One of the all-time most romantic days I’ve ever spent with my boyfriend of almost 2 years was, not surprisingly, in Paris. We had breakfast at a charming vegan bistro, took a leisurely stroll through the city in the sweltering heat of June, and practiced our French at an outdoor gelato stand along the canal. Then, as a nod to cliché tourism, we also spent a few hours at the Louvre.
Neither of us can remember where we found that quiche lorraine worthy of Julia Child we later had for dinner, or how we ended up on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower with wine, cheese, and baguettes waiting for the light show (which happens every hour after sundown).
In fact, all we know for sure is that we stumbled back to our hotel that night with smiles on our faces, filled with equal parts wonder at life, and ridiculously cheap wine.
Want to know the best part of this seemingly magical day?
We didn’t plan any of it.
We were walking aimlessly when my boyfriend recognized the gelato stand from a bike tour he had done years ago. The accoutrements for our picnic were not from any fancy fromagerie (cheese shop) but a hole-in-the-wall deli we stopped by on our way to the Eiffel Tower. We couldn’t even find proper glasses, so we just used our empty water bottles to share the wine!
I truly believe that the secret to a magical trip, not just in Paris but anywhere, is to let go of all the obsessive-compulsive planning and by-the-minute itineraries. As someone who likes to know exactly what I’m doing next at all times, I am honest to god baffled when a day just falls together perfectly without my neurotic interference!
If you are the type who picks a restaurant to try before they leave the house, I highly recommend scrapping that habit from time to time. It’s a very different experience going into a restaurant without expectations of any specific dish that came highly recommended, or the exceptional service that other patrons received and wrote about in their Yelp reviews. I find that I actually enjoy my meals more because I’m not worried about the experience I’m supposed to be having, and can just enjoy the one I am!
Not obsessively researching every meal ahead of time also means I’ve stumbled across more than a few “best-kept secrets” I never would have learned about if I was only going by what’s popular online. Bonus: you can be the one who breaks those hidden gems to the Internet with your review!
The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t have to wait 3 hours to go up the Eiffel Tower, break the bank at a Michelin-star restaurant, or follow some list of “must-see” things ‘everyone must do in their lifetime’ to have a great time while traveling! In fact, I recommend you do none of those things.
My travel planning strategy now is limited to a quick Google search and reading a couple of travel blogs on the destination before I go. I loosely list a few things I would consider trying, then use that as a jumping-off point rather than a laundry list of things I need to do.