Monday, October 28, 2019

Long October Weekend in Paris | Favorite Shops, Places to Eat and What to Do

Jimmy and I just returned from our first trip to Paris! A belated anniversary celebration (21 years last May). Paris is one of only a few direct flights from Cincinnati to Europe, so it is doable for a long weekend.  We left on a Thursday and returned on a Tuesday evening.  Our trip wasn't your typical first time tourist trip, rather than trying to pack in as much as possible and hit all the big sights, we made it  a more leisurely and romantic escape. With hours spent sitting outside at cafes, long walks along the Seine, picnic lunches in beautiful old gardens, and shopping along the narrow cobblestone streets in the oldest and most charming parts of Paris.  Instead of waiting in line at museums, we hopped from Boulangerie to Patisserie in search if the best bread and pastries. It was everything I hoped  for and we fell completely in love with the architecture, culture and style of Paris.  We found Parisians to be especially warm and welcoming everywhere we went, despite what others had told us.  Neither Jimmy nor I speak French, except for a very small bit I learned in junior high French class.  I do think it's  polite when you are traveling to a foreign country to learn a few basics like hello, goodbye, please and thank you.  We would expect the same of someone traveling to the US. I did download Duolingo prior to this trip and found it very helpful and will do the same when traveling to other countries.   Here is how we spent our days...

Day No. 1... We arrived early and dropped our luggage at our hotel.  We sat down for a quick breakfast and coffee before heading out to explore.  We stayed at the Hotel D'Angleterre in Saint Germain de Pres.  It's in the PERFECT location (you are neighbors with the prettiest Ladurée location in Paris) in the heart of Saint Germain, which is full of one charming street after the next, loads of cafes and restaurants, yet still close to the bigger sights like the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay.   I really wanted a hotel that felt more cozy, traditional French,  rather than sleek and modern, and this fit the bill.  We would stay there again without any hesitation. 

Afterwards, we set out to explore on foot.  We covered a lot of ground (in Saint Germain, along the Seine, around the outside of the Louvre), stopping at lunch time to relax in the Tuileries Garden. We found a quiet spot among the autumn hued trees to share a croque monsieur and a couple Cokes while we turned our faces to the sun.  We might have dozed off for a few minutes.  The gardens are incredible and an absolute must visit in Paris. I probably squeezed Jimmy's arm 100 times saying I can't believe we are in Paris, In October. It is just SO. SO. PRETTY.   

By late afternoon we made our way back to the hotel, took an hour nap before getting ready to go out for dinner.  Our first dinner was at Brasserie Lipp (thanks to a recommendation from Rosie The Londoner) and it was delicious.  The menu is completely in French so we relied on friendly English speaking patrons and our waiter to help us navigate the options.  Took me 24 hours to realize "legumes" are not in fact beans, but vegetables.  I know.  A bit embarrassing, especially considering my love of French food and cooking! :) That must have been in Duolingo lesson 10. Haha. We ordered traditional French bistro food - I had roast chicken with pan gravy and Jimmy had the steak with bernaise (the BEST bernaise we've ever tasted, still thinking about it.), with fries and a classic green salad with a mustard vinaigrette dressing (this Ina recipe is very close and my favorite salad dressing.). Dessert was amazing too, we had mille feuille, which is like a Napoleon.  After dinner, we took an hour long boat cruise on the Seine to see Paris all lit up at night.  We didn't buy advance tickets, just walked right up a couple minutes before it left. We used the Vedettes du Pont Neuf cruise after seeing it had some of the highest ratings.  It was a gorgeous evening so we sat outside on the upper deck and we had a great guide.  Definitely worth doing if it's your first time in Paris. 

Day No. 2...We started the morning with a long (as in a couple hours) breakfast at Les Deux Magots - highly recommend.  I had read it's a bit touristy but there were lots of locals there and the food is so good. Skip the croissants and go for the tartines! Right across the street is the the Eglise de Saint Germain, the oldest church in Paris, built in early medieval times.  Sitting at the cafe and hearing the bells ring was so lovely. We could hear them from our hotel room when the windows were open too.   It started to drizzle just as we were leaving so we ducked into a nearby pharmacy to pick up a couple umbrellas.  We had left ours in the car at the airport. I will not mention who was responsible. ;) Thankfully the rain ended as quickly as it began and we walked to Le Marais for the day.  We spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon walking around until it was time to meet up with our food tour.  We booked a Secret Food Tour of Le Marais, based on lots of recommendations.  It was such a fun way to spend the day and try some amazing food.  The hidden food market (the oldest outdoor market in Paris) was our favorite part of the tour.  It's called the Marche des Enfants Rouge and it was the BEST market we saw during our time Paris.  Another must if you are a foodie and visiting Paris. We picked up little scalloped boxes of fresh currants and other berries to snack on later, while we sampled cheeses and wine with our tour guide.  There were 6 of us on the tour, which was a perfect number.  Another favorite spot was the old Jewish section of town, where we ate the BEST falafel I've ever had and sampled chocolates from a little boutique chocolate store that barely could fit the 6 of us at a time.  

The food tour ended up lasting over 4 hours and we loved every minute.  Since it had turned out to be such a gorgeous day we decided to walk from Le Marais to the Eiffel Tower and see it up close at night.  That was an ambitious walk! Haha. Gave us a chance to burn off the food we had just eaten all day.  We weren't that hungry for dinner but it's so fun to be out in the evening that we stopped at  restaurant close to our hotel around 10:00 for a big bowl of onion soup.  The rain returned just as we were leaving.  That night I kept the large windows wide open and we slept to the sound of rain in the courtyard of our hotel.

Day No. 3... We woke to gray skies and rain.  It was drizzling on and off all day.  There is something special about Paris in the rain though.   We had thought about going to the Paris flea market, but decided not to.  Neither one of us was in the rummaging through lots of stuff mood, so we decided we would visit Montmartre and try to work in a museum at some point in the day.  Many shops are closed on Sundays.  I knew this from the research I did but it still surprised me just how many, especially in a big city.  And some restaurants too, so it gave the city a bit of a different feel.  After apple tarts from Poilâne  for breakfast (bread store was closed but adjoining tea room was open and they sell the same items), we set out to visit the Musee d'Orsay but found the line to be hours long to get in - not the type of day we were after.  So, while we ubered to Montmartre, I did a little googling about smaller, hidden museums in Paris.  Neither of us were that crazy about Montmartre.  It's charming, with a great history, but also very touristy. With lots of tacky souvenir type shops.  The views were incredible though and I feel like every Paris first timer should see the Sacre Coeur in person.  We saw and then we left.  I would avoid the Moulin Rouge area, very seedy.

We spent the afternoon at the prettiest museum in the 16th ardondissement. The Musee Marmottan Monet houses the largest collection of Monet paintings in the world in a beautiful old mansion that overlooks a cute park with the last hand driven carousel in Paris.  They don't allow many people in the museum at a time, so you often feel like you have the place all to yourself.  We had to wait in a short line to get in but it was very manageable.  I love looking at art, but find large, crowded museums to be exhausting.  I'm sounding old.  Whereas with this museum we  spent about an hour and saw everything.  I discovered some new to me artists whose work I completely adore. ( Eugene Boudin, Paul Signac, and Georges Lemmen (who was a fellow Belgian).  They featured all seascapes by these artists and I loved each and every one. We walked back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.   We ate at Monsieur Bleu and it was the best meal we had in Paris.  It was an Ina Garten recommendation and she never steers me wrong!  I want to try recreate both the cocktail I had before dinner and the incredible dessert  that ended our meal.  Worth noting, everyone raves about the views of the Eiffel Tower from this restaurant.  If you sit outside they are amazing, but inside you can't really see much and there are only about 2 window tables by the windows. Go for the food.  Any view is a bonus. 

Day No. 4... I need to wrap this up!  Thanks for reading if you're still following along! I fear if I don't capture the details in writing I will forget them!  On our last day we had perfect weather.  A little sun, a little overcast and just a bit chilly.  We stayed in Saint Germain most of the day, exploring streets and shops we hadn't seen yet.  We picked up some more souvenirs to add to our growing collection... a wonderful chocolate advent calendar from Maison Bremond 1830 (loved this shop), a couple prints from Martinez J. Claude's shop on the rue Saint Sulpice (I believe he is retiring, so I'm not sure how much longer this gem of a shop will remain), a box of macaroons for my parents who graciously held down the fort at home and made sure our kids were fed and showed up where they needed to be each day.  We stumbled on a very special perfume shop, l'Officine Universelle Buly, and picked up aftershave and shaving cream for Andrew.  It's one of the most unique shops we found, especially for gifts.  They added personalized calligraphy to their beautifully wrapped packages.   I picked up a couple things for our home too.   I found some gorgeous table linen shops, Simrane, which had the prettiest hand blocked linens (they sell online if you want to peek) and a smaller shop La Maison ire that was piled high with more Provence style table linens.  I learned that some shop owners would prefer you not to take photos so I always asked. The highlight of the day was a picnic lunch and stroll through the Jardin Luxembourg.  We picked up ham and cheese baguette sandwiches from Jospehine's on rue Jacob and a slice of fruit cake - the shop owner's favorite dessert that she makes.    Later in the afternoon we ate lemon and sugar crepes as we walked along the Seine and looked for little treasures to bring back for Charlie.  We tried our best to memorize the views and counted our blessings for getting to experience a trip like this.  Just as the sun set, we stopped at a cafe to people watch and share board of charcuterie and cheese and a glass of wine before walking back to our hotel.  We weren't hungry for dinner so we got comfy, kicked off our shoes and started to pack up for our early departure the next morning. By 10:00 we were starving so Jimmy went to a favorite cafe and picked up a couple orders of fries that we shared in bed, watching a movie, with our large double windows open and the sound of church bells outside.   

We woke early to discover a very long delay with our flight and had a bonus morning to enjoy Paris a bit longer! 

A few helpful tips that we want to remember for next time..
*If you plan to spend less than a week in Paris, go Wednesday through Saturday.  So many places are closed on Sunday and Monday.
*This was the best guide book, even though it is a set of walks on cards and not really a book at all. City Walks: Paris

*Julia Engel has great Paris recaps and recommendations on her blog.
*Ina Garten has many Paris articles if you google and her suggestions are spot on.
*If we had had 1 more day... we would have taken the train to Rouen for a day trip. It's the capital of Normandy and an easy hour and 30 minute train ride.
*If we had had 2 more days... we would have added a visit to Versailles and done the Fat Tire Bike Tour.
*See this post for suggestions on what to pack.

ALMOST ALL PHOTOS WERE TAKEN WITH MY CAMERA AND NOT MY PHONE - HERE IS A LINK TO THE EXACT ONE I USED. This camera is the bomb. It weighs almost nothing, takes amazing sharp pictures and has wifi/bluetooth so you download to your phone or laptop instantly. (photo in BW to the left is actually a phone pic, but almost every other in this post is camera)

Friday, October 25, 2019

What To Pack for Paris in October

Jimmy and I just returned from a beautiful trip to Paris and I've been having so much fun sharing photos on Instagram.  I plan to do a full travel recap post next week with lots more detail about what we did and what we recommend.  Since I'm getting a number of questions about what I wore and what I packed, I thought I would start with that first.  I will preface by saying that I did not pack light.  This was a trip without kids, with a direct flight and free checked luggage (thanks to our credit card), so I took my biggest suitcase and filled it to the brim.  I wore almost everything I packed and have no regrets. :). Also, I am most comfortable in dresses and skirts, always have been.  Which might not be your preferred travel attire!  We should all wear what we feel best in.  I will say though, I discovered Parisian women are my people, no workout leggings as daily wear (thank you, Paris! Really no athleisure wear to be found at all. I felt very understood. haha), lots of tights and skirts, very few jeans and lots of black.  Most of the things I wore weren't new, but I've linked similar items below that give the same look.  Also, since I carried our camera everyday, there are very few pics of me wearing any of this!  Finally on the last day, I had the good sense to give the camera to Jimmy, so that's why there are so many pics of me in the same outfit.     I've only been blogging for 10 years, it's all good, still learning. haha.




Explored Saint Germain, walked along Seine, picnic in Jardin des Tuileries,
 dinner at nearby Brasserie

leopard midi skirt

Food tour in Le Marais

chunky sweater (mine is old)

A walk around Montmartre, visit art museum

Dinner at Monsieur Bleu

balloon sleeve sweater dress (wearing size 2 for reference)

Picnic at Jardin du Luxemburg



Hope that's helpful if you are planning a fall trip or just looking for fall fashion inspiration!