I am so excited to start sharing about our trip! Overall, we had such a wonderful time. It was almost too much to soak in because we were moving so fast. At each new city we’d talk about what we liked most so far from food to experiences. As we kept piling on new sights and cities, the exercise got even harder and we wound up listing everything. We started in Paris for three days then drove through Burgundy, into Switzerland, then down along the western coast of Italy ending in Rome. We chose places to stop along they way that we’d never been to before, so we did a lot of first-timer type things everywhere we went. I think we did a pretty good job of balancing the touristy activities with some more low-key exploring.
Let’s talk about Paris. Paris was beautiful. I don’t know what I expected, but I think it was prettier than what I expected. I have heard people talk about it being dingy or dirty, but I must not have seen that side of it. The weather was gorgeous and sunny while we were there (which is apparently not typical for April) but we were very glad to have had it because we walked a ton. Here is what we did in three days with some insider information on some of our favorite restaurants and activities!
STAYED: Hotel de Neuve was a tiny little boutique hotel in the Marais. I was crazy overwhelmed with the options when booking and just pulled the trigger on this one. I was a little restricted to what I could get since I used credit card points, but in the end, I felt pretty good about the decision. The location was perfect. It was just steps from the metro, all of the beautiful things that the Marais has to offer (Musee Picasso, Hotel de Ville, Palace de Vosages, etc). It’s also fairly close to the Seine, Notre Dame, and the Latin Quarter, St Germain, and the Louve. It was a bit far from the Tour Eiffel and Arc de Triumph, but totally walkable.
ATE: Obviously we ate at a lot more than three restaurants, but there are three that stuck out at me more that the others. In every city, I made sure to have one reservation then a few options that I found on trip advisor for back ups just in case we didn’t naturally happen upon anything amazing. We had reservations on our last night in Paris at Caves Petrissan which is a wonderful family owned restaurant of a family friend, but the two nights leading up to were open. Our first day we walked by Chez Suzette and popped in for a snack while our room was still being put together. It was a cute bar/cafe vibe with wonderful crepes. It’s on a nice little street in the Marais and is some good people watching. One of my favorite places we visited while in Paris was Le Temps de Cerises. It was just a block from the hotel, and it was a totally random find on trip advisor. We actually went because of it’s proximity and because our feet hurt from walking so much! It was still one of the highlights of Paris for me! It was a teeny tiny little place with tables basically touching one another, but the foie gras and escargot we had were wonderful. The service was fabulous and the two waitresses on staff were just the sweetest. We had eaten a late cafe snack, so we didn’t have a full dinner, but in hindsight I really wish we would have!
PLAYED: We crammed a lot into our three days! After our flight landed and we checked into the hotel, we took a train to the flea market outside of the city to the north. It was a nice market once you get pass all of the gypsies selling knock-offs just outside of the real market. Had I lived in France and had the ability to transport large items, I definitely would have been in heaven! It’s something I wouldn’t recommend unless you had between 5-7 days in Paris since it’s a bit far out. After the flea market we walked to the top of the St. Martin Canal at the Parc de la Villette to catch the canal ferry. Unfortunately, it was raining and the boat left early… and without us. SO we walked the 6 km back down to our hotel. We walked along the canal stopping for a drink here and there and taking most of the afternoon to get back.
On day two, we walked across the Seine and over to Notre Dame. We explored the Isle Cite, got some ice cream at Berthillion and then crossed back over to the Louvre. I did not expect to be as taken with the Louvre as what I was. The size of it is unimaginable. We strolled past (we’re not art people and decided that we’d visit on another trip) through the Jardin de Tuileries, and continued walking down the Champs de Elysees. I popped into Zara home (not impressed) and continued along to the Arc de Triomphe. After the arc, we headed to the Tour Eiffel and again, I was shocked by the size. I mean, you see pictures, but I was not prepared by how large it was. It’s really spectacular and gorgeous. Matt and I picked up a baguette for 1 euro and a bottle of wine for 12 euro and laid in the lawn just staring at it! I thought before going that it would be totally touristy to sit on the lawn and have a picnic, but that seemed to be what people DO on Sunday in Paris. The lawn was packed with college students, young professionals, and families just eating, relaxing and napping. It was fabulous. We lazed around most of the afternoon there before heading back to the Isle Cite (by Notre Dame) and hopping a 12 euro each night cruise through the city. It was just about an hour long, but it was provided the most gorgeous nighttime views of the Eiffel and was a nice break from all the walking. Next time, I might do the cruise that includes dinner though!
On day three we had a bike tour of the city with Fat Tire and we loved it! We try to do a tour like this early on in the trip to get acquainted with the city layout, but since they aren’t open on the weekends, we could only book on our last day, Monday. Say what you want about tours, but I love that you learn so much more than you would on your own… plus, the exercise really balances all of the food I like to eat while on vacation. It’s a win-win. Anyway, we had a wonderful guide, stopped for a great lunch, and had a fabulous time. After the bike tour, we walked through the St. Germain neighborhood (which was mostly closed since that seems to be the way it is on Monday!) but we did find a nice little cafe to have some champagne and people watch.
Overall, I would say Paris as a city is quite formal. There is a certain reserve that hangs in the air. The city is beautiful, the people are proud of it and there is not problem with that. I missed a bit of the quaint Europe I was expecting, but it definitely had an appeal all it’s own. Around every corner was another gorgeous flower lined cobblestone street which looks like a movie. I can see why people are drawn to it and in the days since I’ve left, I’ve felt myself planning my next trip as well. I find myself dreaming of the afternoon sitting on the lawn of the Tour Eiffel and wondering when I’ll get back.
Have you been to Paris? Now that I am more familiar – tell me your favorite part!
Here is the summary of our itinerary if you’re planning a trip!
- Flea Market
- St. Martin Canal Cruise
- Explore Bastille and Viaduct Des Arts
- Dinner at Le Temps de Cerises
- Breakfast at Cafe on Isle Saint Louis
- Explore Notre Dame
- Ice Cream at Berthillon
- Walk to Louvre, through Jardin Tuileries, down Champs Elysees, explore Arc de Triomphe
- Walk to Eiffel Tower, find picnic lunch along the way
- Late afternoon/evening picnic on Champs de Mars
- Taxi to Pont Neuf & watch sunset
- Board River Cruise
- Fat tire bike tour
- Relaxing champagne lunch on Boulevard St Germain
- Wander though Latin Quarter
- Dinner at Caves Petrissan