Oh Paris! Can I please go back? I loved it there. We were in Paris for 4 nights (3 full days, and two 1/2 days). Everyone I talked to said to make sure to slow down in Paris, that you have to really slow down to get the most of it. Don't try to cram in every single site. Just go to a sidewalk cafe and enjoy Paris.
We stayed two minutes from the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement (here is where we stayed). This was one of the best decisions we made in Paris. I LOVED being so close to the Eiffel Tower. Every night we would go over and watch it twinkle at 10 or 11pm or both. If we would have stayed farther away there's no way we would have done this.
We took full advantage of the Metro in Paris and after a few hick-ups the first day we were there we felt very confident that we could get where ever we needed to go. We bought a 10 pack of carnets (the tickets for the Metro) and used them until we ran out and then just purchased individual tickets beyond that (because we only needed like 2 more). I felt safe on the Metro but was still really careful with my stuff while we were on it. During commuting times the Metro was CRAZY! A few times it was so full we just had to wait for the next train because there was no possible way we could squeeze on.
Just like in London we tried to eat breakfast at our flat every morning to save a little bit of money. We went to a few little supermarkets and bought some eggs and potatoes for hash browns and we'd grab croissants or a baguette from a bakery to make toast.
Also like in London we took full advantage of the washer/dryer at our Airbnb. We did laundry twice while we were in Paris.
Here are a few great Paris resources: How to search for an Airbnb in Paris, Paris Picks and Tips, Things to do in Paris + Travel Guide (on the bottom). Also here is our Google Map. I always like to make one before we go on a trip so that I can get acquainted with the city we'll be visiting.
Here is our itinerary:
1/2 day upon arriving [Saturday]:
Long, long customs line (1 1/2 hours)
Dinner at Cafe
Eiffel Tower at night (Twinkles on the top of every hour!)
Day 1 [Sunday]:
Cafe Breakfast (Croque Madame and crepe)
Tour Sainte-Chapelle (bought tickets there, tour with audio guide)
Browse book and souvenir shops along the Seine
Lovers Lock bridge (bought a lock from a street salesman for €5)
Musee d'Orsay (bought tickets there but wished we had done it previously, toured Impressionist exhibit and Van Gogh Exhibit with audio guide)
Lunch (pastries from Bakery)
Climb Arc de Triomphe (bought tickets there)
Walk Champs-Elysées (stop at Laduree to buy macarons and the Renault store)
Day 2 [Monday]:
Baguette and prosciutto lunch
Walk through Montmarte to Louvre
Louvre (purchased tickets on my phone outside, skipped huge line doing this! Should have really bought tickets ahead of time)
Notre Dame (barely missed being able to climb to the top :( )
Crepe for dinner
Day 3 [Tuesday]:
Tour Versailles (purchase Passport tickets ahead of time, line was still 1 hour long to get in)
Picnic lunch in gardens
Tour gardens and Marie Antoinette's Hamlet
Rent and bike around grand canal
Day 4 [Wednesday]:
Shuttle to Beauvais Airport (shuttle ride was about an hour, we flew Ryanair)
Now the details:
We flew Air France from Heathrow to Charles de Gaulle. Security at Heathrow was a little rough for us because we had to have all of our liquids in these TINY bags. We ended up having to throw lots of things away (like laundry soap, we should have brought powdered soap). On the plane we sat next to this really nice United flight attendant who grew up in Indiana but now lives in France. He gave us lots of great Paris advice like how to navigate the Metro, what his favorite sites were, general security tips...etc. It was great. I was a little bit nervous about Paris because neither of us spoke ANY French at all and he helped me feel a bit calmer. The customs line in Paris was NUTS! There was only 1 guy working and the line was HUGE. We waited in line for about an hour and a half. We were supposed to meet our Airbnb host before 7:40 or we had to pay a €30 fee, the airline guy said to reduce stress we should just take a taxi into town rather than try to navigate the train with 3 switches. Even with the taxi though we still missed our 7:40 deadline because of the long line. Driving into Paris was really cool though. The first time I caught a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe before heading into that crazy roundabout I was so excited. And then I saw the Eiffel Tower! Swoon! I was in love with Paris from the start.
After talking with our Airbnb hosts we headed out to see the Eiffel Tower. It was even more magical than I anticipated. The hawkers around there were really annoying, especially to us because most of them were selling wine, beer, and cigarettes (since we don't drink or smoke). After watching it twinkle we were more than ready for some dinner. At the recommendation of our Airbnb hosts we ate at Cafe Constant which was on the corner of our street. It was very French and having only been in France for a few hours I was pretty scared. We tried to translate a few things on the menu and settled with a poultry dish with potatoes and mushrooms, which was quite tasty and some onion soup.
We took great advantage of staying so close to the Eiffel Tower and made sure to visit it as often as we could. It was pretty magical at night all lit up, and I'm not sure if there are very many more things I like in life than watching that thing twinkle.
The next day was Sunday and we had plans to go to church at 9:30. We had looked up the address of the church building and figured out what Metro stops we needed to take but we still had great difficulty getting there. The stop where we needed to transfer trains was closed which really threw us off. So after walking a few stops worth (when we were already pretty short on time) we finally made it to the building. However when we got there there was a sign on the door that said Visitor's Center closed. First of all, Visitor's Center? This was supposed to be the chapel. We were pretty bummed that we had worked so hard to get there and then it was closed. We walked over to the Pompidou Center and then back past the church when this nice lady, who must have been running late for church herself, could clearly tell we were Mormon, and kindly showed us that the entrance to the church is actually back in the courtyard! We never would have known to look there.
Church was amazing. I'm so glad we went. It was packed that day and all of the translators were gone by the time we got there so we couldn't understand all of the talks but the ones we did understand were fabulous. Elder Carl Cook was attending the ward that Sunday on his way home from serving as the President of the Africa Southeast Area. Not only was it so cool to be in the presence of a General Authority but one who was just presiding over Jordan's mission. Jordan was able to talk to him for a few minutes after the meeting and hear about all of the work that has been going on in the towns where he served. (I loved this talk he gave at General Conference in 2011)
We met so many nice people at church and I loved the comfortable feeling I had knowing it was the same halfway around the world as it would have been had we been home.
After church we went to a cafe to get breakfast. We usually made breakfast and ate at home at all of our Airbnb's but since this was our first morning there and we had yet to buy groceries we ate out. I had been dying to try Croque Madame so that's what I got and Jordan got some crepes. It was sooooo yummy! (I also wanted to try a Croque Monsieur but we never got around to it.... Guess we'll have to go back!)
From here we walked down to Notre Dame and then over to Sainte Chapelle. We didn't go inside Notre Dame this time, but I just wanted to see it since we were already in the neighborhood.
I had been dreaming about visiting Sainte Chapelle for a while after learning about it in Art History in college. And if you can believe it it was about 1,000,000 times more beautiful in person than in the text book. We got the audio guide while touring this church and I'm so glad we did. It described all of the Bible stories that were displayed on the stain glass windows and made it much more meaningful. It was great to go here after sacrament meeting, it was almost like Sunday school.
Since it was a pretty rainy day we had decided to go to the Orsay Museum. We walked over there from Sainte Chapelle via the Lovers Lock Bridge (except that it's not really on a bridge anymore). We bought a lock from a hawker for €5 and added it to the bridge. I couldn't believe how many locks were there. It was crazy!
If you're ever in Paris look for our "Jor Cor Sor" lock. It's even with the light pole, near the top! (Good luck haha!)
We passed some used book and souvenir booths while walking along the Seine and it just felt so Parisian. We bought a poster for our travel poster wall.
It was pouring rain by the time we made it to the Musee d'Orsay, just in time for us to stand in line outside for tickets. Hah! We got pretty wet, but that didn't stop us from having a great time. I LOVED this museum. I have loved Impressionism since elementary school. I had an amazing elementary art teacher who truly instilled in me a love of art. I have loved Van Gogh ever since we had to draw Starry Night with pastels in 2nd grade (mine even got chosen for an art show!). I loved the Impressionism Exhibit on the 6th floor. The Monet's and Manet's were wonderful. I was a little bit sad that all of the Renoir was on loan to a Museum in Tokyo. I had read that it's good to start by heading straight up to the Impressionist Exhibit and then to work your way down. This is what we did and it worked great. We got to see all of the really good stuff while we were still fresh. After the Impressionism we went down to look at the Van Gogh exhibit. I LOVED this. (It was just a preview though of the Van Gogh Museum that we went to later in Amsterdam)
From the Orsay we went found a bakery and grabbed some pastries for lunch as well as a baguette for breakfast the next morning and then headed to the Arc de Triomphe. I really wanted to climb to the top and get a good view of that pretty Eiffel Tower.
^^I think we climbed all of the stairs in Europe. And SO many spiral staircases (St. Paul's, St. Peter's, Arc de Triomphe...etc.)
When we got down there was some kind of ceremony with what looked like War Vets happening under the Arc. We stood and watched for a few minutes until it was over and then I had my first (and really only) experience with a rude French person. I tried to ask a Police Officer what was going on and he totally snapped at me in French and kind of shooed me away. Guess we'll never really know.
After the Arc de Triomphe we walked down the Champs-Elysées with a stop at Laduree to buy macarons and a peek in the Renault car store.
^^Our favorite was the vanilla macaron. It was DELICIOUS! The strawberry candy was pretty tasty too (the one with the sugar on the outside).
By this point we were pretty exhausted. It had been a really long and great day. We hopped on the Metro and headed back to the Eiffel Tower to watch the lights turn on and to grab some dinner (before watching it twinkle of course). We looked and looked for somewhere to eat that was reasonably priced and preferably Parisian but desperation got the best of us and we settled on a little Italian place on our street.
P.S. I loved the typeface they used for "Metro"
The next day we had a macaron class scheduled for 10am. I had read a few blog posts found on Pinterest about people who had taken a macaron class in Paris and loved it. I had mentioned this to Jordan not totally thinking we would do it but just saying that it sounded fun. He really liked the idea and found us a great class and signed us up. From his research it was even one of the cheapest classes available, and it was fantastic. I loved it. Here is the class we took.
Our class had 5 students, us and 3 others from Philadelphia. We made Italian meringue macarons and I learned so many things. For example, the color of the macarons has nothing to do with the flavor. All of the biscuits, as they're called, taste the same. The only part with a unique flavor is the filling. As a class we made 3 kinds of ganache for the fillings: passion fruit chocolate, raspberry chocolate, and milk chocolate. Jordan and I made pink macarons.
We had a really great teacher. I don't think a single one of Jordan's cracked (the teacher said that his were the best in the class!) and only 1 or 2 of mine cracked. They tasted and looked wonderful. I'm glad that we were in Paris long enough that we could justify spending an entire morning (the class was 2.5 hours) in a class like that.
After the class we walked up to Sacré-Cœur to check out another great view of Paris. And since it was free we walked around inside. This was all after we got hustled by some SUPER annoying street hawkers, who made us buy friendship bracelets (we had to buy them because they tied them on our arms...so annoying).
^^You can see the Pompidou Center and Notre Dame if you look really closely.
After Sacré-Cœur we walked through Montmarte on our way to the Louvre. I LOVED Montmarte. It was so charming. I can see why so many artists and writers have been inspired by it's beauty.
The Louvre was definitely on our Paris To-See list so that's what we did next. When we arrived we could see that there were 2 lines, one was super long and the other was non-existent. The non-existent line was for ticket holders so we stepped back and purchased our tickets on my phone instead of waiting in the huge line. (We were so confused why everyone in that huge line didn't do the same thing...) That museum was humongous. Holy cow. I got super tired while we were there and my feet were actually kind of hurting, so I did the silliest thing of the whole trip. I took a nap at the Louvre. We found a bench and I just laid down for a quick power nap.
Seeing the Mona Lisa for me was more about seeing the hoards of people trying to catch a quick glimpse and picture of this tiny masterpiece. I had heard from lots of people that the Mona Lisa was a let down, so with very low expectations I was actually pleasantly surprised. I was just happy to be participating in what felt like some sort of strange human ritual. Like an artistic pilgrimage.
We also saw Venus de Milo, and lots and lots of other masterpieces. It was truly overwhelming!
^^Since we've been home I saw an article on one of the blogs I read about the image on the pyramid.
After the Louvre we headed to Notre Dame with plans to go inside this time as well as climb to the top. Probably because of my little cat nap at the Louvre we didn't make it in time to climb up. We did get to go in though and that rose window was AMAZING!
^^We stopped at this spot for a little macaron break, since we got to keep all 21 of the macarons we made in our class, but it was also quite beautiful so I snapped a quick picture.
From Notre Dame we headed back to our flat by way of a little cafe where we got the best crepe ever made! We ate a lot of crepes in Paris and none of them were quite as good as this one.
This night we actually went to bed pretty early. All of the walking and late nights were catching up with us. France was crazy. It really seemed like 10pm for them was what is 6 or 7pm for us. There were "dinner" rushes at 10pm and the streets were still packed at 11pm.
The next day we had planned to spend the entire day at Versailles. I had heard that you really needed a whole day to experience it. I became pretty fascinated with Versailles and Marie-Antoinette my junior year of high school. We took the train from the Eiffel Tower out to Versailles.
We tried to get an early start but that didn't quite end up happening. We made it to Versailles at about 11 and when we got there the line was huge. I had known to expect crowds and that Tuesday was one of their busier days but we didn't have any other options. We waited in line for an hour to get in to the palace. It was crazy packed inside and sadly the Queen's Grand Apartment was closed for renovation.
The Hall of Mirrors was definitely interesting. It wasn't quite like what I thought it was going to be like. One thing that I didn't know before visiting was that mirrors were extremely rare and expensive so the fact that they had so many of them in this one room was a big deal.
After elbowing our way through the palace we were more than ready to head outside and have a little breathing room to explore the gardens. We brought a little picnic lunch and ate it on a bench in the gardens. It was perfection.
After wandering over to it we walked through the Petit Trianon. And then over to Marie-Antoinette's Hamlet, which was quite charming.
Marie-Antoinette's hamlet was covered in scaffolding as it is undergoing some major restoration. I guess the buildings in this little hamlet are always falling apart because they were built more like play houses than real houses. The thatch roofs were always caving in and the buildings really have no foundations. I was sad that Marie-Antoinette's hamlet was covered up but all of the other houses and buildings were very charming and I thoroughly enjoyed looking at all of them.
We wandered in the gardens for quite a while with plans of finishing our day renting bikes. We rode bikes all the way around the Grand Canal. It was quite dreamy and our feet were really happy to have a bit of a break. The bikes were a welcome treat.
After riding the train back into Paris we wanted to get another crepe for dinner because the one we had the night before was so delicious. We found a little food place near the Eiffel Tower and ordered a Nutella crepe since she said they were out of bananas. We were pretty excited until the lady pulled out a precooked crepe and warmed it up on the skillet. We should have stopped her at this point but were both to embarrassed to say anything. I took one bite and actually had to spit it out because it was so nasty. I handed it over to Jordan who also tried a bite of the worst crepe ever and then it promptly went into the nearest trash can. We're calling it the worst $5 we ever spent. At least it was a pretty hilarious memory. We walked a little ways and found another crepe stand and had a delicious savory ham and cheese crepe for dinner. We ate it in the grass below the Eiffel Tower. That night after going home to shower and pack we went back to watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle at 10 and 11.
The next morning we had to leave pretty early to catch a shuttle to the Beauvais Airport. We were flying Ryanair to Pisa. We booked our flight knowing the airport was way out of the way, but decided it was worth the money we'd save by flying with a budget airline. Everyone we talked to made it seem like it was the worst thing and that it was going to take hours and hours to get to the airport, but it wasn't bad at all. I'd do it again if we needed to. One note about Ryanair, we were nervous that our big backpack was going to be over the weight limit so we bought an extra 10kg which was like $15 or something, but no one ever weighed our bags or even really looked at them. I guess we could have saved that $15.
And just to finish off this blog post, here are a few pictures of the little flat we stayed in. It was very small but had everything we needed for our stay. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to Paris. (Here is the link again) I was a little nervous about the sleeper couch but it was totally comfortable.
Next stop Italy: Cinque Terre, Pisa, and Rome!