For the most part, we spent our days in Paris wandering aimlessly around the city (ahem, 14km to Montmartre and back during one particular stroll) (when it was 94°F, no less), admiring the stunning Parisian architecture and discovering some of our new favorite places.
If you’re a fan of museums, Paris is full of them. And even if you’re not, we have no doubt you’ll find at least a couple you enjoy. Aside from the usual art galleries, there’s an underground ossuary as well as a sewer museum – which both sound a little unusual, but we promise they’re especially impressive. If you’d rather spend your days drinking wine on patios or exploring the neighborhoods, we highly recommend at least paying a visit to Pompidou (the view is insane!) and l’Orangerie (two words: water lilies). The Louvre is a no brainer, but is terribly crowded and hardly enjoyable during high season. Try popping in during their later hours, which are offered several nights a week. If you plan on doing a bit of museum hopping, the Paris Museum Pass is always the way to go.
The pick pockets are downright awful in Paris. In fact, they’re worse now than when we visited a couple of years ago. Upon arriving at the train station, we noticed a few American tourists getting scammed by a dude who was trying to sell them €5 worth of tickets for €70. SEVENTY EUROS! We intervened, demanding the scammer return the money – and he did, but then he ran off (probably in search of his next victim). It could have been a seriously unfortunate situation those folks and, sadly, hundreds of tourists get duped by the scammers each day. As long as your conscious and aware of your surroundings, you’ll be fine. As for the scammers, their methods tend to vary, but they’re sneaky and good at what they do. Take our advice and don’t trust anyone – not the people wanting you to sign petitions, groups of unsupervised children running around, and definitely not the scumbags pretending they’re there to help you purchase tickets at the train station. If you go to Sacré-Coeur, steer clear of the guys “selling” bracelets – if they’re successful at tying one to your wrist, they make you pay a ridiculous price. If it seems like the place is filled with crazy people who are out to get you – it is in certain areas, but it’s also one of the most magical and beautiful cities in the world.
Living in Denver and being that we’re environmentally responsible humans, we’re used to walking everywhere – and Paris was no exception. In fact, we can count on one hand the number of times we took the metro or a taxi during our nine day stay. If you’re in a hurry and need to get places quick, the metro is incredibly easy to use but make sure you have cash (unless you’ve got a credit card with a chip in it). If you’ve got the extra time, try walking or taking a bike – it is by far the best option and allows you to really see the city and appreciate the interconnectivity of the different arrondissements. Not to mention, Paris is one of the most graffiti-laden cities in the world – and the street art is more enjoyable when you’re exploring by foot. Life in Paris is much slower than other cities in comparable size, so take your time and enjoy it. And if you miss a museum or don’t make it to a certain restaurant – relax and go get a baguette. Fresh baguettes make everything better.
Le Bistrot d’Henri – 7 hour roast lamb for the man, pasta tossed in olive oil with tomato confit (not on the menu) for the lady. Plus bread and wine. If you miss this gem of a restaurant while visiting Paris, you’ve deprived yourself of some seriously incredible food. We went during both lunch and dinner, but preferred the atmosphere and service at dinner time.
Le Grenier de Notre Dame – Vegetarian menu with hearty servings and clean eats.
Chettinadu Mess – Indian food done right. Be sure to order a samosa. Or ten.
Le Grand Appetit – Really, really healthy food (boiled grains, raw vegetables, legumes, etc). Great to get the bowels moving if you’ve ingested too much chocolate or bread or beer. Or all three.
Café des Deux Moulins – If you’re a fan of Amélie, go in for a bite to eat or grab a quick drink.
Sol Semilla – For your superfood fix.
Du Pain et Des Idées – Half a dozen people recommended we go here. Go for the bread and the pastries, but be prepared to wait in line.. and don’t expect to get a baguette.
Café Pinson – Seemingly hip vegetarian cafe with good beers, savory eats, and vegan dessert options.
Odette – The owner named the shop after his grandmother and uses her traditional cream puff recipe, but fills them with non-traditional cream puff flavors. Take your treats to the first level (second floor, in America) and cozy up to the table next to the window – it boasts quite a view (you’ll see).
L’Atelier de l’Éclair – Creative flavors and delicious eclairs, but insanely expensive at almost €5 a pop.
Pierre Hermé – Subtly sweet macarons in a variety of creative flavors.
Ladurée – Ridiculously long lines and over the top decor. The flavors are simple and the macarons are perfectly crunchy on the outside and meringue-y on the inside.
Berthillon – According to most (us included) this place serves up the best ice cream in all the city.
Sugarplum Cake Shop – They don’t open until after noon, but stop in for a sweet treat and admire the pretty cakes.
WOS bar – This is a must visit during American football season, as they air most games. Otherwise, we can’t justify the high prices.
Find any cafe with outdoor seating + a pretty street view and enjoy a glass of wine.
Jardin des Tuileries – Pack a lunch, eat at a cafe, or just stroll on through.
Jardin du Luxembourg – We were a hop, skip, and a jump away from this place and enjoyed wandering through it most during the evening hours.
Rue Mouffetard – We visited nearly every day, as it was less than half a mile from our apartment. Don’t go too early or else you’ll miss the open air market.
Versailles day trip – If you don’t mind waiting for hours to get into the palace, make a day of it. If you’re opposed to looking at tacky fountains and perfectly cut shrubbery all day, give it a quick walk through and say AU REVOIR!
Giverny day trip – Visit the gardens and pond that inspired Monet’s water lilies.
Montmartre – A charming neighborhood worthy of at least a few of your hours.
Shakespeare and Company – A funky bookstore run by expats. Definitely a must visit if you’re going to Notre Dame.
Musée de l’Orangerie – Eight of Monet’s water lily painting are on display and they’re absolutely stunning in person.
Centre Pompidou – Modern art with a panoramic view of Paris.
Musée du Louvre – Coronation of Napoleon, Mona Lisa, Law Code of Hammurabi, Venus de Milo, etc.
Musée d’Orsay – Stunning building, and an entire floor devoted to impressionism (our personal favorite).
Musée des Égouts – Despite the fact that Ashlae could hardly tolerate the stench, it was interesting to see how Paris’ sewer system came to be over the course of a few centuries.
Catacombes de Paris – Remarkable ossuary below the bustling streets of Paris.
Our best stay of the trip (so far) was certainly our apartment in the Latin Quarter. We were provided with afternoon snacks, a well stocked fruit bowl, fresh apricot preserves, and a bottle of red wine. The apartment was small but incredibly efficient, and even had a beautiful courtyard view. It’s also worth noting that the shower had two heads with excellent water pressure – the more we travel, the more we realize a good shower is hard to come by in many places.
If you’re a runner and unfamiliar with the city, I highly recommend bringing your mobile or some sort of device with GPS. Ashlae got lost during several of her runs – which doubled (sometimes tripled) the lengths and made for some pretty rough days.