The first time I went to Paris, I was 19. I was living in London, and my mother and brother had saved up to visit from Toronto for two weeks over Christmas. Since France wasn’t far away, we seized the opportunity to go. I organized our journey through a budget tour company. The plan? Take a coach to the border, a ferry across the English Channel and then a final triumphant bus ride into central Paris. Organizing an operation like this was, in hindsight, a terrible decision—my most recent trip ended before it began when I missed my flight by accidentally taking the train to the wrong airport—but I had the confidence of youth on my side.
When my alarm went off at 3 a.m., we heaved our weary bodies off my fold-out sofa, groggily got dressed and headed to Victoria station. I got us there with three minutes to spare, which felt like success—until I found out that our tour bus actually boarded passengers at a location four blocks away. We could have made the Olympic steeplechase team that morning: We sprinted through the intersections, wailing taxis blasting past us, all while screaming at one another and dragging our (my)anvil-weighted suitcases. I had an Arc de Triomphe-size lump in my throat as we rounded the last corner— I was terrified that our bus had left, taking our precious vacation along with it. But, like an aluminum beacon, the bus sat purring at the corner: The driver had waited. Anaerobic, we scrambled on, avoiding eye contact with the annoyed group. We weren’t popular, but we were going to Paris!
Once we got there, the farce continued: Our hotel wasn’t very central, and we lost my 16-year-old brother in a French suburb for an entire day. But I’ve never cherished a trip more. I saw the Eiffel Tower in real life. And I was as overwhelmed by the artnouveau- domed ceiling at Galeries Lafayette as I was by seeing designer clothes in person. I knew so little about the world then. Although our trip was typically touristy (all baguettes and landmarks), I was captivated by the glorious smoggy, snobby grandeur of it all—and the stylish women who navigated it seemingly effortlessly.
Now I have the privilege of going to Paris for Fashion Week, when the city is even more electric than usual. In our Guide to Paris, our editors share their most trusted places in the city. After doing the shows a few times, you quickly learn the best places to celeb-spot, shop and unwind from the occasionally-pulse-raising stresses of travel—like, say, almost missing your bus.
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