Jan 24th, 2019.
The city of love doesn’t fail to amaze (even the third time around).
This past weekend I traveled with two close friends from school (Julia & Allison) and some new found friends to Paris, France.
The cheapest flights money can buy (€60) + a quick airbnb booking and we were off. The trip from Barcelona was the shortest flight to Paris i’ve ever been on (and easily the most inexpensive).
We strolled, explored, shopped, and ate our way through the city. Although i’ve been twice before, each visit to Paris uncovers new experiences and appreciation. This time around I felt myself in awe of more than the just the classic tourist attractions (still amazing, however), and paying more attention to the dazzling aura (no wonder it’s called the city of lights).
Arriving late Thursday night (flying out following my last class in Barcelona) put us in Paris around 9 p.m. Our airbnb was a quaint loft-style flat in the second arrondissement that it was well worth the five flights of stone stairs every morning to get to.
Excitement and exhaustion mixed as we headed out for a last minute dinner once we arrived. A local pub on the same block as our airbnb offered refuge in the form of baguettes, goat cheese, and risotto. Full and happy, we retreated for a full nights rest before the busy day ahead of us.
We woke up semi-early (after falling asleep to the lullaby of Julia’s snoring) and boarded the metro towards the Eiffel. Grabbing french coffee and the softest croissants possible, we navigated through the fog to the Champs de Mars (a nice park in front of the tower).
I can’t keep track of how many times i’ve seen the Eiffel tower in person but it still amazes no matter the season. Half covered by fog on a freezing day in winter almost made the structure more impressive.
From there we walked along the Seine towards Musée d’Orsay, taking our time to explore the quaint streets and neighborhoods to the right of the river. Stumbling upon a rustic bar, we escaped the slight chill for a charcuterie & cheese board (and a bottle of Rosé).
After full stomachs and alcohol-warmed hands we continued on to Musée d’Orsay to see artists like Van Gogh, Monet, and Degas.
A quick walk away was the more famous museum; the Louvre. We wandered the outsides of the impressive building, took our fair share of Pyramid pictures, and then strolled the Tuileries Garden.
We crossed the Seine again towards Hôtel de Ville. Notre-Dame was even more intimidating in the rain (if possible). The overcast and mist made the stain glass windows and candles glow.
After almost 25,000 steps, we retreated from the rain to our airbnb, stopping to pickup champagne and two baguettes from a local bakery on the way home. We snacked, drank, and unwound from our day under numerous blankets.
Dinner was in a hip area that boasted an hour wait. We threw our names in and found a cute bar to wait it out. Dinner at Le Comptoir De La Gastronomie meant endless escargot, amazing duck breast, and foie gras ravioli. One of the best meals I’ve ever had (and surprisingly not grossly expensive).
Getting lost once (or maybe twice) on the metro finally put us at the Trocadero stop to see the Eiffel at night. One of the best views to fully comprehend the tower, Palais de Chaillot, is one of my favorite semi-hidden gems in Paris. Here we saw the tower glitter at midnight after splitting a chocolate crepe to warm up. We headed home sleepy and fulfilled.
Rising early to beat the crowds at The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, we started day 3 with high hopes. Popping out of the metro stop we were greeted with a not-so-friendly sight. Armored policemen (think bullet vests, machine guns, and gas masks) surrounded the arc with giant barricades and armored trucks.
We had researched the political protests before coming of course, but believed them to have subsided in violence. Granted it was 9 am so there wasn’t a massive crowd, but news crews were standing by and the police shifted their guns every so often in anticipation.
Safe to say we quickly removed ourselves from that situation: four blatantly obvious tourists in berets don’t mix well with political rebellion (and tear gas).
We retreated to a cozy brunch nearby spot, a little shaken but hunger refused us to halt our plans. Breakfast was a soft boiled egg, several pain au chocolats, and a grapefruit mimosa.
We wandered the Champs-Élysée feeling a bit safer and as the sun started peaking through the clouds.
No trip to Paris is complete without a stop in Ladurée, the famous macaroon shop and restaurant. The assortment of pastel colors each had their own unique flavor, ranging from rosé to vanilla pecan. We enjoyed our bite size snacks on a bench outside, people watching and gushing about which flavor was the best.
Full stomachs, we walked through windy creme colored streets until we found ourselves back at Trocadero to see the view of the Eiffel in daylight.
and yes, we do know how touristy we look.
We walked along the Seine on the way to Musée de l’Orangerie but were met with more armored policemen and barricades. Every entrance off the bridges of the river were blocked for a mile, people were being herded along the banks in steady streams. Confused and started by the second appearance of gas masks today, we rushed towards the Louvre.
Giant fences, machine guns, and blacked out armored trucks guarded every entrance off the river bank as people tried to clear the vicinity. All the close metro stops were shut down, public transportation was redirected around the area, and we were stranded way out of our comfort zone.
I appreciate people being able to protest injustices openly, but the potential of danger of the situation is something I’ve never experienced in the United States. Never having been that close to a protest I was a little shaken, and although the scheduled riot was still an hour off, the tension and fear felt thick in the air as we kept our heads down and hurried on.
We finally made it to Musée de l’Orangerie and enjoyed the 360 degree Monet paintings.
Walking towards a cute district (since the metros were still shut down) we came across the famous Angelina’s cafe, known for their hot chocolates and éclairs. Fyi, when I say hot chocolate, I truly mean just melted chocolate. Throw expectations of Swiss Miss out the window; there’s not even liquid added to this. Pure (and thick) chocolatey goodness.
Le Marais, a popular local shopping district, was filled to the brim with hip boutiques and local art stores. We darted in and out of shops while avoiding the slight drizzle.
Another charcuterie & cheese board later (who’s surprised), we window shopped and nibbled on traditional caramels as we wandered home for a quick rest.
The famous artist district, Montmartre, was our chosen place for dinner as Nicole, Julia, Allison, and I headed out on the metro.
The last time I was in Paris, Cameron and I stumbled upon the most amazing hole in-the-wall restaurant near Montmartre and for months we tried to remember the name. With extensive Yelp searching, a refusal to give up, and a vague cow logo, Sacrée Fleur was discovered once again.
Two years later the food, waitstaff, and ambiance was entirely unchanged. We enjoyed more duck (confit this time), more escargot (becoming a fan favorite), and each other’s company.
After dinner, we took a bottle of champagne and hiked the steep steps up to Sacrée Coeur for a panoramic view of Paris at night. A bit less romantic than summertime (as it was freezing and pelting rain), but we laughed even harder because of this. Torrential winds threatened to steal our coats and downpour on us, but we couldn’t care less. Amid our (probably annoying) chatting and laughing, we noticed a man dropping down on one knee to propose to a women.
Being the only ones to witness, we of course cheered loudly, offered many congratulations, and took a picture of the married couple to-be. Not a bad spot to get engaged (if you can look past the terrifying weather).
We climbed down the hill after the bottle was empty and proceeded to explore some bars around Paris. We retreated to the airbnb around 2:30 (an early night for Barcelona standards). Full off of great food and cheap wine, we fell asleep easily (despite the loud snores from Julia’s side of the bed).
A 4 a.m. wakeup call sounded very similar to a joke as we peeled our eyes open on Sunday morning. Packing was slow and painful: desperately wanting 1. more sleep & 2. to ignore the fact that we had to leave.
We returned home (funny thinking of Barcelona as home) and unpacked nothing before falling asleep again. Dreaming of macaroons and rainy proposals.
Until next time, Paris.