on an island that many tourists dub “Monkey Island”. And that night after the sun had set behind distant mountain ranges and the only light was from a battery operated lantern on the dashboard of our boat, we jumped feet first into Lake Nicaragua without hesitation. That week brought a succession of experiences. We hiked to the top of the Mombacho Volcano through green caverns and sloth-filled paths until we reached a bird’s eye view of Lake Nicaragua. We ran barefoot through a schoolyard in Sutiaba while getting destroyed in soccer by children half our size. And we ended our nights eating mango and playing cards on the stoop of our hostel with stars in our eyes. My trip to Nicaragua was my first international adventure, but that one visit made the world map on my wall at home seem that much more monumental.

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#Smorgasburg

Do you remember that song that came out in the 80’s but unfortunately was still playing in the early 90s? The one that goes “ooh heaven is a place on earth”?

Well, I hate to admit it but there actually is a heaven on earth and it’s called Smorgasburg. For those outside of the Brooklyn/New York food loop (it’s real, and I live there) Smorgasburg is a seasonal, open-air food market, that is open every weekend from April to October. Saturday’s in Williamsburg. Sunday’s in Prospect Park.

Naturally, I had to be there this year for opening weekend. Smorgasburg is probably the most amazing but also anxiety-driven food location, simply because the options are endless.

Want double-sized mozzarella sticks? Sure.

Interested in a donut made of spaghetti? No problem.

I made a stop at five different stalls and barely scratched the surface of all that Smorgasburg has to offer. Which fortunately and unfortunately means I’ll have to go back like a dozen more times this season. #NoShameInMyGame

  1. Raindrop Cake from Raindrop Cake

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This “dessert” made quite the splash last year when in debuted at Smorgasburg, so of course I had to see what all the hype was about. Now that I’ve tried it, I still don’t understand the hype. Raindrop cake was on that awkward border between “I think this is gross” and “this tastes like nothing”, but definitely didn’t send my tastebuds soaring. GladI tried it but it was a one-and-done.

Raindrop Cake is apparently a variation on shingen mochi served with a side of brown sugar syrup and roasted soybean powder. Clearly I should’ve anticipated the lackluster taste as soon as I learned the ingredients. If I had to describe Raindrop Cake, it would be flavorless jello. Not my cup of tea, but many seem to enjoy it. Personally, I’d prefer cake.

2.  Classic Halo Halo from Ube Kitchen

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The Classic Ube Halo Halo is a scoop of ube (purple yam) ice cream, with diced dragonfruit, mangoes, blackberries, tapioca pearls, red mung beans, jackfruit, toasted coconut flakes, and coconut milk.

I would willingly eat this for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a post dinner snack; which I guess is kind of healthy considering the amount of fruit? The flavors mix perfectly together giving off that naturally sweet taste which I prefer over over-the-top sweet desserts. For an extra dollar your Halo Halo will be served in half a dragon fruit, which for the first time is definitely worth it for the presentation.

3. The Ramen Burger from Ramen Burger

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Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the infamous Ramen Burger. I’m going to cut to the chase and say, the only thing I disliked about Ramen Burger was the $12 price tag for such a tiny burger. This is made worse since, accoridng to a friend of mine, they’ve actually decreased the size of their burgers while increasing the price.

If you look up the menu for Ramen Burger’s new permanent location, their burgers (plus their pork sandwich on Ramen buns) generally go for $9-10 with sides so I’m going to assume the inflation for Smorgasburg is due to the cost of renting a stall for the whole season.

Aside from that, the Ramen Burger was delicious especially the secret soya sauce. The ramen buns are sturdy enough to keep their texture but soft enough that you can easily bite through it. But attention isn’t just paid to the ramen buns and sauce, the burgers are delicious as well and perfectly cooked. Very tasty. Very worth it.

4. Matcha Banana Pudding from Baonanas

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If you’ve never had matcha before, it’s a ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea. If you’ve ever had a green tea latte from Starbucks, you’ve had it, and it’s become so popular there are now handfuls of matcha dessert spots all over the city.

Of course combining two of my favorite things (green lattes and banana pudding) meant that ordering this was a no brainer for me. A small is only $5 and packs tons of flavor along with extra Nilla wafer crumbs on top. While the original flavor, which I sampled, was also delicious, I’m a sucker for twists on simple ideas.

5. Classic Dumplings from Destination Dumplings

 

Destination Dumplings served five different flavors at their Smorgasburg stand: Classic (Pork + Chive), Kalbi Korean Beef, Jerk Chicken, Edamame, and Peking Duck; of which you can either order a Single (4 dumplings of one flavor) or a Double (8 dumplings of two different flavors) Forewarning, it’ll take about 20-30 minutes until your order is ready but you’re free to roam the other booths and then return.

While I was debating between the Korean beef and classic dumplings, I ultimately decided to keep it simple. That being said, these dumplings still managed to stand out, with a perfect sear and void of that overly oily feel that you may experience at other locations. The pork and chive, though also simple, were seasoned to perfection and served with a side order of dipping sauce.

If you’re planning or hopefully I’ve convinced you, to head on down to Smorgasburg for the first time, I would highly recommend researching the current vendors or checking out the official Smorgasburg Instagram to plan out your must-eats before you get there. Trust me, it’s a little overwhelming to be presented with so many options at one time.

Also, if you can get there at opening time (11:00 AM), do it! I got there at about 11:15 AM and could’ve had my pick up the booths. But once it hit 1:00 PM, you were barely able to move while making your way to a fifteen minute line.

If I failed to convince you, well hey, more Ramen burgers for me.

 

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What I’ve Learned About Packing for International Travel

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“This is fine”, I attempted to convince myself as I wheeled my two suitcases and one carry-on bag to the top of the stairs. I had only gotten my bags out of the Parisian studio and was already breathing harder than someone who just ran a mile. Now I just had to get them down the flight of stairs, which would bring me to the fifth floor where I would then have to fit my bags and myself into an elevator, a fourth of the size of those back home, and wheel them through the courtyard.

I had anticipated taking the RER to Charles de Gaulle, where I would catch a flight to Dublin. I did not end up taking the RER.

Big props for reasonably priced cabs in Paris.

I don’t know what was worse, the “Oh, those are ALL yours?” I got from two experienced travelers the day I landed at Charles de Gaulle from New York, both of whom were able to fit five weeks of necessities into one bag; or the hassle I would soon experience trekking my bags around Ireland.

I know I’m not the first to overpack on an abroad trip and I’m sure I won’t be the last. But if I could go back in time, I would have definitely given myself a much needed kick in the shin and some helpful advice.

  1. Remember that girl on Instagram who seems done-up in the cutest outfits every single day of her trip? Yeah, that won’t be you. Leave the over-the-top outfits at home, and pack one simple, slightly-more-formal dress for when you really need it.
  2. You will not wear all of that. I definitely over thought how much clothing I would need for a three week trip. I packed approximately 3/4’s of my closet and wore maybe a third of that. This shouldn’t have surprised me, considering I only actually wear about a third of the clothing I own. There is a tip I’ve gotten from some experienced traveler friends which says to lay out everything you want to bring.. and then bring half of it. This is easily up there in the best advice I have ever received on any topic. And remember, you can re-wear things.
  3. Refer back to number one. You will not be the girl on Instagram who looked as if she popped into the salon every morning of her trip. When it comes to hair tools, I’m the absolute worst, and have had to adjust to leaving my loyal straightening iron at home. Of my entire trip, I believe I actually did my hair once. My main focus each morning ended up wanting to get up and out as early as possible to see as much as I could. Embrace you natural hair, even if you have a lion’s mane like myself.
  4. If you have to sit on your bag to close it, you probably packed too much. While I’m not a huge souvenier buyer, I should have assumed I’d be bringing some things home with me. The two hours it took to empty out and then reorganize everything to fit in already stuffed bags before my flight home was not worth the hassle and time wasted.
  5. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack. I am guilty of this almost every time I travel, and it is definitely a huge factor in my overpacking. Packing + Stress = More stress cause you friggen’ overpacked.
  6. Remember that layers are a thing. When I was researching the weather for my trip, I was seeing 90 degree weather in some locations, then 50 degree weather in others. I chose to “solve” this problem by packing multiple long sleeve shirts, and multiple short sleeve shirts, AND multiple thick long sleeve shirts and pretty much multiple everything. In reality, I could’ve packed a few select shirts, and then a sweater or two. It would have saved me a load of space.
  7. You don’t need to buy a whole new wardrobe for your trip. This is something I try to drill in the heads of some of my friends when they’re preparing for their next getaway. Windbreakers, hiking boots..if you legitimately need something new for your excursions, buy it. I get that some things are essential. But I guarantee you that your year old jeans are probably just as awesome as a brand new pair, and are probably way more comfortable anyway.

The moral of these slightly repetitive pieces of advice are:

Nobody cares what you’re wearing. You are there for experiences, not too look cute in an Instagram photo. As long as you’re weather appropriate and culturally appropriate depending on where you’re going, you will look great as long as you’re having the time of your life.

When it comes to what you eliminate from your suitcase during your next trip, just ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need it?
  • Is it appropriate for the location I am traveling? (weather-wise, culturally, necessary for my excursions?)
  • Did I already pack something similar to this?
  • Have I worn it at home within the last two months?
  • Does it pack easy? Certain materials come out of a bag looking wrinkled and awful. And since a portable steamer is most likely not on your “I need it” list, you should probably leave it.

 

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