The long awaited honeymoon! It's been a journey to get here. When we set our wedding date for October 8th we knew we would not be able to take a honeymoon right away. Not only is my husband a teacher, but this was his first year in a new district. Trying to take a week off at the beginning of the school year would not have been a good idea. So we made plans to take this honeymoon this summer.
Even before we got engaged we'd talked about doing something extravagant for a honeymoon and Paris had always been the original plan. Then, after the wedding, our focus shifted. We put honeymoon plans on the back burner because we decided to start house hunting. When that didn't work, we rekindled our vacation plans but this time were trying to keep it more low-key by going to Banff and Jasper National Parks in Alberta. (FYI- it takes almost as long and costs almost as much to fly to Calgary as it does Paris).
The day before the Alberta trip, the plans came crashing down. Due to flight changes, inclement weather, and website malfunctions, we hit road block after road block in trying to make the trip work. Finally, around midnight we had to admit defeat. That trip was not going to happen.
We woke up the next day very upset, but immediately picked up the pieces and decided to plan a completely new trip. After checking various flights and accommodations we chose a brand new destination- we were going to Paris like we'd originally planned!
The Universe was looking out for us, because we just knew this was the trip we were supposed to take.
Normally I keep my blog posts on here business related, but we had such a great time I can't help but want to blog about the whole trip, so that's what I'm going to do! Plus it might help someone in the future if they are ever traveling and happen to come across it. I felt like many of the travel blogs and guidebooks I read let me down a bit on this trip, so I'm going to include some tips from what we learned.
Day 1 - We got in at 2pmish on August 16th. We'd been awake for almost 24 hours at that point but knew we'd need to push it a few more so we didn't end up jet-lagged.
We stayed in an AirBnb in the 16th District in an area called Auteuil. The apartment was SO cute, very Parisian. the 16th is a quieter, slightly affluent area, though still not far away from the center of the city. We could have walked to the Eiffel Tower in about 35 minutes if we'd wanted to. But the best part was that the apartment was only about a 3 minute walk to the nearest Metro station. We really ended up in an amazing location.
After settling in, we realized a major mistake we'd made- not planning for the electrical outlets! I had not come across this in any blog or guidebook, and I never even thought to check, but most places in Europe do not use the "Edison plug" that is common in North America. You need an adapter. Interestingly, I messaged both the owner of the apartment and the person who'd met us and unlocked the unit for us, to see if they could recommend a place to buy an adapter. If this were me at my home, and a European traveler need an adapter I would be able to to rattle off 10 stores rapid fire without having to even think! But they were not much help.
Luckily, on our way to a grocery store to see if they had what we needed, we passed an electronics store that did not come up on my Google searches. Because our phones both had USB plugs, we were able to find the right adapter for us. Crisis averted. But be warned, future travelers. Plan ahead.
We bought some groceries and pushed ourselves to stay up until it got dark so we could avoid jet lag, knowing we had a big day ahead of us!
Day 2 - When we woke up on the 17th we already knew where our first stop would be - the Eiffel Tower! After a great breakfast at a small place near us called Polo, we took the Metro from our apartment directly to Trocadero. (We were quite struck by how clean and orderly the Paris metro is!)
We had such a beautiful experience seeing the Tower for the first time! August is a busy tourist time, but on that morning it wasn't too crowded. There was a musician playing keyboard, everyone there was very calm and quiet. You round the corner when you get off the metro and *Bam* the tower is right there in front of you.
It was an emotional experience seeing it for the first time! All I can say is, I have seen a million pictures of it and not one does justice to what it looks like in person. It's such a beautiful piece of architecture, a welcoming beacon and a symbol of hope and human achievement.
We spent some time around the tower. One thing I should mention is we had decided that we were not going to pre-plan hardly anything. We made two dinner reservations and that was it. This was purposeful, because we wanted to keep the trip more relaxed, however we knew there were plenty of popular sites we may not get to see because of this. Going to the top of the tower, for example, was not going to happen unless we wanted to wait hours. We did not. Maybe for a future trip we'll get tickets, but this time we just wanted to experience as much as possible.
After finding a little food and getting weirdly familiar with Parisian public toilets, we got tickets for the Batobus so we could ride down the Seine to other sites instead of walking. (Tip: the public toilets go through a cleaning cycle after every use. Though this may seem nice, until you have a group of 20 people waiting and everyone has wait an additional 1-2 minutes for every person. This means the lines take forever. Instead, when you feel the urge to go, just go order a drink or snack from one of the billion cafes around. They all have their own restrooms. It's much better than waiting in line in the sun.)
We had made dinner reservations that night at a restaurant called Au Petit Riche. I'd heard they we well-known for their creme brulee, and let me tell you- it did not disappoint. We also enjoyed an old-fashioned dining experience there, where the staff and servers really wine and dine you. French dining and service is slow by design, they pop their heads regularly but instead of constantly bothering you they just look to see if your glasses are empty and plates are finished. If you're obviously still eating/drinking or in the middle of conversation, they rarely interrupt. We loved this!
Day 3 - We decided to check out The Louvre knowing we may not actually get inside, which we did not. Again, if we'd wanted to wait about 2 hours we could have but there were way too many other things to see and do to justify waiting. Also, this day was HOT! Very very hot and humid. So while we were able to awe at the iconic Pyramid and the architecture of the palace, we chose to move on from the museum and instead go visit Notre-Dame Cathedral.
This was one of my highlights! That cathedral is so beautiful. We were not able to go inside, as it is still under construction. But around the outside, they've created an amazing exhibit detailing the reconstruction efforts with photographs and quotes. It is so nice for them to recognize the powerful effect this building has on people, and allow them to get as close to it as they can, even if they can't go inside yet.
We then walked across the bridge to a famous bookstore called Shakespeare and Company. Here I'd hoped to find the book I wanted as my souvenir, and I was in luck! I bought a cookbook called Et Voila! by Manon LaGreve. I've already made a few things from it, this was a perfect souvenir.
That night we had dinner at a bistro called Astier, a recommendation from a friend. Here we started to notice some of the nuances of French cooking. Particularly, how they don't do much in the way of seasoning to whatever the "start" of the show is. For example, if you order a steak it will be a high quality cut and cooked to perfection, but won't have been heavily seasoned. Instead, they will serve it with a sauce or side that is more flavorful and complimentary.
I should also mention here - there is very little A/C used in Paris, probably most of France. Some days that was fine, but on a day as hot and humid as this one was, it was difficult to fully enjoy our food while we were melting.
Day 4 - The night before we had talked about going to Versailles. But for some reason, the idea wasn't sitting right with us. We knew the gardens were usually open even if you couldn't go inside the palace, but there were some differences on days that had special events so we weren't entirely sure if we'd be able to get in to anything without waiting for hours. Considering it was Saturday and probably super busy, we decided to stay in Paris.
We explored the super artsy and bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre. Even with throngs of people you can see why this would be an artist's haven. There's a charm here that is different from other areas of the city, and it's fun to walk around the cute cobblestone streets and watch artists paint their works.
Dinner that night was a River Cruise with Bateaux Parisien. While the food was good, and it was fun cruising along all the famous sites, we would probably not do this again. It was the most expensive meal we had, but certainly not the best. Plus, with a 6:15 start time, the sun was in our eyes the whole time.
We were going to stay in the city center and wait until the lights on the Tower came on, but after dinner we would have had almost 2 hours to kill until that happened, and we quickly realized that Saturday night is not a time you want to be near the Eiffel Tower. The beautiful, calm, serene vibe from Thursday morning has been changed into absolute chaos with swarms of people around from base of the tower over to Trocadero. Think Times Square times 100. Tip: Avoid the touristy areas on weekends!!!!
Day 5 - Our last full day. After being traumatized by the amount of people downtown the previous night, we decided to spend our last day exploring the 16th District, the area where we were staying. This ended up being one of the best day (although all the days were great).
I came across an amazing find that I had not seen in any guidebook- we were in walking distance of a museum called the Marmottan, which has a huge collection of Monet paintings. And guess who my favorite painter is? That's right.
We had a great time there (and it was the only building we'd been in for days that had air conditioning!). Even my husband, who isn't a huge art fan, is always moved by impressionism. He is a classically trained musician, and this era of art he can easily relate to the movement going on in music at that same time. Seeing these works was inspiring.
For dinner, we chose a newer restaurant called Mon Square. Near Invalides, so a little farther in that the crowds reached, this was a nice place to experience a more modern Paris that caters to a slightly younger crowd. It was very colorful and "grammable" inside, and the staff was extremely friendly and accommodating.
We noticed that because there are so many cafes and restaurants to chose from, not one place we went to was packed. This helps with being able to take your time and enjoy your food. You never feel like they are trying to rush you out the door. One other thing the guidebooks/blogs let me down on- I'd read that tipping was not customary because most restaurants automatically include a 15% gratuity in the bill. However, not one place we went included any kind of upcharge and it is not prompted when they charge your card. This meant, since we did not have cash, we really didn't end up tipping much. I feel guilty, and hope that is really isn't as customary as it is here, but in the future I will definitely take out some euros to leave on the table for a server just in case.
With our last full day coming to a close I admitted that the one thing I would be sad to have not done was see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night. We were unsure whether we should try to brave the crowds, but after a few drinks we decided to go for it.
We ended up taking the metro from Invalides down to Champs du Mars, and by the time we got there it was already lit up in all it's glory! If you want to avoid crowds, we learned to stay at the far end of Champs du Mars. The vibe down there was similar to our first experience. Yes, a lot of people, but fairly quiet and chill. If you want to see the lights at night, this is the station and area to stick to.
I am so happy we made an effort to see the lights, it's just another amazing way of seeing this iconic landmark.
Day 6 - We had to check out of the AirBnb by 11 but our flight wasn't until pm. Luckily, Paris has plenty of places near busy hubs where you can store luggage. We chose a City Locker near Gare du Nord. This was a great thing to be able to do. You just reserve a locker ( we needed 2) for $15 each, you get emailed a code to get into the building and codes for your specific locker. It's really convenient and helped us be able to enjoy our last few hours in the city without carrying around 3 suitcases.
Our last stop was the Luxembourg Gardens. This was a nice place to relax and unwind after several magical but tiring days. There are plenty of tourists there, but quiet and respectful ones, as well as a lot of locals out for a picnic lunch. The Medici Fountain is a very romantic spot.
We got gelato from a place called Amarino's and it had the best chocolate hazelnut gelato you could ever imagine. That was our last taste in Paris and it did not disappoint.
We had such an amazing time and cannot wait to go back. Paris, for all it's luxury, is also a very accessible city. You can easily navigate the Metro and get anywhere you want for little cost. It is helpful to speak some French, like my husband does, but English will still get you everything you need. There are busy touristy spots, but also areas for respite from the crowds. And it can fit almost any budget, we found the prices for things were comparable to what they'd be in New York as far as food and drinks.
However, we will never go in August again! A cooler time of year would not only be better, but August us peak tourist season. And many locals leave for August so several shops and cafes were not open. A spring or fall trip would be amazing!
It was very much worth the stress of losing the original trip as well as the time it took to get to this point. As a little girl, you dream of honeymooning in Paris with your Prince Charming. My dream became reality!
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