Ah, Paris. My favourite city in the universe. My second home, and my happiest place.
I’m sure a few of you may be wondering why I have such an obsession – am I just a walking cliché? Maybe. I’ve worn my fair share of striped shirts and berets, with a baguette tucked under my arm 🙂
My connection to the beautiful city runs deeper than an affinity for fashion and good food. It’s the place where I came of age, blossoming from a child into a moody young teen, when my family lived there during the early 2000’s. It was the city I chose to visit alone, “backpacking” at 19 after dropping out of university. It was where Azim and I first travelled together, and I knew I was totally in love (ok, so a bit of a cliché :)).
So flash forward to this past summer, when Jasmine and I were deciding where to spend a long weekend. We looked at cities we’d never been to (Prague? Budapest?), but the flight times weren’t working in our favour. We considered London, but Jasmine goes there for work quite often.
So how about Paris? Jasmine proposed. She didn’t have to ask me twice!
We booked our tickets, toyed between two hotels (left bank or right?), packed our carry-ons and were on our way.
Because we only had three days, we opted to bypass the more touristy landmarks and museums. No Mona Lisa, no Thinker, and no water lilies. Instead, the theme of this trip was unique experiences – and food. I would not be exaggerating if I said we ate our way through Paris!
Jasmine and I watched Funny Face on the plane, which was a lovely way to start our trip. We took an overnight flight and arrived in Paris around 9am. We took the metro to our hotel in the 9th (steps from the Opera and Galeries Lafayette). Instead of taking a nap, we hit the cobblestones to make the most out of our short stay!
Our first stop was Stohrer Patisserie on Rue Montorgueil, the oldest bake shop in Paris. I love Rue Montorguiel because of its cute market stalls and rich history. Stohrer’s for instance, has been operating on Rue Montorguiel since 1730. I picked out a delicious Kouign-Amann as my breakfast – if I had to describe it, I’d say it tastes like if a croissant and a palmier had a sweet baby. It’s thicker than a cookie, but thinner than a pastry. It’s made from buttery layers the same way a croissant would be, but with sugar sprinkled in between, which melts and caramelizes. It’s sticky, chewy, crispy, and perfect. Jasmine picked out a decadent foie gras brioche, which we ate at a nearby Paul where I grabbed un café. What a way to start the morning!
From Rue Montorguiel we walked to Passage du Grand-Cerf, a beautiful covered arcade created in 1825. There are so many little hidden passages in Paris, and this is one of my favourites. It has a few gorgeous jewellery shops, a spa, a cute wool store, and a kitschy home décor boutique called Rickshaw. This was my destination of choice, because I was after some vintage dresser knobs to replace the ones on my Ikea Tarva at home. The knobs and dresser pulls were laid out in baskets like fruit at the market, and Jasmine and I had lots of fun mixing and matching the different designs. I eventually picked out two designs, and left feeling very accomplished!
Afterward, we visited Sézanne, another very Parisienne shopping destination, as well as & other stories, Galeries Lafayette, and a few other shops we wouldn’t be able to access in Toronto. We purposely did the majority of our shopping on our first day, to save room for eating and exploring on the weekend. Many shops are closed on Sundays in Paris, so we kept that in mind as well.
After shopping til we dropped, we checked into the hotel for a petite snooze before heading to Chartier for dinner. Bouillon Chartier is a legendary establishment in Paris with a lot of history. It was first opened in 1896 as a cheap eatery catering to the working class, and not a whole lot has changed. The dining room is a gorgeous example of Belle Époque design, and the walls are lined with little cubby holes where patrons used to keep their own cutlery and napkins.
Chartier is famous for its efficient service. It’s typical to be seated family style, next to other couples and complete strangers while you enjoy your meal. The waiters, dressed formally in black and white, HUSTLE as they carry multiple plates, pour your wine, calculate your bill in their head, and then bid you adieu. The bustling atmosphere and intimate table settings make for a really fun experience – and the food is CHEAP. Appetizers start at 1.80 euro, and you won’t pay more than 14 euro for an entrée. The cuisine is traditional French dishes, although I wouldn’t say the restaurant will be earning a Michelin star anytime soon. Come for the ambience, not for exceptional cooking.
As David Lebovitz says: “The house wine is pas mal, the fries need to be cooked two more minutes, and your steak may give your arm a little workout, not to mention your jaw. Anyone looking for haute cuisine might want to steer clear. Stick to classics and less-complicated dishes, and you’ll be fine. A recent three-course meal I had here with two others, with wine, costs less than €60. I don’t think you could eat at the fast-food restaurant across the street for less.”
Jasmine and I both enjoyed what we ordered immensely! We started with a dozen escargot, which were perfectly garlicky. She ordered the duck, and I had a childhood favourite – steak haché avec frites. We washed it down with a carafe of red, and finished off with dessert. Jasmine ordered a flan, and I had a bowl of chestnut purée, topped with Chantilly cream. Perfection.
I was surprised that the couples who sat on either side of us were native French, and I’d wager that most of the restaurant was filled with locals as opposed to tourists. This was surprising since Chartier can be quite touristy, but it’s nice to know that locals enjoy it just as much!
After dinner, Jasmine and I took a walk to the Seine and Place de La Concorde to watch the Eiffel tower light up and sparkle. It was so magical – I don’t think I’ll ever tire of that sight!
The next day, Jasmine and I made an early start to visit Palais Royal. The gardens were serene and beautiful with the leaves changing colours, and early morning sunlight warming the gorgeous buildings.
We spent some time taking photos on the black and white pedestals – I couldn’t believe the number of people there conducting photoshoots! Some had brought tripods and outfit changes, it was a little nuts!
We walked from Palais Royal to Rue St-Honoré to visit Colette, a fashion mecca. Colette is sadly closing down at the end of the year, so I was happy to have made one last trip before it closes its doors. From there we went to the Tuileries to soak up some sun and sit by the fountains before our brunch reservation at Angelina.
Angelina. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip! I wanted some of the world-famous hot chocolate, but Jasmine and I decided to splurge and ordered the four-course brunch, because, why not?!
We shared a big carafe of the exquisite hot chocolate (seriously my favourite EVER), as well as bread with jams and honey, croissants and viennoiseries, and freshly squeezed juices. Jasmine had eggs benedict, and I had a croissant stuffed with scrambled eggs and topped with juicy bacon. At this point, we were both absolutely stuffed and hallucinating on a chocolate high.
“I am soooo full,” I’d say.
“No, I’m going to actually burst,” Jasmine would reply
“I think if I bursted I’d still be full,” and back and forth for a few minutes.
Imagine our surprised when our waitress brought the last course – yogurt with muesli, and the most decadent French toast I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know how we found room to digest more, but we persevered, and I’m so glad we did. That French toast was seriously the best I’ve ever had. I’ve dreamed of its fluffy, gooey texture. The melting brioche, the hint of cinnamon, the vanilla scent. Oh my god. I’d go back to Paris just to eat that again.
Pro tip for Angelina – make a reservation online! We bypassed the super long line because we reserved ahead, but others were lined up around the block.
I think Jasmine would have had to roll me out of the restaurant had I eaten any more, but we had a nice long walk to the Champs Elysées to look forward to!
Jasmine and I each wanted to buy a Longchamp bag and see the Arc de Triomphe as well, so we killed two birds with one stone as we strolled down the Champs. We stopped crossed the street a few times to take pictures in the mid-way (scary, but fun!), and made it all the way to the Arc before we realized the line to climb it was too long ☹. It’s definitely on my list for the next visit, because the view from the top of the Arc is my favourite in all of Paris – much better than the top of the Eiffel tower, in my opinion! I love seeing the beautiful streets of the étoile.
Afterwards we headed back to the hotel for our super awesome RETRO TOUR! This was another highlight of the trip for sure!
Retro Tour Paris offers sidecar tours throughout the city – yes, actual motorcycle sidecars! The drivers/tour guides dress the part as well with beards, suspenders, and driving goggles. Our driver, Julien, picked us up and took us on the best ride – we went back down the Champs Elysées and through the roundabout (one of the CRAZIEST places to drive in Paris/the world :)), from there we passed Parc Monceau and then up, up, up to Montmartre. Julien would convey little historical tidbits along the way, and indulged us by stopping for plenty of pictures. While we paused at red lights, other motorists would lean over and make conversation – everyone was intrigued by the sidecar. People say Parisiens are unfriendly, but I’ve never found anything to be more untrue!
If you’re wondering, the bike itself was very comfy – I sat on the back of the bike and Jasmine took the sidecar, and we all wore cute helmets the entire time. I felt totally safe, and would recommend it to ANYONE. Julien and the other drivers take their business very seriously, and their passion shows! Retro Tour has already won Best New Tour in Paris, and they have fabulous reviews. They can add mine in – I would love to do it again 🙂
After the tour, Jasmine and I wandered over to the Canal Saint-Martin area to peek into some shops, and see the old bridges. It was a lively area with many people picnicking by the canal, but Jasmine and I were still full from our brunch from earlier. We walked from there all the way back to the 9th to try dinner at Le Rouge et Le Verre, but they weren’t serving dinner at that time! We altered our plans and decided to go down to Montparnasse for my favourite crêpes in the city.
La Crêperie de Josselin is always busy, and for good reason! The buttery crêpes are made from simple ingredients (if you go, spot the HUGE block of butter on the counter by the kitchen), with the perfect texture – crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Their galettes (savoury buckwheat crêpes), are the best – I’ve yet to find a place in Toronto that can hold a candle to Josselin. Café Breizh in Montreal comes close.
Jasmine and I each ordered a galette and washed them down with an entire bottle of cider :). We were still so full from brunch that we couldn’t manage to have a sweet crêpe, but we bought some treats from Monoprix to make up for it.
Around the corner from the crêperie was a huge Monoprix – basically heaven for Jasmine and me. We started in the beauty section and ended in the yogurt aisle. Nearly TWO hours and 100 euros later, we had bought souvenirs, beauty staples (bioderma!), cheese, and dessert. The dairy aisle in French grocery stores in a serious business. I think we may have spent fifteen minutes there alone, trying to decide between rice pudding, crème caramel, and chocolate mousse. Canada needs to get with it! Or maybe not, because my waistline would not be happy. I should also take a moment to note that Jasmine and I travel so well together because we both find a two-hour shopping spree at the grocery store to be a wonderful way to spend a Saturday night 🙂
Our last day in Paris began very well with a three-hour Secret Food Tour in the Marais – one of my favourite neighbourhoods in the city! We met up with our lovely guide, Claire, who not only fed us, but gave us a wonderful education on the history of the Marais, and other tidbits like how to properly buy baguette, and how to properly eat cheese! The three hours actually flew by – we sampled espresso, croissants from one of the best bakeries, baguette, many types of cheese and wine, croque monsieur, charcuterie, falafel, chocolates, tarte au citron, and macarons! I loved walking in and out of courtyards, down little cobblestoned streets, through gorgeous bistros and cafés, and past all the pretty boutiques scattered throughout the arrondisement. We were very sad to leave the tour, but I would definitely do it again, and recommend it to foodies and history lovers alike!
After the tour, Jasmine and I walked over to the bustling Place des Vosges – one of my favourite places in Paris (I know I keep saying that, but that’s what this trip was all about! Making the rounds of all the places I dream about). The weather was spectacular so there were many people out, tanning on the lawn, crunching through leaves, picnicking, and enjoying life.
From there we walked to the Rue de Rivoli for a bit of shopping, before hopping over to the Hotel de Ville, and then Notre Dame. The Notre Dame always takes my breath away. It’s so regal – from the front and the back.
We crossed the Seine to wander around Saint-Germain, and had drinks and people-watched for awhile at a café. I had kir and Jasmine enjoyed an Orangina – I think these things just taste better in France! From there we made a visit to the Luxembourg gardens to watch the kids push their boats around the pond, and chill out after walking all over the city.
We decided to have a very cliché evening, and took the metro over to Trocadero to take pictures of the Eiffel tower, and then wait for the sun to set to see it sparkle up close. We sat for an hour on the steps, chatting, enjoying the beautiful weather, and watching the sky turn lavender and then dark. It was truly a magical sight.
I was so sad to leave. I tried to imprint every moment into my memory, as I always do – the creamy hausmanian buildings standing gorgeously against the blue sky, the adorable way French children speak to each other and to their parents (they’re so polite!), crunching orange leaves in the Tuilieries and Jardin du Luxembourg, the way the lights sparkle off the Seine after dark, the sound of the old metro doors clanking open and then shut, the smell of freshly baked bread just around the corner.
Until next time Paris, I hope it’s sooner rather than later!