Yes, this happened back in May of 2018 and I’m posting about it in January 2019. But is it ever too late to document your first trip abroad?? Abroad sounds like such a fancy word and such a fancy occasion certainly has no statute of limitations for posting it on your blog.
Paris was the perfect destination for two people that had previously never left the states. So much to do in one city and many of its people speak english. In a pinch, I know just a little bit of french- enough to understand signs and communicate at restaurants (all of the important stuff). Between the sites, food, weather, vibe, and general beauty of the city, we were smitten.
I’ve been told (indirectly via blog posts and people I stalk on Instagram that have been to France) that you should stay in an AirBnB when visiting Paris. I’ve never stayed in a hotel in Paris, but based on the single place we stayed in our total of six days in Paris, I recommend AirBnB. Specifically the neighborhood where our AirBnB. And specifically our AirBnB. Unless you don’t like climbing 5+ flights of stairs. But remember that 5+ flights of stairs gets your a 5+ flights of stairs view. And ours was lovely. Though I was so smitten with Paris that if our view was the back wall of another Parisian building, I probably would’ve loved it.
We stayed in a lovely one bedroom on a side street of the 10th Arrondissement, just two blocks away from Canal St. Martin. I stressed about finding a great location amongst locals, but also close to metro stops, shops, and good food (as if there isn’t good food all over Paris). This apartment delivered. We were far enough out of the city center for us to be surrounded by locals and not deal with tourist traps/prices but close enough that we had access to everything we wanted to see. Within a block or two, we had a metro stop, multiple grocery stores, bakeries, pastry shops, bookstores, boutiques, and a huge variety of restaurants clearly loved by the locals, as evidenced by the many delivery drivers hanging around our street waiting for orders.
Other details about our AirBnB:
It had a washer/dryer machine (one machine). It was incredibly confusing. Our clothes never dried. Apparently that’s a thing in France where they legitimately think their dryers dry (see also: L’Appart by David Lebovitz)
They had an espresso maker and varied selection of pods with tiny espresso mugs that we were obsessed with. We were powered solely by espresso all week.
There were so many amazing vintage details (beyond the obviously “vintage” building itself) from the light fixtures to the furniture and pottery that looks like its been broken and put back together many times. Our host is very well-traveled himself and he had little tchotkes from all over the world decorating the place. It was the perfect vibe.
Whenever we were there, we kept the windows open to listen to the sounds of the city, even at night when people were sitting outside the brasserie next door with their children until midnight. The view and the weather were both wonderful and we definitely didn’t take it for granted.
Check out that adorable fridge.
Books everywhere. Loved.
I’ve wanted to go to Versailles ever since freshman world history where our teacher described in detail the lavishness of Louis X!V and his palace. I couldn’t believe she had been to it and seen the Hall of Mirrors. I added it to my own personal bucket list. We got there fairly early in the morning, but it was already packed with an enormous line just to get in. I spent much of our time inside trying to get out of one packed room only to get to another packed room. It was certainly a test for my claustrophobia. But it was all worth it, especially for the Hall of Mirrors. We got some macarons and took them out to picnic in the vast gardens. Next time I’ll skip the inside tour and spend a whole day exploring the gardens. They were so large we only saw just a glimpse.
And to think Parisians wanted this blight on their city taken down! It was amazing to see in person. I especially loved that if you had any sort of vantage point on the city or were in a fairly open space, you could see the tower off in the distance. Tip: The North side (by or across the Seine) was much better than the South side (with the greens).
All of you that have posted pictures of the Mona Lisa crowded by throngs of people almost kept me from going to the Louvre. I expected it to be packed, but we were in the area early in the morning so decided to give it a go. Only the Mona Lisa had a crowd! The rest had loads of room to explore and take your time seeing everything. We lucked out and happened to be there during the Eugene Delacroix exhibit (thank goodness, because his museum was closed for renovations). Seeing his masterpieces and even his practice sketches was incredible. Don’t skip out on the Louvre if you ever get the chance to go. It’s incredible and we’ll definitely be back.
On our last day in Paris, we slowed down. We got some pastries from Angelina and picnicked with the rest of Paris at the gardens. I love Paris’ dedication to creating beautiful open spaces and the people’s dedication to using them. I do regret not riding a carousel though. Next time!
If we do another photoshoot, I think I’d like it done at Notre Dame. So gorgeous! Unfortunately we got there in the middle of a Friday afternoon so it was packed. We didn’t end up going inside or to the top, but we spent a lot of time looking at the outside. Next time we’ll give it the attention it deserves.
The first place we happened to eat at was American. Very well done and we had a lovely server that wanted to chat all day about living in America. The best part was the art on the wall that had really really random english phrases like “rub along with wood.” Was that the french equivalent of Americans getting japanese tattoos that mean nonsense?
Classic french bistro that’s open all day for coffee, breakfast, snacks, drinks, dinner, or dessert. Picturesque outdoor seating with a view of the canal.
So good we ate their twice. Vegan vietnamese food, though we weren’t aware it was vegan on our first trip, that’s how good it was.
Asian-french fusion and probably one of my favorite restaurants we ate at. I loved the whole style and vibe and the food was incredible. I dream about that bao.
A walk-up creperie that makes the crepes in front of you and packages them up to go for you to enjoy them in a park were you can watch random families play petanque. Or at least that’s what we did. And it was perfect.
Marcus Pizza Amore
A tiny restaurant that can only seat 10 or less at a time with the tiny kitchen and pizza oven on full display. Possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had and the owner was so friendly.
A lovely little cafe with your typical parisian cafe faire as well as local gourmet goods. Their seating is in an adorable tiny attic nook. We got sandwiches and coffee and took our time enjoying the atmosphere.
I went here thanks to the cookbook Tasting Paris that recommended (then offered a similar recipe for) bostock, an amazing pastry that’s basically brioche, almond paste, jam, and powdered sugar all smashed together. This pastry shop had a very chain feel and it was probably the worst service we had on the trip, but boy was that pastry worth it.
I worried this well-known spot would be too touristy or not worth it or something. It was worth it. And yes there were many tourists there, but it’s well loved by Parisians as well. The drinking chocolate is to die for and we had a very delicious brunch before taking some pastries to go to picnic in the Tuileries garden. But I realized chestnut is really not my flavor so their famous mont-blanc pastry was not a favorite…
I heard about Berthillon while doing ice cream research forever ago for my own ice cream making so it was at the top of my food bucket list. A pleasant walk away from Notre Dame, this ice cream place is worth the hype! There was a line for the walk-up section, but we enjoyed a seat in their parlor. Their ice creams are absolutely heavenly. They had loads of flavors to choose from, all decadent yet light and excellently flavored.
And many other places…
I can’t name every single place we went to because we ate small portions at a lot of different places so as to try as much as possible. I love that Paris requires restaurants to display their menus outside their shops so we had a chance to check out menus and see if it sounded interested before sitting down. We usually had croque-madames, crepes, or pastas in those situations where we ended up in a place we knew nothing about and for the most part, we did alright by that! We also stopped into many a pastry shop and got a few fresh baguettes from boulangeries. And we frequented the neighborhood MonoPrix for snacks and cheap bottles of wine for the evenings or our picnics by the canal.
Les Nouveautés books
Bookstore just a block from our apartment that has a fantastic selection and some english titles as well as a great kids section. We bought some books as well as playing cards for picnicking along the Canal.
Shakespeare & Co. books
Worth the hype with it’s fantastic selection of english books with a view of Notre Dame cathedral. It is crowded and packed so full I never even made it upstairs before it was time to move along. But don’t worry, I’ll be back.
Artazart books and artsy gifts
I loved this store and their carefully curated selection of art and hobby books as well as an amazing selection of beautifully illustrated kids books, fun prints, and unique gifts. Well worth a stop, even if you aren’t artsy.
Antoine et Lili
I loved the home goods store (though they also have a clothing store) and spent too much time in there trying to decide how many things I could reasonably buy and take home. Everything in that store is how I want my house to look.
Beautiful jewelry and accessories with the loveliest women working there who were convinced they didn’t speak english well, yet spoke perfectly fine. I got a pair of gorgeous earrings here.
Minimal and beautiful selection of handmade goods with a lovely shop owner. A bit too pricey for me but I would’ve loved to buy everything.
La Passerelle concept store and cafe
I loved this place so much we had to go multiple times, though each time I had a difficult time deciding what to purchase because I wanted it all. Lots of great gifts from stationery to kitchen wears to accessories.
Photos by a photographer!
I was so excited to see AirBnB started offering experiences that locals can offer. We looked into having private food tours or cooking classes, but ended up booking a professional photographer. Best. Choice. Ever. We hadn’t had photos of us in a long time, so it was good to get some new ones, but how cool to have these pictures of us in Paris that will last forever? Our photographer met us bright and early around the Louvre and in one hour, we walked around a few miles and got a huge variety of photos. Plus, it was really cool to see Paris when everything was quiet and the sun was just coming up. Now we think we’ll have to do this whenever we travel abroad. It was well worth the money and I highly recommend it.
Tips from a girl that’s only been to Paris once but has a blog so is obviously expert enough to share tips
Research, save destinations on a Google map, and save the map before you leave. This was a lifesaver especially since we didn’t get cell service. Saving my Google map of Paris meant we knew where all the metro stops were and what their schedules are. But the best part was that before our trip, I saved every restaurant and shop and site mentioned on travel blogs, etc. on my map. Then if we were in that neighborhood, I could pull out my map and see what places I’d saved that came highly recommended and were near us. I also saved our “must-do” list to Trello, giving each arrondissement their own list so if we took the metro to that area, we could cross everything off that list without having to get on the metro again. The arrondissements make planning so easy. All the research also helped to make sure we were eating at delicious locally-recommended spots instead of places that looked good (because everything in Paris looks good).
Don’t eat in the super touristy neighborhoods. I’d heard this advice so we generally stayed away from places around the Eiffel Tower and Louvre with the exception of Angelina (worth it and not a tourist trap) and a few cafes/bistros we ended up at simply because we were there and starving. Those were the most (relatively) disappointing spots. Just because it’s a bistro in Paris and it’s crowded doesn’t mean it’s good. Though it’s still decent because yes, it is Paris. The best food we ate was a few metro stops away from downtown. I’ll go a step further and say if there’s a lot of delivery drivers waiting by their vespas outside a restaurant, it’s a good sign. That means locals love it so much they want it delivered to them.
Use the metro. It really is easy to get around, especially if you download a Google map of the entire city beforehand (see above). Pretty much all lines lead to the city center and there are connecting lines in between as well as larger stations around the city where you can connect to anywhere. And Paris is so walkable you can easily walk a little farther to get to those bigger stations if you’re worried about navigating train transfers (though there are clear signs everywhere so it’s not too difficult). I know if you look at a map, it looks insane, but I promise it’s much easier than it looks. Though I speak some french, it didn’t really come in handy on the metro but their color-coding and destination maps at each train and stop made it easy. We bought a book of ten tickets and that was nearly enough for our weeklong trip (though we could’ve easily walked to some places we took the metro to). I will note, however, that Uber’s are EVERYWHERE, even very very early in the morning when you need a ride to the airport, just in case you were paranoid about planning your trip back to the airport like I was.
Though it’s not necessary, learn a little french. I brushed up on my french with Duolingo before our trip as well as memorized some common phrases that would come in handy (like how to ask someone to speak slower or if a business accepted credit cards or if someone spoke english or to order tap water, no sparkling). I found that 4/5 times, Parisians would respond to my french in english, knowing I was American and were kind enough to end my obvious struggling. However, they often showed appreciation that I took the time to be respectful of them and their country that I was visiting. Many people would say they didn’t speak much English but they spoke it better than I might ever learn french (so modest of them). It was only a problem a few times, more often the farther away from city center we got. Either way, starting things off conversations in stumbling french with a phrase I memorized beforehand and letting them speak english if they could certainly comes off nicer than constantly telling people “I don’t speak french” on the trip you’ve been planning for months.
FOR NEXT TIME
Yes, there will definitely be a next time. We’re thinking that every time we go to Europe, we’ll spend some time in Paris in addition to whatever new places we want to explore. We just got so attached in our short week there. Next time we will be sure to…
Spend more time exploring the Versailles gardens. We’ll pack a nice picnic, skip the crowded tours of the chateau, and enjoy the gorgeous outdoors. And hopefully next time Marie Antoinette’s hamlet will be open.
More art museums. Now that we’ve checked the big sites off our list, we can spend money on the smaller or less well known sites and museums that we just didn’t have the budget for. I’d love to go to Delacroix’s museum and Orangerie and the Pompidou.
Eclairs. Can you believe I didn’t eat a single eclair in Paris? I’d love to find some choux pastry specialty shops and try loads of different kinds.
Montmartre. We never made it up to see Sacre-Coeur and I’d love to see the view of Paris from there as well as explore the 1920’s artists and writers sites.
Hop on a train and head out to small towns. I loved exploring Versailles and seeing the quieter places outside of Paris, so I’d love to see other smaller towns and get a little off the beaten path (and maybe be forced to actually use my french).
Ride a carousel. There are loads of lovely carousels all over the city and I regret not just hopping on one.