The croissants. The food. The wine. The macarons. The history, buildings, hotels, parks, streets, fashion, shopping, and people. Paris, je t’aime.
Looking back, our trip to France, and the four days we spent in Paris, seem like such a blur now, but just a few weeks ago, surrounded by all there was to see, and do, and eat, it felt like we could just stay forever, lost in the cafe-clad streets, accordion renditions of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en rose wafting through the air with the smell of fresh croissants. Paris is a fantastic and vibrant city, and although we ultimately prefer the pace of life from the latter half of our trip spent in Provence, we loved every minute of our time spent inside its arrondissements.
I feel like it’s impossible to do a city like Paris justice – a lifetime spent there would still seemingly just scratch the surface – but I have to think that we did a pretty spectacular job of making the most of the time we had. Morning croissants in quiet parks, miles of walking amongst the historic landmarks, grand boulevards, and bustling river, lunches in cozy cafes, delicious dinners in unique restaurants, macarons, macarons, macarons… all in all, not too shabby.
In the heart of the 8th arrondissement, just off the Champs-Élysées and a block away from Grand Palais, sits La Maison Champs Elysées. From the outside, the hotel inconspicuously blends in with the rest of the Second Empire mansard roofs and light facades, but all of that structure and regulation disappears as soon as you cross the threshold. View pictures and read more about La Maison Champs Elysée here.
À Jean Nicot
The write-up of À Jean Nicot’s fantastic croque-monsieur (warm ham and cheese) in rather paris got us through the door, but once inside, sitting on cafe chairs, facing a bar surrounded by locals grabbing a quick bite or having a slow drink, we felt that we had stumbled upon a place seldom frequented by tourists. It’s only a couple of blocks away from the Louvre, but I would’ve easily mistaken the lack of fanny packs and camcorders for a location in one of the quieter outer arrondissments. Oh, the croque-monsieur was every bit as good as we were led to believe.
Pizza in Paris – it happens. At least if we were going to mix-up our Mediterranean cuisines, we did it in style. The pizza at Pink Flamingo was a tasty stop on our way to Le Sacré Coeur, but with a few other locations in town (one of which where pink balloons mark your tables on the river), we were tempted to revisit the mix-up a few times.
Paris is famous for its iconic landmarks. We’ll spare you the words of covering places like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, and just assume that you know to visit these, but if want to see one of the most breathtaking panoramic views of the city, and a pretty amazing church while you’re at it, we’d strongly suggest you make the trek to La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre (or Sacré Coeur). You won’t regret it.
Meredith would probably be upset if I shared the number of times we stopped into this establishment in the four short days we spent in Paris, but if you fancied a guess that was less than twice a day, you’d have greatly underestimated our love for these colorfully decadent treats. I think they sell other desserts besides their infamous macarons, but if you’re able to look past the Wonka-esque mounds of these meringue-based delights, you have a lot more will power than we ever came close to. We’d strongly suggest the pistachio, vanilla, and almond flavors, but I honestly don’t think you can choose poorly.
What would a post about Paris be without mentioning a place to get the perfect croissant? There might be a pâtisserie on almost every corner that doesn’t have a cafe, but if you find yourself in the 10th arrondissement, you should definitely stop into this shop. Meredith and I ate our fair share of croissants and pain au chocolat, and like most Paris tourists, now fancy ourselves experts on the subject, so our endorsement is golden… like the flakey, buttery layers of these tasty treats.
I’m only mildly embarrassed to say that my favorite meal in Paris was not the beef bourguignon or escargot from some fashionable restaurant, the croque-monsieur from a local bistro, or even a buttery croissant from a corner pâtisserie, but rather a few divine carne tacos from the closest-to-literal example of a hole-in-the-wall that I’ve ever eaten in. To be fair, Candelaria has a much nicer bar and dining room for the regular french dinner crowd (8:30 and later), but given that we had an early morning ahead and didn’t want to make a late-night trip across town, Meredith and I stopped into their midday side-room that consists of little more than a table and a bar with four chairs. I’d do it again and again in a heartbeat, because you haven’t had Mexican until you’ve eaten tacos in a Parisian back-room. (We recommend checking out this excellent post about Candelaria by David Lebovitz)
You’ve never met Meredith if you didn’t know that ice cream and Orvis (and sometimes me) are pretty much the end-all, be-all for things she can’t live without. True to form, after a day of walking, she persuaded me (with only mild threats of bodily harm), to squeeze in a few more blocks to grab a cone of this well-loved Île Saint-Louis treat, just behind Notre Dame. My grasp of the french language is weak to say the least, but somehow I guessed that “fraise” meant “strawberry” and was rewarded with the best version of that flavor I’ve ever had.
For as much as “minimal” and “subtle” were the main descriptors of our first hotel in Paris, I’d have to say that the Saint James Paris was equally “grande” and “ornate” – a hotel where every room felt slightly more whimsical than the last, and you found yourself pleasantly surprised at how many times you were left smiling from the quirkiness of different areas inside its gates. View pictures and read more about the Saint James Paris here.
Le Petit Pergolèse
We were thinking that we’d take it easy on our final evening in town, and maybe grab something small from just around the corner, but with one foot out the door, the concierge at the Saint James gave us possibly one of the best tips of our trip. He recommended Le Petit Pergolèse, just a couple of blocks away, and the meal we enjoyed that evening was spot-on fantastic. We ate quickly, because the staff went out of their way to squeeze us in without a reservation, so I’m afraid my recollection of the exact parts of our meal is blurry, but suffice it to say, the one clear memory of the evening is “YUM!”.
I know it was quite the post, but we’re not done with France yet. Paris was a delight, but Provence was unbelievable!