This was a tough post to pull together for a few reasons. As I’ve mentioned before, we did A LOT in Paris. So, from a content perspective, it was difficult to choose what to highlight. I prefer to focus on the things we enjoyed, but it’s worth mentioning the sight I would skip. Also, the photos, where do I even start with the photos? I took so many, so to condense those into one easy to digest post was a monumental task. But, I finally did it and here’s the second part of my Paris recap.
WHERE TO STAY
For the second leg of our Paris trip, we chose to stay in the Mayflower Hotel per a recommendation from Adam’s brother. It was right off the Champs-Elysses, which is the perfect location for exploring all of the must see’s in Paris. Honestly, after doing both Airbnb and a hotel in Paris, I would highly, highly recommend staying in a hotel. Our Airbnb experiences in France were nothing like the U.S. or even Iceland. The hosts would insist on meeting us with the key, which is fine, but difficult when cell service is iffy. Then, they’d linger around telling us about the apartment. A hotel was just so much more straightforward and easy.
NEIGHBORHOODS TO VISIT
For strolling around Parisian neighborhoods, our second location was not quite as ideal, but we did manage to make our way around Paris to explore several different arrondissements. I had read about Le Marais being one of the hippest neighborhoods in Paris right now and it lived up to expectations. I wish we’d had more time to explore the streets full of shops and cafés, and I would absolutely stay in Le Marais next time we’re in Paris.
We also spent a late afternoon in Montmartre, which while it does live up to its seedy reputation, also is home to endless adorable hilly streets full of local shops, high end brands, and sidewalk cafés. When we were there, we were on a mission to make our way up to Sacre Coeur for sunset, but we still managed to pop in a few spots. I would absolutely not recommend staying here after dark, but spend a couple daylight hours wandering its vibrant history. Also, make sure you find the Wall of Love.
WHERE TO SIP AND EAT
Actually, Lindsey’s guide led us to more than one restaurant on our trip, and a talk I saw with her and pineapple DC a few months ago led us to Balagan. Make reservations way ahead of time, get dressed up, get all the breads and the beef tartare.
Our other Lost In Cheeseland recommended stop was Claus, which is just a few minute walk from the Louvre. We did wait for 30 minutes or so for a table, but had the pleasure of chatting with the most intriguing couple from California while we waited. They were on a two week trip without their 2 year old and 4 months out from their second baby’s due date. Seriously, this was major couple goals. That aside, Claus is a multi course breakfast with inventive and delicious twists on morning classics. It’s in a beautiful, bright space and was a lovely way to spend a long brunch.
I wasn’t quite sure where to categorize one of our favorite parts of our Paris trip — is this a must do or a must eat? I believe it’s somewhere in between. We did a macaron making class at La Cuisine Paris. I love cooking classes, so this was right up my alley, and Adam was apprehensive but quickly came around. I’ll admit, I’m never going to make a macaron at home, even after this class, but it was such a fun experience to have a French pastry chef guiding us through the lengthy and complicated process.
PARIS SIGHTS NOT TO BE MISSED
I’m going to start with what I thought was the highlight of the trip — the Arc de Triomphe. Not only is it an impressive piece of architecture that stands tall at the most iconic Paris street, but it offers a 360 degree perspective of the city. Forget going up in the Eiffel Tower, this is the view you want to see. The line is short, the stairs are long, and the views are absolutely incredible. Don’t neglect to read all of the history within the museum in the Arc de Triomphe. It’s fascinating and surreal to imagine everything that has occurred in the very place where you are standing. This is a must do for anyone visiting Paris.
On the same note, yes, go see the Eiffel Tower. It’s touristy and I found it a bit overwhelming, but you can’t go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower. Plus, it’s a magical moment when it twinkles at night.
The Louvre. THE museum that everyone thinks of when they think of Paris. Yes, it’s worth seeing and, yes, you need to buy your tickets ahead of time and, yes, you need to print them out. We bought our tickets for 9 AM, right when the museum opens because Adam wanted to make sure we got a good view of the Mona Lisa. We got in quickly, raced through the museum to the La Giaconda, and were able to see her without a flurry of selfie taking tourists in front of us. Yes, we did snap a quick selfie, so we’re just as guilty as the rest of them. We spent about 5 hours at the Louvre and didn’t even begin to cover the entire museum. It’s massive.
Our last evening in Paris, we made the journey up to Sacre Coeur to watch the sunset from its steps. We grabbed a bottle of wine along with a baguette and cheese to settle into a romantic evening, and promptly cracked the bottle of wine on the concrete steps. The downside? No wine. The upside? At least we had water AND this quickly cleared out anyone sitting in front of us. It’s a stunning view of the city at sunset amidst a lively and friendly crowd of tourists and locals alike. A word to the wise — just be careful coming back down at night. There actually are pick pockets waiting at every turn.
WHAT I WOULD SKIP
There were, of course, things we did that I wouldn’t do again. This first one might be a little controversial, but, honestly, I would skip Versailles. It’s grand and it’s beautiful, and perhaps the problem was the time of year we visited, but I felt like I spent my time out there wishing I was back in Paris enjoying French culture rather than gawking at the grandiosity of the palace and grounds. I will offer this caveat — had it been a warm, beautiful spring day and had the fountains been on and all of the gardens open, then I can see how biking around Versailles could be a wonderful way to spend a day. Add that to the next time list, and if you’re on a short trip to France, skip it.
Another skip it for me was the Musee D’Orsay where I felt like I couldn’t actually see any of the artwork because of the number of tourists standing directly in front of works and taking close up pictures. For some reason, this phenomenon was worse here than anywhere else we went, but until people start putting their iPhones down, it’s just not worth the money or time to see art through someone else’s phone screen.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
Five days in France was just enough to tick off every major landmark on our Paris list, but it left barely a second to relax and enjoy Parisian culture. Fortunately, with cheap flights aplenty these days, we’ll certainly get back to Paris at some point, and we’ll spend that trip leisurely drinking wine outside, eating our weight in croissants (okay, we did manage to do that on this trip), and shopping all over the city of lights.
Lastly, France gets a bad reputation for being rude to Americans and other tourists. We didn’t encounter this at any point in Paris. I typically tried to start the conversation in French, failed quickly, and then found that everyone was ready to speak to us in English. Paris seemed to us a welcoming and warm city.