TRAVEL GUIDE: PARIS
I can't believe that today is our last post in the travel series from our Europe trip. Writing these each week has been such a treat because it really allows me to go back and savor each city.
Where can I even start about Paris? It is my favorite foreign city in the whole world. There is a magic in Paris that cannot be replicated anywhere. History is seeped into its every seams and beauty is around every corner. Ok that's a little heavy handed, after all it IS a city, there are still a few gross parts but we won't dwell on those. It is such a magical place that it seems nearly impossible to take it all in, in a few days.
This trip to Paris was my fifth time there and it's no less incredible and breathtaking than the other times. I have come back to Paris throughout my life, once when I was a child then during study abroad then to visit my sister when she was studying, and the last time when I had just quit a very challenging job. Each time Paris has given something different to me, something special.
The best part about visiting somewhere you have gone before is that you don't feel pressured into the touristy things. We didn't need to check off a must-see list so we spent the days wandering our favorite neighborhoods, checking out new stores and eating a few too many pastries. So let's get into Paris...
WHERE WE STAYED
The Hotel des Grands Hommes is a favorite of mine. I always seek out quiet cozy hotels in big cities because it's nice at the end of the day to feel comforted and calm after a big day of sightseeing. This hotel is very cozy, each of the fabric lined rooms are petite but beautifully decorated. It is also in a great neighborhood (the Latin Quarter) with delicious restaurants and shops, close by to the Luxembourg Gardens. Also, like many European restaurants, they serve breakfast with the price of the room. The breakfasts here are very memorable and lovingly made by a sweet lady (her name escapes me) in the basement of the hotel. Each of the three times that I have stayed there I have had a lovely stay and highly recommend it.
A SPECIAL VISIT
I was going to list this under "Things to Do" but realized that not everyone may be able to replicate this amazing experience that we had. Through work colleges, who we met up with, we were able to arrange a special behind-the-scenes tour of Dom Perignon. We were lucky to be amongst the few people in the world who got to see where Dom Perignon was buried and taste champagne on the veranda of the owner's private estate. First off, I realize just how pretentious this sounds. Secondly, I am so grateful for this amazing experience and history lesson on how this incredible brand was created from such humble beginnings (Dom Perignon was a monk)
While I know that not everyone can have access to this tasting, if you are in Paris, I highly recommend a trip to the champagne region. It is an easy hour and a half train ride outside of the city and a world away. The rolling hills were very different than in Tuscany but no less stunning. Also, the champagne region is worth seeing in person to see how small and special the area truly is.
WHAT WE DID AND WHAT WE BOUGHT
Here are the things that we saw in Paris. As I mentioned, we had checked all of the big sites in previous trips so this time around it was all about seeing some of the smaller sites.
Marais - This neighborhood has some seriously good shopping. Of course there is Merci which has the iconic red car out front and a beautiful selection of home goods inside. We also loved this store called Bring Home France. This cute store is where I got by Gien plates that were highly marked up other places but a great deal here. It's a great one-stop-shop for Paris souvenirs. Of course there is the always amazing, Mariage Freres for tea souvenirs. Lastly, my favorite eclectic design store is called Fleux and is the perfect place to pick up some home decor that's not likely to be found anywhere else.
Fragonard Perfume Museum - Amanda really wanted to go to the fragrance museum and I wasn't opposed to learning more about one of my favorite beauty categories. The tour was very informative about the making and sourcing of perfume. They were a little hard-selling at the end but hey, I understand it. I ended up buying this incredible perfume that reminds me of Paris each time I spray it on.
Opera House - The opera house was something that was left on the to-do list from last time I visited Paris. It was always closed or had an event going on so each time I went back, I wasn't able to go inside. It was totally worth the wait though because it was so stunning. I loved seeing the opulent ceiling and the view down the boulevard towards the Louvre. It was a quick tour but magnificent to see inside. Also, it is close to the perfume museum and the Galleries Lafyette so you can see all three in an efficient afternoon.
Rodin Sculpture Garden - The sculpture garden was also something that I hadn't done but wanted to do on previous trips to the city. That reminds me, always leave something to be discovered next time. Don't feel pressured to do it all in one trip because, chances are if you loved the city, you will be back and you will see those sites you missed. Well anyways we had a bit of end-of-vacation-blues but the trip to the Rodin gardens did make us feel a little better. While his sculptures may not be the most uplifting (Gates of Hell, anyone?) the house they were in plus the gardens were stunning. Also, seeing the Kiss in person was one of my personal favorites. Plus, I have serious design ideas about what to do with that blue paint color.
WHAT WE ATE
How do you narrow it down to just a few places to eat in a city like Paris? Well I am going to share two of my new favorites for this post but there are oh-so-many more out there waiting to be discovered.
Les Papilles - For 35 euros you get a delicious 4 course meal that is sure to fill you up. This little neighborhood gem feels very authentically French. I liked it because it was unpretentious and had a wonderful cozy atmosphere. They also allow you to pick out the wines yourself from the large library next to the tables. It's a cute concept with delicious food that I highly recommend.
L'As du Fallafel - According to my sister you cannot go to Paris without getting of these falafels. If you are like me you were like "Why a falafel in Paris?" Well I stand corrected because L'As du Fallafel is the number one restaurant in Paris according to Yelp. And who am I to argue with Yelp? It lived up to Amanda's expectations (see picture below) and mine. The combination of sauces was pretty incredible. The line moves fast but show up early and get ready to order and pay while you stand in line. Then walk a few blocks down to the Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph Migneret and enjoy your well-deserved treat.
And with that, the Europe trip is a wrap. Don't worry, there will be plenty more travel posts to come. We have an exciting fall up ahead with trips to New York, Tahoe, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Napa and Hawaii on the horizon. Get those plane clothes ready because we've got a lot of jet setting to do!