Paris was probably my favorite city during our European adventure in May 2014. We only had a short time to take it all in, and below is a review of all the culture we enjoyed during those 36 hours in the City of Love!
HOW TO GET AROUND:
We reached Paris by traveling on American Airlines from Miami (MIA) to London Heathrow (LHR) and transferring to a British Airways flight to Charles De Gaulle (CDG). We were advised to do the Eurostar train from London to Paris, but after a little bit of price comparison research, flying to Paris was actually much cheaper during our travel dates. You will notice we stuck with the OneWorld partners for as much air travel as possible to cumulate points, which is one of the tips I have mentioned before on how to travel to London for $5.
At LHR, we followed the purple connections signs that lead us to a bus that transported us to immigration & security clearance. Our bags were already checked to our final destination (CDG), but we did have to clear our carryon luggage through security at LHR. We had to remove things like our iPads from our luggage, which is different than US, so be prepared for slight differences in protocol. Overall, the transfer was pretty painless since everything was in English. Landing in CDG was our first real taste of navigating a country in a new language.
When we landed at CDG, we de-boarded and went through immigration with our passports. Next, we collected baggage and had to pass through customs. Upon exit of the customs check area, we followed the blue overhead signs that pointed for “Paris by Train” RER. To buy the ticket from the vending machines, you will need to have a credit card with a chip, or euro coins, not cash notes. This “chip” was very important throughout all of our international travel, as European restaurants and shops normally do not use the magnetic swipe. Also remember also to check with your credit card provider beforehand if there are international travel fees as well as ATM fees, as you may want to switch to another credit card provider. Look soon for my blog review on the best travel credit cards.
Tip: There is a great step by step train transportation guide on the Charles De Gaulle website.
PHRASES TO KNOW:
Hello– bonjour (bɔ̃ʒuʀ)
Thank you– Merci (mɛʀsi)
Please– se il vous plait (sə il vu plɛ)
Where is the restroom?– où sont les toilettes ? (u sɔ̃ le twalɛt ?)
Exit– sortie (sɔʀti)
WHERE WE STAYED:
We arranged the hotel reservation through Travelocity’s Top Secret Hotels again; for more information on how to use this service, refer to my past blog for “How To: Hotel Room Hacks“. Meliá Vendôme was the result this time, which was a great location for a quick sightseeing adventure. It is situated right across from Jardin Des Tuileries, which is the garden right in front of the Louvre. The room was modest, but very comfortable with a friendly English speaking staff.
ACTIVITIES TO DO IN Paris:
Tip: There is no possible way to do everything Paris has to offer in 36 hours, so my suggestion is to pick a few, and plan to go back for another vacation at some point! It’s such a romantic spot; I think it would be a great trip to reignite every 5-10 years (hint hint). I suggest getting a map from a tour group like big bus tours, even if you plan on self touring, so that you know where each landmark is placed.
Notre Dame de Paris:
The Cathedral of Notre Dame was our first iconic stop in Paris. The line out front was a little long, but it moves fast. While we toured there was actually a mass being held, so the tour group had to be quiet. The building structure was beautiful as you can see in the photos below. I regrettably didn’t catch a glimpse of Quasimodo :/.
Musée du Louvre:
We spent at least 4 hours wondering around the Louvre, and could have easily been there for longer if we had more time in the city. The Lourve is an old 12th century palace, which converted to a museum in 1792, and is now the world’s most visited museum. The building is divided into eight curatorial departments which include: artistic antiques from around the world, sculptures, paintings, and drawings. We made sure to do a Mona Lisa selfie picture, but it should be noted that the painting is very well guarded, and always crowded upon, which makes it a little bit underwhelming for the fame. Our favorite spots were the Egyptian Antique & Greek collections for learning, and the sculptures for posing!
Jardin des Tuileries:
Walking through Jardin des Tuileries was a way better route to travel than just taking the subway to the next landmark during our day of touring. The gardens are impeccably kept, and there are so many romantic bicycle taxes to take you anywhere. We enjoyed purchasing a coffee at a small café stand in the middle of the garden to stop and smell the flowers as the Parisians do.
Arc de Triomphe:
The Arc De Triomphe is so large, it is almost intimidating to stand by. The archway is a large tribute monument to the soldiers that have fought and died for France. When we were there the arc was under repair, but we still got to enjoy the beauty of the design.
La Tour Eiffel:
Of course the Eiffel Tower is a must-do when in Paris. It’s a symbol of romance, culture, design, and history all wrapped into one. We approached the tower through the Palais de Challiot viewing balcony. From there, we took a few photos, admired the scenery and then walked through the Trocadéro garden full of fountains. We took the lift up halfway and walked up the stairs to the top to take in the views. At night time the tower does a spectacular light show, that you must experience in person, no photos can really show its glory. So make sure you time your tower viewing for daylight and night time experiences.
Walk around the city:
There is so much more to admire in Paris then the tourist maps point out, sometimes we have the greatest time just walking around and viewing architecture of all the historical buildings. The first day when we landed and settled into our hotel, it was about 4pm by the time we could roam around the city. So we walked up and down the streets looking at small antique shops and admiring the scenery. This also gave us a chance to test out how to travel the city the next day when we had all of the big stops in one full day.
Note: We really should have made it to Versailles. It was on our list, but with such a small amount of time we didn’t want to overdo our first stop. However, my brother and his wife have some great tips for how to enjoy Versailles that I will post later :).
RESTAURANTS IN Paris:
Note: Unlike America, French law requires restaurants to charge 15% service fee on your check for taxation purposes, so if your service was great, leave a small extra tip as a garçon (small statement of appreciation). A good “extra tip” range is a couple of Euro dimes for a coffee or glass of wine, to 1-5 euros for a lunch or dinner.
58 Tour Eiffel:
58 Tour Eiffel was our romantic date night restaurant while in Paris. The restaurant is actually inside the tower, and has great food and views at night. We did the 9PM seating, which meant we collected our lift tickets (complimentary with dinner reservation) at 8:30PM to be seated in the restaurant at about 9PM. It’s a bit expensive, but the view and atmosphere is not to miss.
Maison de Gyros:
I’m not sure that this place even has a website, but we were advised by a good friend to make sure we checked out the gyros in the Latin Quarter. The gyro we got was huge, authentic and cheap! Patrick’s a huge gyro fan, so this was probably his favorite meal in Paris. Plus the Latin Quarter is such a different vibe from the rest of the city, any visitors will want to roam around there for a little bit.
On our way to the Louvre, we logged into Yelp to find the best Parisian breakfast; which by the way using the Yelp app is one of the best ways to find hidden gem restaurants. Angelina popped up as a bakery and sit down diner. We had the best hot chocolate here along with eggs benedict and a traditional French breakfast. On our way out we had to leave with one of these little treats.
Au Coer Couronné Cafe:
We went to Au Coer Couronné Café for a late midday snack after our long flight. I was told to order the Croque-monsieur, which is a Parisian grilled ham and cheese specialty. I consider myself a bit of a grilled cheese connoisseur; so perhaps I am biased, but I have had better grilled cheese. Though I am glad that I tried this French specialty.
We stopped at Le Malakoff right outside of the Eiffel Tower for another mid day snack. I had to have a French cheese plate, and I was not let down! Plus grabbing a small snack is a great way to get free wifi access when traveling internationally.
tip: when traveling internationally, make sure you try to turn off your cellular data and roaming, until you actually need to use this. I was able to make this whole trip without turning on my cellular data by just using wifi for iMessage, WhattsApp and Google Maps.