We’ll Always Have Paris

Paris was a blast!  I’ve been wanting to write about it for the past few weeks but I’ve been so busy at work that I haven’t had a chance.  Anyways, as many of you know, I went to Paris for New Years with one of my college friends, Andrew!

Planning for a trip to Paris advance helped a lot but isn’t totally necessary unless you plan on seeing shows, museums that require reservations and fancy restaurants.  Andrew and I decided to do two cabaret shows, so we did purchase these a few weeks beforehand.  As well as tickets to see the catacombs.  Obviously you need to book a hotel in advance.  But other than that, Paris is a great city to spontaneously explore.  It gives you the freedom to spend more time at places that you enjoy more versus being stuck with a reservation at a place you don’t like that much.

Since I was able to take advantage of my dad’s hotel points, I booked a hotel in Republique at the Crown PlazaRepublique is known as a “revolutionary, student district”–essentially, a lot of young, hipster people live here and they hold protests in the Republique Square.  We were, debatably, lucky enough to see two of these protests, one of which spread into our hotel lobby.  To this day, I have no clue what it was about but it was a bit concerning to walk into my hotel while having people shout on megaphones and hold up signs about how the Crowne Plaza should be “ashamed”.  But other than that, our hotel was very conveniently located and had very beautiful views.  The first night, we stayed in a room that faced a side street that had beautiful architecture, while for the rest of the time, we had a room that faced the main square.  Our hotel was also within a block of many underground metro stops, which made it very easy to get to most destinations around Paris.

View from our room & photos of the square:

Of course, our first night, we had to stop by the Eiffel Tower.  The lights sparkled over the city and Christmas markets were splattered about the vicinity of the tower.  These Christmas markets, which you can find all over the city, have some of the best food and drinks around.  You can get anything from cheese to hot dogs to pastries to hot wine here!  Since we had already eaten dinner at a cute local cafe, Andrew and I just picked up a cup of vin chaud (hot wine).  And, I have to say, it tasted like Christmas in a cup.  SO DELICIOUS!

The next few days were a whirlwind of exploring new neighborhoods, shows, museums and restaurants.  Every place we went to in the city, though, had such unique architecture.  I don’t think I’ve been to a city that, despite being so large and sprawled out, had gorgeous, old buildings.  You can check out all the places we went to below!

Notre Dame

We heard the bells of Notre Dame!  This church is absolutely fantastic.  It holds a wealth of history, stunning stained glass and (like everywhere else in the city) amazing architecture.  Andrew and I toured the church via audio guide, which gave us an in-depth history of the church and its congregation.  My favorite part had to be the cloisters, where the most prominent artifacts the church had, were on display.  Not only was it full of gold and jewels but they also had a nail from Jesus’ cross!

Sacre Coeur & Montmartre

Though not as old as Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur‘s location and neighborhood made up for this.  Located at the top of a hill in the Northwest suburb of Montmartre, Sacre Coeur towers over the rest of Paris.  From here, you can see the whole city below.  And the church is as incredible on the inside as it is on the outside.  Afterwards, we took some time exploring the neighborhood.  Although much of it is very touristy, if you veer to the West, you can find some cute little boutiques and cafes.  I managed to stumble upon a small silk scarf boutique, where I snagged two French and Italian scarves for my mom!

Catacombs

This may have been one of the best museums I’ve been to.  Definitely top 3.  So, Andrew and I got tickets in advance for the Catacombs, which was a good thing because once we got there, the non-reservation line had to have been a mile long and taken 3 hours.  Thankfully, we only had to wait about a half hour in line.  The catacombs are typically an audio-guided tour, although you can get a tour guide.  However, I found the audio guide to be more than enough information.  Once we made our way down into the catacombs, we were surrounded by hundreds of tunnels…and bones.  The catacombs are the former burial ground of Parisians from hundreds of years ago, which were made into tunnel walls and artful sculptures.  This may sound very morbid but I found it to be quite fascinating.

Arc de Triomphe

This is definitely worth a stop.  Andrew and I bought tickets for the Arc de Triomphe the spot, which only took about an hour in line, and it provided for great views of the city.  Just be warned–there’s no elevator, so you have to climb to the top yourself!  It was worth it though.  I have some of my favorite photos from my trip here of me with Champs Elysee and the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Palace Gardens/Louvre

I didn’t actually tour through the Louvre, mostly because the line was hours long and it was raining outside.  But, I did take some stereotypically touristy pictures in front of the glass pyramid.  And before we got there, we strolled through the Palace Gardens, which I imagine are not as spectacular during the winter as during any other season, but it was still very pretty.  It’s conveniently located between the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre, also where the Champs Elysee runs through and where the Luxor Obelisk and Carousel are located.  It’s a tourists dream!

Crazy Horse

OKAY so yes we went to this notably scandalous cabaret.  And, although there was a lot of nakedness, like a lot, I found Crazy Horse to be quite tasteful.  I’ve heard comments about it being a “glorified strip club” but I just didn’t see it that way, although I can understand where people are coming from when they say this.  There were no fancy costumes, no professional dancers–only the power of music and sexuality, which provided for a fantastic show.

El Lido

Andrew and I saw El Lido the day after Crazy Horse, so we could easily compare the two.  First, Crazy Horse provided a sort of intimacy that El Lido didn’t.  The venue was much smaller and the Act/Dancers were very personable with the audience.  El Lido was not this way–they put on a fantastic show but it lacked that personal touch.  However, the show was spectacular.  Really comparable to a Broadway show.  There was some nudity but it wasn’t sexualized in the same way it was in Crazy Horse.  The show had everything from ice skating to synchronized swimming to Cirque de Soleil comparable acrobatics.  If you want to see just one show in Paris, go see this one.

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Seine River Boat Cruise

Just after touring the Eiffel Tower during the day, Andrew and I hopped on a river boat cruise with Vedettes de Paris, complete with champagne and night views of the city.  The cruise really maps out the layout of Paris, since so much of the city’s main sites lie along the Seine.  If you decide to do a river boat cruise, don’t make the mistake of assuming you can hop on one at any moment.  Definitely make a reservation in advance.  After waiting in line for nearly an hour, we were able to secure a spot on a boat…that was an hour and a half later.

PS: While you’re waiting, you can see animatronic polar bears dance to EDM and a creepy Santa–and a random swan!

Galeries Lafayette

I didn’t go there for the shopping.  I went for the Christmas tree.  It was worth it.  There’s a giant tree with balloons that put on a display in the center of the Galeries Lafayette that was so beautiful and fun to see!

Champs Elysee

This wasn’t my favorite place but mostly because the Champs Elysee a shopping strip with lots of tourists.  I guess if you want to say you walked down this street, then definitely make a pit stop, but other than that, I wouldn’t bother.  There are plenty of other places to go shopping and to eat.  Check out some of my favorite restaurants below!

De l’autre cote – Our first food stop in Paris was here.  The food was ok (I’m not a fan of ordering a steak riddled with fat) but the wine and atmosphere was great!  We made friends with the owner, Ali, who continuously made comments about Andrew and I (no, we’re not dating but Ali was convinced he should marry me).  But at the end, Ali gave us free shots so that was a plus!

Le Souffle – I LOVED this place.  But I also love souffles.  I had a three course souffle dinner–a pear and blue cheese souffle, a beef bourguignon souffle and a chocolate souffle.  This little souffle restaurant is located right by the Louvre, next to Ferdi (Kim and Kanye’s favorite Parisian restaurant!)

Republique of Coffee – This little breakfast nook proved to be a great start to our last morning in Paris.  It’s menu is full of trendy, healthy items, such as avocado toast and acai bowls.  The crowd is young, which was refreshing compared to some of the other places we went to.

Le Cafe Pierre – Andrew and I strolled in here our first morning in Paris, hoping to get a light breakfast before we headed out to Notre Dame.  Since I can’t read French, I decided to order the “breakfast special” of salmon scrambled eggs.  Turns out, I actually ended up ordering a four course breakfast special–which I did not know until the server didn’t stop bringing out food.  And I was left with pancakes, yogurt, granola, toast…but at least I got those salmon scrambled eggs.  Food was pretty good overall though.

Philippe et Jean Pierre – This was our pre-El Lido dinner and although it was quite pricey, I had some of the best cheese, wine and lamb chops of my life.

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Bakery near Crown Plaza – I honestly do not know the name of this bakery or the exact location of it, even though we went here twice.  And I can’t find it on Google Maps.  But I can confirm that they had the best quiches I’ve ever had.  I don’t usually like quiche–it’s just never been a favorite of mine.  But these quiches at this bakery, filled with eggs, cheese and herbs, were incredible.  Time to find the recipe…

Any crepe stand in the entirety of Paris – There’s not one that’s any better than the rest.  They’re all the same and all delicious.  My favorite types, though, were the lemon/sugar and Speculoos ones.

 

Room Service x 2 – Yeah we got room service twice in Paris for dinner but 1) because every other restaurant was so expensive and 2) because we needed to nap before going out.  (And because I wanted to catch up on the Real Housewives of New Jersey.)

Paris is magical–there’s no doubt about it.  It’s a unique city with its own tempo and attidude.  Although you definitely don’t need more than 2 or 3 days there, it’s a definite “must visit” for a European trip.

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