I left off on my recap of our France trip in Reims. After touring Tattinger, we headed back towards Paris, dropped off our rental car at the airport and hopped the train into the city. I’ll admit that we looked awfully touristy at first, but after a failed attempt to get through the metro ticket booth and one wrong stop, we did well on the public transportation front!
Travelling throughout Paris is very easy, and that’s coming from someone who rarely encounters public transportation. 😉 I downloaded the Paris Metro map & route planner app and was able to easily plan any travel we needed to do (it works with or without internet connection). We did not purchase the tourist metro pass; 100% the right choice, as we walked most places and would not have gotten our money’s worth.
Our first stop took us to our hotel, Odeon Saint-Germain, where we quickly changed and headed back out to explore the St. Germain neighborhood. (Nerd alert- as an avid Ina Garten fan, I researched her Paris neighborhood and stayed on Ina-lookout throughout the trip.) We found a cafe on the corner of Rue du Bac and Boulevard Raspail where we enjoyed sipped on cocktails before heading to dinner.
In our research and recommendations for our trip to France, we knew that the outdoor cafe scene was a huge part of the Paris culture. This is right up our alley, so we took every advantage to sit outside and sip a drink or two! Even in the chilly winter months, almost every cafe has heaters set up outside. We happened to get extremely lucky with our weather- only one day of rain and moderate 40-50 degree temps- so many times it would be comfortable enough to even take off our jackets (depending on our proximity to the heater!).
Jim’s aunt gifted me the Travelling Professor’s Guide to Paris for Christmas, and it turned out to be the best guide ever- I carried it in my purse the entire time. Since we hadn’t had much time to explore before dinner, our first dinner selection was from a recommendation in the book and it lived up to the reviews!
We discovered Cotes du Rhone, which ended up being our wine of choice for the remainder of the trip, and the most incredible chocolate dessert- not quite cake, not quite mousse. Heaven, really.
After dinner we wandered down to the Seine and caught our first glimpse of Notre Dame.
We were smitten with Paris in less than 6 hours. 😉
Our first full day was New Year’s Eve. We slept in (a trend on this trip, as it wasn’t light until after 8 a.m.) and headed out in search of the Eiffel Tower. Breakfast first, and since it was a holiday, we thought dessert for breakfast seemed appropriate.
We couldn’t have asked for a better day to see the tower (again, we were extremely fortunate with weather on this trip, only experiencing rain the last day; this is NOT common winter weather in France). Along the walk we picked up a baguette and some truffle cheese from the Christmas market and snacked on this as we wondered through the city.
We intended to climb the tower, but decided against it after seeing the lines and I honestly cannot say that I regret the decision. Our little tour of Paris continued across the river to the Arc de Triomphe. Again, we were satisfied with seeing it from ground level and bypassed the journey to the top.
From there, we meandered down the Champs-Élysées (which I still can’t pronounce) and did some window shopping before nabbing some over-priced but delicious macaroons from Laduree that became our pre-NYE happy hour treat, along with a bottle of sparkling cider brought from Normandy.
We got a recommendation and made a reservation through the concierge at our hotel and had NYE dinner just around the corner at Les Editeurs.
This definitely wasn’t a dinner highlight from the trip, but for last-minute on NYE it was good. Unfortunately, an early seating and red wine meant that I was asleep well before midnight. Jim woke me up to see the countdown and it was back to sleep.
Another typical Parisian breakfast…
..before touring Notre Dame. I’m really into history and love to see historic artifacts, so we were thrilled to find that the crown of thorns is on display the first Friday of the month. We toured the treasury in the cathedral where other relics are kept, but were bummed to find out that the crown didn’t go on display until later in the day and weren’t up for sticking around.
We continued to explore the Sorbonne area and walked towards the catacombs, which we found were closed for the holiday. This wasn’t a must-see on our list, but I’d probably schedule things differently next time around so we could see them!
Dinner Friday night was one of our favorites on a recommendation from my sister-in-law, and took us across the Seine to Equinox restaurant in the Marais/3rd arrondissement.
I had beef tartar with truffle fries, and the french toast dessert was amazing. I wish we’d spent some more time in this area of Paris, as it seemed like a great place to shop!
Saturday we were off via metro to Versailles. I hate to sound like a downer, but I could have skipped Versailles. Granted, we visited in the winter and I’m sure the grounds are beautiful during the warmer months. One of our best decisions on this trip was paying an extra $20 to skip the lines at Versailles. We had to kill about 20 minutes walking around the grounds, but then were taken in and were able to start the self-guided tour without any of the lines.
I shouldn’t say I was under-impressed, I think I just had different expectations or didn’t do my research. The palace is beautiful, but I expected to see more period furniture, artifacts, etc. rather than empty rooms. The artwork and architecture is beautiful, though! We probably spent 30 minutes max doing the tour (you get individual handheld speakers to listen throughout the tour and so can go at your own pace) before grabbing a sandwich and hopping the metro back to explore a bit more of Paris.
We decided to ‘bar hop’ our way to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night. Our bar tour unfortunately had a negative effect on my usually superb navigation skills 😉 and it took us a bit longer to reach the tower than expected (after doing a complete circle), . Luckily, we showed up at 5 to the hour and were able to see it go from lit up to literally twinkling like everyone said it would. Note- I’m not sure that this happens on the hour or if we just lucked out that it happened that way.
It really is magical.
I still had a few meals to check off my ‘French food to-do list’, and we found a cafe nearby where I was able to find escargot and boeuf bourguignon.
It finally started to rain during our walk back to Odeon, and we woke up on our final day in Paris to the drizzly, cold day we had expected for the entire trip. Luckily, we had planned to visit the Louvre and some shopping, so it didn’t have much of an effect on our day- other than leaving us totally drenched.
Sundays are free days at the Louvre, which is why I planned this day to visit. Unfortunately, I didn’t think about the effect that would have on the lines. We took one look at the line winding its way to the other end of the museum (I literally cannot explain how long it was) and given the prospect of waiting for hours in the rain, we decided to make other plans with the intention of possibly circling back later.
We spent the day doing some shopping along the Champs-Élysées where Jim surprised me by letting me pick out a souvenir/early birthday present, and then found a warm, dry cafe for some hot French onion soup and red wine. I did a little more research during lunch and found that we could purchase another skip-the-line ticket for the Louvre. It took us about 45 minutes to track them down, but we finally found the tickets and bypassed the line into the Louvre where we saw a few of the famous paintings and checked out the ancient Greece and Egypt displays.
We spent the evening in search of the perfect ‘last night in Paris’ dinner spot, and to be honest I can’t even remember where we ended up but it was perfect. We split a chocolat chaud for dessert, the perfect last taste of Paris, and decided that we were in love with France and could have easily spent another week.