Traveling is seriously one of my favorite things to do. You learn so much about other cultures, and also about yourself when you spend time somewhere else. Um, plus, THE FOOD. My husband and I just got back from two incredible weeks in Europe! It was a fantastic trip, and we will have stories and memories to recount for the rest of our lives.
We began our five-city journey in Paris, France, a place I have dreamed about my entire life.
Paris is absolutely breathtaking. I found myself taking pictures of alleyways and street signs, just because it is so beautiful everywhere you look. The buildings are for the most part in a similar style, and everything is very clean, though you can tell it is very old.
Our hotel was located in a residential area close to the Champs-Élysées. The staff was super friendly and spoke very good English. In fact, pretty much everyone in Paris spoke English and was willing to help us, when needed, apart from a few of the restaurant servers (who are understandably very busy).
Going off of a recommendation from our hotel, we went to Le Congrès Maillot, a traditional French restaurant, for dinner our first night there. It was good, but as we were eating, we looked around at some of the other tables and realized that we should have ordered the seafood platter, which was massive and looked amazing (though a little intimidating).
We also found ourselves to be: 1) significantly underdressed (people were arriving in cocktail dresses and business suits, compared to my jeans and somewhat-decent top…), and 2) seated in the middle of the restaurant, so I didn’t get a chance to take any photos.
Much like New York, the Parisian restaurants are fairly small, and you are often seated about 2 inches from the next person’s table. Luckily we were next to some other Americans who didn’t seem to judge us for being in jeans and not knowing which fork was which…
We had breakfast a couple of mornings at our hotel, but our first morning we found a cute little Parisian cafe right by the Arc de Triomphe, which served large scrumptious croissants and an “American” breakfast (juice, toast, eggs and bacon). I was in heaven.
On our first full day (the first was kind of a wash, since we’d been travelling a long time and were exhausted when we arrived in the late afternoon to our hotel), we strolled around the Eiffel Tower, walked by the Louvre (my one major regret is that the line was SO long here that we chose not to try to go in), Notre Dame Cathedral and the Latin Quarter.
We had eaten a large lunch that day, so we just had wine and cheese from the market in our room for dinner that night.
On our second full day, we got up and headed to Versailles. This was probably the biggest tourist attraction we did while in Paris.
The grounds of Versailles are amazing. They go on and on with lots of things to see, including dancing fountains that coordinate with music.
We stood in the long line to tour the Palace, but it was so crowded that it was hard to enjoy. In retrospect, we probably just should have enjoyed the grounds, and maybe even some of the smaller buildings, but skipped the (more expensive) palace interior.
As it was our last afternoon in Paris, I was determined to get some French chocolates and macarons. We walked and walked until finally stumbling across a chocolate boutique. It was legit. And I am still slowly savoring those chocolates (though the macarons didn’t last long…)!
For our final evening in Paris, we went to a nearby brasserie (traditional French restaurant) called L’Auberge Dab. They seated us in the back by our own window with curtains and candles, so it was the perfect romantic dinner to complete our visit.
Never one to pass up the opportunity to have seafood, I ordered the scallops with risotto. Bri tried another local specialty, the roast duck. We finished our meal with a perfect creme brulee (and wine, bien sûr!).
I learned a few things during my travels that I wish I’d known before I went. In case they are helpful to anyone else, here they are:
- Buy tickets to anything you really want to see online. Go ahead and get the Skip the Line option. Really. Even if you’re going in the “off-season,” the major attractions are ALWAYS crowded. I wish we’d done this for a few places we visited (or didn’t get to visit) in Paris.
- Be friendly to everyone, even if they don’t initially seem to like you. On our way out of Paris, we didn’t think the servers on the train liked us. But when my husband raved about the dessert they served, one of them went out of his way to bring us extras. I think a few times we may have won people over just by being friendly and easy-going.
- The interior of the Palace of Versailles is NOT worth the wait. They pack people into it like sardines, and there are only a few rooms that you can tour (if you can even see them for all the people crowding in around you). The grounds are worth it. And much cheaper.
- Watch your bags/pockets/personal items/what have you in the crowded locations. These are pick-pocket central. But if you are smart about it and keep your personal items in front of you (I kept my hand on my cross-body bag and pulled it to the front in all crowded areas), you won’t really even be a target.
- If you’re into history or context at all, get Rick Steves’ app before you go and download any pertinent walking tours, etc. This saved us money (the app is free) and gave lots of interesting facts that helped us to appreciate more of what we were seeing.
- Dress up for dinner. Like, more than you would think. We were at a restaurant that wasn’t super fancy, but ladies were showing up in cocktail dresses and furs, and men in suits. We felt out-of-place in our jeans…
Check out the other parts of my Adventures in Europe:
- Part 2 – Bern, Switzerland
- Part 3 – Cinque Terre, Italy
- Part 4 – Florence, Italy, plus a quick stop in Pisa
- Part 5 – Rome, Italy