With our second wedding anniversary quickly approaching we decided to celebrate in where else but Paris, where Garret had yet to venture and Emily was fully in favor of revisiting! After an…interesting…time taking beginners lessons on French in Midtown late last year, it was finally time to put it to the test. Taking advantage of residing in NYC, we found a direct Friday flight that would have us leaving that evening and waking up in the city of light early the next morning. It turned out, as predicted, to be a great trip, unexpectedly spending time with friends while absorbing 4+ days of Paris culture at museums, sites, and especially the cafes, making sure to sit outside at least once a day and watched the world pass by us.
Friday June 26th
Before even getting Paris, let along JFK, though, Garret pulled a quick one on Emily and started the trip off with a more unusual way of getting to the airport – a helicopter ride (thanks to Gotham Air) from downtown Manhattan. While in the “Uber to the airport” Emily thought they were heading the wrong way, but was completely surprised when the driver stopped at a helipad on the southern tip of Manhattan and informed us we had arrived. Emily now firmly believes helicoptering is her new favorite mode of transport to the airport, although there is a big difference between those beliefs and the “grounded” reality!
Saturday June 27th
We flew into Charles de Gaulle airport Saturday morning and met up with Emily’s sister, Sarah, and her husband Jeremy, who we would be exploring Paris with. Knowing jet lag would catch up with us eventually, we decided to drop off our bags and start exploring the city right away.
Arc de Triomph / Champs-Élysées
Since we were going to visit many of the well-known sites and museums, the Paris pass was purchased at our first stop, the Arc de Triomph. Spiraling up the 284 stairs ended up being worth it, with a panoramic view of the city on a beautiful summer morning. After soaking up the Arc we strolled along Champs-Élysées, encountering crowds full of people while doing some serious window shopping. It was a great first day of walking the streets in the 8th District. To conclude the day we ate a casual dinner at a cafe and made a planned stop at Goyard (see interesting history of this brand here) on rue Saint-Honoré for a purse. After that the jetlag really started to kick in so we made our way back to the hotel for the night.
For our lodging we stayed in a hotel recommended by Emily’s parents, the Millésime Hotel. This hotel was in the 6th district, in the middle of a quiet street just blocks from the Seine River and minutes away from a Metro stop. They provided a small but sufficient breakfast to give us a good start to each day.
Sunday June 28th
We woke Sunday feeling refreshed and headed to the Louvre after a light breakfast. Thanks to our Paris Pass we knew of a side entrance and avoided the long crowds to make a beeline for the Mona Lisa. Everyone else seemed to have the same idea, however, and we had to get through another crowd just to catch a glimpse of the famous painting. We then wandered our way around the museum, looking into the Greek and Roman antiques, and eventually took a break at a cafe outside, overlooking the famous glass pyramid, overlooking the chaos of a crowd below. We spent the rest of our time at the Louvre touring Napoleon III’s expansive apartment – let’s just say it was slightly bigger than our 330 sq. ft. apartment back in NYC.
Rue Cler Walk
We made our way to the Eiffel Tower by skipping the Metro and instead walking through the different neighborhoods. In one of the wealthier districts we did a detailed “walking tour” of Rue Cler out of Rick Steves’ Paris Guide, definitely our travel book recommendation when it comes to exploring Paris. This traffic-free street has been modeled as a preservation of the Parisian lifestyle, full of numerous shops (butcher, bakery, chocolate, wine, cheese, flowers) and of course cafes. Walking through the different shops and sitting at a couple of cafes allowed us to take our time and see first-hand the different stops needed on a daily basis if you want to adopt the Parisian lifestyle.
The rest of the afternoon was spent people watching in a cafe near the Eiffel Tower before moving to the Champ de Mars (Eiffel Tower grounds) with a bottle of wine to soak up the view and partake in additional people watching. We met up with Sarah and Jeremy, who had ventured to Versailles, later that afternoon to trek to the top of the Eiffel Tower for amazing city views at dusk. We did not buy tickets in advance since they are timed, and were able to walk up and get tickets within 30 minutes. Spending time at each level, and complimenting it with a glass of wine, was a winning strategy, topped off with champagne at the top level.
By the time we left the Eiffel Tower and made our way back to our hotel area, we were starved and fixed the problem at an Italian restaurant that had been eyed previously. Stomachs full of Italian, we still decided to stop at a small sidewalk crêperie, where we hands down had the best crepe of our lives.
Monday June 29th
We started the day with a loose plan to explore along the Seine River and ended up at Shakespeare Bookstore, recommended by one of Garret’s coworkers. This bookstore, founded by an American in the 1950s, is extremely popular with the expats living in Paris, and it was fun to wander around the venerable store’s numerous, cramped rooms.
By coincidence we had two friends from Kansas also in Paris that week. We planned a late lunch with them on Ile St. Louis, catching up for a few hours on the outdoor cafe of La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Louis and enjoying some delicious food and a bottle (or two) of refreshing white wine along the way.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
After departing lunch we headed to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Unfortunately we arrived too late in the day to climb to the towers of the church, but nevertheless went inside to give ourselves a quick self-guided tour. Back outside, we used Rick Steves’ Paris Guide to help decipher the extremely busy, and beautiful, exterior. Be sure to look for the spot in front of the Cathedral that marks where Paris was initially settled.
Monday was also our two-year wedding anniversary. To celebrate we made reservations at L’Oiseau Blanc Restaurant at The Peninsula Paris which Emily had read about in Condé Nast Traveler magazine. The write up in the magazine made the restaurant sound amazing, and wow did it not disappoint. A pristine view of the city, the food and drink, the airplane theme…we could not have asked for a better setting to celebrate! We hope to one day return to this restaurant for dinner again and would highly encourage it as a “splurge” while in Paris.
We headed to the Champ de Mars after dinner and the grounds were full of people with the same idea, making it even more enjoyable. A combination of wine, cheese and fruits had us sitting there for a couple of hours watching the Eiffel Tower’s light show at the top of every hour, finishing off a spectacular day.
Tuesday June 30th
One of the unexpected highlights of the trip was the de Orsay Museum, a refurbished train station filled with Impressionist works. While the Louvre can be intimidating because of sheer scale, the Orsay contained a good amount of art but it could all be explored during an afternoon (think the Met vs. MOMA), especially with the superb layout.
Dinner cruise on the Seine
Our last night in Paris was spent on a dinner cruise with Sarah and Jeremy along the Seine River. The cruise we opted for ended up being slightly on the cheesy side with singers and dancing, but it was a great way to see a lot of the city while enjoying a nice meal and wrapping up our time in Paris. Our boat was enclosed and air conditioned, which was ideal during the unusually high heat of the summer.
Wednesday July 1st
Wednesday was an early start, as we had to catch a flight to the second portion of our trip…the French Riviera!
(De)parting words of advice:
- Cafes, cafes, cafes…you are not truly experiencing this city without spending time leisurely at a cafe.
- The Louvre is like the Met – don’t expect to see it all in one day, or trip even.
- The Metro and walking are the best ways of transportation.