Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Paris : Part 1



We went to Paris!

In late April.

....It's now late-September, but a 5-month delay is par for the course these days on getting any sort of blog post up.

ANYWAY, Paris! Michael and I have never taken a trip together where we've had to plan how we will spend our time each day. The most rigorous planning before now included where to go to dinner after basking in the sunshine for 8 hours (glorious!) But that's about it. Don't get me wrong, a beach vacation is and forever will be my absolute favorite thing in the world (let me remind you how much we loved Bermuda,) but this time, we wanted to do something different.

So we went to the city of love!! And lights! Paris has it all.

With Michael's work schedule, travel time, and my unwillingness to leave Liza Love for too long, we were really only there for 3.5 days, but it was plenty of time for us. I had made an extensive itinerary and we actually stuck to it, although most dinners ended up being at different places than planned. For lack of time, we didn't do Versailles or go to the Loire Valley, but I would have loved to do that if we had been able. Next time.

I planned our trip from word-of-mouth tips from friends, travel blogs, and skimming a few guide books, but I was struggling to figure out how and when to do everything we wanted to do while also not feeling rushed. In the end, I ended up putting together an itinerary that was perfect for Michael and me. Everyday we had set destinations and plans, but how we got there, what we did in between, and where we ate was flexible.

First of all, here are some general things to know:

Paris tips: 

  • No tipping at restaurants and cafes, even when it says “Service not included” on bill
  • If you sit down at a cafe, you have to eat there. So be sure to review the menu outside before taking a seat. 
  • Ca Va, pronounced like “Saa Vaa” = it’s all good. What you say when someone bumps into you, or your waiter checks in on you. 
  • “Ooo eh la twalette” - can I use the toilet? You can't really go to the bathroom just anywhere. Try to find Starbucks or McDonalds if you are desperate, but it's generally not acceptable to use the bathroom of a restaurant or cafe unless you eat there. 
  • The museum gift shops actually have great gifts 
  • Keep your hand on your purse/bag everywhere but especially at museums as pickpockets stake out there. 
  • MetroPar app for offline metro map and schedules
  • Download French/English google translate to your phone so you can access it offline. This is so helpful in figuring out what to order off a menu! 
  • It's easy to know what arrondissement (neighborhood) something is located in based on the zip code. 75001 is the 1st, 75002 is the second, 75016 is the 16th... and so on. 
  • Just in case!!! American Hospital of Paris: 63 Boulevard Victor Hugo, 92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.  +33 1 46 41 25 25
One thing we learned: Don't blow your time or money on bad meals. You are in the best dining city in the world, for crying out loud. Go with places you have researched and that have been recommended to you. One evening, we did try to pick a restaurant all on our own and not one that had been recommended, and IT WAS TERRIBLE. We sat down and had ordered wine before realizing that the menu consisted solely of frog legs, steak tartare, and vegetable soup. So we did the unthinkable: downed the wine and paid for it, and high-tailed it out of there. Lesson learned and you need to know it: unless you speak French and can read a menu clearly, don't aimlessly wander the streets looking for a dinner spot. Go with all the amazing recommendations that friends will give you. If you don't have Paris-loving friends, then I'll be giving you some great dining recommendations throughout these posts and with a list at the end. 

The best advice that I received while planning the trip is to read about and watch any and all things Paris. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of books and movies about this city, but here is what I read and watched:

Books: 
  • The Paris Wife - Paula McLain
  • A Moveable Feast - Ernest Hemingway 
  • Paris: A Novel - Edward Rutherford (this one is so good.... don't be afraid of how long it is. It reads fast and spans over eight centuries of Paris history!) 
  • Almost French - Sarah Turnbull (I loved this one, too. Written by an Australian woman who follows her boyfriend to Paris and learns to adjust to French culture and life.)

Movies:

  • The Intouchables (this is one of my favorite movies of all time. WATCH IT even if you aren't going to Paris! I own it so can lend it out if you live in Durham.)
  • Midnight in Paris
  • Sabrina
  • Amelie
  • The Devil Wears Prada
OK, now... here's how we saw Paris! I'm sharing all of this because it's nice to remember, and because I want to make it fun and easy for someone who knows very little about the city to go themselves. Or, maybe you've been or know the city well but want to see how we did it. Whatever the case, here you go. 

DAY 1 - MONDAY

We flew into Paris Orly Airport* and took the metro into Central Paris then walked five minutes to our wonderfully charming 6th floor flat (found on AirB&B**). Although climbing a circular staircase six flights up is not for the faint of heart, we LOVED where we stayed. In the heart of Saint Germain (6th arrondissement,) we had stunning rooftop views of Notre Dame out one window and the Eiffel Tower from the other. It was a dream!

Our view from one window
Snagged me a cute Parisian on day 1

View from the other window. Sparkling Eiffel Tower! 


Hello, leg workout

We arrived at our apartment at 3:00pm and hadn't had lunch so quickly got settled and then walked to Cafe De Flore for our first meal in Paris (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 75006.) The food is silly expensive and only ok, but it (along with Les Deux Magots across the street) is the iconically Parisian cafe where Hemingway and all his author friends hung out in the 1920s. The waiters are wonderful and friendly, and we actually saw a writer hard at work inside. Very cool. This was also our first glimpse of the Paris cafe scene. I never got tired of seeing how the French will sit side by side fully engaged in conversation, but all the while their chairs and bodies are turned out toward the sidewalks to admire the passerbys. And oh my stars, there is so much to admire. Parisians are so effortlessly elegant. I loved watching them. Mothers especially... my go-to mom uniform of a tank top, sports bra and running shorts WOULD NOT FLY in Paris. These mothers wore skinny black jeans, heeled shoes or at least very chic sneakers, fitted jackets hugging their waistlines, minimal but perfect accessories, and they pushed beautiful and functional strollers with fat babies wrapped in adorable sweaters. HOW DO THEY DO IT?? It's very mysterious.



From Cafe de Flore, we walked to the Luxembourg Gardens and strolled until we found empty chairs to rest in. Here I noticed another little Parisian habit, and this one is maybe my favorite...... everyone, and I mean everyone, turns their green metal chairs towards the sunshine and lifts their faces to bask in the late afternoon sun. Of course, we were in Paris in late April when it can still be quite cold, but after a long winter, everyone is longing for warm weather and will soak up anything they can get. I loved seeing this because it's exactly what I do, and exactly what my dad does! There can be snow on the ground, but if it's sunny, I will wrap myself in layers and sit outside even for a few minutes to get some sun on my face. It makes a difference, body and soul.



Afters the gardens, we walked back toward home and stopped at a grocery store for cereal, OJ, coffee and milk to have in our flat for the mornings.

After dropping off the groceries, we walked (and this was actually a really long walk... but worth it because we were fighting against jet lag) all the way down Rue De Grenelle to Rue Cler. Rue Cler in the 7th is one of my favorite streets of Paris. I'm not alone in that sentiment. There you can find wonderful restaurants, including a little Greek place called Ulysse en Gaule. This tiny spot has a crepe stand in the front where you can order sweet and savory crepes that were the very best we had in the city, have them wrapped up in foil to stay warm, and walk over to the Champs de Mars to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle every hour on the hour.  It's magical! My dear friend Elizabeth who told me about the little crepe stand used to do this exact thing all the time when she studied abroad in Paris. Crepes and the twinkling Eiffel Tower never get old. Too tired from a day of travel to walk all the way back to our flat, we took the metro home.

And slept like babes.

Rue Cler. Gosh I look tired.

Ulysse Crepe Stand on Rue Cler. Best in the city! 












Au revoir! More in the next post.


*We booked our flights using a flight deal from Scott's Cheap Flights and searching for flights on Google Flights. I highly recommend both! To get from Orly Airport into central Paris, take the Orlyval bus to RER Line B (Anthony Station). RER Line B goes to central Paris. 
**We loved our flat and I will gladly share which exact one it was on AirB&B if you are interested. 

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