Ben and Kay's European Adventure: 10 days in Paris
I'm fresh off the plane and happy to report that Paris is amazing. No real surprise there, but it's true. After last year's summer-long roadtrip we thought we'd mix it up and head over seas for this years big trip. Check out the full run down below!
Kay and I timed our trip so that our first night in Paris would be the annual Nuit Blanche - a citywide celebration of light and artwork (although, in retrospect, we should have arrived a day prior to the event because jet lag is very real you guys).
There are installations, exhibits and events dotting either side of the Seine that run from sun down to sun up. Some of my favorites included an exhibit showcasing a partnership between the French Space agency and 3 French artists, a series of Andy Goldsworthy-inspired installations of stacked materials both natural and industrial, and a boat parade at midnight - dozens of boats basked in white light, waving flags, banners and other beautiful components.
We booked a great tiny apartment in the 1st arrondissement, two blocks from both the Louvre and the Palais Royale. The only downside however, was that it’s a 5th floor spiral staircase walk up. Kay and I pride ourselves on being fit - but after a long day of exploring the city, it’s a bit daunting to climb all those stairs!
That being said, we loved being so close to Cafe Kitsune, and spent most mornings there sipping our espresso and sharing delicious baked goods. Their retail shop just down the block wasn’t anything to bat an eye at either!
We learned pretty quickly that our favorite place to be was the Rue Montorguiel in the second arrondissement. Blocks and blocks of cafes, restaurants, shops, fromageries and so much more made for an amazing atmosphere.
I cannot recommend staying in a place with a kitchen enough. Not only does it save money not eating every meal out, but it’s so nice to go to the market, pick up some bread, cheese, meats, whatever and eat it in your cozy little apartment.
Among those favorite spots was a little spot called Frenchie To Go, which made a great Pastrami sandwich for our first full (jetlagged) day in Paris.
A few blocks down from Frenchie is the Marche de Enfantes Rougue market. A cozy market full of food vendors and produce. It made for a great substitute for our local farmers market back home and was a lot of fun to shop around.
While we were there, we picked up something special for dinner - an outlandishly delicious tray of Pasta Troufe. Honestly, I don't think I've ever had pasta this good.
Here’s another of our cafe breakfasts - espresso and some super yummy banana bread for Telescope Cafe. I grew so fond of these classic french coffee shops with their tiny spaces and very brief menu. There’s usually just a few simple drinks on the menu, so sugary syrups and no tolerance for overly complicated drink orders.
Another perk of our trip was that our time in Paris coincided with Paris Fashion Week. As if the regular citizens weren’t beautiful and stylish enough, the city was filled with folks in town for Fashion Week. This was especially evident at Colette, a multi-story boutique known for its stylish wares. They also had a special exhibit on the second floor full of amazing garments.
We spent almost a whole day exploring the right bank and hunting down famous landmarks. Pont Alexandre III bridge (complete with vintage ice cream truck), The eiffel tower and the Arc de Triomph among them.
Considering the fact that I’ve worked as a museum professional for many years now - we went to surprisingly few museums while in Paris. Maybe it feels a little too much like “work,” or maybe it’s because it was hard to justify spending so much time inside when the weather was as beautiful as it was… but no regrets none the less.
That being said, we had a great visit to the Decorative Arts Museum, which had an immense collection, and displays organized by decade. I highly recommend a visit!
After an inspiring trip to the Decorative Arts Museum, we thought we’d rest our feet and unwind at a cafe. We found this great little spot in Le Marais, complete with signature outdoor seating and prime people-watching. Little did we know that when they say “large or small beer” - the large is large!
Nearby is the infamous Merci, a three story retail space covering anything and everything you could ever need (home goods, stationery, apothecary, clothing, books) all as beautiful and stylish as you might imagine.
The following morning, we made a pilgrimage out to the 9th Arrondissement. For years now, every time Kay and I visit New York, we grab breakfast at this great little french spot in the West Village named Buvette. Well, that shop has a sister shop in Paris - so brunch there was mandatory as far as we were concerned. They did not disappoint!
Also, there is a great little shop just down the block called Le Rocketship. Part cafe, part design boutique, we grabbed an espresso and had a nice long chat with the owner while we were there.
If you’ve done any research on “what to do and where to eat in Paris,” you’ve probably come across Las Du Fallafel. Touted as the best falafel in the world, this little shop lives up to it’s reputation.
What goes best with falafel? Well ice cream of course! We scurried down to Ile De La Cite for cones from another world-renown spot, Bertillion.
While we were on the island, we made our way over to Notre Dame - which is even more grandiose and elaborate than I expected.
Ten days was hardly enough. I think I’d like to move there and open a cafe with my namesake emblazoned across the front… oh wait, someone already has.
In all seriousness, this trip was amazing. Sure you hear people talk about how wonderful Paris is, and all the food, the people, ooh and ahh - but it’s all real. The city is immensely beautiful, the people (despite reputation) were all so nice, welcoming and warm. I’ve told a number of friends that “it’s like a cleaner, nicer, better dressed version of New York.”
We’ve barely gotten over our return jet lag, and we’re trying to figure out how to get back!
Odds and Ends for the prospective traveller:
No one (human or internet) tells you this - but you have to buy a special ticket at the airport to get on the train into the city. Coming off the plane exhausted in a foreign land and not knowing that tidbit led to some serious frustration for this weary couple.
As much as i recommend staying somewhere with a kitchen - know that there are certain things you just won’t find in French groceries and markets. Like peanut butter.
Yes, everyone actually carries baguettes around. You should too. They’re delicious.
Yes, everyone is better looking and better dressed than you are. Even the guys running around the park somehow seem better dressed than you. Step up your style game while you’re there.
The biggest note i have - is just don’t be afraid. Sure, you’re in another country, you may not speak much of the language (try to learn a little at least!), but take risks, ask questions, don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself - it’s all part of the experience. I tried to order two cannolis and the lady thought i wanted a dozen - we had a good laugh about it. Kay and I went to a ramen shop and the menu was entirely in japanese with a few notes in french (turns out i didnt learn french words for japanese foods) - we took a gamble and ate the best ramen I’ve had outside of New York. Just go for it.