Well, we fell in love with Paris. No doubt about it. Time for some of our favorite recommendations and tips!
We love doing our research ahead of time so we can fully be in the moment walking around exploring and then happen to find an amazing restaurant on our list.
We hope to inspire you to do the same!
On our first day we never book anything, not knowing how tired we would be from our journey over here.
The second day we usually spend walking around getting adjusted to the new time zone and taking in some key “We’re Here!” sights and foods.
By our third day in a major city we are confident enough to book sites and plan more specific times to be places since we now have a great sense of the public transit and how long it takes to walk around.
Day 1: We arrived in the evening with enough light to walk around in. We got our bearings and took in some key sights for our “we’re here” moments. Jamie and I walked through our neighborhood, got used to the new time zone and had a delicious first meal in Paris.
Day 2: It is so refreshing to pick up a quick breakfast of fruit, pastry and cheese. I find fruit or fresh veggies in the morning really gives me the energy I need to explore all day. Plus it’s one of the simple gluten free options. “The French love their gluten” an AirBnB host reminded me when asking about wheat free options.
Next we walked over to Notre Dame and saw it from the outside. It burned recently but the restoration is making impressive progress and from certain angles it doesn’t even look damaged! For an inside look, even when Notre Dame is open again, we strongly recommend Sainte-Chapelle just on the other side of the island. Be aware of high security checks as it is attached to a government security department, but otherwise it is absolutely underrated by most average tourists. We cannot recommend it enough.
Finally, to end the long day we walked through gardens from the Louvre to Champ Elysee. Turning back towards the city we saw the Eiffel tower twinkling at night. Being underwhelmed by it’s appearance before we left, I have to say it definitely impressed in person!
So far our favorite café has been Le Procope, the oldest café in Paris. Stunning old world Parisian décor compliments the long history and traditional meals. We went with the classic “starving artists” choice, the menu Prix Fixe. You can have an appetizer, entrée, and desert for somewhere between 20-30 Euros, enjoying a multi course meal without breaking the bank.
Our order of French onion soup, escargots, duck pate and a cut of beef was divine. We cannot recommend this place enough. Fine dining with budget in mind.
Pierre Hermes is fantastic for its macaroons, Jamie loved the praline and pistachio flavors the most
Henri Le Roux invented salted butter caramels. You need to go to this chocolate shop and taste them, best we have ever had it’s not even close.
Day 3: We booked a ticket for the Louvre museum and planned all morning to explore. Try to aim for a weekday when you visit. It turns out the bottom floors mostly empty of people but full of unbelievable artifacts and statues.
For the Louvre, everyone waits in line for the Mona Lisa. It is underwhelming when compared to the wall-sized paintings surrounding it as well as the Almost Entirely Empty bottom floors. We went on a Thursday and had the famous Code of Hammurabi and Egyptian antiquities halls to ourselves. It was beyond exciting to see cultural objects over 4,000 years old, still as impressive and beautiful as they once were. The giant glass pyramid outside reminds visitors that the Louvre holds one of the most complete collections of Egyptian artifacts, not just European paintings!
The Code of Hammurabi was the highlight for me because of its lasting influence and momentous declaration of Law over Revenge. It is part of the beginning of the rule of law and the court and legal systems so integral to Western and Middle Eastern Civilization.
The Persian wall reliefs and monuments are insane, the scale of them is hard to convey. If we were impressed, almost speechless, I cannot imagine how over-awed an ancient shepherd or farmer would have been when seeing Persepolis and the Hanging Gardens. You don’t typically think of civilization that advanced and built on such a massive scale would have existed 4,000 years ago.
Of course we still made our way upstairs to the top floors and saw the Mona Lisa, Liberty Leading the People was fantastic as well.
After a long walk through the Louvre we rested in room and had cheese and bread like true Europeans. Although simple it’s so satisfying and cheap.
After a quick rest we then we took the metro to Le Marais. By now we figured out the metro system and took advantage of the great neighborhoods to be seen in Paris.
Walking down the main street we saw a butcher cutting up whole chickens and roasted rabbits legs. I couldn’t pass up the rabbit and it was so good I bought a whole chicken on the way back home. More cheese and croissants plus the butcher shop was plenty to eat!
After eating well we needed to take a nap and rest for a late night show at the Moulin Rouge. Although the original has burned down a few times this version of the theater still impresses. The red mood lighting, the classic yet sultry songs, and amazing physical feats all combined with the dancing for a nice show. Not to mention the costumes were insane! It did just reopen the weekend before we arrived so some of the performances were a little rusty at first but it ended spectacularly!
Day 4: Versailles. The palace and gardens are an all day event. We toured the main palace and loved the history.
In fact, the Hall of Battles was by far my favorite room. Paintings of the battles reminded me of their lasting historical influence.
Today the language you speak, the religion you follow and the culture you enjoy is in part due to the events of these turning points in history. The Battle of Tours (why there is relatively little Islamic influence in France compared to Spain) the Battle of Tolbiac (why France was mostly Christian during the Dark Ages and beyond) and the Battle of Yorktown (partly why America won the Revolutionary War) stood out to me the most.
If for any reason you don’t make it to Versailles and need a taste of the royal life be sure to walk through the Louis XV rooms decorated with full regalia in the Louvre. These rooms were Jamie’s favorite examples of palatial luxury so far.
Finally for some night life we went out to cocktail bars in the evening. The Little Red Door speakeasy has hand crafted, farm to table cocktails: a concept I had never imagined. They list each farmer and producer for the main ingredient of the cocktail and build a beautiful creation around that taste. For example you will read about the tomato farmer who provided the produce for your Bloody Mary.
Bisou, was next, it means kiss in French. Their unique take is that there is no menu. You just tell bartender what you like and they make it. Jamie went with “floral, sweet gin” while I asked for “herbal, strong and gin”. Both drinks were spectacularly crafted by a friendly bar tender.
In fact I want to re-emphasize just how kind, helpful and accomodating EVERY single waiter and host was.
Either we had the best luck ever, my French is better then I think, or Paris really isn’t that rude of a city if you know how to avoid typical American faux pas. Don’t call the waiter over. Don’t rush through the meal. Don’t act like the staff are your personal servants. The idea is that here the waiters probably know more about the food and wine then you do. They’re the experts when dining out, not you.
We ended the boozy night at Mezcaleria. You need to go here. Even if you hate mezcal like Jamie, do not dismiss it. Amazing atmosphere with people dancing all night. The most flavorful drinks ever, with unique ingredients like cauliflower! Inciting menu as well, very sensual.
Day 5: Anya, Jamie’s Maid of Honor, just so happened to be in Paris. We had a picnic on Siene then took the metro to Sacre Couer. The metro is the easiest way to get around with the most legible signs and obvious directions. The trains were a bit more confusing to figure out and I still don’t get the bus system!
This was our Montmartre day. Everyone seems to make their way to this artists neighborhood at some point. Be aware of the Sacre Coeur steps, take the funicular if you have weak knees. Even from the metro station it was181 steps just to street level, then hundreds more to the top. A great workout! Montmartre is very touristy, artists will ask to draw you while eating at café or waking around the main squares. We could tell almost everyone here was not from Paris. It is still a charming and beautiful neighborhood however
We met Anya at La Maison Rose, maybe the most “Instagramed” café in Paris. The pink and mint décor compliments the dainty feel and quality food. The meatballs with potatoes were so tender and the salmon and lentils was a classic taste of France.
Reservations are needed for the most picturesque café in Paris. We were luckily able to walk up around 3pm and get table. If you can’t score a reservation stop by between lunch and dinner and see if someone no-shows a reservation, although no guarantees!
We then met with Anya’s boyfriend and the four of us shared a table at another café and ordered wine and champagne. It was fantastic to get to catch up with her and talk travel, food and wine with another American abroad!
Our day finally ended with dinner in our neighborhood of St. Germain. It is so lively and feels more local even though it is a very popular area. We would advise taking the side streets for small cafes over the restaurants on the main street corners but you really cannot go wrong.
Day 6: Being so busy and overjoyed to be in France, we needed to rest in the morning and sleep in. This was our slower paced day, especially knowing we had a journey to Normandy coming up the next day.
What an excursion that was, you’ll hear all about that adventure soon too!
This was our day to check off any final things on our Paris to-do list. It is impossible to take this city in all at once. You would need a month here or more. But for any must see or must do items we just needed to squeeze in, this was the time.
We did another river walk and brought our bread and brie for a picnic in gardens by Louvre. Sitting by a fountain watching the kids push toy boats in the water was a fantastic was to take in the day.
We had some final foods to try including frog legs, coq a vin and more duck.
Chalet Gregorie also in St Germain offers two Prix Fixe menus for either 18 or 24 Euros. Absolutely insane deal! We each ordered one and got to try frog legs for the first time. They were an even tastier version of chicken wings, no sauce needed. Our main courses were Coq a Vin and duck confit followed by a creme brulee and cheese plate for desert. Divine! The whole meal including wine was just over 50 euros total.
Ending on the Eiffel tower at sunset was spectacular. The rain started falling as we took the lift to the main floor. It truly felt like a dream to end our first week abroad on such a high note. Holding each other looking out over the city finally made me realize: We’re here.
Until next time,
Austin & Jamie