Birthday weekend in Paris

//Birthday weekend in Paris

Birthday weekend in Paris

Special birthdays call for special celebrations, and I felt that my (sort of) milestone year qualified. A trip was definitely in order – the only question was where.

Parisian café THE CITY

I considered two scenarios: either going back to one of my happy places (except I had just visited two of them: Krakow and San Francisco), or picking any city from my wish list.

Traveling somewhere new seemed the right choice, but I still hesitated. I even checked with the Jetting Around community on Facebook. They suggested anything from Morocco to New Zealand, then a couple of people said what I’d been thinking: Paris.

Three years had passed since my last time in France, and I wanted to finally see Paris in spring. Plus, I could use some language practice – my slight obsession with the city is the reason I’m learning French again. I may have briefly looked at other destinations, but deep down I knew that Paris was the answer.

Walking around without a check list and sipping wine in sidewalk cafés would have made for a very happy birthday. That was the plan when I booked flights. I didn’t realize how memorable the trip would be, starting with accommodations.


My go-to places for short trips are boutique hotels. If I’m doing an extended stay, I tend to rent apartments. They allow me to feel more like a resident – I can cook, do laundry, or invite friends over for coffee.

Paris, of all places, is where I wanted to feel at home. I make no secret of my desire to live there, even temporarily, and I wanted to test-drive being a Parisienne. An apartment was the only way to go.

After finding a great property in Berlin through FlipKey a few months earlier, I was excited to see what they had available in Paris. The perfect birthday pad, as it turns out.

Encore on the Square

Photo: FlipKey

I picked an apartment in the Marais, one of Paris’ oldest neighborhoods. It was right on the cozy Sainte-Catherine square and near the larger Place des Vosges. There were two metro lines within a 5-minute walk, shopping and dining around Rue Saint-Antoine, plus dozens of narrow streets to wander or get lost in. I couldn’t wait to do just that.

The studio itself was small, but modern and comfortable. It had a tranquil gray-purple color scheme (reminiscent of my bedroom back home), wood beams on the ceiling, flower pots in the window, a French cook book on the kitchen counter, and a round café-style table that doubled as my office.

For the next two weeks, I felt ‘local’ in the neighborhood. It was exactly where I wanted to spend most of my birthday weekend.

Place Sainte-Catherine

Photo: Flytographer


The only activity I booked before arriving in Paris was an outdoor photo shoot with Flytographer. I’m usually behind the camera and didn’t want to end up with poor-quality selfies as my souvenir.

After seeing vacation photos of several friends and following Flytographer’s work on social media, I knew I wanted them to capture my birthday fun in Paris. And what an afternoon it was!

Gonçalo, Flytographer’s original hire and a fashion photographer, took me to several spots in the Marais. We started off by the apartment, then shot around the Saint-Paul metro station, and finished by the Seine on Pont Marie.

Throughout the shoot, we talked about Paris and photography. It felt as if I was on a photo outing with a friend, not someone I met an hour earlier.

Pavillon de la Reine

Hotel Pavillon de la Reine

It wasn’t the only nice surprise that weekend.

A few days earlier, a friend introduced me to Pavillon de la Reine, a luxury boutique hotel on Place des Vosges. I had often wondered what was behind those 17th century buildings surrounding the square. Here was my chance to find out, as an invitation to petit déjeuner came in. This traditional French breakfast was already on my to-do list, so I gladly accepted.

The food was fresh, delicious, and beautifully-prepared. There was nothing ‘small’ about it. An all-you-can-eat selection of breads and pastries, quality cheeses, fruits, and beverages was served in an elegant library-dining room with courtyard views.

I was in a plush chair at a low table, enjoying gentle sunlight coming through the window and chatting with a Dutch couple seated next to me. As I looked around, I wanted to see more of the stylish property. Perhaps I could stay here next time? I was already planning a short visit.

One of Pavillon’s managers had arranged to show me around. We first toured several rooms (my favorite was the two-story deluxe suite, overlooking the main courtyard), then the gym and spa facilities in the basement.

I had a birthday treatment scheduled at home, but decided to try the hotel spa instead. It was my chance to use new products (the Parisian line Carita), look great for the photo shoot, and practice more French. Little did I know that it would be a birthday present from the staff… Merci!


My last stop that weekend was Montmartre. After dinner near the Abysses metro (the station of Amelie fame), I set out to walk around the hilly neighborhood sans map, with just the camera. No umbrella was needed, unlike last time, when I captured streets of Montmartre in the rain.

As it was close to midnight on a Sunday, not many people were out. I passed a few stores that were still open, heard conversations coming from late-night cafés, and chatted with a couple of locals who were curious about the shutterbug in a red hat. “C’est mon anniversaire,” I explained about my birthday. They wished me a happy one and asked how long I was staying.

“Not long enough,” I thought to myself on the way back to the metro.


Late night in Montmartre

The streets were almost completely quiet at that hour. I had been on an emotional high all weekend, but knew what was coming. My flight to Chicago was leaving in a few hours, yet I didn’t feel like sleeping. I wanted to be part of this city for as long as possible.

Back in the Marais, I stopped by my favorite corner café for a glass of Côtes du Rhône and street watching. A few more minutes, a few more sips, another brief conversation…

Leaving Paris has never been easy for me, but somehow it felt different this time. I was grateful for the weekend that I’ll always remember, especially the kindness of the people I met and feeling like a Parisienne for a while. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday.

À bientôt, Paris! See you soon.

Evening on the Seine

I received rental credit from FlipKey and was a guest of Flytographer and Pavillon de la Reine. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are mine. 

By | 2015-04-26T23:07:12+00:00 April 26th, 2015|STORIES|45 Comments

About the Author:

Pola Henderson is a travel writer, city explorer, expat, and event host. Traveling has been a part of her life since she was three. Pola grew up in Krakow, lived in Chicago for many years and is currently based in Paris, where she teaches Business English.


  1. avatar
    Paya April 28, 2015 at 9:16 am

    I visited Paris 15 years ago. It was really lovely, but the way I see it from your post is that beautiful and charming place as it was before. I think that you couldn´t pick up better bday gift than photoshooting. Gotta do it myself once as well! :D
    Paya recently posted..Monkey business – Swayambunath StupaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 2:13 am

      I’m so glad the post brought back great memories. Do the photo shoot if you can! I’m sure you’d have a great souvenir. :)

  2. avatar
    Michal April 28, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    I think that kind of trip is the best birthday present, for everyone. Happy Birthday!
    Michal recently posted..Wyspa Hrisey czyli perła fjordu EyjafjörðurMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 2:11 am

      Thanks, Michal! Happy it was. :)

  3. avatar
    Constance - Foreign Sanctuary April 29, 2015 at 1:16 am

    What a perfect place to celebrate your birthday! I just love Paris and everything it has to offer! It must have been awesome to do a photo shoot there!
    Constance – Foreign Sanctuary recently posted..Scenes from Taiwan – [Photographing 2015] The Fourteenth WeekMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 2:10 am

      I had to pinch myself a time or two!

  4. avatar
    Marcin W April 30, 2015 at 2:09 am

    That seems like a really great idea to spend birthday in Paris! I am planning my 30th celebration this year and the city is among a couple of options that I am considering.
    Marcin W recently posted..Jazd. Rodzinne miasto prezydentów Iranu i IzraelaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 2:03 am

      That definitely calls for a special trip! Curious to see what destination you choose.

  5. avatar
    i saw pictures April 30, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Paris will always be a magical city for me, after reading Cortazar’s Hopscotch and visiting it a couple of times, I’ll be in love forever.
    i saw pictures recently posted..W sypialni, myśli o snach i gadaniu po nocyMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 2:02 am

      Yeah, there is no cure for Paris… And thanks so much for the book suggestion!

  6. avatar
    Natalia / The Ordinary Blonde May 1, 2015 at 8:06 am

    I wish I could spend my birthday this way. There is nothing more pleasant than possibility to feel in some place in the world like a local!
    Natalia / The Ordinary Blonde recently posted..Midtown Hostel – GdańskMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 2:01 am

      It’s a great feeling, especially in a place you like a lot. Hope your next birthday is great fun, however you decide to celebrate it!

  7. avatar
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) May 1, 2015 at 11:42 am

    I’m so happy that you had such an amazing birthday weekend! Living like a Parisienne, even for a short time, I’m sure was the best gift ever :-) I absolutely love the Montmartre photo! That is the one place in Paris that I REALLY want to see.
    Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..Introducing The Saucy Mom’s TravelsMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:59 am

      Merci, mon amie! I actually thought of you when I had some beers in Paris (yup, that exists). I hope you’ll go there and enjoy yourself a bit. ;)

  8. avatar
    Traveling Ted May 3, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Looks like a beautiful Flipkey property and you cannot beat Paris for an anniversaire. The photos are magnifique.
    Traveling Ted recently posted..Chicago River canoe rescue trainingMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:55 am

      I miss that apartment and the Marais… Nice French, by the way. ;)

  9. avatar
    lola May 4, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Paris is so special to so many. I’ve spent a birthday or two there before myself! I think every birthday is worthy of a special celebration and a getaway. I’m happy you spent yours in one of your favorite places and I’m glad it won’t be long before you return again to Paris.
    lola recently posted..Surviving Long Haul FlightsMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:49 am

      Thanks, Lola! I’ll remember this birthday for a very long time…

  10. avatar
    Dolnośląski Podróżnik May 6, 2015 at 6:21 am

    Piękne zdjęcia z Paryża. Kiedyś moim marzeniem była podróż do Francji. Paryż, Prowansja, Lazurowe Wybrzeże, Marsylia, Dunkierka. Taki wiesz, objazd :) Może kiedyś spełnię to marzenie. Natomiast teraz mam swój Dolny Śląsk.
    Dolnośląski Podróżnik recently posted..Kolorowe jeziorka – powrót i filmMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:41 am

      Tez mi sie marzy zobaczyc wiecej Francji… Moze nastepnym razem.

  11. avatar
    Natalia | May 6, 2015 at 7:35 am

    Świetny pomysł na prezent urodzinowy dla samej siebie! Chyba to wykorzystam w marcu :)
    Natalia | recently posted..Bezkresne połoniny Świdowca w czerni i bieli. Wstęp do relacji z wyprawy.My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:40 am

      Ooo, tez marzec. Zdecydowanie polecam taka urodzinowa wycieczke.

  12. avatar
    Wapniaki Wdrodze May 6, 2015 at 8:56 am

    I do not like to celebrate birthdays , maybe this is an idea to reward a trip ; )
    Wapniaki Wdrodze recently posted..Po co na Górny Śląsk? Osiedla Nikiszowiec i Giszowiec Katowice – Szopienice Szlak Zabytków Techniki ŚląskMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:39 am

      Any reason is good to travel, no? :)

  13. avatar
    Mona May 7, 2015 at 3:48 am

    Birthday in Paris – such an amazing experience!

    and your photos are unique :)
    Mona recently posted..Właściwie nic się nie dzieje – siedzimy.My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:35 am

      It was beyond my expectations… :)

  14. avatar
    Isabella | Love Traveling May 7, 2015 at 5:23 am

    Oh, how I miss Paris! :) I used to live in the 16th district of Paris. So elegant and sophistiaced! It was quite long ago (12 yrs) but I want to believe that Paris did not change. Did it?
    Isabella | Love Traveling recently posted..Pics take you places: IcelandMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:35 am

      You lived there, how nice! I think some things never change in Paris… and that’s a good thing.

  15. avatar

    I felt relaxed just reading about your birthday weekend! I love Paris, and this just seems like the perfect getaway, just you and the City of Lights! I hope to read more about this trip soon!

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:27 am

      That’s great to hear, Beth. I smile every time I think back on that trip…

  16. avatar
    Gabor Kovacs May 13, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Paris is such a great place to celebrate your birthday with its special atmosphere. Once my fiancée organized me a birthday celebration there, and I didn’t know where we were flying till we started to board the plane, such good memories!
    Gabor Kovacs recently posted..Patagonia in Black & White, the Top 10 places to visitMy Profile

  17. avatar
    Valeria @ Rome, New York, London, World May 14, 2015 at 4:21 am

    That sounds like a FANTASTIC birthday! You just gave me an idea for my next birthday in October. Travelling is always the best gift you can give to yourself. Happy belated birthday!

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:22 am

      Thanks, Valeria! I hope you have a fantastic birthday trip yourself.

  18. avatar
    Patrycja Borzęcka May 14, 2015 at 7:24 am

    I envy you such great weekend. I was in Paris last year but I don’t have such great experiences. I saw a few “must see” but I haven’t felt this climate.
    Patrycja Borzęcka recently posted..Kwestia wyboru (Gdańsk)My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:21 am

      That’s how I felt about Barcelona and promised to give it another try. Perhaps you’d enjoy Paris more the second time. :)

  19. avatar
    Marta May 14, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Great Birthday :) Paris and other attractions sound so good that I miss Paris already and I was there just 3 months ago… ;)
    Marta recently posted..Kraj warty grzechu, czyli belgijskie specjały… – BelgiaMy Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 1:18 am

      I know the feeling, Marta! Last time I actually missed my flight home and no-one believes me it was an accident… haha.

  20. avatar
    Erin June 4, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Paris is such a lovely city and it seems like you hit all the best parts for your birthday!
    Erin recently posted..May Recap (AKA Why There Were No Posts In May)My Profile

    • avatar
      Jetting Around June 8, 2015 at 12:44 am

      It’s definitely a time I won’t forget!

  21. avatar
    Reanna Thompon July 23, 2015 at 2:34 am

    Happy birthday! I celebrated my 50th a few weeks ago with 50 of my favorite foods and drinks. Great reason to reflect.

    • avatar
      Jetting Around July 23, 2015 at 5:30 am

      Thank you, Reanna! Happy birthday to you too – what a fun way to celebrate! I might do something like that next time.

  22. avatar
    A long weekend in Milwaukee with BlogHouse August 2, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    […] might say that 2015 has been a special year for Jetting Around. There was my milestone birthday in Paris, then the blog turned 5 over the summer, and I launched JAM Sessions – a series of […]

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    […] Charles De Gaulle last year, the first visit in nearly four years, it wasn’t just to celebrate my birthday weekend in Paris. It was therapy. I was searching for inner peace and a new direction in life. I found that (and […]

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