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Birthday in Paris: Making the Most of a Birthday Abroad

September 10, 2021
by Mia Farris

I always have mixed feelings about birthdays as I do with most sentimental moments.

As a four on the enneagram (if you do not know what that is, save yourself the hours of self-categorization and refrain from looking it up) I tend to want to savor such moments, but as a perfectionist I tend to ruin the fun spontaneity with hours of stressful planning. I simply want the day to be perfect.

That is the funny thing about birthdays. We tend to have this expectation deep in our subconscious that the world will stop turning to pay attention to us; because after all, it is my birthday.

And to add even more pressure, this time I was spending my birthday studying abroad in Paris, France.

Quel Jour! (a series of unfortunate morning events)

The morning of my birthday after sleeping through my alarm, I scrambled to get ready feeling very much like Holly Golightly getting ready for her visit to Sing Sing – and to top things off, it was a Thursday. One might ask, “What’s so gruesome about Thursday?” but those who have seen "Breakfast at Tiffany’s" understand the reference.


Once I got outside my apartment, I took a deep breath only to come to the heart-stopping realization that I had left my keys upstairs stuck in the apartment door. Great start, I thought to myself.

I brushed it off (as best I could), sent my host mom a text explaining my slip-up, and continued onto the café. Because to me there is no way to commence a birthday other than with a chocolate croissant.


With the stars continuing to align for my birthday, I headed to my one class of the day: History of Haute Couture.

Before that though, I had to rush through bakeries and grocery stores to gather supplies for my picnic. As much as I wish I could say I looked like the typical Parisian toting flowers and pastries in a wooden basket – it was very much the opposite. It was much more like me going up and down isles of a French grocery store with full hands trying desperately not to drop anything.

Unfortunately, I did not think through my picnic snack choices, and the French cheese I selected did not give off the best smell throughout the three-hour class.

Picnic in the Afternoon

After class, we took the bus to the Jardin du Luxembourg which I had found upon Google searching “Best place to have a picnic in Paris,” and I must say that this is the most gorgeous location in Paris.

My pictures do not really do the afternoon justice, but I can assure you it was perfect. We did, however, get slightly judged by a French gentleman telling us that it was only aesthetic to picnic in the grass, and the location we chose was slightly embarrassing. All was well once he laughed it off with the classic “bonne journée,” and we went our separate ways.


The loneliest thing about Paris has to be the time difference.

I had spent the entire morning isolated from friends and family while I waited for everyone’s day to start – aside from a friend I called on my way to school who wished me a sleepy “Happy Birthday,” at 2 a.m. her time.

When our time at the park concluded, I went home to retrieve my keys and spent the commute continuing to respond to calls and texts and finally felt connected with my loved ones who seemed so far away.


It’s Raining in Paris! (Café Reading and Rainy Sidewalks)

It is hard to be bored in Paris. Usually if I have time to spare, I go up and down the streets until I find a café where I can sit and read. I took my current read, Anna Karenina, and sat sipping Perrier, glancing over the bustling street.


I started making my way toward the restaurant around an hour early so I could wander into bookstores and take my time strolling through parks – my two favorite Parisian pastimes.


The downpour of rain cut my time in the park short, and to the fitting soundtrack of a French children’s choir singing “Help!” by the Beatles, I headed to the restaurant.

To avoid the rain, I walked under a nearby awning, and in a serendipitous turn of events, I happened to be standing under the awning of Ladurée. If you have never heard of this charming Patisserie, you have probably seen the aesthetic photos of their cafes that dominate Instagram.


I could not help but order a hazelnut macaron to enjoy on the rest of my rainy walk.

Cheers! (To friends new and old)

Having been in Paris for only around one week, I used my birthday as a way to get to know my classmates. With a hodgepodge of students, I had spoken to only a handful of times, we spent the evening in the charming Marais of Paris forming new friendships and making plans for the semester that lay before us. 


For dinner I chose the French classic, tartare de boeuf, which is a personal favorite of mine but an understandably acquired taste.


To end the night, we ventured into another place I had discovered through Google: the Little Red Door.

This experimental bar/lounge was the best place to end the night. It was a quiet venue with a mix of locals and tourists just spending a chill Thursday night with friends.

When the events of my birthday came to a close, I paid one last stream of calls to my friends back in the States. It was full of happy conversations with hints of melancholic homesickness.

The night ended on the ultimate high when my mom informed me as a birthday surprise that she had booked tickets to pay me a visit at Thanksgiving.

Overall, I’d say mon anniversaire à Paris will be in my memories as one of my best birthdays ever.

Mia Farris is the Spring 2020, Fall 2021 CEA MOJO Blogger in French Alps: Grenoble, France; Paris, France, and is currently studying at Samford University.
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