A little background on me and my love of Paris. I have wanted to go to Paris since I was probably 13. I took French randomly in elementary school and then again in high school and college. I tried to keep up my abysmal French skills using Memrise and Babbel too. I still speak it really terribly. But that has never stopped me from reading every book about or set in Paris that I can find.
All that said I probably should have spent even more time practicing my French because it was very disconcerting when we arrived to our hostel in the Brancion neighborhood in the 15th arr and found pretty much no one spoke English. Our hostel staff did so that was great but when we wandered around that first afternoon trying to find a late lunch (hint it basically doesn’t exist in non-toursity parts of Paris. Everyone closes up after lunch and before dinner) we encountered only French speakers. I think partially I felt a little train lagged (is that a thing?) and that made it harder to communicate. It did get better the longer we were there as I remembered more French.
We took the Eurostar to Paris from London, which was a great experience! I have always loved trains and our well organized high speed train from London to Paris was excellent. We decided after dragging our bags through London we were going to splurge on ubers to the train station and from the train station in Paris. I greatly enjoyed that. It was also really nice to be able to see Paris from the streets.
We arrived at our hostel (The Arty Paris Hostel) and checked in but our room wasn’t quite ready so we wandered around trying to find somewhere to serve us a late lunch but that was basically impossible so we settled for chips from a convenience store, sodas and pain au chocolate from a bakery nearby. Oh my gosh, the pain au chocolate!! It is by far my favorite pastry I had in Paris and I tried so many different bakery's versions.
We eventually headed to the Tour Montparnasse to see the city from above. There weren’t too many people there which was nice and there is an expansive rooftop terrace to hang out on with chairs. They were definitely setting up a roller skating rink on the rooftop which would have been pretty cool to do. After our fill of taking photos of the city we headed back down to walk towards the Eiffel Tower. We hung out on the grass lawn in front of the Eiffel Tour called the Parc du Champs de Mars. The sun started to set and we hung around to take a few pictures and dog watch.
After the sun had mostly set we walked over to Café Constant which is nearby and had been recommended in a blog I read as yummy and American friendly, which we had quickly learned not many places seemed to be. I had some sort of chicken with potatoes and mushrooms, it was delectable.
The next morning we got up early to take the RER train to the Palais de Versailles. See my next post for all about Versailles as I loved visiting it so much its getting its own blog post!
After we took the RER train back into the city and headed to Musee de l’Orangerie to see Monet’s water lilies. Hint, if you take the Eurostar to Paris you can use your ticket to get buy one get one free admission to a few different tourist attractions in Paris. I loved seeing the art there and I will admit I had no idea how HUGE the Water Lillies paintings were! It’s one of the smaller art museums in Paris but that makes it more manageable if you start to gloss over in larger museums like I do. After the museum we wandered through The Tuileries Gardens to the Louvre. We had decided not to go inside mostly because of the high ticket prices and also because while I wanted to see the Mona Lisa I definitely didn’t want to fight the insane crowds around it this go around.
We then wandered to the Champs Elysees. We walked along that street for a little while then ate steak frites at Le Relais de L’Entrecote. We laughed a lot about how both of our last experiences with steak had been a pretty terrible experience at Kayla’s sister’s house with very bloody rare steak that neither of us wanted to eat. I will say that this experience was much better.
The only two things the servers ask you when you sit down is how do you want your steak cooked and what do you want to drink as those are basically the only options (although we did hear that there was a dessert menu). I have to say, we had been out and going for a long time so we were both pretty tired and the setting of the restaurant definitely did not help matters. There was a line out front when we arrived at about 6:30pm (they open at 7) and once they open they pack that restaurant absolutely full, the tables in the area we were in had to be pulled out to allow the person sitting on the wall to get to their seats. That means you will be intimately close to the diners at the table next to you.
These could probably lead to interesting conversations but it led to Kayla and I being so over stimulated we could barely talk cause all we could hear was everyone else’s conversation. This included the French girls on one side of us and the English-speaking people next to us. Funny story about the girl and guy next to us, I assumed they were on a first date by the type of questions they were asking each other but I was a little confused as to how they ended up together. The guy was from England and traveling for business and the girl was from Canada and a flight attendant and they made fairly awkward first date conversation. It wasn’t till afterward that Kayla told me they actually didn’t know each other at all and had both been alone so they had been seated together at the restaurant! We laughed a lot about that on the way home from dinner. Those poor people, I would have been mortified and a bit disgruntled to be seated with a stranger for dinner.
The next morning we slept in a little bit and then headed to Montmartre to get breakfast at a boulangerie I had read about called Coquelicot. We didn’t stay to eat and opted to take our pain au chocolate and kouign-amanns to the steps of Le Sacre Coeur. But we only got to enjoy our pastries after we had climbed about 25 flights of stairs (according to my fitbit) to get there. Not sure if that’s why the pastries tasted so good or not.
The view from the Sacre Coeur is gorgeous and we wandered back down through Montmartre and all the little alleyways to see Le Moulin Rouge. I bought a little painting of the Eiffel Tower from an artist selling them on the street. If I had the money I would love to stay in Montmartre because the area is so adorable. We also went in probably our sixth Monoprix grocery store as Kayla looked for soap, lotion and chocolates to buy as gifts. I think we actually ended up touring more Monoprix stores than anything else in Paris!
After that we took the Metro to Ile de Cite to see Notre Dame and arrived just as the bells were tolling noon. We once again contemplated going inside but money held us back and we took pictures outside and then proceeded across the river to Shakespeare and Company which I greatly enjoyed getting to see and probably could have spent two hours in.
I bought a book (the only of the trip! Aren’t you proud of me) and then we headed in search of Chez Nico’s for crepes. This was the first time I had ever had a crepe and I figured what better way to do it then in Paris! Kayla and I shared a chicken and cheese crepe (I believe.. I know it had meat I’m not sure what kind). It was delicious, nicely toasted on the outside. Then we had a Nutella crepe fro dessert, which was very good as well.
After lunch we visited the small but interesting Musee Curie located on the grounds of the Curie Institute, which is gorgeous. After that we popped into Le Musee d’Histoire de la Medecine to see some interesting medical artifacts. I definitely forgot that all the placards were in French so that was a test of my basic French comprehension skills. But I especially enjoyed the speculums and reproduction of an early GYN table that looks almost exactly like GYN tables we still use!
We swung back by the Arc de Triomphe and ended up eating dinner over by Trocadero. After dinner we saw the Eiffel Tower from another angle but didn’t want to stay another 40 minutes or so to see the next twinkling light show so we headed back to the hostel.
It was hard for Paris to stand up to the grand and amazing ideal I had held it in my mind for so many years and I think my favorite thing definitely ended up being visiting Versailles and the gardens there. When I go back I think it would be very worth it to stay closer to the touristy areas and not have to take a thirty-minute metro ride to get almost anywhere. It would have also been very nice to have an apartment with a kitchen so we could have just cooked at home to save some money eating out. Paris definitely ended up being the more expensive of the two cities as pretty much everything cost lots of money and there were less free things that we wanted to do.
I also had been given a recommendation to do a cooking class with Cook’n with Class Paris from a co-worker and we just ran out of time to get that accomplished but I know that would have been really fun. I also would have loved to do a bicycle tour of Paris or London because that would have been enjoyable.
So much of Paris is gorgeous though, even their regular old apartment buildings are incredibly beautiful. And of course it was amazing to see so many historic and famous sights in the City of Light!