I think I’m still getting used to the fact that Paris actually happened for me. It’s only been a few short weeks since we’ve been back in the States, but I still feel the Paris city spirit lingering around us like remnants of a lovely dream. Since it’s too much to put the whole trip into one post, I’ll break it up into a few so I can point out all our favorite spots and excursions along the way. Here’s our first few days in the City of Lights!We were one of the first flights of the day into Charles de Gaulle airport (we got in around 5:45am), so we actually had a relatively stress-free navigation of the airport since there were hardly any travelers there yet. I’d heard so many horror stories about the airport so I was a little worried, but it actually went pretty smoothly. We bought our Paris Museum Passes at the tourism desk on the main airport level, but had to wait a bit since they didn’t open until around 7:30 or 8am. We should have had them sent to our house ahead of time before the trip, but didn’t think of that until it was too late (I assumed you could print them online after buying, and you can’t). Anyways, we only had to wait 30 min or so for the stand to open, and that was a lot less time than it would have taken to navigate somewhere else and buy them at another location. Once we had our passes and luggage we were off to catch the train into Paris! I will say though as my first Paris “tip”, unless you only have a fanny pack for luggage, I would suggest using cabs for transportation from the airport to your hotel. It’s a little more expensive, but having several suitcases on the packed morning trains into town and going up and down (and up and down) all the metro stairs when changing lines was totally not worth it. I promise! We took a taxi on the way back.
I was so thankful to get the suggestion from so many readers to rent an apartment rather than book a hotel room. Not only was our adorable Parisian flat cheaper than a hotel room of the same quality, but it was bigger and we had a full kitchen and living area as well so we could spread out a bit and get to know what it feels like to be a regular Parisian at home. Our flat was located in the 11th arrondissement (Bastille) but it was just outside of the super trendy 4th arrondissement (Le Marais) and only a few steps from a metro stop. I loved that almost everyone we saw around the apartment was a local so when we went to a nearby café or pâtisserie, we felt immersed in the French way of life. We went to the supermarket the first day and bought a few staples and then we stopped by local pâtisseries everyday to get fresh croissants, baguettes, and my favorite, pain au chocolat.
Once we finally reached our apartment after getting off the train and metro, we dropped our bags off and headed out to explore (and try and stay awake!). We found a spot just down the street called Pause Cafe and had a delicious little lunch. This was also a great spot to have a coffee outside and people watch if we had a few hours to kill on other days. Since it’s apparently a bit of a faux pas to order a café crème (coffee with creme) at any meal other than breakfast, I would usually get a “noisette” instead during the day which is an espresso with a dash of cream. I guess the French don’t do as much cream with their coffee as Americans, but they always have sugar so I usually added a bit to my cup as well.
So many beautiful blue doors in Paris!For our big excursion on our second day we did a Highlights of Paris tour through Left Bank Scooters, and I have to say, it was one of our favorite things we did on our trip. We loved it! You only need some scooter experience to do it (or you can rent a side car and be driven) and you get your own personal guide who leads you around the city on a second scooter and gives you a bit of history at each stop. Todd grew up driving scooters and motorcycles so he’s an awesome driver and said the Paris traffic was a cake walk compared to an 8 hour motorcycle trip he did in India this past year. I was a little more nervous on the back of the bike, but I loved it too.The tour was great because we got to see so many things that would have taken us days to get to on foot in just a few hours and it really gives you a feel for how the city is laid out directionally for the rest of the trip (it’s not as big as you think it is!). You really do learn so much about a city by driving around in the traffic and seeing all the sights and sounds with the rest of the local drivers.
If you aren’t a scooter driver (or rider) then I would totally suggest taking a tour of Paris in a brightly colored 2CV car with a driver instead. It’s basically the same idea and the cars are so cute!!
That night we did a dinner river cruise on the Seine. Ever since I watched the movie Charade as a kid, I always wanted to do a night time boat cruise down the Seine like Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, so this was my special treat for the day. The boat that we did the cruise on was really nice, and the city at night was just as magical as I’d hoped it would be, but I wouldn’t recommend the dinner cruise that we did as the food was pretty bad. I mean, I figured it wouldn’t be the best meal we had there, but it was pretty bad banquet food for the price. Anyways, next time I would definitely do another boat ride at night, but maybe something that just does drinks instead of dinner (or find a better dinner one I guess!).
It was really fun to go past the Eiffel Tower at night just as it was lighting up though…We loved our scooter tour so much that we decided to keep the scooter an extra day and drive ourselves to the Palace of Versailles that’s about an hour outside of the city. It certainly was an adventure getting out of town and racing up the Champs-Élysées with the rest of the morning traffic, but once we got out of the city we just had to wind up through some smaller towns until we saw the gold gates of Versailles gleaming in the sunlight. I mean, they were actually glowing in the sun—it was like a scene from a movie.With all that Versailles has to offer, I have to say I was a little surprised there were no flowers. I guess I heard “gardens of Versailles” all my life and assumed there were tons of rose bushes and what not. Well, no flowers, but it’s still pretty awesome. I love those types of manicured hedges and topiaries, so I still got my money’s worth for sure. As cool as the main palace is, I think I liked Marie Antoinette’s little house on the grounds the best. It’s cute and private feeling, and she had this mini village built in the back of her house so she could see how the commoners lived and had farmers who made it a working village.
The hall of mirrors in the main palace really is off-the-charts breathtaking. I actually gasped aloud when we turned the corner and saw it for the first time. No pictures could really do it justice.The best part of scooters is that you can park them almost anywhere. We literally drove the scooter up to the gate and parked it along the wall of the Palace. Best spot in the house!