Paris has been on my mind a BUNCH this past week or so. Therefore, I felt it was the perfect time to take a little stroll down memory lane and share Pt. 2 of our Paris family vacay. Although, I didn't expect to hate it there, I also wasn't expecting to love it either. I was kinda indifferent about going. To my surprise, I enjoyed my trip so immensely, that I hope to spend at least a month in the South of France next summer, with at another jaunt in Paris to take my time and catch a few more of the sights that I didn't have time to see the first time around.
If you're thinking about going, here are a few of my recommendations:
Where to Stay:
Our boutique hotel, The Hotel Latin Excelsior looks quaint and unassuming from the outside. However the rooms are modern-styled (my taste) and the housekeeping is immaculate. The walls are a bit thin, but the free coffee from the machine in the lobby, no BS, is A1. That's saying a lot from someone who doesn't drink coffee regularly (yet fancies herself as a coffee snob. Blame my first college job). The location is situated about 1 block from Sorbonne Square and 2.5 blocks from the Latin Quarter, which made the daily walk to breakfast cafes and dinner restaurants quite convenient. Although, I got a bit of a tourist vibe in the neighborhood thick of all of the bustling shops, it wasn't overwhelming; so, I honestly didn't mind. We took Uber vans whenever we needed to get to places further away. This worked to our advantage because there were 8 of us, and we took turns using the app. Each time, we "paid our fare" to whoever called, which typically equaled out to 2.50-5 Euros max per trip. If you have less of a crowd with you and prefer public transportation, the proximity to the metro train is ideal and just around the corner.
Where to Eat and Drink
So many people told us that the food wasn't really all that in Paris, but I beg to differ. We had some GREAT experiences at the following:
La Coupe d'Or had the, hands down, BEST crepes* I had the entire time I was there. It's a little on the pricy side, but was super fresh and delish. A very safe bet if you happen to be shopping at the high-end stores near rue Saint-Honoré.
Le Paradis Du Fruit was a delightful recommendation from the staff at the Louis Vuitton store near Champs-Élysées. Their signature drink, La Vie En Rose is a refreshing blend of Vodka, fresh strawberries, mint, basil, lemon and brown sugar. I had several. I recommend selecting from the 3 Assiettes saveurs à composer menu where you get to put together a combo of your liking. The shrimp curry with rice and salad was the perfect lunch at a reasonable price after we hopped from store to store, up and down the avenue in the summer sun.
L'Écritoire in Sorbonne Square square stays open late if you're looking for a night cap or a pleasant lunch (the salads are super-filling) with a side of ah-mazing service. It is conveniently wedged between the Hotel Excelsior and the Latin Quarter.
Café Le Dante Served up great drinks, pasta and service and atmosphere if you're wandering near Notre Dame looking for a bite and a place to rest.
RIM Café Trattoria Pizzeria was the first place I had dinner in Paris. I tend to judge unknown restaurants based on whether or not they seem to draw a crowd. This place was decently packed, and I was substantially hungry, so in we dove. My pasta was cool, but I was mildly concerned about the size of the so-called calamari in the mix. I just shoved that to the side and carried on with the get down. Overall, I was very satisfied with the choice.
Le Sainsev' is one of those "service non-stop" restaurants with a decent happy hour. The food didn't look very appetizing to me, but the drinks were cool (and cheap).
Mark & Spencer Food I won't go as far to call this place the Whole Foods of the neighborhood, but maybe Harry's in a Hurry. The location near us on Boulevard Saint Michele was quaint and popular. It's a good place to grab relatively healthy snacks or lunch on-the-go. They have a pretty decent wine selection too, if you're looking for something to uncork and relax with in your room at the end of the day.
La Crêperie has an amazing expresso, ice cream dessert that will send you on a caffeine and sugar high like no other. The tea service is respectable and the savory crepes, decent. Because of it's proximity to the university you can eat for the cheap then post up and bang out a few hours of work while on their free wifi. There's plenty of seats in and outdoors, so you don't have to worry about taking up needed space. Plus, European-style dining is of the lingering variety, so the staff pretty much gives you space and time to do your thing.
What would a trip to Paris be without hitting up the Musée du Louvre? I, for one, was especially excited to see the Egyptian collection. And was completely disappointed that on the Friday we decided to go, that particular exhibit, among a couple of others, was closed. The staff explained that they do not have the manpower to keep all of the exhibits open each day. So, if you're like me and have your heart set on seeing something specific-- be on the safe side and call or check the website ahead of time.
Also, the Louvre was like a maze to me. I never could find my way to all of the African art that was available for viewing that day. I kept getting turned around and around. Plus, I substantially cut into my limited time there fumbling around trying to return my headset after I found out the Egyptian section was closed. Then I ended up losing my ticket and had to convince the staff to find me a manager to give me another. *le sigh*. Needless to say, I'll have to get back to it next summer.
If time permits, taking a day to explore the city and Castle of Versaille is well worth the trip outside of the city. And you can even get there from the metro, if need be. My family and I booked a tour of the castle grounds with Blue Bike Tours, which was a perfect way to spend the day. The guide will meet you at the train or in our case, the local market. We were late due to a fiasco that kept us up until the wee hours of the morning. However, when you get there, you can spend a bit of time putting together a picnic lunch to carry with you to the grounds. They encourage you to bring your own food, because the stops on the bike route do not really allot time to run into one of the cafes on the palace grounds. Although, you can definitely make a pit stop if you needed to, its just not advised since you're on schedule. Nevertheless, the ride was peaceful, the air was fragrant, and the grounds were beautifu. The tour takes you far around the outskirts of the castle grounds. We didn't know the outer area is public and anyone can come with their personal bikes and ride or jog the grounds. Our guide was very personable and knowledgeable, and gave us a list of suggested restaurants after the tour was over. One thing to be aware of, however-- the area towards the grounds where Marie Antoinette built her little English village has a great deal of walking, which we weren't entirely prepared for. So... FYI.
After we returned our bikes, our tour guide led us back to the castle and escorted us through the entrance for tours. Be aware during the busy season that the castle does not seem adequately organized to handle the large groups of tours that are often scheduled at the exact same time to come in. Someone, I'm not saying who, got into a shoving match outside trying to get in. Just know that this time it wasn't me. Thank goodness I came prepared with my patience.
Of course we had to make our way up to the Eiffel Tower to catch the 360 view of the city. I know the tower itself is the attraction, but to me, the birds-eye view of the city was the real treat. We spent the majority of our time going back and forth to the champagne counter, eating macaroons and soaking up the sun whilst snapping pictures and taking in the view.
Overall, I had a beautiful time in Paris, and I look forward to making my way back next year. Some things I will do differently is to make time to see the sights that I want to see and learn more about the history of Black Paris. Like I said in Part 1 (go on over and read that, now!) I was not a part of this year's planning committee. Next year I'll be ready and armed with my own plan, which will definitely include some time in southern France. Wine Country, look out!