#sparktravels: Paris in 36 Hours

by Caroline Frankenfeld

written while listening to the “Midnight in Paris” movie soundtrack

This past summer I had the opportunity to study abroad for two months in Sevilla, Spain where I was able to speak Spanish daily with my host familia, take Sevillanas dance classes, and study at their university.  While our beloved Austin does have the greatest tacos around, funky people and amazing music, one thing this great city lacks is the ridiculously cheap plane flights found in Europe.

One morning I decided I wanted one last weekend trip to commemorate my time in Europe, so I simply googled “cheapest flights from Sevilla to anywhere in Europe” and I left the decision making up to the gods.  Luckily for me, the gods found me a $100 round-trip flight to Paris for the weekend. My friend and I promptly purchased our plane tickets as we began dreaming of all the crepes we would eat (which would turn out to be quite a few).

While Paris is the “City of Love”, it is also the city that loves to take a lot of money from you. To alleviate this, here’s my crash course on how I did Paris in a mere 30 hours – college budget style.  

First, the airfare is what will make or break your trip, and while some may give it bad reviews, RyanAir is the way to go in Europe.  They offer very affordable flights to anywhere, from anywhere. Now, you have to be flexible because they are notorious for delays, but that’s a small price to pay for the weekend of a lifetime. Another life hack: find flights that take you to an airport outside of Paris (we flew into Beauvais). There are ten-euro shuttles running directly into the city at all hours and the Paris countryside is as beautiful as it sounds.

Shuttling through France.

Lucky for all of us who don’t speak French, the Paris metro system is possibly the most organized and easy to follow system known to man, so despite my friend and I’s lack of French knowledge, we felt like local Parisians traveling the city. We finally arrived at our destination, my friend’s home on the outskirts of Paris, and I swear I fell asleep that night to reruns of Midnight in Paris running through my head.

Oh, la la… Paris here we come!

When you only have one full day in Paris it only makes sense to wake up at 6 AM and seize the day (right?).  After a very French breakfast of croissants with Nutella and coffee (Parisians drink coffee out of a bowl… just go with it) we left our gracious host and the day began.

First stop: Working our way from East to West Paris, we started at Notre Dame with an arrival time of around 8 AM (this way you reap all the early bird perks). Notre Dame is just as beautiful as they say it is, but the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” holds true: when you step inside the amazing structure you can’t help but awe at the interior details. At no fee for entry, Notre Dame is an absolute must and a step into the past.

Stained glass.

Second stop: As much as you may like to plan your day, the most beautiful of experiences are quite often completely spontaneous. As my friend and I were walking towards the Louvre, we stumbled upon Sainte-Chapelle, which proved that size isn’t everything. While I didn’t speak the native tongue of France, we proved to speak the same language when it came to one thing in particular: student discounts. For only five euros, we were greeted into the Gothic-styled masterpiece by the most colorful of stained glass pieces I’ve ever seen, each depicting stories from both the Old and New Testaments.

The infamous glass pyramid.
Perspective is everything.

Third stop: After being side-tracked in the best way possible, it was time to head over to the Louvre. While we didn’t have time to wait in line for the Mona Lisa and many other masterpieces, we were able to relish in the presence of the glass pyramid and architecture around us. Anyways… did you really go to Paris if you didn’t get a picture with your finger “touching” the tip of the pyramid? (an absolute must).  Free of price but full of photo opportunities.

Fourth stop: Waking up at 6 AM does take a toll on a person, and like the coffee addicts college makes us become, it was time for my morning latte.  Strolling through the Tuilerie gardens, we stumbled upon many outdoor cafes before settling on one closest to a pond full of swans and French speakers. This coffee was the most expensive item by far at seven euro, but there was something so dreamy about sipping coffee in Paris… I have to believe that being in Paris made it taste that much sweeter.

Fifth stop: Fresh off our caffeinated refuel, we once again stumbled upon the gem that is the Musée de l’Orangerie. They once again took student IDs and we paid just seven euro to gaze in wonder at Monet’s water lilies, paintings by Jean Walter and Paul Guillaume, and much more.

Are you hungry yet?

Sixth stop: Continuing to head west throughout Paris, we took the metro to the Luxembourg Garden area. Lunchtime signaled only one thing: crepes on crepes on crepes. Absolutely nothing is better than a ham and cheese crepe with an egg sunny side up on top (my mouth isn’t watering, yours is). Food is where Paris will get you on a college student budget, but lucky for you, crepes are on the less expensive side. 

Eerie and thrilling, the underground Catacombs.

Seventh stop: Paris is where the weather is nothing but beautiful for a majority of the year. While it was starting to get a little warm come afternoon, we headed far below the metro system to the infamously eerie Catacombs. For a little background, the Catacombs are underground tunnels that hold the remains of six million people, their bones piled one on top of another. Dropping significantly in temperature as you descend down the seemingly endless staircase, it will quite literally chill you to the bone. However, being the “City of Love”, the experience is paradoxical in a way: some of the bones are arranged in heart shapes as a touching tribute to those who died.

The most beautiful day.

Eighth stop: Craving some sun after an hour of darkness, we head over to the Jardin du Luxembourg for some light sunbathing and conversation. Truthfully, one of my favorite things to do in Paris was to people watch, and this was one of the greatest places to do so. There’s something to be said about the atmosphere that Paris inspires. People are always engaged with one another, smiling and dancing around, enjoying even the smallest joys in life, like chatting with friends over a cheese plate and bottle of wine.

Nothing quite like this view in person.

Ninth Stop: This point in the day was the moment I had been waiting for, the crowned jewel herself: the Eiffel Tower. You can see the tip of the tower from almost any part of Paris, but it isn’t until you stand a few feet away that you realize its unmatchable beauty. Something so simply made of iron and metallic structures brings people to tears daily, and it really does make you feel so small in the best way possible. There was a group of people dancing together in couples just beyond the Tower. A man was playing the guitar and singing to the rhythm of the dance music with no cares in the world. Call me a romantic, but Paris has the biggest heart that bleeds the most epic love stories of all time.

Tenth Stop: If you can only choose one thing to do in Paris, this is my highest recommendation.  For thirteen euro we purchased a ticket for a nighttime boat ride on the Seine river. As you cruise along, you’ll see all the highlights of Paris, but more importantly, the Parisian culture: friends and couples picnicking, strangers waving as boats drive past, others dancing along the river bank even if no music is playing. Paris breathes in your soul an unmatchable beat. Finish off the boat ride at the feet of the brilliant Eiffel Tower.  

From the ground up.

Eleventh (and final) stop: Like Europeans do, we found ourselves eating dinner at around 11:30 PM (crepes again, of course) at one of the many restaurants near the tower. Following, we walked to the grand lawn overlooking the Tower, accompanied by most of the Parisian youth sipping on Rosé as the night turned to morning. No matter how hard you try, it’s nearly impossible to willingly leave the Eiffel Tower at any reasonable hour.

What a sight.


That was a lot, but Paris is the place of novels and dreams come true. I hope that if you are going to Paris this may help your planning, or that if you aren’t going anytime soon, maybe you feel like you went there with me. With the amazing culture, fashion, food, and sights to see, Paris is simply a place one cannot miss out on in their lives… even if you are a broke college student like me.

I’d like to leave you with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Midnight in Paris, that perfectly sums up the essence of Paris:

Adriana: I can never decide whether Paris is more beautiful by day or by night.

Gil: No, you can’t, you couldn’t pick one. I mean I can give you a checkmate argument for each side. You know, I sometimes think, how is anyone ever gonna come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form and when you think that in the cold, violent, meaningless universe that Paris exists, these lights, I mean come on, there’s nothing happening on Jupiter or Neptune, but from way out in space you can see these lights, the cafés, people drinking and singing. For all we know, Paris is the hottest spot in the universe.”


Caroline Frankenfeld is a sophomore at the University of Texas double majoring in Spanish and PR with a minor in Business. This is Caroline’s first year writing for Spark, and she loves finding inspiration from her travels abroad and from the big personality that Austin brings.  When she’s not in class, you can find Caroline dancing, hanging out with friends at Lucky Lab Coffee (her personal fav), or shamelessly watching The Office re-reruns.

  1. I haven’t made it to Paris yet, when I was in France we drove right around Paris and into the Normand region (it was the end of the trip and Paris was not a reality for me and my budget at the time :) Looks beautiful though! I’ll be in the UK soon for a while and I hear that flights to Paris from there are pretty frequent and affordable, I’ll refer back to this post when I finally make it there for some pointers. Cheers wanderer!

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