Like so many things in life, my 30th birthday snuck up on me unexpectedly. For a while there, my twenties felt as though they would stretch on for an eternity in that wildly unpredictable, youthful way; then November 2017 rolled around and I found myself staring down the barrel of a new decade. Rather than turn 30 in yet another overpriced New York bar just blocks away from my apartment, my boyfriend and I decided to fly to Paris for my birthday this year.
November in Paris is prone to rain and gray clouds—a nuisance in any other place but flattering on La Ville Lumière where rain-slicked sidewalks reflect the sweeping architecture of the city. The rain hardly seemed to bother those weather-resilient Parisians who would languidly sip cafe au laits outside bistros, while nursing croissants.
For this trip, my boyfriend, Jeff, and I booked a stay in Paris’ Latin Quarter, just a short stroll from the Seine’s Left Bank and the Notre Dame cathedral. I had been to Paris a few times and must confess that my love for Notre Dame eclipses my adoration for the Eiffel Tour. There’s just something endlessly romantic, artistic and inspiring about staying in the Latin Quarter, feeling as though you’re walking alongside the ghosts of literary icons.
Jeff and I quickly made it our morning tradition to visit the iconic Shakespeare & Company and peruse the staggered bookshelves while playing with the shop tabby cat, Agatha. The bookshop proved warm and cluttered with passageways seemingly jutting out in all directions into offshoot rooms and cozy nooks. I felt as though I transformed each time I stepped foot into Shakespeare & Company; as though I was making my way through a literary secret garden. Staying in the Latin Quarter gave us the added advantage of having the shop to ourselves in the morning hours before hoards of tourists lined up outside to pose alongside copies of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast.
On the last day of my twenties…
The clouds above Paris broke apart and the sunlight draped itself over the city in a lovely glow. Jeff and I decided to walk along the Seine towards the Tuileries Garden, where amber and yellow leaves lay strewn across the park creating an autumnal carpet. On our way, we stopped at the Palais Royale and snuggled beneath my scarf-turned-blanket in front of a lovely fountain before making our way. Later we made our way across the street from the Tuileries to Angelina Paris, where I treated myself to a birthday snack of macarons, petit fours, and a syrupy hot chocolate to be enjoyed at the park.
How to Celebrate a Birthday in Paris
On the last night of my being 29, Jeff and I headed for Le Caveau de la Huchette, a jazz club in the Latin Quarter, just around the corner from Shakespeare & Company. If you’ve seen the film La La Land, chance are you’ve spotted this famed jazz club’s red neon sign in the movie.
Le Caveau de la Huchette is a multi-room jazz joint whose walls are like the insides of a cave. Jeff and I showed up without a reservation or any idea of what to expect and managed to get a drink, check our coats and find a little standing room in the main room downstairs, where live bands perform. A young, Parisian jazz musician and her band took the stage and soon the cavernous room filled with lively music, couples of all aging dancing, and a palpable happy energy.
At 11:50 pm local time, Jeff and I gave up our prime standing space real estate and moved to the dance floor where we were swept up in a sweaty, playful dance. This was the moment that marked my transition from 29 to 30, for as the clock struck midnight I quite literally twirled into my thirties in the arms of the man I love.
While there is no right or wrong way to celebrate a birthday in Paris, I cannot recommend enough a night at Le Caveau de la Huchette where the music and energy will leave you breathless with excitement as you stumble out into the cool, Parisian night.