Earlier this year we traveled to Paris for what was supposed to be a romantic just the two of us getaway before baby girl arrived but turned into an escape from the crushing sadness of the last couple of weeks. The city of light was a perfect busy distraction. Here is a list with links of the places we ate. In the upcoming weeks I will post what we did and our pictures. This is no way a comprehensive list for Paris but simply what we chose to do. We do not wake up before dawn to get in line before tourist places open. We believe there is no way to do, see and eat everything you want to during historical, international vacations. We want our time to be productive yet relaxing, enjoyable and restful. Therefore we attempt not to book too much or push ourselves too hard. I have noted my suggested must dos below. There are not many because there is so much to do in Paris you really must research and plan what best suits your taste and loves.
We never venture on any European vacation with out the guidebook from Rick Steves. I recommend you do the same. His website has wonderful resources and most of his books are available on Amazon with Prime shipping.
My Parisian Life blog.
Cupcakes and Cashmere post from their Paris trip.
Perfectly Paris blog.
We tried to go to L’As du Fallafel per many blog recommendations but it was closed. So we opted for, King Falafel Palace, one of the open ones near by. I got the pita falafel, Ryan got the pita chawarma and we split fries. We took ours back down to the banks of the Seine to eat. I can not say that I recommend this one over any of the others close by but I definitely recommend going to one of them.
Breizh Cafe is a restaurant you see over and over again on blogs about Paris. It was yummy. Reservations are recommend but we went early one night and got lucky without them.
Little Breizh is unrelated to Breizh as far as we can find is also delicious. I mean crepes its hard to find a bad one there. We noticed he pushed the locals through faster than the tourist which was both enduring and annoying. Also a good sign that it was authentic and not just a tourist trap.
Caramel Sarrasin we discovered our first time in Paris. The salted caramel is heavenly. I wish I could drink it. It’s a must do to me try the caramel cider and grab a jar of their salted caramel to bring home. While you are there grab an extra for me.
One evening we collected a food items from Galeries Lafayette Food Hall for a picnic. This was not to far from our hotel and it was a Monday when all the local shops are closed. We ate our food in the Montmartre area. We did not realize they locked most of the parks before dusk. We finally found a green corner spot to eat on and soon realized possible why the parks are locked. Sketchy activities. We decided to pack up our picnic and move locations. We ventured down to Pont Neuf. Here we dined above the Seine with a perfect view of the illuminated and sparkling Eiffel Tower Also interesting to learn the benches along the bridge used to be stalls to sell goods from.
Later in the week we purchased all of our picnic bounty at Rue de Levis, market street located in the 17th. I felt there was a wonderful mix of local shops and nicer upscale specialty shops. Honestly we bought meat from the grocery store because knowing little to no French we could not tell which meat was cooked and which was not in the local shops. We took our goods to Parc Monceau for our picnic. It was a beautiful park filled with locals doing everyday life which I enjoy witnessing. Also, free restrooms. This was by far my favorite park we visited.
Grab your Angelina hot chocolate to go rather than sitting down. The line is generally always much shorter. You can enjoy while walking the streets of Paris or sit in Jardin des Tuileries and people watch.
For breakfast most days we just popped into local bakeries and grabbed some croissants or other pastries. They really are unlike anything you can find in America. A few times we had to grab something at tourist spots because Easter Monday most local places are closed. There are so many located all over the city.
Stop by a market street, you can google or see above to find them. Pick up some items for a picnic. These are the things you can not leave Paris without trying: bread (fresh, local bakery), butter made in France, French cider, and French yogurt. Trust me. Buy a knife take the butter (I’m not talking about a healthy little spread either-I am talking a good hearty once in a lifetime food opportunity layer) , apply to the bread, insert into your mouth, wash down with cider. You can thank me now or later. Honestly. I would say this is my top non-negotiable must do item.
The French yogurt is also heavenly, probably because most of it is full-fat. Bonus they come in the cutest little glass and ceramic pots that you can bring home. La Fermiere was my favorite brand, great flavor and cute cup. I purchased some salted caramels, added them to a clean yogurt pot, and wrapped it in a cello bag. Instant present.
I have been searching the internet for an hour to find a picture of one of my favorite French grocery store find. Salted Caramel and Chocolate Pot. BUT you know what I discovered they sell these in America.
I will be visiting Whole Foods tomorrow. Sadly my area Whole Foods did not carry them. We enjoyed these in our room at night.
The best way to locate pastries and sweet treats is just pop in periodically into whatever you are walking past and looks good! Pop in look around. If you don’t want to buy anything that’s ok. Just be sure to greet the people working in the shops and stores when you enter and exit. Explore and try different things.
Pick up your Laduree macarons in the airport as you leave. The line is generally short, you don’t have to worry about getting them past security, and they will be fresh for the flight home.
I also encourage you to pop in any local shop to try different macarons in Paris you will find some better than others but you really can not go wrong.
This year we stayed at Hotel Touraine Opera. It was clean and the location was decent. It did have a mini bar fridge that we used to keep food cold. Last year we stayed at Relais du Pre. It was clean and the room we had was bigger. The biggest thing to me that stood out was the staff was friendlier here. It also had doors we could open to the outside. I am a lover of big windows and balconies. I would recommend this one over the other. They are not too far from each other. We tend to not stay in really expensive hotels, hence one reason we can travel frequently by not spending all our money in one place. I would recommend first picking out things you want to do then look for a hotel in the area closest. But like all good major cities the public transport is easy and quick, so it is possible to go anywhere in the city. I am a fan of picking good locations so that its easy to get up early (which is often required to beat crowds) then return for a mid afternoon rest and refresh if desired. A good affordable location can be close to a subway entrance on a main line that does not require too many exchanges to get you where you want to go instead a more expensive hotel in the middle of all the attractions.
Do not over book yourself. Enjoy your vacation. Relax. Take it in at a slow pace. There will be no way to accomplish everything you want to do and see. Generally we make a list of what we want to do and see then cross some things off the list. That way we do not need a vacation from our vacation. We also aren’t rushing around or panicking about time.
Especially on your arrival day don’t plan too much. Allow yourself time to settle in and get acquainted to the city. Especially a brand new city and culture. No matter how many times we have traveled (not as many as some people for sure) I generally will feel panicked and overwhelmed the first day and it usually happens in the train stations. They are foreign to us and busy and fast paced. Allow yourself time to figure it out.
Don’t exchange money before you go or at the airport. Alert your bank of your travel plans and use the ATMs we did this in all the countries we have traveled to. The exchange rate is better and you can just get out what you need for the day.
Do not forget money for tips if your doing guided tours or experiences.
Wear a money belt. Be aware of your surroundings. I carry a cross body bag to carry our water, snacks, guide book, any purchase for the day and camera in. I keep my hand on my bag in crowded situations like the subway and street corners. But Ryan and I spilt up cash between our money belts. I carry a different credit card or two associated with a different account from the main one Ryan carries. Just as back up.
We generally also lock up our passports in the room safe but I carry copies in my money belt. We also have a copy in our email. I’ve read having a physical copy is better than just an emailed one.
Greet the employees of a shop when you enter and exit in the countries native language. At least doing that and being nice will get you a long way when it comes to language barriers. Most people speak English as well but it’s polite to approach with a French greeting. Make the effort.
Pack reusable bags that fold or pack into themselves. Many stores charge you extra for a bag. I feel like it’s also helpful just to be thoughtful and fit I with the locals more. Your efforts won’t go unnoticed.
Check into the Museum passes and different combo passes available. Some allow you to enter through a different line which is a huge time saver and worth it to me.