France 2016: Paris

Note: this is the first of three posts about our trip this summer.

Andrew and I didn’t plan a vacation for this summer–much less one of our epic European whirlwind tours–but sometime this Spring we called an audible, decided our backyard project could wait a couple more weeks to start and bought two tickets to Paris.

We left May 18 from Toronto and by the time the plane took off, we were so ready for a vacation we thanked our lucky stars we’d decided to get away.

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After we landed the next morning in Paris, we bought Navigo passes for the Metro.  Andrew had even brought teeny tiny headshots of both of us from home (to affix to each pass) to save time.  We napped for a couple hours that afternoon before grabbing some to-go food to eat in a park before touring the Marmottan Museum, which is a collection of Monet’s paintings.  Our view from dessert that evening: the Eiffel Tower at night.

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The next day, we shopped for breakfast items (we were staying in an apartment this time!) on Rue Cler, a street known for its food shops.  Every morning, Andrew ran down for fresh croissants, which felt like quite the luxury.

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One of our highlights in Paris are the arcades, which are covered passages filled with shops and restaurants on either side.  Last year, we found a small shop that sells antique postcards, and we made it our mission to find one for every city in France we’ve been.  We stopped there again this year to add to our collection that hangs at the top of our stairs in the house. Other souvenirs from Paris included some books, a few prints to frame, and–of course–the guides from each art museum we visited.

Speaking of art museums…  One of my favorites is the Centre Pompidou (below), which holds contemporary and modern art.  It’s modern and high-tech looking, with an exterior escalator.  (I also love the Orangerie, Musee D’Orsay and the Marmottan as they all have large works by the Impressionists.)

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We chose the day with the best weather to visit the Palace of Versailles, located outside of the city.  The chateau was King Louis XIV home-away-from-home and is hugely famous for its Hall of Mirrors and gardens.  The gardens include multiple giant fountains,  the Petit and Grand Trianons (‘mini’ palaces) and paths and Marie Antoinette’s 12-building ‘peasant farm.’  We spent the morning in the palace, then ate our picnic lunch near the fountain of Apollo and then toured the gardens and fountains until our feet felt as if they might fall off!  No wonder–my Fitbit logged 36,000 steps that day!

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After we got back to the city, Andrew and I headed out for a special event called the ‘Night of the Museums,’ in which many museums were open for free.  I love that Andrew does such extensive research before our trips so we can take advantage of things like that.  We started at the National Archives, where we saw Napoleon’s will and Marie Antoinette’s journal from the French Revolution.  We grabbed takeway food from a local falafel stand (one we visited last year!) and watched a fire show with a crowd of locals.

Another ‘local’ event we took advantage of was hearing a concert at Sainte-Chapelle, a small but beautiful chapel.  We’d visited it last year, but we heard about the concerts this Spring during our French language classes and thought it would be a neat thing to do.

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Other highlights included trips to the Picasso Museum and the Musee d’Orsay, both of which we left wanting to visit again!  We’d been to the Orsay before, but this time we focused more on the top floor with the Impressionists, and still didn’t get enough.

Food is a big thing for us on our trips; choosing our restaurant and meals is such a cultural experience, not to mention ordering in a foreign language.  We loved people-watching over cafe creme (coffee with milk) at Cafe Cler near our apartment, Bistro Saint Dominique where Andrew tried beef tartare, Cafe Constant for its traditional French cuisine with a modern flair and notoriety (the chef’s own cookbooks lined the walls), Cafe Angelina and its famous ‘Mont Blanc’ dessert and the bistro in Les Halles where we shared a meat and cheese platter for dinner over wine.  And, of course, fresh croissants every morning.

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On our last night in Paris, I insisted we walk by Notre Dame and go to the little cafe (called La Brasserie d’Isle Saint-Louis) with the red awning that serves Berthillon ice cream on Isle Saint-Louis.  We’ve been every time we’re in Paris, and walking the bank of the river, in sight of a lit up grand cathedral, is just about the most romantic thing you’ll ever do.

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Part 2 of our trip coming soon!

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