I wanted to make sure my entire trip was in one post instead of spreading it out between different posts. As a result, it’s long and photo-heavy. I hope you don’t mind… at the very least, consider this a 20-minute escape from your everyday. Ideally, I wish everyone could have tagged along for the trip because, ugh, it was incredible.
I know I say this all the time, but I’m just not the biggest fan of traveling. This trip, however, may have been a tipping point for me. I loved every minute of it. I had some anxiety leading up to the trip, but really once the plane took off from Newark, I was at ease.
This was, without a doubt, the best trip I’ve ever been on. I think it was a combination of a few things, but namely that I had been there before and already had a good mental picture of the city and a general sense of what to expect. Even still though, while it was familiar, it felt like a totally different trip and experience. As much as I like to plan things out, I went into this trip without an itinerary and instead just had a few things in mind that I definitely wanted to do/see. Otherwise, we did things on our own schedule and never felt rushed or stressed.
I already know I will definitely return again. For my next trip, I’d love to stay in a rental apartment for a week or two and settle in a little more and take things even slower. That’s one of the best parts of traveling to somewhere you’ve already been– you don’t have to do ~everything~. I think it’s why I love my time on Nantucket in the summers, too… It becomes a true vacation versus a #trip.
(I traveled with my boyfriend, but as always, I ask that you respect his privacy.)
HOTEL: I booked the Ritz. I spent more time than I’d like to admit looking up hotels for our trip. I kept coming back to the Ritz. It was an incredible hospitality experience– so much so, that I’m going to be dedicating tomorrow’s post to it. This one got way too long and I figured that was a good dividing line. So… come back tomorrow for a review on that!
DAY 1, Friday:
– We took the redeye into Charles de Gaulle airport. The flight landed around 7:30 am local time. After a quick shuttle ride to baggage claim, we breezed through the airport, collected our bags, and hopped into a car. By then we were in a little bit of the morning commuter traffic, but it wasn’t too terrible. Our driver swung us by the Eiffel Tower and we hopped out for a quick pic. No joke, it’s the worst photo I’ve ever seen of myself– the red-eye clearly took its toll lol.
– After an easy check-in, we changed and quickly freshened up and hit the ground running. I was expecting a slower day, but the adrenaline was flowing and I wasn’t as tired as I expected to be.
– The first real spot we spent time in was the Jardin Tuileries. If the pictures don’t convince you, I want you to know just how incredible the gardens are in the fall. Yes, they are stunning when it’s warm and green and summery. But wow, the colors during fall. There is something magical about the light and every leaf seemed to be putting on a show. Spending time in the gardens and public parks is one of my favorite things about Paris in general. It’s such a great communal space. As you look around you’ll spot tourists relaxing on chairs, kids playing, and locals exercising. People might be closing their eyes in a quiet corner or spread out with friends chatting over bread and cheese.
– We made our way across the Seine for a quick bite to eat. I know there are incredible restaurants everywhere around Paris, but honestly, give me ham and cheese on a baguette and I’m one happy lady.
– Musée d’Orsay was right there and we decided to pop in. For my last trip, I bought the Paris Pass, but this time around we did more of an a la carte museum tour. (A few factors went into this, but mostly the fact that we didn’t have an overall plan. Plus we knew we’d be doing a day trip right in the middle– therefore, the four-day consecutive pass wouldn’t have worked for us.) A lot of people were waiting in line for tickets. I ended up just buying the tickets from my phone for each museum as we waited in the security line. Worked out perfectly each time as they instantly email you the e-ticket and then they scan your phone. Saved us so much time that way– and we didn’t waste any money purchasing tickets we didn’t have a need for.
I was slightly disappointed to see that Musée d’Orsay was under construction. As a result, the areas that were open were super congested. It was, by far, the most overwhelming museum experience we had– even more so than the Louvre!
With that said, I was still able to see everything I wanted to. Including works by Van Gogh, Monet, and Degas. I was particularly taken by the paintings of Charles de Tournemine, especially his African Elephants.
– At this point, it’s late afternoon and the jetlag is catching up. I’m pretty sure this is when we headed back to the hotel to do a little work and to sneak in a quick nap. I say “pretty sure” because after the d’Orsay, I have zero photos on my phone until we headed back out, haha.
– It had been recommended to us that we try to go to the Louvre at night! They have late-night hours on Wednesday and Friday. Well, we weren’t going to be there Wednesday night, so we despite the exhaustion, we forced ourselves to go back out for round 2. It was SO worth it– highly recommend visiting at night if you’re able to. The crowds were way more manageable (it’s more single families than giant tours– they clearly come during the day) and the museum just had an awesome vibe with no daylight.
The only downside to the Louvre is that it’s so giant, it’s impossible to see everything. We each went in with a list of a few pieces we definitely wanted to see and otherwise wandered and stopped whenever we saw something that piqued our interest.
By the time we left, I was starving (borderline hangry). The restaurant we wanted to go to was too long of a wait, so we popped into a restaurant near the hotel for a quick bite. We got champagne, caviar, sardines burgers, fries. Maybe the weirdest order ever, but when you’re tired and hungry and find yourself in Paris, it felt just right 😉(I’m a fan of sardines in general, but these were the best I’ve ever had in my life and definitely my favorite thing we ate all trip.)
DAY 2, Saturday:
– We slept in a bit on Saturday, which I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt for because our first day was so fulfilling. Montmartre was on the top of our “wishlists” for visiting so we grabbed a coffee and popped into a car to head up. Montmartre is such a charming neighborhood. Winding steep roads, unique buildings, and a gorgeous view overlooking Paris. Sacré-Cœur is a basilica perched right on the hill– it’s truly the centerpiece of Montmartre. (It’s pretty cool because you can see Sacré-Cœur overlooking the city from all corners of Paris!)
It’s very touristy, but honestly? I don’t mind. It just has such a nice charm to it. We spent the better part of the day in Montmartre, wandering around and popping in and out of shops. For lunch, we found a little Italian place where I ate my weight in homemade gnocchi.
– Then we made our way back down to and went to Musée de l’Orangerie. This is my favorite museum in the world. It holds Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. Every time I walk in, it takes my breath away. It’s truly hard to describe the artwork. There are two oval-shaped rooms each with a Water Lilies cycle– you feel like you’re in the painting in a sense as you’re completely surrounded by the work. It’s 360 degrees of water lilies and I love it! I kept joking that I could move in with a sleeping bag and live there, as long as someone would bring me croissants and cappuccinos for sustenance.
We rested up again at the hotel before going on a double date with Daphne and her fiance Vincent. I was so excited to see Daphne again and hoped our SOs would hit it off too. We went to Les Chouettes, a really cool restaurant with a library-esque vibe. The four of us sat there for five hours laughing and chatting. I’m so glad that I have amazing friends like Daphne– I just wish we lived closer!!
DAY 3, Sunday:
– Paris turned their clocks back overnight so it was actually much easier to get up than usual. (Funny story though, I was planning on getting up at 7:30, but for some reason,) my phone didn’t automatically turn back, so I was up and in the shower at 6:30. By the time I realized my phone was wrong– which included having to google “What time is it in Paris right now?”– I was like, oh well, I’m already up!)
We had breakfast at the hotel, which I’ll share more of tomorrow… it was dreamy… and then walked over to Notre Dame. We attended the 10 am Gregorian Mass. I’m not Catholic and I don’t speak French, so I was extremely lost through the whole thing. It was still a cool experience though and I’d recommend it for your next trip! I was just taking it all in and loved how beautiful the acoustics sounded. I could have listened to the singing all day long.
– After the service, we sat down for espressos (very necessary) and then walked around the city quite a bit, eventually ending up in the Luxembourg Gardens. I think if I were to live in Paris, I’d want to live near this park. I love everything about it. The layout, the trees, the ponds. There are quiet nooks and great spots to people watch. You can run laps or sit and watch kids sail toy boats.
– After spending quite a bit of time relaxing in the park, we made our way to the Arc de Triomphe. The line for this was super, super long… but I bought tickets for it while on the way over there and we breezed right through. It’s a relatively easy climb up. It only takes a few minutes to get to the top and the views are the best ever. The leaves were changing so perfectly and I could have cried it was so beautiful. I know this is a huge tourist destination, but I mean, that view. I’d gladly weave my way through a sea of selfie sticks for it!
We took a few cabs here and there, but we mostly walked everywhere. I snapped these photos while out and about. It got dark very early because of the season + time change, but I think the city is even more beautiful when all lit up. It’s harder to photograph, but in person it felt like being on a movie set!
– For dinner, we went to Bouillon Chartier. Daphne recommended it for my last trip and I couldn’t wait to get back for the escargot. It’s not the best food in the world, but the whole experience is, well, an experience. It’s one of the oldest restaurants in Paris at over 100 years old. Instead of doing dessert there, we walked back toward Le Meurice (a hotel near our hotel) for drinks and desserts and live music. By the time I went to bed, I was so full and as happy as could be.
DAY 4, Monday:
– For our fourth day, we planned on going out to Normandy. It’s a very long but totally doable day trip from Paris. In fact, I’d recommend making time to do it if you’re there for five days or longer. It’s worth cramming more into four days in Paris and spending a full day out there. I wasn’t totally looking forward to it because I wanted to be in Paris for as long as possible so the thought of taking a day trip anywhere wasn’t at the top of my priorities.
But I am so, so incredibly grateful we did. It was my favorite day. It’s emotional and moving in countless ways and the sheer beauty of Normandy is just as overwhelming as the history. I wouldn’t consider myself a history buff, but I’m (obviously) familiar with everything that happened. To actually be there is a totally different experience. I think I would have enjoyed history classes in high school more if I had had the opportunity to visit the actual locations.
The biggest thing for me was grappling with the idea that something that terrible could have occurred in a place so beautiful.
If you’re going to go, I can’t recommend booking a private tour enough. We took a train from Paris to Bayeux (a charming town, by the way) and then met our guide there. There are a few different options for getting around. You can rent a car in Paris and drive to Normandy and then drive yourself around. You can do a group tour. You can hire a chauffeur who will drive you, but you have to provide your own historical context (which can be done with the information provided at each site, but I’m not sure it’s enough). Or you can hire a private guide who will drive you and provide tours at each location. Brigitte from Unforgettable Normandy was our tour guide and we LOVED HER. She was so insightful and really did a wonderful job. She was able to tailor our tour exactly for what we wanted to see, while also giving us a great history lesson.
The church in Bayeux is older than Notre Dame! It was the shoulder season, so a ton of shops and restaurants were closed, but it was still such a lovely little town to walk through. You could get a sense for how bustling and quaint it must be in the summer months. (It actually reminded me a lot of Henley in England!)
I’m not even going to be able to do this place justice in this post. All I can do is encourage everyone who has the chance to go, to go. I was really moved by how much the history impacted the current towns. Of course, it’s a source of revenue, but you also get the sense that the people haven’t forgotten the terror of what happened. That stories have been passed down and that they live on even now. It’s a common thread woven through each of the towns.
We also visited the Normandy American Cemetery. I was extremely emotional and couldn’t really keep it together. I can’t describe it, but I was completely overcome with emotion. The cemetery is strikingly gorgeous– every detail is thought out and planned to an extreme. It overlooks the beaches. The day we were there was very windy and the water was rough, so there was an overpowering sound of the water breaking. It doesn’t feel real and feels all too real at the same time.
Even as I type this and upload the photos, I can feel myself choking up again.
We were there right after the tragedy in Pittsburgh and, ugh, it makes you really think about the history and the hate that the world has already seen. It’s difficult to comprehend or come to terms with the fact that it’s still happening. I said prayers for those who lost their lives then, as well as their family members, and for the victims from the Tree of Life Synagogue.
“Think not only upon their passing, remember the glory of their spirit.”
DAY 4, Tuesday:
– Our last full day in Paris was off to a rainy start. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we bundled up and walked the mile or so to the Picasso Museum.
This was my first visit and I loved it. We got there right as it opened and I’m glad we did because it got quite crowded. (I think it was because of the rain? Not sure if it’s always so packed.) I was familiar with Picasso, but by no means an expert. I learned so much more about him than I was expecting. So much so, that I bookmarked a few books that I want to check out from the library. Would love to know even more about him!
Seeing his work in person was something else. I was blown away by the sheer volume of art on display– there were paintings, sketches, lithographs, drawings, sculptures, etc.
It’s one of those museums where you can do 15 loops through it and see something different on every passing. There was so much to see, so much to take in.
– The rain let up and we made our way to the Eiffel Tower where we had crepes and espressos. The sight of the tower never ceases to dull in my mind. Every time I catch a glimpse of it, my heart flutters a bit! I remember before my first trip, I thought the Eiffel Tower was so cheesy haha, but honestly, seeing it in person makes you understand why everyone loves it so much.
I rushed back to the hotel to change to meet up with Daphne for our little photoshoot. And then I met back up with my boyfriend for falafel at L’as du Fallafel. We got lucky that there was no line (although I did get pooped on by a bird on the way in!) It was the perfect snack to hold us over until dinner time.
– We had really wanted to go to the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz before we left. There is always a long line, so our plan was to get there right before it opened to have a drink before dinner. It had been hyped up by a few people and…. well, we were not impressed. Maybe we just had an off night there, but it wasn’t the experience we expected based on the glowing reviews. It was very, very cheesy and there were a number of “Hemingway Buffs” in there exchanging facts and tidbits as if they were on a game show.
– Luckily, we had made dinner reservations at Substance, a new restaurant that totally redeemed the night! The concierge had booked it for us and we weren’t sure what to expect. It had only been open for less than two weeks when we went so we went in completely “green” and with no expectations. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life!! We did the tasting menu and, wow, every course was better than the last… right down to that gorgeous soufflé.
DAY 5, Wednesday
Wednesday was our last day and we planned to head to the airport after lunch. I didn’t want to try to rush and do anything so we could relax and not feel crunched for time. So, naturally, I did a little shopping around the hotel picking up souvenirs for myself and friends/family. We had a delicious soup and salad lunch and before we knew it, we had to return to the hotel to pack and 😓leave.
It was such an unforgettable trip and made me fall in love Paris even more than I already was. I am counting down the days until I have the chance to visit again. (Maybe the springtime?!?!) It’s just such a magical, beautiful city.