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Visiting My Dream City

Updated: Apr 8

Every little girl has their big dream, their fascination with something so far-fetched it doesn’t seem like it could ever be a reality. Mine was Paris. 


Hi! I’m Malia, a 20-year-old student at New York University studying Journalism & Media, Culture, and Communications. I love to read, write, listen to podcasts, and of course, travel. Some of my favorite destinations are Stockholm, Sweden, Budapest, Hungary, Florence, Italy, and…


Paris, France


Meet Malia Bowman!


I’m not quite sure how or when my obsession with Paris began, but I know that as a kid, whenever I was asked “If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?” I always responded with “Paris.” Posters and art of Paris filled my childhood bedroom. Stories about Paris lined my bookshelves. The American Girl Doll, Grace, was my obsession in 2015 because she traveled to Paris to stay with her family. All I wanted to do was go to Paris. 


In 2023, my dreams became a reality, and it was everything I had ever imagined. 


I have always wanted to travel the world. I would watch endless YouTube videos of people visiting various countries and my list of “dream cities” would keep growing, but Paris was always number one. In middle school, I was researching colleges that had study abroad programs in Paris. I came across New York University, located in another one of my dream cities, New York City. I saw they had a program called “Writers in Paris” and, at that moment, I knew that was where I wanted to go to college. 


Years later, I’m a junior at NYU who had the privilege of studying abroad during my sophomore year. I decided to go to Florence, Italy instead of Paris because the courses offered complimented my major, Media, Culture, and Communications, and I wanted to be in a country that had multiple cities I was interested in seeing. However, I knew that being in Italy was the closest I would ever be to France for a long time, so I knew I finally got to fulfill my dream. 


I arrived in Paris after dark; by the time my friend and I finally got settled into our hotel, it was already 1 AM. The streets were empty, and the city was asleep. I couldn’t see much, but I couldn’t wait to wake up and begin exploring. I quickly fell asleep after a long day of travel, but I felt giddy like a young child as my eyes closed, in awe that this was actually happening. 


I have always been told that Paris is so dirty, that the French are so rude, and that the city smells so bad. I had prepared myself for it to not be everything younger me had envisioned. But it was. It was magical. I was in awe; tears formed in my eyes as I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower for the first time while riding Metro Line 6. 


My Picture-Perfect Paris Recommendations



The Eiffel Tower, of course!


The Eiffel Tower


Stepping foot onto the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, I truly couldn’t believe I was there. I had spent so many years wishing and dreaming about visiting this city, and here I was. After a delicious dinner of steak frites, my friend and I went to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle. It was a magical moment, squeals of delight escaped our mouths as we stood there taking it all in. Life didn’t feel real. I felt so lucky to be there and to be making my younger self's dreams come true. 


Versailles


Over the week, my friend and I went on day trips to Versailles and Disneyland Paris. Versailles was truly indescribable. A majestic golden estate, rich with history. I didn’t know much about Versailles before going, but the audio guides and app provided so much information each time I stepped into a new room. 


The gardens are just as beautiful as the house, and it’s easy to get lost in them. My friend and I happened upon The Queen’s Hamlet, a part of the Trianon Gardens. Stumbling upon this somewhat hidden gem felt like we were transported to a Disney princess animated film. It was beautiful and so unique. A bunch of small, fairytale-esque buildings set around this beautiful lake. A must-see, even though it's hidden in the depths of the garden. 


Disneyland Paris


The following day, we went to Disneyland Paris and, as a huge Disney lover, this was another bucket list item. The day couldn’t have been more perfect. As soon as you get off the train, you’re encapsulated by Disney magic. Entering the gates, music fills your ears from classic films, characters wave at you as they walk by, and the smell of yummy food fills your nostrils, making you want to try everything. A mix of French and English chatter is in the air, as rides and shows use both languages. 


The rides were fun, some better than Walt Disney World in Florida. Hyperspace Mountain is 1000x better than Space Mountain. More of a thrill, more twists and turns, more speed. The Haunted Mansion, however, is less thrilling than it is in Disney World, but still a fun, cool, break-from-the-heat in Paris. 


The drone and firework show was the most magical thing I’ve ever seen. The projections on the castle with fireworks being set off in the background were stunning. The songs switching between French and English were perfect. Sadly, due to rain, the show we watched didn’t include the drones, but I can only imagine how much more beautiful it would’ve been. 


Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty castle.


Museums


You can’t do Paris without visiting the museums. The Louvre is way bigger than I could’ve ever imagined, filled with so many artifacts and pieces of art that everyone should see. We went in with a set list of must-sees and felt like we were sprinting around the museum to see everything. You could spend a week just at the Louvre and still not see it all. 


The Musee d’Orsay was a nice treat, smaller than the Louvre but stunning. I saw so many magnificent pieces of French art that I had never heard of before. It’s a place that should definitely be on everyone’s Paris itinerary. 


Souvenirs


Every time I go on a trip, I collect postcards and magnets. A small way to reminisce on my travels. Adding Paris and Disneyland Paris postcards and magnets to my collection was a full-circle moment. The entire trip, all I could think about was my younger self. How she would be squealing with excitement if she knew she made it to Paris one day. 


Almost a year later and I still can’t fathom that I’ve actually been to Paris. Paris, the city that made me want to travel the world. I finally got to see it while I was doing just that. Living and traveling around Europe. I made my biggest dream come true. 


To everyone who dreams of seeing Paris one day: Go for it. Don’t listen to other people’s narratives of the city. Go and form your own. It is so special being able to step into that city for the first time, picturing your younger self. It’s an “I made it” moment. And I can’t believe I was lucky enough to make it. My whole family knew how important this was to me, and they were all so excited that I was going to Paris. They couldn’t believe it either, as they constantly reminded me of the little girl who would always talk about Paris. 


And I still can’t believe that I, the little girl who spent hours upon hours reading books about Paris, finally made it there. 



Magical view of the Eiffel Tower at night.



Edited by Sophia Pedigo


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