November 3, 2016

Paris Flashbacks & Travel Tips

Paris

I have dreamt of visiting Paris since I was a little girl. yes, originally it was because of the Eiffel Tower. And that didn’t change, as I got older I also wanted to visit all the places, eat the food, immerse myself in the culture and just travel. I mean, for an aspiring chef, how can you not want to go to France? I was there for three days. It would have been nice to stay longer, but I was easing myself into it as I was hitting two major cities and this was my FIRST trip to Europe. Heck, my first trip out of North America. And I’m glad I did it.

I went with a guy that I have been seeing since mid May. His name is William. (I will be calling him W in most cases.) W and I left on a Sunday, our flight left Seattle at 4:30pm and we flew to Iceland, switched planes and then continued onto Paris, arriving Monday around 1:30pm. It’s a 9 hour time difference and boy did it pack a punch! I officially got my passport stamped when we landed in Iceland AND managed to see (very faintly) green wisps of the Northern Lights while flying into Iceland. Someday, I want to go back and actually stay in Iceland. I couldn’t get pictures of the aurora, way too faint for that, but I captured a beautiful sunrise as we left. By the time we got into Paris, we had been travelling for almost 12 hours and still had to get to our hotel, so we grabbed a taxi and took off. We also managed to swing by the Eiffel Tower in the process which made me so happy.

Sunrise over Iceland Tour Eiffel

As soon as we got to the hotel, we were done. We crashed HARD. I figured we’d lose Monday, and I was right. We woke up around 9pm though and were pretty hungry even if we were still tired. We dressed and decided to go see the Eiffel Tower in person. Our hotel was less than 11 minutes from it and when we got there, we were gobsmacked. It’s just so beautiful and so awe-inspiring. It’s lit at night and we just gazed in wonder, as long as we could. I also took a picture, which I later discovered is a no-no. Oops. (Night pictures of the tower is actually ILLEGAL). We ended up being silly tourists and buying a bottle of wine and drinking (some of) it right there. But after that, we knew we had to get some food and fast. Neither of us were up for a restaurant so we wandered into a market, grabbed sandwiches and drinks, ate at the hotel and crashed again.

Our hotel was pretty amazing. I didn’t remember to take pictures of the room, but it was quite lovely and in the basement was a kitchen and dining area where they served breakfast every morning. Breakfast actually came free with our room (I’m smart) and we took advantage of it. We ate our share of pain au chocolat, croissants with jam, chunks of baguettes filled with brie and sopressata and steaming mugs of espresso (un petit cafe) before heading out to explore.

Le Jules Verne Le Jules Verne

I splurged on this trip a couple times. It’s been a dream of mine to eat in a Michelin star restaurant. Well, the Le Jules Verne just happens to be one. And it’s located in the freaking Eiffel Tower. So I made a reservation for two for the three course lunch meal and while it was certainly the most expensive meal I have ever eaten (and probably will ever eat) it was delectable and worth every penny. The menu I chose is as follows:

Amuse Bouche: seared whitefish on a seaweed and black rice paper
Starter: Wild mushroom ravioli with a delicate chicken broth
Entree: Hen pheasant pithiviers with a Pèrigeaux sauce. It came with a fresh greens salad with tiny grapes.
Dessert: Chestnut soufflè with a blackcurrant sorbet. Along with our desserts, they gave us a dish of tiny orange blossom marshmallows, tiny chocolate ganache truffles and a mini assortment of desserts topped with edible gold leaf and there were tiny vanilla bean macarons!

Paris from the Eiffel Tower Arc de Triomphe

After our wonderful lunch, complete with champagne and a complimentary package of madeleines, we walked around the Eiffel Tower and purchased some gifts before walking streets near our hotel and picking up chocolate boxes and all the macarons. I ended up not feeling too well so we headed back and slept more. It turned out that I had actually gotten sick which is why I was so exhausted. I ended up fighting it for most of the trip. That coupled with the amazing meal means that neither of us actually again until Wednesday morning.

Wednesday was a whirlwind of activity. Walked through the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower, crossed the River Seine, down to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées. We went into the Arc and walked up the spiral staircase inside, out to the observation deck for lots of pictures of Paris and down another spiral staircase. We walked past the Grand Palais and around Place de la Concorde. We stopped for lemon and sugar crepes from a little crepe cart in a park and discovered how to use the sanisettes. They are self-contained, self-cleaning unisex toilets that you find on the streets. We stopped for an early dinner where I had the Croque-monsieur and he had the Croque-madame (has a fried egg on top). We napped and the got dressed up again because we were on our way to the Moulin Rouge! This is the other thing I splurged on and I’m glad I did. So very glad. the show was 2 hours of beautiful costumes, wonderful singing and lots of nudity. Scandalous! But seriously, it was worth it. And we had a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Oh, how I love champagne!

The Moulin Rouge A stroll along the River Seine

Thursday was our last day. We actually slept in a bit, had breakfast and then packed, checked out and stored our stuff in the hotel’s baggage room. We had a few hours before taking a night train to Rome so we set off and saw Musée d’Orsay, The Louvre, Palais Garnier (the Paris Opera House) and tried to go to Notre Dame but we started to run out of time and there was a lot of police activity headed in that direction so we decided to head back. We stopped at a Patisserie to stock up on sandwiches, pain au chocolat and Mojito 7-Up that W fell in love with while in Paris, grabbed our bags and headed for the train station. Which was a good thing because that was the night that my cold decided to kick my ass. I spent the entirety of the night train a feverish, snotting and aching mess. It was bad.

Moulin Rouge

Despite my illness, Paris was amazing. It was beautiful even when it rained, the food was everything you would expect and more, and we learned some pretty useful things too. Here’s some tips:

Hotel – We stayed at the Hotel du Cadran. Cannot recommend it enough. It was safe and secure with a comfortable bed and a simple yet amazing breakfast and has a freaking chocolate shop attached to it. Yep. And it was in a great location for walking to major sites. I booked through Expedia and paid $5 more to get the breakfast included. Which I’m glad I did because otherwise it’s 13 euros per person.

Shoes – This should be a no-brainer but I’ll say it anyway. Bring comfortable sneakers or boots. We walked about 10-15 miles a DAY. The streets often have cobblestone type roads and they are pretty slick. They get even more slick in the rain so where non-skid or non-slip shoes if you can.

Misconceptions – The stereotype is that the French or rude, especially to Americans. We found this to be incorrect. No one was rude. I read about this before leaving and it’s explained by ignorance on the culture. In France when you walk into a store, you say Bonjour/Bonsoir (depending on the time of day) and Merci or Au Revoir when leaving. It’s customary. When people don’t, it’s seen as rude which is often why the shop owner won’t be as nice. They do this everywhere and everyone of all ages does it. I don’t speak French. But I learned a couple phrases, including “Do you speak English.” Everyone we talked to spoke English but were happy that we at least attempted.

Taxi’s – Taxi’s are everywhere and while not super cheap, they aren’t THAT expensive. However. Make sure what you use is a legit cab company and not a “luxury car service.” A real cab will cost about 20 euros to get most places that normally take an hour to walk. It’s a good distance. A luxury car will double, is not close to triple that. Taxi’s have an actual taxi sign on top of the car and when it’s green it is available and red is occupied or on the way to get someone.

Scams/Peddlers – There are scams and peddlers everywhere in Europe and Paris is a breeding ground for both. Do NOT sign anything when (usually) women come up to you with a clipboard. Don’t worry about appearing rude, because otherwise they will tell you that the petition you just signed means you now have to pay 20-30 euros and while trying to pay them, they will try and take whatever is in your wallet. We saw this happen and it’s awful. Another popular scam is for people to walk near you, pretend they found a ring or something on the ground and tell you you lost it. When you deny that, they tell you to just take it. If you do, they will tell you to pay. The peddlers are relentless too. They will come up to you and try and make you a bracelet or sell you wine or roses and say just a couple euros. If you try to offer them a few euro coins like they ask for, they then try and demand 20-30 euros. We had a couple people try that on us. I simply said no and ignored them, continued walking. Both the scammers and the peddlers will try and convince you to pay if you talk to them at all, so your best bet really is to just keep walking. Yes it’s rude. It’s also the cheapest way out.

The Louvre – We actually never made it in. We didn’t even try because we knew it would be crazy. Even if you buy tickets ahead of time, lines of up to 2.5 hours are normal. So we walked by it but didn’t go in. The line was out the door and around the building. If you are going for a few days, skip going inside. You will lose the whole day there. Stay outside. There are sculptures and gardens outside that are gorgeous enough. Save the museum itself for a longer trip.

Food – Restaurants are EVERYWHERE in Paris. They vary in kinds and have specific rules. If you just want a casual meal that won’t cost a ton, stick with brasseries which are open all the time (most actual restaurants in Paris open about 11-1 for lunch and then again 5-9 for dinner), serve alcohol and regular drinks and sandwiches, entree’s, etc. A cafe in Paris generally only serves coffee and simple food items. If you choose a “real” restaurant, bring your appetite and be prepared to spend some time there. They will not be happy if you don’t order multiple courses or if you rush through your meal. And never, ever ask for the check before finishing your meal. That doesn’t happen there. Definitely visit a patisserie. There’s nothing like it.

I think that about covers it! Have you ever been to Paris? What was your trip like? Any tips that you would like to share? I’d love to hear all about your experiences in the comments!

  • everyone was SO friendly to us when we were in Paris, and i think it’s because we were friendly first? like you said, they have different customs and to ignore that and expect them to treat you how you’d be treated in your own country is just ignorant. everyone so unbelievably nice to us. i am glad you were able to splurge on a few things, why the heck not!! the hotel sounds fabulous. we had lots of people come up to us asking to sign things or trying to put bracelets on us, but like you we just said no and kept walking. there was one place that we had to kind of run past them because they were super aggressive, but it sounds worse than it actually was lol. and yes to shoes! i wore stupid shoes on a trip a couple of years ago, never again. my feet still remember the pain from that day and i am all about sneakers or comfy shoes now. i don’t care what i look like lol. i would love to go to Iceland one day too.

  • Okay, I’m so confused by the night pictures of the Eiffel Tower being illegal. What?! Why?! Baguette filled with brie…my mouth watered at that. Ha! I totally think splurging to go to a Michelin star restaurant is something I want to do in my lifetime! I bet it was so amazing.

  • Oh so fun! The closest to Europe I’ve been is Quebec City (so French!). The food there was fab! :) How on earth could that be illegal to take night photos of the Eiffel Tower?! That’s crazy and impossible to enforce! Oh yes to all the pastries and sweets! Oh, the Moulin Rouge sounds great.. .I think it would be difficult NOT to go! Is it touristy?! I would kind of hate that if it was too touristy… hmm… wheels are turning in my head. I’m so sorry that you were sick, that’s such a bummer. But I’m still glad that you got to take this trip and see everything! :) :) So exciting! I am hoping we make it to Europe sometime soon! It’s so good to know that everyone was friendly! I was an art history major, and part of the reason I don’t SUPER WANT to go to Paris, is because of the Lourve! I would never see everything. I would spend the whole trip there and still feel rushed. It’s kind of stressful to think about! : / HA XO – Alexandra

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