Paris: The Center of France


Our foray into Paris, France, is really our first adventure into a different culture while in Europe. Although the busy roads, crowded subway, and densely-populated buildings of Paris are familiar, the language, cuisine, and norms of the people are not.

To-Do List:

Day One

Despite having a morning coffee at St. Pancras International train station in London, I found myself nodding off and falling asleep the entire ride on the Eurostar bullet train down to Paris. The train was swift, flying underground, then overground, through farmland and small villages.

When we arrived, we took a short metro (subway) ride to our Airbnb in Montmartre, a small neighborhood high in the hills near the Sacre Coeur, a large domed church at on of the highest points in Paris.

Our dwelling was rather small, but very charming. It was a studio on the third floor of a classic Parisian apartment building, tucked away from the busy street of Rue de Abbesses.

Hungry from our journey, we stopped into a small restaurant nearby named Un Zebre a Montmartre. The servers were friendly and were very patient with our broken French. My wife enjoyed her roasted duck and I enjoyed my braised beef lyonnaise, the portions were generous!

After our early dinner, we purchased a baguette and croissant from a local bakery named Boulangerie Alexine. We also bought some goat cheese from a fromagerie nearby, on the main drag in Abbesses. It was very common to see people walking around with long pieces of bread in their hands, we wanted to fit in!

We dropped off our groceries and made our way up the steep, narrow roads of the neighborhood up to the Sacre Coure.

The Sacre Coure is a huge church at the top of Montmartre. It’s enormous, like many old churches in Europe. It stands on one of the highest points in Paris, offering a vast view of the city down below.

After wandering around the many sex shops near the Moulin Rouge, we made our way back home for a nightcap of bread, cheese, and red wine.

Day Two

Early in the morning, our goal was to find a place with free wifi to plan more of our trip (our Airbnb didn’t have wifi). We found a place named Cafe des 2 Moulins, but it’s wifi was really shoddy.

After giving up on the bad wifi, we brought my laptop back to the room and began walking down to the metro station. On the way, my wife spotted a small, fancy-looking coffee shop named Cuillier. We were able to nab a table right next to a sunny window and sip on a delicious Guatemalan roast!

The first site on our list was the Arc de Triomphe, a massive structure welcoming home the soldiers of the French military after successful campaigns.

We hadn’t quite planned on it, but we made our way to the top of the arch. It costs about 12 euros, but it was well worth the view from above!

Underneath the arch lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, now a symbolic memorial to veterans who lost their lives serving in the military.

Hungry, and apparently homesick, we stopped into a McDonalds for lunch. When we walked in, we realized this was no ordinary McDonalds!

We ordered food at a self-service, touchscreen kiosk. Then we brought our ticket to the cashier and received our meal.

Though the food looked familiar, it actually tasted quite different. The Coke Light was a little sweeter  than a regular Diet Coke, and the fries actually tasted like potatoes rather than filler starch!

Stuffed with ‘Murican deliciousness, we walked through the upper class neighborhoods of Chaillot towards the Siene River. On our way, we stopped at a small dessert shop named La Patisserie. This was recommended by my wife’s coworker as a place to get good pastries.

Since we weren’t too hungry, we treated ourselves to two macarons. Though small, they were packed with flavor!

It wouldn’t be a trip to Paris if we didn’t see the Eiffel Tower! It truly is a feat of engineering and an amazing sight to behold.

After gazing at the Eiffel Tower for bit, we walked along the Siene River towards the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro station. Along the way we made a quick stop to peek at the Grand PalaisPetite Palais, and Les Invalides, where the tomb of Napoleon lies, off in the distance.

A quick metro ride took us to our final sight of the day: the Louvre Museum. We snapped photos of the large square and the glass pyramid structures, but I didn’t have the energy or patience to explore the many wings of the museum. Alas, I’ll have to come back.

Hungry and exhausted, we made our way back to Montmartre, but not before stopping to pick up dinner. We picked up a delicious, rotisserie chicken from a butcher shop named Boucherie des Gourmets. The old shop-owner was very friendly to us.

We sat down at the small dining table in our Airbnb room and had ourselves a lovely dinner!

Well-rested and ready to go out once again, we walked up the road to a nearby bar named Le Rendezvous des Amis

We enjoyed our beer and wine while new-age French jazz played over the speakers. The bartender was extremely funny and helpful, he was able to speak English and was very patient with our attempts at French. After many drinks, we ended up ordering crepes and creme brulee!

Day Three

Our third day in Paris, we realized that we hadn’t really packed for the cold and rain. After stopping at the "I love you" wall in Square Jean Rictus park, we hopped on the metro to do a little shopping for some cold gear.

The Galaries Lafayette is a huge collection of shops spanning many high-end brands including Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, etc. Needless to say, I was unable to find a beanie in my price range.

However, we were able to explore a part of the shopping center with displays of fine foods and groceries.

After grabbing a quick coffee and croissant snack at a nearby Pret a Manger, we walked along the Siene River towards the infamous Notre Dame.

The Cathedral of Notre Dame was beautiful, many tourists were taking photos along the front of the church. We made our way around the backside of the cathedral and found a lovely park with some gorgeous views of the other side!

After wandering the Cathedral of Notre Dame, we made our way back towards the Boulevard du Palais to visit the Chapel of Sainte Chapelle.

To this day, the stained-glass windows of the Chapel of Sainte Chapelle are among one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen. Each tells a story from a different part of the bible, in great and ornate detail. Photos don't do this chapel any justice!

We gazed at the stained-glass windows of Sainte Chapelle for quite a bit, then made our way back towards Montmartre to recoup some energy. We picked up a quick bite at a small bakery named Coquelicot, then picked up my laptop from our Airbnb before heading out to relax over some coffee.

Our coffee shop of choice for the afternoon was Soul Kitchen, a small, but very popular coffee joint just over the hill from our studio. On the way, we watched many artists of the neighborhood draw portraits for tourists.

Since we had walked up and over some steep stairs to get to this area, we decided just eat dinner across the street at a small restaurant named Au Relais. The waiter was very friendly and even took time to teach me how to read the French menu! We particularly enjoyed our meal, my wife absolutely loved her beef stew and I really liked my duck confit!

On our way back to the Airbnb, we stopped at a restaurant and bar named Relais de la Butte. We enjoyed some evening cappuccinos with a view of the city from our table! Then, we had back to our studio to relax.

As soon as the sun had set, we ventured out to view the Eiffel Tower Illumination at night. Basically, the tower lights up with flashes of bright lights for tourists to watch. The light show, itself, wasn't super spectacular, but the tower glowing in the night sky was very beautiful!

To close out our last night in Paris, we enjoyed a couple of beers at an old jazz bar named Le Saint Jean. We talked about life, love, and adventure over delicious beers while a small jazz ensemble played music throughout the evening.

Ah, Paris is truly the city of romance!

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