It’s been about a month since we returned from France and I have all our photos sorted, so it’s time to share our adventure! Instead of sharing day by day, as I did with our California trip, I’m going to share by location. First up will be Paris, then Versailles (it deserves its own post!), Provence, Cassis, and finally Mougins.
This was mine and John’s first trip to Europe, which meant it was our first trans-Atlantic (and overnight!) flight! We took off from Montreal around 10pm on Air Canada and landed at Charles de Gaulle around 9:30am local time. We stayed awake long enough to sample our hot airline dinner (surprisingly delicious), then attempted to sleep for the rest of the six hour flight. One tip: we packed a few Burt’s Bees face wipes as well as Wisps, and both helped us feel much fresher going to bed and then again in the morning!
From CDG we took the RER (commuter train) and then the Metro into Paris. This was easy – there was a kiosk to buy tickets right in the airport. The ride to Cambronne, our stomping grounds in the 15th arrondissement, took about 45 minutes. Once we hopped off at our stop, I was amazed when John strode confidently in the correct direction! His trick? He had “walked” the route from the station to our apartment on Google street view. That man is a genius! We successfully met up with our Airbnb host, dropped our luggage, and made outfit changes.
And then we dove in! We walked from the 15th toward the Seine, stopping at a stall along the river for a foccaccia, tomato, and mozzarella sandwich (yum!). Along the way, we saw the Invalides, the Ecole Militaire, and even got a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!
Our destination was the Musee d’Orsay. We didn’t have a ton of time in Paris (really only two days, since most of one of our days was spent at Versailles), and we knew ourselves: while we appreciate art, we are not the biggest art history buffs. So instead of the Louvre, we chose the Musee d’Orsay, which came highly recommended by many people for its art, its architecture, and its more manageable footprint.
We walked the Orsay for about an hour. Sadly, we were feeling the effects of an overnight flight, 24 hours of travel, and the time change at this point, and were dragging pretty hard, so I don’t think we quite did this lovely museum justice. We did, however, love the observation patio on the top floor – the view was completely majestic! If I were to go again, I would listen to an audio tour while walking, because there wasn’t much context for the pieces from signage.
After exiting the Orsay we crossed over the Seine and wandered through the Tuileries. So beautiful! I would love to spend an entire afternoon reading in one of the reclined patio chairs that cover the grounds. One surprise: the Tuileries, as well as many other parts of Paris, were very dusty! The paths are mostly finely crushed gravel, and the wind really whips it into the air. Both John and I had mildly sore throats for our three days in Paris (a small price to pay, though!).
As we walked toward the Champs-Elysees, the crowd definitely got thicker and thicker, and a bit more touristy. But we didn’t mind, because we had a destination in sight: Laduree! We splurged on a sample box of eight, including lemon, chocolate banana, rose petal, and raspberry. The store was as elegant and lovely, and the macarons as delicious, as everyone makes them out to be! A little jewel box. I would definitely recommend a stop, though beyond that I wouldn’t spend much time on the Champs Elysees.
After a brief glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe, we hopped on the Metro (we had purchased unlimited rides, which I would also recommend) to the Trocadero. We got a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower from on high, and successfully avoided all of the selfie stick sellers!
From there, we walked down under the Tower to Cafe Constant, a restaurant that was one of the most often-recommended in our pre-trip research. We arrived right when they opened, as recommended, to avoid a long wait, and were seated promptly. The meal was very good and reasonably priced – classic French food (I got boeuf bourguignon). Our night ended with a walk back to our apartment past the lit-up Tower.
There’s that Paris light – this was taken at 9:30!
On Sunday we started the day with worship at Hillsong Paris. It was similar to the Hillsong NYC service we went to this spring (also in a theater), but a smaller crowd. The whole service was delivered in both French and English (aside from the songs, which were in French). Such a neat way to experience true Parisian life!
After church we headed to Versailles, which I will report on in my next post!
I do have to mention, though, that on Sunday we had dinner at Les Cocottes back in Paris, a restaurant owned by the same chef as Cafe Constant. We LOVED our late (10pm!) dinner at Les Cocottes – definitely one of our favorites from the whole trip. The vibe is kind of like an upscale diner, the food was absolutely delicious, and the whole experience felt very Parisian. Highly, highly recommended.
Even though people always split Paris into the Left and Right Banks, we split our days a little differently: on Saturday we stayed to the West of the Louvre, and on Monday, we were mostly to the right of it. We started our second day in Paris (third day in France) with an escargot (not the snail – a pistachio pastry that looks like a snail!) and a pain au chocolat from Du Pain et Des Idees, another boulangerie that had come highly recommended. We ate them on the bank of the Canal St. Martin, then wandered Le Marais until it was time for lunch. (Can you tell our days were structured around food and sights? But what else is there??)
For lunch, we split from the French fare we had been enjoying and indulged in street-style tacos at a true hole in the wall, Candelaria (recommended by our friends as well as Anthony Bourdain). The “kitchen” was a teensy galley on the other side of the counter from the bar stools where we sat, and the food was delicious.
Fortified, we walked across Pont Neuf to Ile de la Cite.
For our first foray into a Paris historic site, we waited in line for about a half an hour to see Saint Chapelle. It was most definitely stunning, with more than 1,000 Biblical scenes depicted in stained glass!
However, for me, our next destination, Notre Dame, was even more beautiful. Even though the line outside looked long, it moved briskly (we probably only waited five minutes), and there is no entry fee. They’ve done a wonderful job with signage and description inside, and I loved learning more about the cathedral’s history as well as drinking in the amazing architecture.
What’s that? Time for a snack! Next up was Berthillon ice cream, on Ile St. Louis. Warning: as you approach the actual Berthillon location, you will see signs for many, many other shops advertising Berthillon. It’s like the ice cream district! These other shops actually do sell Berthillon, but if you want it from the original location, keep walking. It’s delicious – more icy than creamy, and very intensely flavored.
With our ice cream in hand we strolled around the Jardin du Luxembourg area (beautiful! I liked it better than the Tuileries) before heading back to our apartment to clean up for dinner. En route, we stumbled across a Longchamps store, and I was able to replace my seven-year-old bag (tip: the same bag goes for MUCH less when bought in France!).
Dinner was at Le Coupe Chou, a perfect date night spot. From the outside, it looked like it belonged in England; the inside is a maze of cozy rooms with fireplaces galore.
These two city skeptics were completely charmed by Paris — John especially. Despite the Parisian reputation, everyone we met was INCREDIBLY friendly; there was beauty and history at every turn; and we loved walking everywhere (45 miles in three days!). I also loved that all of the stereotypes about French people and baguettes are 100% true – there was one sticking out of almost every tote bag we saw, or being munched right on the sidewalk! To conclude, we would go back in a heartbeat.
Even though this is a long post, I left out a lot of detail, so please ask questions about specifics if you have them! And if you have been to Paris, I would love to know: did we make it to one of your favorite spots? And if we didn’t, what did we miss?