Each time I return to Paris, I feel like I am coming home.
Azim and I arrived in Paris on a warm and bright Saturday in June. We shared an Uber from Charles de Gaulle with two friendly Japanese ladies, and we were all dropped off in the 15th. Our little shoebox hotel in Montparnasse left a lot to be desired, but with the combination of Eurocup and the usual high season for tourists, prices for accommodation were through the roof! That’s not to say that we didn’t splurge – my watchword for the trip was most definitely hedonism. I came to France for two weeks to live the good life, and live the good life I did.
Besides our teeny hotel room, and the fact that we stayed in the 15th (I dislike being that far away from the Seine, especially on short visits!), our first few days in Paris were perfect. We strolled through the Jardin du Luxembourg, we wandered around Montmartre, we saw the Notre Dame from the front and the sides and the back, and we ate. We ate like eating was going out of style. I gained 5 lbs and don’t regret a thing.
Each morning Azim brought me a croissant for breakfast (aux amandes, au beurre, ou un pain au chocolat bien sûr), and we’d have baguette sandwiches for lunch. We’d stop at cafés to enjoy cafe crèmes and people watch. At dinner we’d go allllll out, and we visited several restaurants worth writing home about:
A local recommended this tiny restaurant to us, and when we arrived we felt like we were intruding – there was not a tourist in site! It was unsettling, but also awesome. Everyone was French and actually very kind and welcoming. I would come back here in a heartbeat.
The food itself is Alsatian – that is, from the region in France known as Alsace. The menu is made up almost entirely of “Flammekeuches” which are kind of like pizza, but made on a flaky crust! Dessert is NOT to be skipped (is it ever?), Azim opted for a sweet apple flammekeuche, and I had pear sorbet drowning in some type of pear liquor. Yum. Another positive? It’s relatively inexpensive (for Paris)!
Azim and I are at odds with this one. I really loved it, and Azim thought it was “just okay”. It’s a very hyped up restaurant, and several friends and guidebooks listed it as a “must eat here” type of establishment. Reservations are necessary so book online!
To get to the restaurant you have to pass through these gigantic, heavy wooden doors. You feel as if you are entering someone’s house, and in fact that is the way Derrière is set up. There is a very lively terrace, but the inside of the restaurant is decorated as a home. You can play ping pong, or eat your dinner on the bed! And the food and cocktails are delicious. I had a moscow mule made with Absinthe and cucumbers which has made a lasting impression on me. Comes with a heftier $$$ price tag.
I stumbled upon this little crêperie a few years ago by accident! I only decided to eat here because we share the same name, but I was pleasantly surprised. The crêpes were so delicious that I ate a savoury one (une galette) and a sweet one too. When I looked it up later I realized that it’s one of the most highly rated crêperies in Paris. Of course, I had to bring Azim back this time around!
We visited Le Comptoir for lunch on our last day in Paris, before renting our car and driving into the Loire Valley. This restaurant was so so SO good, that we returned for dinner on the last day of our trip. I’ll save my review for that post.
Another unexpected highlight of our time in Paris was our visit to the Jardin des Plantes and the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle . Although I’ve frequented Paris often throughout my childhood and as a young adult, I’ve never visited this museum before. It’s really meant for children (free for those under 26 – alas I am finally feeling the pain of adulthood) to learn about evolution and animal life. It has one of the largest collections of taxidermy, and really is like a giant cabinet of curiosities.
Azim was a little unsure at first – museums are not really his thing – but he was totally surprised and agreed that this was one of the most fun things we did in Paris. It was such a unique experience to walk through the beautiful Belle Époque style building, and pass by animals posed in action shots. I was actually really scared to approach the cheetahs and lions because they seemed SO real, I really expected them to pounce on me.
The museum was not very busy, which was a nice reprieve from the streets and shops packed with tourists. It’s an under-the-radar spot, which I highly recommend!
I couldn’t visit Paris and not spend
an afternoon a whole day shopping. And alors, one day was NOT enough. We visited Les Galeries Lafayette first, starting from the bottom floor – the shoe floor. I think I died and went to heaven for the two hours I spent making my way through Valentino, Jimmy Choo, Nicholas Kirkwood, and Ferragamo. I’m not an aggressive shopper unless I need to be, but you better believe I elbowed my way through to get to those size 37s 🙂 I left with only two pairs (yes, I congratulated myself until I saw the exchange rate)! Azim and I then made our way to Printemps, and then La Marais.
Is there any other place like the Marais district in the whole entire world? I have daydreams that I’ve won the lottery, and the first thing I do is buy a second home in the Marais. The boutiques are perfect, the restaurants are only borderline pretentious, and everyone looks like they’ve just stepped out of a Sandro ad. The neighbourhood is steeped in history, and there’s a hidden treasure around every corner – whether that treasure is an incredible vintage shop, a secluded garden, or your new favourite café…
Of course the reason we came to Paris was for the Eurocup match! And what an incredible time it was!! I had never been to a soccer game before in my life, so this was the ultimate first experience. We attended the Italy vs Spain game, and sat in the section with all the Italian fans. En fait, we ended up sitting next to the guy who was named “Fan of the Match”! He was dressed up like Caesar, and actually hugged Azim when Italy scored. 🙂
I love Paris. It is my favourite city in the entire world, and I know this implicitly. But somehow, this time I fell in love with it even more. I felt more present in every moment, and was just SO HAPPY to be there. I was so happy to be walking down cobblestoned streets, so happy to be passing by the gorgeous Haussmanian buildings, so happy to glimpse couples embrace in doorways, and see children playing in little striped shirts. I kept pointing everything out to Azim (this bridge is SO BEAUTIFUL, this garden is SO AWESOME, this statue is SO REGAL!!!). I just couldn’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else…and I could feel the pull of wanting to go back as soon as I had left.
Next up, our day trip to the garden and home of Claude Monet!