planning a trip to the city of love
Bienvenue a Paris!
Paris, the city of love and one of my most favorite in the world. I’ve had the chance to go on two different occasions in two different seasons and loved it each time. So, how does one plan a holiday so far away from home? Pinterest, my friends. It’s my crack and it should be yours too.
Click HERE to see my Pinterest board for Paris (and Barcelona as well): https://pin.it/ledddbtitkiwf7
So, after taking into account all of the travel blogs I had found, we loosely planned our itinerary. My husband and I don’t like to have a strict plan of attack because we have found that some of our most memorable experiences were happenstance. It’s hard for me to tell you exactly what to do because we all have varying objectives as to what a vacation should be, not to mention that priorities change based upon the amount of time you have as well as the season in which you visit. I’ve been in late winter and mid-summer. Each had their pros and cons...
Late Winter - brisk temperatures and can often rain. This limits the amount of walking you will want to do BUT it was still quite picturesque and made cuddling up by a fire inside even more romantic and special.
Mid-Summer - July is peak season so expect large crowds of people. During our stay, all of Europe was experiencing a heat wave so we were quite hot which made all of the walking a bit of a challenge. At the same time, it was nice to wear lighter clothing and be in the sunshine. We were not limited by anything and there were lots of fun carnivals happening!
Spring is a good option, although I don’t know from personal experience. I would imagine the crowds are less because of school being in session and temperatures are most likely quite mild. Flowers are in full bloom which makes for lovely photographs.
KEY POINTS AND THINGS I’VE LEARNED
marais is the best neighborhood to stay in. We loved our boutique hotel in st.germain during the winter trip but I have to say that i preferred our spot in the trendy marais area. There’s a large LGBT community so the streets are filled with rainbows, everyone is so friendly, the cafe’s are AMAZING and there’s tons of shopping. We felt very safe, like we were in a little village but just one street over was all the hustle and bustle - which is good when you’re a tourist. Public transport options are nearby along with key sites. It’s located in the 4th Ar. so basically is pretty close to the middle of the city. Boutique hotels and Airbnb/VRBOs are great because you get a more intimate, authentic experience and you can save money too.
The Lourve is a MUST. Even if you aren’t a fan of art, this place is such an iconic spot and of course, you have to see the Mona Lisa! And don’t forget to take a photo in front of the glass pyramid. Plus, there’s tons of shopping underground (as well as a Starbucks).
Notre Dame. It’s beautiful and majestic! We preferred it over the Sacré Coeur located in the Monmarte area (where you can visit the Moulin Rouge and maybe take in a cabaret show). Both are worth seeing but if i had to pick one over the other, it would be Notre Dame.
This is kind of obvi, but the Eiffel Tower is a definite. Unfortunately, in our two trips we have never been to the top. The first time, it was super windy and cold plus the line was atrocious. This time, the line was the same amount of crazy just to TRY and get a ticket. Regardless, it’s still so cool to see in person! If going to the top is something you for sure want to do, buy your tickets a month in advance.
Trocadero Park is gorgeous! There are carousels, snacks, a fountain and one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower you’ll see. Many couples will go early in the morning to get a snap of them with Tower in the background. We are not one of those couples. Sleep/leisure > perfect instagrammable pics. No shade, though. I totally admire that tenacity in getting the most perfect shot, I just lack that particular enthusiasm. Lol
The Arc de Triomphe is a hot spot as well and if you choose to go to the top, you’ll get incredible views. It really is a marvel, but again...buy those tickets in advance if you want to get to the top.
Palace of Versailles. I love history and learning about monarchies, probably because my country has never had anything like that. The city of Versailles is a little slower paced than Paris and it was about an hour journey by train/subway. Btw, public transport is the way to go. Had we hired a car/Uber, it would have been around $200 and taken the same amount of time, if not more. By taking the train, we only spent about $20. Remember that spontaneity I mentioned earlier? Well as we were touring the gardens, our plan was to visit Marie Antoinettes house and call it a day. Instead, I saw some people on bikes which led us down a path that led to feeding ducks by a pond to then renting said bikes and having the most incredible time. We rode through the forest where the temperature dropped 20 degrees and it was so calm and still. It was eerie in the best possible way. I believe if just experiencing that is something you fancy, you can enter through the public park side and skip the palace altogether as the property is massive (10k people lived there back in the day). However, we learned the hard way about buying advance tickets (again). The night before, we went to purchase them and basically everything was sold out except the basic package, which still allows you to see everything but you don’t get to skip any lines. £18 allows you to see the palace. £20 allows you to see the palace, gardens and full property. It goes up from there and can get pretty fancy, including transport. There are private companies as well and while their services are extensive, they come at a price. We are talking £500. If I had it to do again, I’d buy our tickets in advance and make sure we got the skip the line pass. But then again, we had more fun in the park than we did in the palace. C’est la vie, am i right?!
La Cordonnerie for dinner is a special spot for us. It’s been passed down from generation to generation with only one chef preparing the meals. It’s a small place down an alley towards to Tuileries Garden. There’s only about seven tables in the whole restaurant so make a reservation. Those that visit, always make a point to come back. My husband gets some sort of steak pom Frits (fries) and I go for the chicken (l’orange if it’s available).
...Speaking of Tuileries Garden, it’s gorgeous year round but was especially fun in the summer time because of the carnival. We took a ride in the Ferris wheel and the views were absolutely breathtaking. We could see the Eiffel Tower, the Lourve, the whole shebang!
Grab a Nutella crepe from a street vendor and you can thank me later.
Eat a macaroon. Or five. Laduree is famous and iconic but also very expensive. If you want to save a few euros, grab one from a smaller, lesser known establishment. Sometimes, it’s more delicious anyway.
Lovers bridge and the Seine is something to make time for. Bring your own lock or purchase one around the area. The original bridge got too bogged down and the gate started to collapse, but you can get close to the original spot. There are several areas on the Seine to choose from. You could even have a picnic or take a boat ride!
Keep cash on you. It makes your life easier.
Wear flats. I had some really comfy Steve Madden sandals but my Birks would have been good too! In the winter, I wore my tennis shoes. For me, my feet and head get so hot that I don’t like for either to be enclosed. I gotta let them puppies breath ya’ll! If you feel like you want to look nice in some heels, carry a tote bag and put them in there. Walk wearing your comfort, then change into your slay the day heels when you reach walking distance that doesn’t make you feel like your running a 5k. You see a lot of different styles but in general, the French keep it very simple. A pair of jeans/short or a skirt with a tee/tank and some flats is what you often see along with dainty jewelry and minimal makeup. Usually just a bit of color on the lip and cheeks, barely any mascara and brushed brows with a low ponytail is all ya need! BUT...at the end of the day, you do you boo. Be comfortable and feel confident. That’s very French, anyway!
If you don’t speak french, learn the basics just out of respect for the culture. You’ll be much better received if you at least TRY. Bonjour (hello), au revoir (goodbye), si vou plait (please), un cafe si vou plait (one coffee please), merci (thanks), excuse moi (excuse me). For the rest, google translate is a great app to have. But don’t worry, many things are in English and almost everyone speaks English because this is a tourist spot, after all.
this is kind of gross but must be discussed. I have not seen it on any travel blog but i feel like I should share it. Bring something like milk of magnesia or mirilax. Large quantities of delicious carbohydrates and fromage (cheese) abound and that can lead to some digestive issues. Deliciousness can sometimes come at a price (but it’s worth it). In between copious amounts of coffee, make sure to stay hydrated as well.
I hope this little guide helps you if you’re planning a trip to Paris, or even if you’re just curious! There’s a way to do things that don’t cost a fortune, which is always nice! Vacays are meant to rejuvenate us, not have us stressed about budget. If you plan in advance and choose things wisely, you can have a really lovely time without breaking the bank or wearing yourself ragged.
Until next time, au revoir my friends!
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