Now that I'm back from my inaugural trip to the City of Lights, I wanted to share a recap of what I did during my European adventure. Nine days was a nice amount of time to immerse myself in the local culture and get a high-level Parisian perspective. We stayed in the fashionable and hip Le Marais district that's dotted with historic buildings that predate the revolution, boutiques, trendy shops, restaurants, bakeries, art galleries and museums. We chose this neighborhood because it was close to most everything we wanted to do and had easy access to the metro (subway system). The squad and I planned a few activities prior to arrival for the things that we definitely wanted to do but we still allowed a few days to play-it-by-ear so as not to overwhelm ourselves.
The Eiffel Tower
View from the top of the Eiffel Tower at night
Arc de Triomphe
We split our time between day activities and night activities, with lots of walking and eating in between! Many of our days consisted of visiting a point of interest, grabbing a bite to eat while out then returning home to relax before we began our evenings. Evenings typically included dinner, mixing it up with the locals, a visit to a cocktail bar and/or dancing. We even found time to slip into a live music venue, Les Disquaires, for some funk and soul in the Bastille area. We climbed the Eiffel Tower (well climbed halfway then took a lift to the top), strolled the Champs-Elysse at night to admire the lights and shops, traversed neighborhoods like Montmartre and Pigalle, rambled through the Louvre to find the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, and got our fashion fix at the Yves Saint Laurent museum. There are a number of low and high end boutiques in Paris for both men and women. In fact, I was really impressed at the number of boutiques that catered to men only in Paris. And of course we did some shopping.
Venus de Milo
Eiffel Tower during the day
Mona Lisa set behind bulletproof glass at The Louvre
If cocktail bars are your thing then Paris won't disappoint, there are quite a few bars for you to explore. From tiki bars to speakeasies, there is a place to grab a great cocktail and meet new people or just vibe to great music. The beauty of old buildings in Paris is that there are strict rules about the types of renovations you can make so you'll find many places are on multiple levels, bathrooms are tiny and below ground level, narrow staircases or tight spaces are very common. It's a little different than the States where we prefer space and lots of it, but you adapt. The live music scene is pretty cool in Paris too, quite a few jazz clubs and piano bars as well as world music venues.
As you might imagine, food in Paris is A-MAZING. There were a couple of places we stopped by due to time constraints and they weren't as good but overall we were able to put those out of our minds and find really great places to dine for the majority of our trip (a list of recommended restaurants are at the end of this post). Of course we had French food but the diversity of cuisine was so tempting we ended up eating quite a bit and venturing beyond French cuisine. Every bite, including dessert, was worth it. Thankfully we found a gym that offered day passes to help us counteract the effects of too many croissants and baguettes. A number of Americans have set up shop in Paris and the food is very delicious. It's a pleasing blend of American sensibilities paired with French cooking techniques. Of special note is the fried chicken from Ellsworth. The chicken is brined then coated with a breading. The chicken is then served with a homemade buttermilk ranch sauce and sour pickles. The chicken is crispy and well seasoned. It was so tasty!!
Seafood at Restaurant L'llot in Amboise
Venison at Restaurant L'llot in Amboise
Fried Chicken at Ellsworth
Menu board at Les Borgresse
Paris is a fast-paced, bustling city so we decided to take a break and head to central France to the Loire Valley. We hopped a train and were transported out of the city in about an hour. The Loire valley is noted for it's historic towns, vineyards, fruit orchards and chateaus (country houses or castles). We rented a car and visited the towns of Tours and Amboise and they were beautiful. Steeped in history, one can't help but wonder who traveled those narrow, medieval streets thousands of years ago. There are about 22 chateaus in the Loire valley, we were able to see 3: Chateau Royal d'Amboise, Chateau du Close Luce and Chateau Chenonceau. The homes are rich in history and each has it's own unique story of the aristocrats who lived in them so long ago. These jewels of the central valley have been well preserved for visitors to see and appreciate.
Chateau du Close Luce: Leonardo di Vinci spent the last 3 years of his life here
After a day in the valley to recharge we high-tailed back to the city for some evening fun. Paris bars are open until 2am and some dance clubs, depending on neighborhood, are open until 8am. So you see, nightlife in Paris is taken quite seriously. There is a overall sense of live and let live among Parisians which allows you to feel a bit freer and unrestricted. Even with heightened security, we didn't feel unsafe. Also, we didn't feel at a disadvantage not knowing how to speak the language. Many Parisians especially younger people spoke some degree of english and very well. However, they did appreciate our efforts in attempting to offer the obligatory bonjour, merci, bonsoir or excuse moi.
Lastly, we even found time during our trip to take a french baking class focused on Choux pastries (a type of puff pastry used for eclairs and chouquettes). It was quite fun to get a taste of french baking, I think I did pretty well (at least I looked the part!). The squad had a great time and I think we'll be back soon. I'm already planning what I'd like to do on the next visit. Now, I just need to get a few more french phrases under my belt in the meantime. Paris is a great place to visit and I can understand why many have chosen to live there. The spirit of Paris is creative, inclusive and optimistic. I felt this very strongly during my time there and I think you will too. Have you been to Paris? Where have you always wanted to travel to for vacation?
The master at work :)
Choquettes: puff pastry with pearl sugar
Eclairs: puff pastry with Chocolate and Pistachio icing
Below is a list of places we checked out and enjoyed during our Paris trip:
Points of Interest
Pont Alexandre III Bridge
Yves St. Laurent Museum
Arc de Triomphe
Place de la Republique
Eternal Flame (Princess Diana Memorial)
Foundation Louis Vuitton
Catacombs of Paris
Frenchie - Modern French cuisine
Ellsworth - Trendy, casual small plates with vegetable heavy menu
La Mangerie - French fusion tapas-style restaurant
Trois Foi de Piment -Asian noodles
Restaurant L'llot - Classic french cuisine
Les Borgresse - French bistro
HolyBelly - Casual American breakfast with French influence
L'as du Falafel - Israeli street food
Khao Thai - Thai cuisine
Le Coq Rico - French poultry
Lulu White Drinking Club
Little Red Door
Le Mary Celeste
Stay stylish friends...