Bonjour et salut! This is Jolyn, and welcome to our first Paris post! (Otherwise known as look at pictures of us eating food. That and a few little steel sticks thrown together called the Eiffel Tower.) This blog post will be split between myself and John. I will give you a quick overview of our arrival, and John will continue with some things to see.
We arrived to rainy and cold weather that progressively got colder. Fortunately, the sun came out later in our time in the City of Lights, but how I had wished I brought a jacket or blazer! I had been collecting vintage silk scarves over the summer on eBay like my life had depended on it, only to wish I had a saved all my money and brought a leather jacket. More on my Paris trend review later. Oh! And how I survived all the gluten…
John had arranged for a perfect Paris apartment for our stay that we just fell in love with. It was small, lovely, and was only 5 flights up… in other words, we felt just at home! We stayed in the 3rd arrondisement, Le Marais, after John had done a lot of research on what places were safe and not too touristy. And the location suited us perfectly. Home to the attractive Place des Vosges (the oldest planned square in Paris), Le Marais is the center of Jewish Paris, which offered us our choice of delis and falafels (which we took advantage of on several occasions). Reminiscent of New York’s East Village, the neighborhood is also home to many trendy shops and cafes, where one can sit outside and enjoy an espresso and a croissant and watch the passersby. It is, however, a neighborhood that is emerging as a trendy place to stay, so make sure to go there before it gets overrun with Americans like us.
Place des Vosges
Once the rain finally let up, we went out to procure some sustenance for the next few days. We were able to secure some provisions from a local market, which we used to pick up the essentials. During our time in Paris and other locations, we have typically reserved lodging on AirBNB that includes a kitchen. This has saved us countless euros (dollars, rand, and baht) over the years, as we have been able to do our own cooking on holiday instead of always relying on the pricier option – eating out.
And now, we will pass it over to John, who will share some highlights of Paris.
Hello all, Husband here. Let’s go over some things you should know, do, when in the City of Light.
The arrondisement system: Paris is broken up into 20 arrondisements, or districts. Once you get used to the arrondisements, it makes it easier to navigate and know where you are. The smaller-numbered arrondisements are closer to the city center, and the higher numbers are a bit further out. That being said, Paris is often referred to as a patchwork of small towns that form a city, so you really won’t feel too far removed from the activity no matter where you stay. Just make sure to do some research on which arrondisement best fits your personality.
Notice the arrondisement designation on the top of the street sign.
Walking along the Seine: The Seine is the major river that flows through Paris. Although some of our time in Paris ended up being quite chilly (despite being in July), we still were able to enjoy plenty of time walking along the Seine. It’s a must for any visitors to Paris. Check out the beautiful bridges and just enjoy watching the river go by. (The grand Pont Neuf offers a nice vista and plenty of space; also, the rebuilt Pont des Arts encourages lovers to put personalized locks on the barriers and railings on either side of the bridge. Previously, the Pont des Arts, or “Lover’s Bridge,” had thousands of locks running the entire length of the bridge, which caused damage to the bridge due to the immense weight of all the locks, thereby requiring the city to rebuild the bridge.) So did we lock our love here at the Lover’s Bridge? Actually we didn’t, but you’ll find out why and where in a future post. (It wasn’t because we were afraid to be cliché; we bought a lock with the intentions of locking our love, it just wasn’t meant to be.)
A chilly day on Pont Neuf
Lover’s Bridge, or Pont des Artes
Île Saint-Louis: There isn’t anything particularly notable about this island in the Seine, but it offers a quiet neighborhood with some peaceful cafes and bistros and plenty of river views and classic parisien architecture.
The Louvre and Musee d’Orsay: Let me just say this off the bat – we did not actually go inside the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay. Some may consider not seeing the Mona Lisa while in Paris to be blasphemy. I’ve been to Paris twice, and I didn’t visit the Louvre either time. Honestly, I’m not really a museum person – I’ll go, but it won’t be my first choice. I consider the city to be a big walking museum, and unless it’s a subject that really fascinates me, I don’t really see a need to go in and see miniatures of what we could be seeing outside. (I’d rather see a real park than a painting of one.) Even so, if the lines were shorter (it would have taken probably 1.5-2 hours to enter either museum), we would likely have poked around in these national treasures just out of appreciation.
That being said, if you are an art lover, these are must-sees that you already have planned to visit on your future trip to Paris. As for us, we enjoyed seeing the sights from the outside, as the buildings that house both museums are quite remarkable. The Musee d’Orsay is a converted train station with majestic windows – it’s a beautiful building. And of course, you have to get a picture of the famous Louvre pyramid (originally hated by parisiens, but it seems to be growing on them).
d’Orsay from a bridge over the Seine
Enjoy a slow breakfast at a patisserie: Indulge yourself one morning. It’s not an indulgence that will cost much money; it will mostly cost your time. But it will be time well spent. Go to a corner patisserie, order a café au lait and some croissants of various types (au chocolat was our favorite) and just watch the world go by. You will be fascinated with just how many parisiens are more concerned with getting their baguette for the day than with their job; it seems like every few minutes, someone will walk in wearing their business suit in the middle of the work day just to pick up a baguette. Spend an hour just enjoying your morning instead of rushing off to your itinerary for the day. And if you eat at the café (sur place) instead of taking out (emporter), be prepared to pay a slightly higher price. Many French cafes that offer take-away charge more for patrons to eat-in, in exchange for you using their silverware, plates, tables, and their servers.
Get a baguette: They’re tasty and cheap. They will only set you back about 1 euro, and they last all day. I’m a thrifty traveler and I could just munch on a baguette all day and be happy (Jolyn disagrees). And they’re really easy to make sandwiches with. Cut that thing open, stuff it with whatever you like, and you have an easy sandwich you can eat with one hand. It’ll change your sandwich life. (Seriously – when I got a sandwich on regular sliced bread in Italy after my extensive baguette experience, I couldn’t keep that thing together for the life of me. Meat, cheese, and lettuce everywhere.)
Also, baguettes are fun to run around and pose in front of French cars with.
The Arc de Triomphe: The Arc de Triomphe is a massive monument commemorating the French victories in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Located at Place Charles de Gaulle, one of the joys of the Arc is seeing 12 streets converge into one. Seriously. It’s the most harrowing roundabout you can imagine. I’m not sure how there aren’t more accidents. It’s also a must-see just to appreciate how BIG this monument is. It makes the arch in Washington Square Park look like child’s play.
Parisien architecture: No matter which arrondisement you visit, you are guaranteed to see some of the most consistently beautiful architecture from block to block. Each building is thoughtfully planned and constructed, and every building appears to be perfectly preserved for the last couple of centuries. These structures were not constructed solely for utility; these were built to make the neighborhood appealing. I think that of all the cities I’ve visited, only Prague rivals Paris when it comes to consistency of beauty of ordinary buildings.
Eating out: Eating at an outdoor café is a must-do in Paris. We actually did this less than planned, due to our busy, on-the-go schedule. We did, however, enjoy our belated anniversary meal at Kong, a restaurant Jolyn picked out. (Wife here: so I was torn between Hotel Costes and Kong for our special lunch, and was leaning towards Costes. But in the end, the home of the 11 Euro orange juice and 28 Euro cocktail was just going to be too much for this trip, so we went with the more reasonable Kong. It was lovely, delicious and I believe perhaps you are only slightly more likely to be judged by your choice in footwear. But please, go the Costes, be your most fabulous, and report back, young soldier.) Kong was not cheap (we went for lunch, which was more reasonable), but it was worth a special splurge. It features a panoramic view over the city and the Seine; its theme of glass and more glass makes it ideal for “view junkies” like myself (I’m always looking for increasingly more impressive vistas). We stayed until the end of the lunch-serving hours, so we had the place to ourselves at the end.
On the topic of eating out, we ate a lot of falafels. You will be able to enjoy a full and comprehensive report comparing the falafel joints in Le Marais in a future post.
Eat a macaron: Macarons are possibly the most delicious food ever made. Do NOT confuse them with coconut macaroons. Coconut is disgusting. (Editor’s note: the view of coconut is solely held by Husband and does not necessarily reflect the views of 2ofusblog.) Macarons are basically made of almond flour, meringue, and heaven. Get them in Paris, as they are traditionally regarded as a French specialty.
The Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles: These topics will be covered in a future post, as they are too much to cover in this combined blog!
Here is a grab-bag of pictures from Paris that we don’t have as much to write about, but wanted to share:
Hôtel de Ville – and no, it’s not a hotel. It’s a city government building.
A “beach” in Paris along the Seine…sounds like we just missed the Middle Eastern protests…
The eclairs at L’Eclair de Genie are not cheap, but they’re worth trying once. They’re a delicious work of art.
Speaking of art, the Paris street art is pretty cool
More street art
Bright doorways of Paris
Notre Dame de Paris, possibly the world’s most famous cathedral
Notre Dame from the east…note the flying buttresses for all you Gothic architecture buffs
The world-famous Metropolitain signs
I love this fountain dude…He’s just so annoyed with life. “Aww man, you’re making me wear this shell necklace and hold this spitting fish again. C’mon.” His demeanor just looks salty (pun intended?)…
And finally, a video from Jolyn!
And that just about does it for our initial rundown of Paris. It’s a pretty place. But don’t just take our word for it, go watch Midnight in Paris.