Paris Is Always a Good Idea

It's been over a decade since I was last in Paris, visiting some friends studying abroad there while I was studying abroad in London. I remember that trip vividly and am still good friends with some of the girls I met that trip, so Paris has always held great memories for me. The good news is that Paris hasn't changed much and each visit reminds me of the beauty, charm, and joie de vivre of the city. As Audrey Hepburn once said, Paris is always a good idea!

I originally planned the trip to Paris during my vacation to attend a conference, but that ended up falling through. Since I already booked round trip tickets to Paris, I decided to make the most of it and hang out with some friends who were attending the conference, and then use it as a starting point to visit the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I then convinced my sister to join me.

We arrived in Paris and took the RER subway (around 10 euros to/from the airport) into the city. It took a few transfers, but eventually we emerged from the subway right in the middle of the Paris marathon! The marathon was just ended so we were surrounded by runners and family members celebrating in cafes in the Trocadero. We dropped our luggage off and walked around the area, which was located right in between the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe.

We were both famished so popped into one of the many cafes (I think it was Cafe Kleber on Rue Kleber, but take your pick as they all have similar food and pricing) lining the streets and helped ourselves to our first Parisian meal, charcuterie, steak frites, and wine of course.
The weather was gorgeous when we arrived and made for a great welcome, especially when it was actually forecasted to rain every day (hence my lack of pretty spring dresses on the trip). 

 Runners finishing the marathon around the Arc de Triomphe
Sneak peak of the Eiffel
So much charm around every corner
We finally checked into our room, which ended up having a partial view of the Eiffel tower! Unfortunately we didn't stay in that room due to some allergies, but it was a nice initial surprise. After a quick rest, we took the subway to the left bank's St. Germain to meet up with my friends who were in town for the conference and walked around the neighborhood, including the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Jardin du Luxembourg 
We walked past Cafe de Flore and got drinks at Les Deux Magots (still unsure how to pronounce this), two cafes which used to be frequented by artists, poets, and writers including Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, and Julia Child. Now they're just tourist attractions with sky high prices (but still good people watching).  
My friends stayed in Le Maris district literally next door to the famous falafel place "L'As du Fallafel" so of course we had to visit them and sample the most famous falafel in the world. Yes, it was good but we didn't know if it deserved its reputation. I think Amsterdam Falafel shop in DC is my personal favorite! 

We took the subway home again and were greeted by this when we stepped off the metro. What an enchanting sight to come home to! 

My sister was feeling jetlagged the next morning, so I ventured off on my own and took a walk across the Seine to see the Iron Lady up close. While I am usually not a fan of solo traveling (I've done it before and didn't like not being able to share the experience with someone), this little jaunt was just my tune. Maybe it's because I'm older and more able to enjoy my own company, but I didn't have any qualms with exploring on my own this time. 

Actually a good pic by a stranger
Unfortunately I think it was just a week or two early before all the flowers or trees began to bloom
Found a lone cherry blossom
Walking back across the river to the Trocadero side
Beautiful cafes lining the Trocadero subway stop
On my way back, my sister had requested some coffee, but none of the Parisian cafes did takeaway coffees. I spent another 20 minutes walking around trying to look for coffee (I refused to go to McCafe) and ended up at a place that just made it with a nespresso machine (exactly what we have at home! Guess we just need to take a cue from the Parisians and actually sit down and enjoy our coffee. 
Sweets from La Petite Marquise 
On our way out, we grabbed a quick sandwich at a neighborhood boulangerie called La Petite Marquise to split later on. We ate it on the go but that sandwich (simple chicken breast, lettuce, and tomato on a perfect baguette) ended up being one of my favorite things I ate that trip!

We took the subway to Concorde and arrived in the biggest public square in Paris, with views of the Eiffel, historical obelisks and fountains, and the more modern ferris wheel. We walked through the Tuileries gardens to Musee de L'Orangerie, site of the famous Monet water lilies.
 Place de la Concorde
It had started raining by the time we stepped out of the subway, so it was the perfect time to duck into a museum. I do recommend getting tickets for the museums ahead of time (we booked the combined L'Orangerie and D'Orsay tickets from their website) to cut down on precious time waiting in line, which could easily add 30-60 minutes to your visit. I would also research opening hours for the famous museums as some of them close on Sunday, Mondays or Tuesdays. 

Musee de L'Orangerie is most famous for housing Monet's famed water lilies collection. Monet painted these while he was losing his eyesight from glaucoma, hence the large, blurry brushstrokes and dark palette, but they are among his most famous pieces. The large canvases fit perfectly in the curved amphitheater since the space was actually designed especially for the paintings. 

 This used to be the cover of my Chopin piano book (but I forgot who painted it, oops). I figured my mom would get a hoot out of it!
After we finished the museum, we took the metro to Montmartre, the neighborhood with the highest vantage point in Paris and home to many artists (including Van Gogh), Bohemians and the setting of one of my all time favorite movies, Moulin Rouge. 

It was raining in full swing so we ducked into a little cafe for some french onion soup and quiche. It was only alright, but it gave us time to study up with our trusty Rick Steves guidebook (seriously, Rick Steves was like the third person on our trip with us). 

 Europe, where wine is cheaper than water
We hoped to bump into our friends in Montmartre since we didn't see them at the museum, but once we finally got to the cafe with wifi, we discovered they were only a few restaurants away! What a stroke of luck. We then embarked on Rick's self guided tour of Montmartre (lol) in the rain :(

JJ's trusty Rick book and not-so-trusty Allbirds

 This was the view from the top of Sacre Couer basicila, supposedly the highest natural point within Paris
 This is an insta-famous cafe but was closed on Mondays (as many restaurants are in Paris)

We got slightly lost wandering around Montmarte in the rain, but thanks to Rick and googlemaps, we got on the right path again and walked past Le Deux Moulin (the two actual windmills of Montmarte), Van Gogh's house, Cafe des Deux Moulin (the cafe Amelie worked at in the movie), and finally ended at the Moulin Rouge! 
I'm such a fan of the Moulin Rouge movie so it was exciting to see its birthplace and take a few pictures outside (we skipped the 80 euro show inside). The rain was both a blessing and a curse as a few of us got wet but allowed us to get these tourist-free photos. 
I grabbed this beret for 3 euros on the same street and love how it adds a pop of color and Parisian flare to the photos. If I ever forget I was in Paris, I'll have that beret to remind me in the pictures, lol.
JJ said I looked so Parisian in this (blurry) pic -- such a compliment coming from her
We ducked into another cafe for happy hour to escape the rain and to figure out where to go for dinner. After consulting my friends and Rick, we decided on Le Relais de Venise, a steak frites place near our hotel in Arc de Triomphe.

When we got there, we instantly knew it was the right choice because there was a line outside of only French people. We ended up waiting for about 45 minutes, but it was well worth it when we got inside. There's no menu as everyone gets a salad and the only question they ask is how you want your meat. We got a full bottle of wine too (our 3rd or 4th? drink of the day) because it was so cheap.  The ladies (only women servers in the restaurant) then start bringing out steak frites smothered this delicious secret green sauce.

Check out the lady server in the back with the huge mound of fries
When you finish, the ladies come around and refill your plate without your even asking! The whole experience reminded me of House of Prime Rib in SF where you pay a set price for salad and steak with sides and they offer you more when you finish. The steak and sauce combo was so good I think we ended up eating two plates each :p And for only 28 euros (extra for wine and dessert), it was a great value for the whole experience. We ended up chatting with the people next to us too, who had been going to the restaurant for 40 years and said that it hadn't changed in the least. We walked home and ran to catch the Eiffel tower twinkling on the hour, a perfect finish to our second night in Paris.

More Paris content coming up next!


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