Ah, the City of Lights and the City of Love: Paris!
Welcome back to my series of posts retracing my honeymoon. It’s been a while since I posted about how amazing Barcelona was. I got a little distracted creating a new post series and getting involved with some local food events here in Louisville. But the further away we get from the two weeks we spent in Europe, the more I miss it, so I felt I had to come back and update with the next stop!
From Barcelona, we flew to Paris, France. Now, I’ll always keep it real with y’all on this blog; when I like something, I’ll tell you. And when I don’t like something, you’ll know that too. That being said…
Paris isn’t my favorite place on the planet.
In fact, it’s not even my favorite place in Europe.
If we take it even further, it’s not even my favorite place in France.
Let me paint the picture: we were absolutely SPOILED by Barcelona. The sea breeze, the easy conversation, the lax lifestyle, the friendly locals – all of it was right up our alley. But as soon as we landed in Paris, I had a feeling it was not going to be our 10€ cup of tea.
And that’s the first thing we noticed: Paris was expensive. Charles de Gaulle is far away from the city, as most major airports are. But to get into the city was almost 50€ for the both of us! And once I stopped stumbling around in shock at the price, I stumbled again as I got pushed and shoved around by locals and tourists alike.
Where was my Mediterranean hospitality (and price tag)???
But never fear: in my book, travel is good even when it’s not the best. So of course we had a great time and made lots of great memories! I will never forget sharing a sablé under the Eiffel Tower, or running out of the way of a horde of 5k runners in the park, or standing in the middle of the Louvre and wondering how the hell I ended up in such a magnificent place to begin with.
So is Paris my favorite? Absolutely not. But if you don’t go, you’re missing out on a lot of great opportunities to see art and history in ways you’ve never seen before. And if you allow yourself to miss out on French pâtisserie, you’re never allowed to eat sugar again. I don’t make the rules, sorry.
Now without further ado, let’s dive into the details.
Where to Stay
Paris is all about luxury, so we broke our traditional AirBnb search and went with a four-star hotel instead. The Hotel Mercure was so close to the Eiffel Tower, that we could see it from our window! It was close to the Tower metro stop on the C line, which can easily get you to all the monuments that you need to see. The hotel had some amazing amenities, and the attention to detail was clear. We’re glad we went for the luxury option, because it was an oasis to come back to at night after a long day of exploring the city.
What to Do
Or, in some cases, what not to do. What you should do is absolutely visit as many museums as you possibly can. Paris has some of the most world-renowned art museums, from the Louvre to the Musée d’Orsay. If you plan on patronizing them, buy your tickets online first! It’s a guaranteed way to get in – if you wait until you’re at the door, you may face huge lines and wait times. This is especially true for the Eiffel Tower experience. Without some forethought, there’s no way you’re getting to the top.
That being said, certain museums offer free entry, which is important to take advantage of! Some offer year-round free admission for all people, some are free for people under 26, some are free on the first Sunday of the month, and still others are free for EU citizens. Plan out your museum trips and hit the free ones on the right days, and you could save a lot of money!
While the metro is cool if you live in an area with little public transportation, we avoided it because of the cost. It came at a price; we left Paris with aching feet and plenty of blisters. But what an experience! As we used the metro in other cities throughout our trip, we realized that we loved getting to explore the city on foot and take in all of the sights, smells, and fresh air. You don’t get a view of the river from the metro, nor do you get the smell of freshly baked bread or a breeze that brings you the sounds of an unexpected street festival. So my advice? Bring comfortable shoes, and spend some time walking. No, you don’t have to walk everywhere, but it is a nice change from being underground for half of your trip.
What to Eat
Oh honey, this is the absolute easiest question: everything.
France is known for its wine, cheese, bread, and pastries. And I want you to stuff your face with all of them. Our favorite spot for breakfast was La Dauphine, a small café near the Louvre on boulevard Saint Germaine. We went there twice, and both times I got something so stereotypically French that I felt like I was in an Audrey Hepburn movie. A seemingly simple breakfast of bread, cheese, or a croissant takes on a whole new meaning when you’re in the country where they do it the best.
When it comes to pâtisserie, you have so many options to choose from! There are shops all over the place. Some of them will look like chains, but will be so small that they don’t accept credit cards. Others will look like holes in the wall but will in fact be well-respected national names. Regardless, they are all delicious! The essence of pâtisserie is beauty and perfection. They make it so tantalizing to peek in the window at the rows of perfectly displayed works of art. I remember telling my husband, “I may be cheap and we may have more cities to go to, but I will spend whatever I want on pastries because this is art and it’s an experience.”
So when it comes to pastries, spare no expense and go wild. Because not only will the presentation blow you away, but the flavors will have you questioning everything you know about desserts. Go for a French classic like a macaron or a mille-feuille, and let yourself surrender to the essence of French pâtisserie.
Now last time, I shared with y’all my semi-controversial opinion on eating McDonald’s while abroad. If you’re just now joining us, I actually like to plan one McDonald’s meal in a foreign country so I can see how the company localizes its menu to fit the culture. Plus it’s fun to experience a country like a local, and locals absolutely swing by fast-food joints when they’re too tired to cook after work.
So if you stop by a French McDonald’s, I recommend trying the Croque McDo (a take on the classic croque monsieur) or the Boeuf Ranch Moutard (beef, ranch, and mustard) burger. This is also where I was introduced to curry dipping sauce, which we found throughout Europe and loved. For a healthier side than fries (or potato wedges, which is another European McDonald’s staple that I miss), opt for a bag of grape tomatoes. Yes, even when Europeans are doing our cuisine, they’re doing it way healthier than we do. Who’s surprised?
Despite the fact that Paris was probably the least favorite of our stops on our honeymoon, we had an absolute wonderful time. It was important to us to experience such an iconic place, and see much-photographed spots with our own eyes. While we may prioritize seeing the south of France if we return (you can’t keep us away from the Mediterranean for long!), we recommend going to Paris for at least a few days. Who knows? Maybe the City of Lights will capture your heart in the way it has so many people around the world.
Until next time, France. À bientôt.