My husband and I had a great time in Paris. It was lovely to experience romantic, downright cinematic rainy weather in such a beautiful city. Here are some photos and highlights, if you’re interested. This is by no means a “city guide” or advice on what to do while there, because I think you could truly show up in Paris with no plans and have an enchanting time. Buckle in for a LOT of photos!
We stayed the entire time at this tiny apartment in the St. Germain area, which ended up being a wonderful location. So much cool stuff was within minutes of our apartment (most of the food + drink spots I list below), so we found ourselves staying “close to home” much of our time there.
SEE + EXPLORE
Over our 8 full days in Paris, we took a pretty relaxed approach to seeing the “sites”–and we walked everywhere. This meant we didn’t ever trek quite as far as Montmartre or Versailles, but it was nice to not worry about the metro (except for getting to and from the airport, an easy trip), and the thing about Paris is that if you’re at one major attraction, you’re only minutes from another. So it’s true what they say about flâner–it’s best to walk in Paris.
Jardin du Luxembourg
We were lucky enough to visit the Luxembourg Gardens on a sunny day when this gorgeous floral landscaping was there (went back a few days later and it was torn out!) It’s such a peaceful place, and if I lived in Paris, I would come here all the time.
We didn’t go up in it, but we did find our way to it. I can see why the French didn’t originally like it–it’s very odd in context, but I loved how the fall leaves looked with this view.
To be honest, I was initially resistant to going to the Louvre, hearing how overwhelming the crowds and sheer size could be. But we ended up visiting sort of spur of the moment, the evening we returned from our Champagne tour (more on that later), as the museum stays open late on Fridays and Wednesdays. This was the perfect way to do it–I was actually able to get this close to Mona pretty easily! I really admired how each section of the Louvre was designed in a way that really served and highlighted the art.
I always feel weird visiting churches as attractions, but this gothic cathedral was particularly eerie on a rainy day, and knowing Victor Hugo’s work lent a sort of romanticism to it. Enjoy our dorky selfie!
Maison de Victor Hugo
Speaking of Victor Hugo, I loved stopping into the little museum that occupies his former flat in Paris, in the Place des Vosages. It’s free, but we sprang for the very thorough audio tour, which offered up interesting anecdotes and quotes about the art and furniture decorating the home.
This neighborhood, where we had also debated staying, was one of the cutest, most photogenic areas we explored. I loved the cobblestone streets and quaint colored touches.
This small, free museum in a former private home was really charming, and even held a Rembrandt.
The Rodin Museum felt very personal. It houses many of Rodin’s works (and many iterations of them), as well as the work of some of his friends, contemporaries (like Monet and Van Gogh), and apprentices. I learned the sad story of his lover and protégé Camille Claudel before visiting and was especially moved by her pieces.
Shakespeare & Co.
This is exactly the kind of library I imagined having in a very romantic fantasy way as a child. It’s so fun to walk through, even if just for a few minutes.
The Orsay Museum was one of the things on my Paris “bucket list” and it did not disappoint. It’s surprisingly huge, so I recommend going fresh and fully fed, because there is a lot of French art to explore. My husband noted that compared to Italian art, the French seemed to be much more interested in women than men, ha! I especially loved Toulouse-Lautrec and the impressionists.
EAT + DRINK
The most important stuff, right? Here’s my hot take on Paris food. Try not to be too precious about it. I had heard so much hype about the food before going, and had gotten so many recommendations for places we had to go, that I felt the first few days that I wasn’t doing the food right. Sure, it was good, but was it the best croissant I’d ever had? The couple places we tried that we “had to go” to were okay but not our favorites. (I think I’m also spoiled by really good food at any old gastropub in LA). I’m certainly not complaining (except that it’s expensive to eat there! ha!), but I think it’s probably better to just relax and not worry so much about THE places to eat. You can find perfectly nice food just by stumbling into a place that looks crowded with locals. So here are just some notes about what we enjoyed, but I’m not by any means saying you have to go here!
I got my stinky cheese fix (and boy, was it stinky!) here after visiting Victor Hugo’s house. It was warm and busy and the ambiance was lovely.
This spot was recommended by our Parisian tour guide as a spot with nice food but without inflated prices, and it ended up being one of my favorite meals in the city. We had the Breton sausage and French onion soup for lunch (with some Bordeaux, of course!), and I just adored the whole vibe.
These steak frites were on my “bucket list,” and it was a really fun experience. They only serve steak frites, and they’ll keep refilling your plate until you’re done. We showed up right when they open for dinner at 7pm (on a weeknight, and on “off-season”), just as they were letting people in, so we really didn’t have to wait for a table. It’s cozy and lively and pretty delicious.
We spent an afternoon at this place near our apartment that turned into and evening drinking and eating at this gorgeous bar, and made friends with our server Arnold, a recent transplant from Ft. Lauderdale. The general leave-you-alone serving style throughout Europe is freeing, but I do sometimes miss chatting with servers and picking their brains for recommendations, so it was really fun to have a friendly American who checked in on us often. He told us that this spot has been around for many years, despite its trendy appearance, and often has celebrities popping in. The food was solid, and the drinks were wonderful.
Okay, so this one I will tell you to try to check out, if you’re in the area in the evening. I wish we had discovered it sooner, because it was such an unpretentious Spanish-owned bar with tons of character. The sangria is wonderful and strong.
Our favorite meal in Paris was Italian! We stopped into this place because it was so close to our apartment, and returned on our last night for more Napoli-style pizza. And it was one of the better values we found for a good meal, price-wise.
This Hemingway haunt was recommended to me by a friend for a drink (meals get pricy), and it was a perfect place to while the hours away over a coffee. Really beautiful, and easy to see why writers were so inspired there.
I had a lovely café creme and croissant here with the friendliest service.
We also enjoyed our share of doner. 🙂
We got on a bus one early morning had a very scenic drive (about 2 hrs) out to champagne country. We visited the Mumm cellars in Reims, then saw Reim’s Notre Dame cathedral (which is actually bigger than the Parisian one and was the site of many French coronations), and then drove to Epernay to see another winery. It was a nice education in how champagne is made, and it’s easy to see why champagne makers are so proud. The tour (Through ParisCityVision via TripAdvisor) was a little pricey for what it included, but it was still fun to see a little bit outside of the city. Our guide was wonderful.
This free walking tour was pretty great. We had originally planned to hit the ground running our first day and do the Paris landmarks tour, but jet lag had other plans, and we circled back to this one days later because we’d already hit a lot of landmarks on our own. Our guide was delightful, and it was nice to get off the beaten path a bit. We explored a less touristy neighborhood around the Louvre, seeing covered galleries, and Italian-style church, and Palais grounds.
Overall, I really enjoyed our time there. Everything was pretty dreamy, and it sort of felt like being in an amusement park. I used my French successfully a few times, although most people would speak English back to me. I found it a little challenging to slow down how much I ate and drank and really get into the French spirit of relaxation, but it was a good exercise nonetheless. And walking everywhere was so freeing–something I don’t get to do outside my neighborhood too much at home. Walking along a river in the middle of town was especially novel for me.
By the end of the trip, I really missed Mexican food, my bed, and even driving, believe it or not. Coming home this time felt happier than ever before, and it had nothing to do with our time in Paris. I think it’s just a reflection of this season of life and hoe at home I feel in LA. Traveling always has a lovely way of making me appreciate what I have, even routine.