Last week we jetted off for a four-day weekend in Paris to celebrate our eight-year wedding anniversary. I had booked this particular jaunt months ago having stumbled upon an absolutely irresistible deal on edreams.com. Okay and it’s not like I wasn’t looking for any excuse to get back to Paris too. I had been once before a few years ago. I went with my pal Jill for an eight-day intensive touristy immersion experience.
You see, I’d always wanted to go to France and had been enamored with the language and culture since I can remember. When I was little, I used to pretend I was speaking French, completely making up words as I went and trying my best to imitate the accent. Fun times. I wanted to study French in high school, but it wasn’t offered, so I took Spanish instead (good thing too, since I ended up living in Spain!) Finally, at university I minored in both languages and after graduating joined the Alliance Française de San Francisco where I took a three-hour course every Saturday for several years. Obsessed much? Yeah, that’s me, a total language nerd.
Anyhoo, fast forward to present day and it’s off to Paris for a relaxing celebratory mini-break with hubbie. Now don’t get too excited, our itinerary is best suited to those that just enjoy walking around town and taking it all in. We’re not museum people, and being preggers I wasn’t up to being too touristy. I really just wanted to show hubbie why I love Paris so much, see a few sites and practice my French, which had become quite rusty as demonstrated by an embarrassing experience at a brasserie one night. I don’t want to talk about it.
We stayed in a small apartment in Monmartre on rue Durantin, just off of the main drag rue des Abbesses. I rented it from the same company as on my last trip, perfectlyparis.com (if you check out the website, it’s the one called Abbesses Boheme.) They offer great places at reasonable prices in awesome, residential locations, so you really get a feel for life as a Parisian. And they offer a concierge service, restaurant recs, travel tips and more. Monmartre was the perfect place to stay and we spent a lot of our time there. The incredible Butte Monmartre, shops, cafes, brasseries and people watching, not to mention the neighborhood’s historical uniqueness and overall vibe gave us plenty to do and enjoy.
We arrived at Paris-Orly on the Thursday before last in the evening and took the Orly-Val train to the RER B line, which has several stops in central Paris before exiting the city. It’s a fun way to dive right into finding your way around and about half the cost of taking a cab at about 23 euros for two one-way tickets. We then took the metro to Abbesses and walked up the road a bit to our adorable apartment. One thing that’s both loveable and not so loveable about Paris is that just about every building is at least 100 years old, so no matter what, you’re pretty much guaranteed windy, creaking stairs and tiny accommodations. Even if the apartment is “large” by Paris standards with several rooms, it’s still tiny in terms of individual room size. Our place for example was a fourth floor walk-up (fifth floor w/no elevator in American) with a kitchen the size of my closet (a small one in a house from the 1920s) back in California (and I’m not exaggerating). But we loved it and it was perfect for the two of us. It was located on a narrow, windy and cobblestoned street in the heart of Montmartre. Each evening we would head back dog-tired and pass crowds of locals enjoying happy hour, spilling out of the entrances of corner pubs. We were in the thick of it.
Here’s a breakdown of our highly enjoyable mini-break:
Arrive in Paris and make our way to the Montmartre area.
Find our apartment after looking like obvious tourists holding our smartphones out in front of us and following Google Maps directions.
Take a cat nap.
Head out to scope out the neighborhood and find sustenance.
Settle on a local brasserie on rue des Abbesses called Le Sancerre where the French Onion Soup is freaking to-die-for. Yum.
Pregger lady almost dies hauling up two humongous flights of stairs and enormous hills to reach Butte Montmartre and enjoy the city view from Sacré Coeur. Of course I choose the only hilly area in the city.
Walk around a bit more to take in the awesome vibe of our new hood.
Cap off a lovely evening with some apple tart and hot chocolate. Nummies!
Sleep in. This is an important bullet, as we never get to with a little one around.
Enjoy a tasty breakfast of coffee, croissants with jam and butter and pain au chocolate. Heaven on rue des Abbesses.
Hop on the metro to Trocadero, step out to enjoy the view directly ahead of la Tour Eiffel. Squee!
Walk down to get in line for tickets to the top. If you’re smart, you’ll reserve ahead of time, so you can skip this part. Otherwise you’re in for about a 40-minute wait. Poo.
Get to the top, snap lots of pics and see how many landmarks we can identify.
Take the elevator down and grab a snack at one of the nearby kiosks. Normally, I recommend against buying from the tower kiosks because they’re over-priced, but preggers here can’t wait once she’s hungry.
Walk down to Champs de Mars and take a nap in the grass while the sun is out. Ahh.
Wake up, stretch, wish you could sleep longer and start the walk over to the Tuileries Gardens and the Louvre.
Cross the Pont des Arts (the one with all of the locks on it for luck and a promise to return to the City of Lights).
Get caught in the rain and cop a squat on some chairs under huge, lush trees in the Tuileries. This is a general theme of our time in Paris. I love how there are chairs and benches everywhere with and without park grounds.
Stroll through the gardens, sit in front of the Louvre and have deep discussion about what life must have been like for the monarchy, the people and then of course the French Revolution. I’ve always been a fan of palaces and learning about various monarchies, but to hubbie’s point, the Louvre was once a palace. The French people were starving and French kings and queens lived in one of a few humongous palaces. Yeah, I guess I’d be pissed too if I were a subject.
Head back to Montmartre and enjoy a tasty dinner at Le Chinon on, you guessed it, rue des Abbesses. We tried to do the menu when possible to save some cash. Here we had an entrée, bread, dessert and coffee for about 14 euros each.
Breakfast at a place right on the corner of rues des Abbesses and rue Tholozé. I can’t remember the name, but I do remember the yummy fresh bread with butter and preserves, pain au chocolate and tea and coffee we scarfed down (7.50 euros each for the petit déjeuner menu.)
Hop on the metro to Saint Germain-des-Près and walk around the charming neighborhood peaking in at the art galleries and curious shops.
Walk to L’Isle de la Cité, find Notre Dame and take a break for some people watching and contemplating what things must have been like during the time of Victor Hugo’s beloved story, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Grab a baguette with ham, cheese, lettuce and tomato and a fanta at a nearby kiosk and sit in the park behind the cathedral to escape the rain and just enjoy being in Paris.
Wander around a bit and make our way to Place Dauphine, a charming and small plaza amidst old and beautifully kept residential buildings, cafés and adorable old French men playing pétanque.
Cross the Seine and head back to Saint Germain-des-Près for a visit to Ladurée, the classic French tearoom and original home of the macaron. We have tea and snacks in the tearoom; buy some macarons for the fam back in Mallorca and head back to Montmartre.
Okay, so I know normal people don’t go to France to eat Asian food, but ethnic food in Mallorca is practically non-existent. And after ten years in San Francisco, we needed some variety, people. So there was this Asian fusion place on rue Lepic we kept passing and finally decided to try some take out. Oh my god! They did it all, a little Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai. YUMMY! It was the real deal and tasty as hell. Again, I don’t remember the name, but it’s on rue Lepic near rue des Abbesses.
Today we go home, so we decide to make it an even more chill day, if that were possible, and have a late and long breakfast at this little bakery / restaurant called Coquelicot on rue des Abbesses. We sat outside because it was finally a dry, sunny day and enjoyed the quartet of little old Frenchmen playing their jazz swing music while families stopped to listen and little girls and boys to dance. You could put that in a bottle and call it Paris.
Then it was time to head back to the airport where we camped out at Starbucks (JOY) and paid over 17 euros for 1 tall cafe au lait, 1 tall chai latte, 1 donut and 1 piece of cake. Holy Hell, Europe.