Paris is Always a Good Idea

We had a four day trip to Paris (thanks to a public holiday in Switzerland last Thursday), and it just wasn’t enough time! I had been to Paris before when I studied abroad but this visit was so much better. I feel like I got to know the city better this time and saw the “magic” that brings people back again and again.

Transportation:

We took the TGV Lyria train to get to Paris, which is the 3.5 hour speed train directly from Lausanne. At one point we clocked it at going 185 mph! I have come to love train travel over flying (when it works out). It costs about the same and it involves less hassle, less chance of delay, basically no chance of losing your bag if you have it with you and more room at your seat and a restaurant car. What’s not to like?

Accommodation:

We stayed in an Airbnb studio apartment in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. It’s a cool neighborhood with tons of restaurants, cafes, shops, easily accessible to several Metro stops or even less than a mile’s walk to famous sites like the Notre-Dame! It was a perfect spot for us.

Eats: Paris is another city (similar to Milan) where I was SO EXCITED to eat.

  • Thursday: Café Séraphin: We found this place while walking home after our wine tasting and looking up spots as we passed by on TripAdvisor. Andrew had boeuf bourguignon and I had duck confit. It had a cool ambiance and the server entertained our attempts at French 🙂
  • Friday: Le Coupe Gorge: Andrew found this spot in the Marais neighborhood thanks to TripAdvisor. We sampled from their daily menu for white asparagus with poached egg, dorade with mussels, and a pork chop followed by chocolate soufflé and apple tartine. The food was perfectly prepared.

  • Saturday: Brasserie Vagenende: A co-worker recommended this spot and we were so happy we went. A few minutes walk from our Airbnb, we sat outside on the sidewalk on a warm night. We started with two glasses of champagne (couldn’t help ourselves) followed by an entrée of goat cheese wrapped in zucchini and roasted vegetables, with a main course of seared tuna for me and grilled shrimp for Andrew. This place was exceptional and the service was excellent! My favorite food spot on the trip!


Activities and Seeing of the Sites:

Thursday we had a few available hours between our arrival and the wine tasting. We needed to buy our Paris Museum Pass (great deal I would recommend to anyone … and I would also recommend you buy ahead of time). We thought we’d get it at the Notre Dame, but the lines were crazy long (soon we’d learn there would be a theme this trip….) so we went to Sainte Chapelle instead. It still took us about 30 minutes to wait to get inside, but it was beautiful aaaand we got our Museum pass.

Sainte-Chapelle – The stained glass was stunning

After Sainte-Chapelle we went into the Archaeological Crypts, which are right under the plaza in front of the Notre-Dame. No line to get in there (score!) and it was interesting to see how much the city has physically changed over time due to man and also the growth of the city of Paris overtime. Archaeologists have uncovered some of the old buildings that used to reside in that spot that had been covered with earth over time, which is a neat thing to wander through.

Wine Tasting in Paris: On Thursday night we signed up for a two hour wine tasting course. It included 6 wines from different regions of France. The class was small, about 12 people in total, and the guy that ran it was very knowledgeable. Clearly catered to English speaking tourists, but hey, who cares, it was fun! We had signed up with very limited knowledge of French wines and left feeling much more confident in our ability to order French wines, which was definitely a goal. Going to the store to buy wines will be  fun the next time since our stores sell a lot of French wine and up until this point we have honestly purchased wines rather blindly, just knowing that we like French wine 🙂 Also, we have a trip planned this summer to the Bourgogne region (aka Burgundy) and got a ton of advice from the instructor on where to go during our visit. I am even more excited for our summer trip!

Friday we spent the day at Chateau de Versailles, which is outside of Paris by about an hour’s train ride (except when your closest train station is closed down unexpectedly and you have to reroute yourself. But hey, things happen).

Upon arrival we were greeted by this lovely site. If you look closely, you will see a mass of people resembling a coiled snake. Otherwise known as, a line. A line that took 1 hr 15 minutes to get through and the museum pass did not let us cut this one. People told us we would face lines in Paris, but I didn’t believe it! And apparently it’s worse in July/August.

 

The Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, famous for its views overlooking the gardens and also as mirrors were an indication of wealth at the time. 
Versailles Gardens
The Versailles Gardens

So, I am going to apologize ahead of time for all the Versailles lovers out there, but I was very much … un-impressed by the Gardens and they just did not live up to the hype. Yes, they are massive, yes the shrubbery is well-cut and in cool designs and it is a massive park with these long aisles you can walk through surrounded by these very tall hedges, and we even had lunch at a little bistro hidden in the trees, but otherwise … not AS amazing as people make it seem. I think part of this is because there were absolutely no flowers this weekend (makes no sense, it’s May!) and the fountains were not on (apparently you need to visit on specific days to see the fountains). So, it just seems like an overcrowded park. A nice, big park, but way too many people, not enough bathrooms nor places to get water. Eh, could take it or leave it. All I can think is that we need to go back some other time when the flowers are there and the fountains are on. Thoughts? Please let me know if I am wrong!!

Notre Dame
We did a little walking through the city at night to see the sites all lit up. Here is the Notre-Dame Friday night after dinner

 

Saturday morning we visited the Louvre. It was the first time our museum pass paid off aside from getting us into every museum for free. There was a very long line to get in, and we scooted right on by the line with our pass and didn’t have to wait! We spent a little over 3 hours inside the museum, wandering through a few different sections. You could easily spend all day inside there, it’s so huge!

Inside the Louvre. It not only houses beautiful things, but the building itself is amazing. Look at that ceiling!

Victory of Samothrace (above)

After the Louvre, we finally (finally!) hit the shops. We went to the Galeries Lafayette, which is one of the biggest department stores in Paris. We ate lunch at their top floor cafeteria as well. We both came to France hoping to buy a lot and to take advantage of the lower prices (in comparison to Switzerland) and ended up getting a couple things to remind us of Paris in the future 🙂 Afterwards, we headed over to walk along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées (a boulevard known for its shops) and ended up at the Arc de Triomphe. By this point, our day had somehow nearly disappeared and we sped back to our apartment to change, as we had plans to meet up with a friend of mine from JMU who is also on an international rotation with another big 4 audit firm in Paris. We had beers at a local brewery spot around the corner from our Airbnb, O’Neil, and caught up on what it is like to live and work abroad. We had a lot of similar experiences since we both work in French speaking/cultural areas and it was fun to exchange. We hope to catch him again next time we go to Paris!
Saturday night after dinner we grabbed a bottle of champagne, some plastic glasses and headed off to sit under the Tour Eiffel for the rest of the night. It was so warm out and such an awesome atmosphere to hang out on the Champ de Mars sipping champagne and people watching in this world-famous spot.

Sunday, our last day (so sad) we woke up, checked out, got an espresso and pastry at a local cafe (when in Paris…) then headed off to Musée de l’Orangerie. While much much smaller than the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, I wanted to go because they have Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. The paintings were absolutely beautiful, and I will admit I had no idea that they were in two oval shaped rooms that had been specifically designed for the paintings by Monet himself! The museum also hosts a collection including some Renoir, Picasso and several other artists that I honestly did not know before but enjoyed walking through. The museum does not take much time to visit and I would highly recommend it!

Walking through Jardin des Tuileries after l’Orangerie

After l’Orangerie and stopping for lunch at a cafe on the Ile Saint Louis, we went to the Notre-Dame to try to go up the towers to get in a view and see the gargoyles (and maybe look for Quasimodo?), but we were stopped by the fact that they had a 2.5 hour wait to go up. Sadly, this exceeded our remaining time in Paris. But there’s always next trip! And now we know that they use a phone app to start your wait electronically, and then you can essentially get a ticket and do your thing until your turn comes up. It’s a crazy wait but at least they are trying to make it easier for people. So, instead, we took the metro up to the neighborhood of Montmartre to see the Sacré-Coeur. Luckily, this is also on top of a massive hill so we were able to get a nice view in after all. Then … it was off to the train station and our trip was over! So sad but seriously, there has to be another Paris trip because we couldn’t see it all in four days and we loved it so much!

Andrew and I in front of La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur

 

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