I’ve been to Paris three times before, as a child, a teenager, and a college student, and I never felt like I truly appreciated the city for all its beauty and splendor. I never experienced people watching at a French cafe, picnicking in Jardin des Tuileries or dancing along the Seine. This weekend, we did just that. P and I had traveled to Paris before and had visited all the museums in the city. So this weekend, no museums for us. Our plan was to soak in everything Paris had to offer by doing as the French do… and sprinkle in a few tourist attractions here and there.
Upon our arrival to Charles de Gaulle airport, everything went wrong. It took our bags about an hour to appear on the luggage carousel. Then we headed for the trains to go to Paris. After waiting in line for 20 minutes for the kiosks for train tickets to Paris, P, I and every non-European / foreigner / tourist realized that the kiosks only took credit cards with the special activated chip or cash, i.e. coins, not bills. So, as we each realized this problem, we headed to another line to wait for a ticket handler to purchase our train tickets. That line was another half an hour.
Finally, after getting our train ticket, we get on a wrong train, miss the next train to Paris, and have to wait for another 15 minutes for the next train. We finally get into Paris, and we get lost, exiting the wrong side of Gare du Nord. As we pass Indian grocery stores, Indian restaurants, shops selling colorful Indian saris, we realized we needed to go in the other direction. Le sigh…So with our luggage in tow, we started bumbling in the opposite direction. Finally, we found our way and walked the 20 minutes to our apartment in Montmartre. We got to the street where our apartment was located, and the person who rented us the Airbnb apartment for the weekend was late (this was another debacle, not completely his fault but was annoying nonetheless…). P and I grabbed a drink and crepe at a nearby cafe and patiently waited until 2 hours later when we were finally given the keys to the apartment. Whew! We made it…
Guess waiting at the cafe wasn’t so bad considering we had views like this…
It’s amazing how good a shower feels after 8 hours of flying and the afternoon we had. You feel completely rejuvenated! P and I were ready to take on Paris. Because of all the delay, we lost our reservation to a restaurant that I wanted to try, but instead, met up a bit earlier than we had planned with P’s friends at Cafe le Blanc Cassis in the Marais neighborhood. This cafe had outdoor seating and was everything we wanted for drinks and catching up with friends. Plus, P and I got to have our first steak tartare of the trip! C’est magnifique!
P and I got an early start in the morning and headed straight to Coquelicot, a favorite bakery and breakfast spot in Montmartre. With our pastry goodies in hand, we hiked up the steps (or you can take the funicular) to the Sacre Coeur Basilica, the highest point in Paris with the best views of the city. We enjoyed our breakfast with a panoramic view of Paris and a harp man playing classics nearby. Life was good!
Then began our site hopping excursion from the Sacre Coeur to Pont Neuf (love lock bridge) to the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower. We did most of the site seeing by foot and walked a total of more than 10 miles… My feet were aching after mile 7, but the best way to see Paris was by walking. We didn’t actually go into or up any of the sites since both P and I have visited many times previously. But, I loved just taking in the architecture and essence of each site and appreciating Paris’s beauty.
On our way to Pont Neuf, we stopped by Marche aux Fleurs, which I had never visited before. It’s not necessarily considered an attraction, but it’s certainly a gardener’s paradise. I was obsessed with the homemade jams, lavender soaps, burlap totes, kitschy garden items on display, and of course, the rows and rows of wonderfully smelling garden roses.
When we got to Pont Neuf, it had began to rain, so P and I took cover for a few minutes until the rain stopped. The brief rain was perfect because when we got to the bridge, it was nearly empty, and we got the whole bridge to ourselves. P and I didn’t have a lock or a key to throw into the Seine. But, we felt the love reading all the momentos on the different locks attached to the bridge.
Just over the bridge was the Louvre in all its glory. I was going crazy with the pictures despite having visited three times before. I’ll spare you all of my tourist photos and just share one.
P and I then walked down the Jardin des Tuileries towards the Champs-Élysées, taking a quick lunch break with a simple ham and cheese sandwich from Paul’s. The sun suddenly came out during this time, and P and I were able to take our lunch to the gardens.
Arc de Triomphe didn’t get much attention for either of us because 1. we had seen this moment many times before from our trips to Paris and 2. we were getting lazy by that point and our feet were tired from all the walking. So, we said “bonjour” to the Arc from the Place de la Concorde and moved on.
We saved the grandest for last. The Eiffel Tower. It never ceases to impress us. We ran for a dry grassy spot on the Champs de Mars with a glorious view of the tower and wished that we had some pastries or macaroons to snack on. Instead, P napped while I people watched. Horny teenagers making out with full tongue action while a third wheel friend played on her phone nearby. Kids harassing pigeons across the way and their parents running after them. Plenty of people picnicking with their sandwiches and wine in plastic cups. Scam artists doing what they do. And, the ever so many merchants selling their wares of Eiffel Tower key chains, statues, and scarves. Man, I love Paris!
Our evening plans were ruined by the rain, so we took on a recommendation of some expats and tried Le Colibri, a wonderful family owned restaurant, in Montmartre. At first, I was disappointed with the menu because I didn’t see steak tartare which I was craving once again. But, we couldn’t just leave once we sat down, so P and I ordered what was recommended and hoped for the best. The food was amazing. Our dishes and everything on the menu was very traditional French food. Cauliflower soup, pan seared sole with potatoes au gratin, and honey glazed pork ribs with mashed potatoes. We finished with an orange creme brulee. Everything was fresh, simple, and delicious.
Afterwards, P and I headed around the corner to Café des 2 Moulins for some drinks. This place became famous for its feature in the movie, Amelie. The atmosphere was great for a night cap, but I really didn’t know what all the hub bub was about. Our evening at the cafe, however, inspired P and I to watch the movie when got back to the apartment.
For our last day in Paris, we decided to take it slow and just relax. We got a late start in the morning, but made our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which we missed yesterday because we went the wrong direction (my fault…) Then we just strolled along the Seine, browsed the famous Shakespeare and Co. bookstore, visited a local garden or two, and picked up some macaroons from Pierre Herme (spent a whopping 18 euros on 7 macaroons… but these macaroons were pretty delicious).
For our last night in Paris, we decided to go to the highly recommended cafe, La Tartine, in the 4th arrondissement, only blocks away from the Seine. We decided to do round 2 of the steak tartare and it was amazing! I could seriously eat steak tartares every day… Our plans after dinner were to do the night boat cruise on the Seine. We had intended on doing it on our first night in Paris, but we kept pushing it back due to the rainy weather. We thought we would finally get to do the cruise on our last night. Then, it started to rain…. again… P and I started talking about alternative plans if the rain didn’t stop, but lo and behold, the rain turned into a drizzle and completely disappeared as we were finishing up with dinner! Whoo hoo!
The night boat cruise, though touristy, was fantastic. We did the cruise with the Bateaux Vedettes du Pont Neuf because it was the closest to the restaurant. If you buy the ticket online, it’s 4 euros cheaper, which in my opinion, is pretty significant. So, for 10 euros each, we enjoyed a lovely boat tour on the Seine with a French and English speaking guide dictating random French history facts from a microphone. Paris at night is breathtaking and a must when visiting!
Pardon my fuzzy night photos. I forgot my fancy camera and had to make do with the iphone.
Paris, je t’aime! Now, on to the French Riviera!