I consider myself to be one of the luckiest girls in Boston. Over the past nine years, I have found a group of girlfriends who have become family. They offer the strongest support that anyone could ask for. They provide laughter in even the toughest of situations. We decided to treat ourselves to a week in Paris. Enjoy reading about our trip, and I hope that you grow to love Kait, Morgan, Caroline, and Katie as much as I have. Two important girls to note, Dani and Sarah, were not on the trip with us, but they will be on the next one! Pictures are at the bottom of this post.
Day 1 (April 17, 2016)
1. Attended mass at Notre Dame.
2. Got caught in the rain. Paris is shiny in the rain.
3. Took the metro to Montmartre. Walked up and down hills, shopped, ate Croque Madame, a chocolate eclair, and got to know the neighborhood.
4. Walked west and stumbled into St. Augustine. Took our breath away.
5. Made it to the Champs-Elysses. Climbed the Arc du Triomphe and took pictures of a pink and gray sky.
6. Drank pink champagne and had macaroons at Laduree, in a bar that was fit for a Disney princess.
7. Had dinner at midnight, Soupe l'oignon, watching the scene at Notre Dame.
Day 2 (April 18, 2016)
1. Hotel Breakfast- we are at Hotel St. Paul. They set up a very cute buffet breakfast of croissants, yogurt, and coffee.
2. Ran to the train at Montparnasse. Like, actually ran. We were heading out on our first day trip- the little town of Chartres (char-truh) with a BIG church.
3. Saw the best example of pure gothic architecture in the Cathedral. The Chartres Cathedral burned down in the 1197, and Mary's veil (a portion of her birthing gown when she gave birth to Jesus) miraculously survived. This was the reason for the town to build the church again (in only 30 years!). Recently, the veil has been tested and it's confirmed that the weaving and material dates back to 1000 AD, which gives more possibility to the story. The cathedral is currently undergoing a huge restoration to bring it back to its glory. We marveled at the 28,000 square feet of stained glass, which featured a striking blue color that was used for a historic window of Mary and the child (color later came to be known as "Chartres Blue). In WW1 and 2, the parishioners took apart the windows for safekeeping and reassembled the puzzle after the threats were over. Probably one of the most spectacular sights in France, especially thinking about the attention and care to detail of this amazing story. Coming up to the cathedral was a huge highlight, and us taking turns reading about the history in the Rick Steve's book out loud is something I'll always remember.
4. Walk through Chartres. This town literally looks like Belle is about to turn the corner- at every corner. Charming humpback bridges and cottages along the River L'Euer constantly wow you, and it was probably the most quaint European town I've ever seen. We even got let in to a little cottage by the river that is being set up as an art gallery with projections of stained glass on the windows. Brilliant.
5. Lunch. The man who let us in the "little pink house" recommended Cafe Bleu. It was right by the cathedral and we kept saying that it was a restaurant similar to what you might see in Boston. Goat cheese poufs, chicken, veggies, bread, Croque Monsieur, and a cheese board later, we hopped back on the train.
6. Stroll in the Tuileries. Arguably one of the most beautiful parks in the world. Colorful tulips, sculptures, green trees, people lounging in chairs, all in the backdrop of the Louvre, was a great way to wind down after an overwhelming day.
7. Musee L'Orangerie. A small museum with big, important works. Why this isn't at the top of every tour book was beyond us. Monet's water lilies and an impressive collection of Picasso, Matisse, and Renoir.
8. Champagne bottle in the Tuileries. A great way to wind down before dinner.
9. We were planning to go hear some jazz on the recommendation of my dear friend Carlos. We got to Au duc de Lombards a bit late, so we took the hostess' recommendation for dinner. Anyone looking for a one of a kind meal in Paris, pay attention! La Robe et les Palais, 13 Rue des Lavandières Sainte-Opportune, 75001 Paris, France. Menu changes daily according to what is at the local market, all natural and organic wine. Antoinne, our more than lovely waiter, helped us have an unforgettable evening. Going back before we leave!
10. George V. We decided to hang out with the most expensive martinis we've ever seen at the most lavish and beautiful Parisian hotel. This place is unmissable. We laughed and toasted to the end of yet another great day in Paris.
Day 3 (April 19, 2016)
1. Giverny. We took the train out to Vernon-Giverny this morning (early train, early morning). We were blown away by the rows of beautiful flowers in his garden. The most exciting part was crossing through to the lilipads and seeing his paintings come to life. We took about a million photos and had a great time with all of the color.
2. Shopping. Lots of coton dish towels, soaps, perfume, jewelry, and prints of Monet's works. We did some damage in the stores and had fun with the scents! Friends will be happy back at home with their gifts.
3. Monet's house. The gorgeous pink and green estate was so fun to peek through. They had a lot of reproductions of his works in the home. My favorite room was by far the kitchen!
4. Back to Paris. Walked around Ile St. Louis to find that our most recommended ice cream spot was closed until April 30th. Bummer! We were hoping to get to Berthillon glacier, but settled for candy, scarves, purses, and beret modeling instead. I took the girls into Shakespeare and Company (unmissable while you're here) and we are planning to go back for books later on this week. We ended up soaking up the sun in the gorgeous little park behind Notre Dame (to us, the back is the most dramatic side).
5. Dinner. Our friend had recommended a restaurant to us (a Parisian friend named Jonathan is a waiter there) and we had our best meal in Paris to date. Le Petit Pontoise (9 Rue de Pontoise), near the Odeon T neighborhood, was small, charming, and typically French! We started with a cheese board with Brie that literally oozed out once it was cut. I had the duck parmentier and couldn't get enough of it! J took care of us and we had an amazing dinner. Definitely put this on your list when you come, and make a reservation!
6. Drinks. We went to Le Hibou in our neighborhood (16 Carrefour de l'odeon 75006 Paris France). A bottle of wine later, we were ready for bed. We would recommend going back, as it was a trendy, late-night hang.
Another perfect day! Tomorrow: Picnic at the Tour Eiffel, Tour Eiffel climb, and museums)
Day 4 (April 20, 2016)
1. Macarons. Our favorite place for macarons is Dalloyau, near our hotel and across from the Luxembourg Gardens. The plan was to save them for our Eiffel Tower picnic but that plan failed.
2. Jardin du Luxembourg. We spent a good part of our morning and early afternoon lounging in ththe gardens. Lots of history and fun to be had here. Stories: Gertrude Stein used to walk through her on her way to sit for Pablo Picasso. A hungry Ernest Hemingway would hand hunt for pigeons for his dinners in this garden. Fun Florentine fact: Marie de Medicis had a palace built for her in the style of the Pitti Palace. The Palais du Luxembourg is a grand building on the pond in the garden and currently houses the Parisian Senate. Rumor has it that the Paris Secret Service has its headquarters here, under the garden and near the palace, as the building was used for security in WWII. There are over 80 statues in the park, kids sail boats in the pond, take pony rides starting in April, and occasionally a puppet show can be seen. It's an idyllic spot.
3. Grocery Shopping. We were on a mission for picnic supplies this afternoon. We came prepared with plastic cups, so all we needed was fresh (warm) baguettes, brie, grapes, strawberries, sandwiches, chips, chocolate, and a couple of bottles of champagne. We got our gear and headed to the Trocadero, a gorgeous park on the northwest side of the Eiffel Tower.
4. Tour Eiffel Picnic. We spent a couple of hours taking in the park, sitting on our shopping bags and popping bottles. It was a fun time, full of laughing, sunbathing, and watching other people have fun in the park.
5. Tour Eiffel climb. We were worried that the Eiffel Tower stair climb was going to close, so we rushed over and bought our tickets (only 7 EUR to walk up to the first and second level). We had a great time in the gift shop and seeing the panoramic view of the city. Go towards the end of the afternoon so the lines aren't long. You can actually take time up there and have fun at the cafe, post office, and gift shop.
6. Les Papilles (30 Rue Gay Lussac, Latin Quarter). We left the tower with 5 minutes to spare for dinner, and we actually considered not going because we were still full from our picnic. I'm so so so so so happy that we didn't skip it. We had read amazing reviews of Les Papilles (translation: taste buds), and Morgan's friend recommended it. Even though we were 20 minutes late, the owner was SO happy to see us and warmly welcomed us to Table 8, the round table in the back of the restaurant. We could see everything going on, and it was just the perfect place to eat. The menu changes daily, and the owner comes to your table to describe the family style meal. We started with potato leek soup, then the short rib with vegetables and a sauce that was to die for. We continued the third course with cheese, onion confit, and chili flakes. Dessert was caramel panne cotta, and even though we came to this meal pretty full, we cleaned our plates. Our most memorable meal (and I know what you're thinking- each meal gets better as the nights go on!!) of this trip. You absolutely, positively, definitely need to eat here. Make a reservation before you leave the US, because we asked for another reservation this week and nothing was available.
7. Midnight in Paris. Caroline and I found out that the spot where Gil (Owen Wilson) waits for the car that takes him to 20's Paris and the Belle Époque is just near our hotel. After dinner (and very full and tired!) we wandered over to the Pantheon and found the place! It's on the steps of the Saint-Etienne-du-Mort behind the Pantheon. Obviously, we had to go there at exactly midnight. All in all, a fantastic end to a somewhat magical day in Paris!
Day 5 (April 21, 2016)
1. Sacre Coeur. Katie, Morgan, Kait, and I headed out to Montmartre for the morning and early afternoon. We took the funiclaire (a tram) that takes you up the hill to get to thsee highest point in Paris. This neighborhood is known for its bohemian, artistic flair, and it didn't disappoint. The views were spectacular. We paid the 6EUR charge to walk up to the dome of the creamy white cathedral (300 steps). It was breathtaking. However, it was the most extremely narrow and winding staircase I've ever experienced. So so worth it, though!!
The church is just over 100 years old, which is astounding. The site of the church has a storied history that even is connected to the pagans. Romans had built temples to worship Mars and Mercury. The hill was originally named Mon Martis, which means "Mount of Mars." It was later Christianized to "Montmartre" which translates to "Mount of the Martyr."
The basilica is not to be missed. It's full of symbolism, stained glass, and colorful mosaic. The pictures simply do not do it justice.
Cool fact: the cathedral is made out of stone that is high in calcite. On damp days, calcite leeches out of the stone, which keeps the cathedral that chalky white color all the time. A self-cleaning church.
2. Lunch at Le Petit Cafe near Pantheon. We met up for a lovely lunch with Caroline in mid-afternoon. The restaurant we say at had a gorgeous view of the square, and it was right down the road from the Midnight in Parisscene behind the Pantheon.
3. Dinner in the Marais and sunset walk with Caroline. We enjoyed a smaller dinner tonight in the Marais at Le Potager. It is a French vegetarian restaurant. Not on the top of our list, but it was cool to try! Caroline and I stepped out for a quick walk at dusk and were greeted by a sparkling Eiffel Tower on the river. We topped off the night with wine and dessert at Le Hibou. Too smoky for us there, but the wine was delicious!
Oh! Before dinner, a few of us went to KONG, a really trendy bar across the river. It is the site of the scene in Sex and the City when Carrie meets Petrovsky's ex-wife. Carrie mentions how cool the chairs are and the reaction is "hideous, just hideous." We had a hideous time, service-wise. But, a great spot if you're chasing SATC landmarks.
All in all, a lovely day with the gals. We are sadly counting down to our last two days. Tomorrow: Moulin Rouge and all of the tackiness that it brings. Can't wait!
Day 6 (April 22, 2016)
1. d'Orsay. We went to the old train station, which now houses the wold's best collection of impressionist art. This is a must see when you're here. Even MORE delightful than the museum was the lunch we had at the museum restaurant. This dining room was the most beautiful restaurant I've ever seen. Belle epoch decor, frescoes on the ceiling, views of the Seine, and fun, modern glass chairs. When you come (yes, not if you come), you should get there right when it opens at around 11:45, or else you will be waiting in line. We ate and then saw the Monets that we saw live at Giverny earlier in the week.
2. La Mascotte. Delicious, old school Parisian dinner up in Montmartre. We had pots of mussels and French fries for dinner. The best was that we were able to get ice cream from Berthillon (yes, Dr. L., I finally had some!) for dessert.
3. Moulin Rouge. By far, the most laughing on the trip so far. This was perfectly tacky, gaudy, glittery, and let's say flamboyant costumes. Whatever you're thinking about this place before you go, you'll never estimate high enough. I'll never forget the show for as long as I'll live. This takes P-town and blows it out of the water. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so stop reading about the hydraulic tank with the near-naked woman wrestling two big snakes, the sexy roller skating circus couple swinging each other around in the air, the ventriloquist, the robotic talking dog, the ponies, and the men and women in sequins and boas of every color of the rainbow. Never going again, but we're so glad that we did!!! Definitely needed the two pricey bottles of champagne for this one. To think that we might have gone to the opera house instead.
4. Little Bear. Wrapped the night up at a local bar where we rocked out to Will Smith and Britney Spears and laughed about our night. One of my favorite nights in Paris.
Paris, Day 7 (April 23, 2016)
Last day....we divided and conquered. Caroline and I split off and did some shopping and a lot of lounging and eating. We walked through the Tuileries and enjoyed the sunshine while it lasted. We checked out Le Meurice (extreme luxury hotel on the Tuileries) and saw their beautiful dining rooms. We had lunch at Angelina, a famous belle epoch restaurant next to the garden. I had a Croque Monsieur with truffle (amazing...!). We ended our walking and exploration at Cafe de la Paix next to the opera house. We did wine, bread, and cheese and just sat for a couple of hours. Days like this are important in Paris.
Dinner. We took the recommendation of Dr. Ladewig's daughter and made reservations for La Regalade on Rue St. Honore. They had a prix fixe menu and it was excellent! I had asparagus soup with bacon, veggies, and quail eggs, a delicious beef dish as my main, and a Grand Marnier soufflé. This was a perfect restaurant to end our amazing week in Paris.
Last walk. We left the restaurant at around 11:45PM, just in time to walk over to Pont Neuf and see the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight. We all stood on the bridge and waited. For the five minutes that it sparkled, we all were quiet and smiling.