After three days in London, we woke up and headed over to the King’s Cross and St. Pancras stations. King’s Cross to see Platform 9 3/4 (obviously)… and St. Pancras to board our Eurostar train to Paris! A fun tidbit I learned from our Air Bnb host: they actually do border patrol at St. Pancras, so when you get to Paris all you have to do is hop off the train and you’re ready to go! I heard that the Eurostar can be hit or miss, but for us the whole thing went extremely smoothly and we made it to Paris just fine.
I had a lot of excitement going into the city, partly because I am the last of my family to go and all my siblings and parents had so much to recommend! Every day we spent in Paris got better and better as I slowly realized the culture of the city. It was best told by the sweet gentleman who sold us sandwiches on our second day: “In Paris, no one is in a rush”. In the mornings, you wake up and drink your espresso, and you sit and watch. The concept of “to go” or “takeaway” is barely there. And if you’ve known me for years, you know that slow, languid days are NOT how I typically operate. But for these four days, I tried it out. I didn’t build by-the-minute itineraries for each day. I didn’t force anything out of the day. I let myself drink the coffee and sit by the window. I let myself walk along the Seine without knowing where I was walking to. My forehead wrinkles relaxed and my smile got wider. So for that, Paris, thank you.
And below, Paris day-by-day!
We rolled into Gare du Nord in the mid-afternoon, and although knowing absolutely no French, it still wasn’t terrible to navigate out of the station and onto the railway system to get to our Air Bnb in the 1st arrondissement. We hadn’t eaten much so we tried to get some falafel at Las du Fallafel, but it was closed! Our spirits remained high though, and we eventually ran across a beautiful looking bakery called Aux Merveilleux de Fred, where they sell airy meringues, filled with cream and covered with coatings of chocolate. We shared one as the sun went away and the night lights began to come on. With no particular plan in mind, Andrew suggested we try our luck at Le Relais de L’entrecote. Our friend from home actually recommended this place, a steak frites place near the 7th arrondissement where they don’t serve anything else, you tell them how you like your steak done, and that’s it. It is infamous for its long lines, so I was a little nervous but ready to try our luck. On our way over there, we stopped by Notre Dame and admired its architecture, then walked around the 7th before getting in line for the restaurant. Only a quick forty minutes later, we were seated and hot steak and fresh fries were served. The steak is covered in a secret butter sauce and it takes the meal to another level. Along with a half bottle of red wine, we feasted well on our first night in Paris.
On my morning run, I ran into a small farmer’s market by Les Halles and when Andrew woke up, we wandered over there. We debated getting a pastry there but ultimately decided to continue our adventure and walked over to Rue Montorgueil, a small pedestrian street filled with restaurants and bakeries. Unbeknownst to us at this point, this street ultimately became our home base, since it was nearby our Air Bnb and had a huge amount of options. I had my first Parisian croissant experience from Boulangerie Blouet, and it was so incredibly buttery, crisp on the outside, soft and airy inside. Full of pastry goodness, we walked towards the 11th arrondissement since we had tickets to one of the museums there. It started to rain while on the walk, which initially upset me, but this is when we stumbled by Caractere de Cochon, and had that conversation about Parisian culture with the kind man opening up the store. He sheltered us from the rain even though he still hadn’t even picked up the baguettes for the day, and once he came back with fresh bread he made us a heavenly sandwiches - thin sheets of ham atop heavily buttered baguettes. The meal and his words revived me, and the rain didn’t seem half as bad after that sandwich. Inspired by his advice, we hopped into a nearby cafe and sipped on coffees, talked about wedding things and more, and tried our hand at learning some French with Google Translate. A couple hours later, we walked over to Atelier des Lumieres, a light show/museum that takes the works of the artist Gustav Klimt and projects them in a warehouse, set to tremendous music and sequenced in a way that leaves you in awe. Following that, we wandered back towards the 1st arrondissement along the Seine. After a long walk we opted to check out the Musee d’Orsay, a great choice for the evening since you get discounted prices starting at 4:30 pm. The museum is filled with impressive impressionist and post-impressionist paintings - I am no expert but they were beautiful. We finished the night back at Rue Montorgueil, swinging by a random restaurant and sharing a bottle of wine and a very large board of charcuterie with buttered bread. I appreciate butter so much more after this trip. A little tipsy and very tired, we treated ourselves to some gelato and walked back home to watch some Netflix and rest our feet.
I feel like day two was the day we got comfortable in Paris, and the last two days we truly embraced it. We started off with a glorious breakfast at Breizh Cafe, each of us getting a giant galette filled with cheese and a perfect runny egg, and then each of us getting a giant sweet crepe, mine with rhubarb jam and his with yuzu jelly. I’ve never had a better crepe in my life. Following our breakfast we strolled over to Merci, a cute department store filled with enamelware and fashionable clothing. I should mention at this point, everyone in Paris is so well dressed! Half the fun of walking down the streets aimlessly or sitting at the front of the cafes was just to people-watch and take notes of everyone’s outfits. After Merci, we went to the Louvre. Which, in truth, was great but not our favorite museum in Paris. We actually preferred the beauty of the museum’s architecture and gardens over the paintings and statues inside, so after saying hi to the Mona Lisa and touring through the wings, we headed outside to the Jardin des Tuileries. Fall in Paris is lovely - a bit rainy, but the colors and changing leaves are so beautiful against the old buildings. The sun had come out as well, leading to a beautiful sunset as we crossed the Seine over to see the famous bookstore, Shakespeare & Company. We also took this time to grab a box of choux from Odette, each filled with different flavored creams - our favorite was the coffee. After perusing through the books, we headed up to L’as du Fallefel for their world-famous falafel sandwich, which was incredible. At that point we debated staying out for more dessert or for some wine, but after five days of vacation-style eating, we were just too stuffed for anything else. So with our full bellies we took the long way home for the night.
After three days of rain, we finally, FINALLY had a day of sunshine! So we took the opportunity to head over to Montmartre, but not before we nabbed more croissants. This time we got our pastries from Stohrer, back on Rue Montorguiel. I’m telling you, that street never failed us. The croissants at Stohrer were even more heavenly than our previous ones, with an insane lamination leaving the crispiest edges on the outside and the craziest flake. We also took a little time at a nearby cafe for some coffee fuel for the many steps to Montmartre. Oh, Montmartre - this little area of Paris was my absolute favorite part of the city. We made our way to Sacre Couer, the beautiful cathedral at the top of the hill. It was only a few euros to gain access to the stairs that climb to the very top of the church, and I think it was completely worth it - the views were breathtaking. After a few minutes and photos later, we descended down and sat on the steps in front, soaking in the bright sunshine. By then we were hungry and walked over to Buvette for brunch. Andrew had the croque monsieur (which he said was so, so good), and I had a pile of the softest scrambled eggs atop buttered toast, topped with salty proscuitto and funky parm. It was one of my favorite meals we shared in Paris. We then wandered over to Patisserie Gilles Marchal, where we had read was home of the best madeleines in Paris. He ordered a citron (lemon) flavored madeleine, I ordered a framboise (raspberry) one. We made way to a bench and shared them with a steamy americano. The madeleines were so soft and fluffy, with a strong, pure flavor of the fruit. I feel like so many madeleines become dry or crumbly, not the case with these. At this point of our trip, we felt like we had seen so much of Paris we wanted to see - all except the Eiffel Tower, that is! So even though it would mean so many steps for our little feet, we made our way over to the iron lady. We made it in the golden hour, when the sun was just beginning to make its descent for the night and the autumn leaves gleamed in the light. We then took time to wander through Champs Elysees and Trocadero, surrounded by tourists and flashing fashion advertisements, it was exciting to look all around. We made our way to Arc de Triomphe and shared a gigantic palmier there, then made our way to Jardins du Trocadero to watch the first lighting of the Eiffel Tower for that evening. As a lover of sparkly things, this was one of the highlights of the entire trip for me. Sitting next to Andrew, holding his hand, watching the tower sparkle as nighttime settled, is a forever memory.
Giddy from the Eiffel Tower magic, we made our way to Cafe Varenne, with a quick stop to Laduree to pick up some macarons for our friends and family at home. Our dinner at Cafe Varenne was as french as could be, with Andrew getting the duck confit, myself getting more steak frites. Both of us drinking red wine and feeling oh so fancy. We finished the night with a tarte tatin topped with creme fraiche. Silly as it sounds, it felt so “French”, and I felt that the entire night was so magical. We laughed nearly the entire walk home, and as I fell asleep, I felt so truly happy.
Paris, I love you. You are beautiful, majestic, romantic, all that I had imagined and possibly more. I hope to return someday for more of you.