This post is sponsored by Wondershare, a company that is currently running a contest where you can share your spring break photos (like I am about to!) and win a new iPad and other prizes. Enter here! It’s a quick and easy way to win some cool stuff, just by sharing about your own spring break!
So many of you have asked to hear about all the cool things that I did in Paris, so I thought I’d write a sort of “wrap-up” post. If you’re tired of hearing about Paris…I’m sorry. If you’re interested in my take on the city, than this is your post!
I’m going to break it into sections a little, just because I think it’s easier than going day-by-day.
Getting There/Accommodations/Boring Stuff:
We booked our tickets a long, long time ago, and instead of flying out of Sacramento (wayyyy more expensive!), we flew out of New York City. It’s not unusual to find reasonably priced tickets to NYC and also, it gave me a chance to spend a long weekend in New York! We flew Aer Lingus, and it was far and away the best flying experience I’ve ever had. Comfortable, nice flight attendants, decent-ish food, good entertainment. Winning all around.
Instead of staying in a hotel, we stayed in a studio apartment in the 18th arrondissement, which is the area near the Sacre-Coeur, in Montmartre. We were on the most adorable street, which had a boulangerie, a patisserie, a little grocery store, and the famed Lamarck-Caulaincourt Metro stop (the one that Amelie leads the blind man up!). It was adorable. Our apartment was clean and well-appointed. Here is the view from our street (that’s the Sacre-Coeur!):
The best, most helpful tip I can give you regarding navigating Paris is to ask for a Navigo pass, instead of a typical “tourist” Metro pass. Andrew discovered this little gem of information, and we were able to have access to all the Metro lines, and go back and forth to the airport for super cheap. The Metro is a wee bit complex, but definitely manageable. Recommend.
What We Did
When we arrived, I immediately wanted to go to the Eiffel Tower. Instead, we settled in to our apartment, and then went at sundown. I really couldn’t get enough of the Eiffel Tower. It’s bigger and more majestic than I could have dreamed. Truly magical.
We purchased a Paris Museum Pass, another thing I recommend. It gets you into a lot of the museums without purchasing an additional ticket. We went to Musee d’ Orsay, which was my personal favorite: it was a good blend of accesible art with some different exhibits of more “rare” stuff. It’s also just plain gorgeous inside:
We visited the Louvre, and saw the Mona Lisa and Venus di Milo and a cool exhibit about Egyptians. The Louvre was cool, but if I had to pick a favorite, I’d go Musee d’ Orsay. I’m no art history expert, but it was my preference. We also visited the Museum Of Modern Art at Centre Pompidou. There was a fantastic Matisse exhibit, a lot of recognizable art…and some modern stuff. I think I’m just not sophisticated enough for some modern art, because some of the weird performance stuff and such just seemed like it was a big joke.
We spent a day at Versailles, which is a must-do if you are a history buff, or if you just like beautiful things. It is stunning. I can’t even put it into words. Such luxury, and such history. It’s a ways outside of Paris, but the train runs about every 15 minutes and it only took us about 45 minutes to get there. Worth it.
The Hall Of Mirrors, Versailles
We also visited the Arc de Triomphe, which was cool to see. We climbed to the top, which provided a stunning view. If I had limited time in Paris, I’d probably skip it, but it was definitely a sight to see.
I think my favorite “tourist” thing we did, besides the Eiffel Tower was the Sacre-Coeur. I’m not the most religious person, but I found it incredibly moving. It is beautiful, and incredibly ornate and peaceful inside. We climbed up to the top, as well. If you don’t know, I will tell you: it is narrow and windy to the top. I definitely had to take deep breaths because if you’re even slightly claustrophobic, it is hard times. But the view is worth it:
I highly recommend spending time in the Sacre-Coeur area. There is the most adorable square where artists sell their works, as well as a ton of little shops. Also, crepes! Here’s a photo of the artists’ area:
There are a lot of sketch artists running around, so make sure to tell them not to draw you, as then they’ll want to charge you, but there are some really talented artists in this square. We bought a few paintings from one guy whose work I adored. It was one of my favorite days in Paris.
We also visited the Notre-Dame. I highly recommend the crypt at Notre-Dame, as you can see the remains of the original Paris and it is so fascinating. Notre-Dame is also stunningly beautiful inside, though sadly devoid of hunchbacks:
Since I’m a bookworm, we spent at afternoon exploring Shakespeare and Company, the famed bookshop, which I know from both my studies of Hemingway and (more importantly) as the bookshop Jesse Wallace read at in Before Sunset.
One of the most memorable things we did was take a sunset boat cruise down the Seine on the Bateaux Mouches, a well-known tour boat company. While it was definitely crawling with tourists, it was gorgeous. I highly recommend doing it as the sun is going down. You’ll get to see things like this:
The rest of our time was spent wandering around. We walked by the Moulin Rouge, explored the Latin Quarter, had coffee and creme brulee in the cafe where Amelie worked, and wandered up and down streets. Before we left, I made a list of things I wanted to do, and each day, we’d set a loose agenda and go with it. It worked out nicely. I was admittedly a bit militant about making sure we did everything, but Andrew was much more relaxed, and I think we balanced one another.
Let me give you some friendly advice: eat everything. Do not hold back. The food there is amazing beyond all reason. I was particularly fond of the petit d’jeuner breakfast: a croissant, fresh buttered bread with jam, a coffee or hot chocolate and fresh squeezed orange juice. I cannot say enough about the pastries. A fresh pain au chocolat in the morning will change your life. Eat crepes from the street. Even the butter is delicious. I didn’t eat anything too crazy (NO SNAILS!) but everything I ate was fresh, delicious and amazing. I miss it terribly.
Our favorite restaurant was one we discovered accidentally, as it was located underneath some stairs. It was called Au Pied du Sacre-Coeur, and it was amazing. It was small, the staff was friendly, the wine was amazing, and the food was breathtakingly awesome. My favorite appetizer was the warm goat cheese salad, while Andrew preferred the French onion soup. Both were excellent.I had something called a parmentier, which was a layer of duck and mushrooms, with a layer of mashed potatoes. It sounds weird, but it was amazing. One of the best meals ever. They also have excellent desserts: I had an amazing creme brulee, and then some incredible ice cream. Seriously, everything is so good.
Final, Random Thoughts
Paris is definitely different than the United States. It is a slower pace. Businesses close and don’t keep what we consider “normal” hours. I was warned literally hundreds of times before leaving that Parisians are difficult to deal with, and I found the exact opposite to be true. People were beyond friendly to us, but we also made a concerted effort to fit in and be courteous: we said “Bonjour” and politely asked if someone spoke English, always said “Merci” and tried to speak French wherever possible (uh, not too much since neither of us really speaks it). I think their culture is less over the top friendly, but they are friendly, respectful and helpful, if you are.
I think the best part of this vacation was just enjoying the culture, the views, the food, and life there. I would love to have stayed longer. I absolutely can’t wait to go back.
Have you ever been to Paris? What would you recommend?
Don’t forget…submit your own spring break photos and highlights with Wondershare to win an iPad3 and other great prizes! Also, while I was compensated for linking to this contest, all photos/thoughts/opinions are my own, and I covered the costs of my own trip.