As a first-time visitor to Paris, I’m a bit out of my comfort zone, unlike when I travel to Italy. But my expectations for a good time are high, especially since I’m traveling to this romantic city with someone I love. And after spending four wonderful days and nights in the City of Lights, my impressions of Paris are far from disappointing.
From the moment we arrive, beginning with the smooth navigation through passport control at Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris is every bit as wonderful as I had hoped. The locals tell us that the pleasantly warm, sunny weather in the 80s is the best they’ve had in seventy years. How did we get to be so lucky?
Our lovely accommodation, Hotel Le Lapin Blanc, conveniently situated on Boulevard Saint-Michel in the Latin Quarter, more than suits our needs. The helpful friendly reservations manager is wonderful, the hotel’s large modern rooms, with treats like French macarons, and the surprise, complimentary, afternoon snacks and beverages are fabulous.
Richard and I want to explore Paris, yet we want to stroll along the Seine and enjoy the atmosphere of the city without feeling too rushed. I think we manage to do exactly that.
It will take many more blog posts to write about everything we saw and did here, but here are some of my impressions of Paris, some things I learned, and some of the highlights of our Parisian stay.
From conversations with taxi drivers, I learn that for nine months of the year, the weather in Paris is not good. So, when the day is warm and sunny, everyone is outside on the grass in a park getting a suntan.
The beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg Gardens) are a short walk from our hotel, and spending an afternoon strolling inside this public park is a total joy.
Watching the kids with their remote-controlled sailboats is such fun and seeing the tulips in full bloom is beautiful. A carousel always brings a smile to my face, and Paris has many of these merry-go-rounds.
A romantic night cruise on the Seine as the lights of the Eiffel Tower twinkled is priceless, an evening neither of us will ever forget.
From a waiter at Le Cercle Luxembourg Restaurant on Rue Gay-Lussac, I learn that tips are not expected, because a service charge is already included on the bill, and typically it is either 9 or 10%. When Richard tries to offer him a tip, he declines and tells us it is “not necessary” to tip. He smiles and says, “I always know I’m receiving 9%.”
Discovering more of the artistic masterpieces at the Louvre and the D’Orsay Museum make for a busy morning, but well worth it.
A climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and the spectacular view of Paris from that vantage point is wonderful.
And something I’ve seen in movies so many times, the beautiful street of the Champs-Élysées in the City of Love, definitely lives up to my expectations.
Enjoying a lovely lunch of French onion soup at an outdoor table at Bistrot 25 while people-watching with Richard is one of my more memorable experiences.
I notice that cats seem to be everywhere in Paris. Why are they so loved? There are postcards with pictures of cats. And I understand Paris even has cat cafes. Are cats synonymous with Paris? What is the story behind the cats of Paris? I’d love to know the story behind the cats of Paris.
The mosaics in Sainte-Chapelle are stunning and my first sight of this amazing place takes my breath away. After a walk up the spiral staircase, the view is incredible.
While walking in the city, we always observe some people, who appear to be homeless and sleeping on the street. The police check up on them, having casual conversations, as if to make sure they are okay. We also see, on two separate occasions, individuals sitting on the sidewalk with signs asking for help. The peculiar thing is that each of them is accompanied by a pet rabbit. One has a pet carrier for the bunny, and both have carrots and lettuce next to the rabbit. Do people feel more inclined to help a person on the street if they are accompanied by a pet? I wonder if bunnies are pets in Paris.
An evening in Paris can’t get any more romantic than dinner inside the Eiffel Tower.
A night to remember forever, the details of this wonderful evening are too many to write about here and will have to wait for a separate blog post. Stay tuned.
We pass by many sidewalk cafes that advertise crepes for very reasonable prices between €3 and €5.50 Various choices including Nutella, chocolate, banana, sugar, and fruit, are advertised. We choose to have breakfast at a nearby place recommended by our concierge. La Crêperie on Rue Soufflot is the quintessential French creperie, and I can’t resist the Nutella crepes. Oh my God, they are to die for.
We also avail ourselves of several evening meals at authentic French restaurants where typically only the locals go. The intimate atmosphere of the small restaurant recommended by Guillaume at our hotel, is perfect. Although the menu at La Ferrandaise is in French with English translations, we still need to ask the waitress to explain what we are about to order. We try local Parisian dishes for the first time, and they are delicious, no doubt, because of the way they are prepared. Veal with tarragon-flavored carrots, duck foie gras, and roasted rack of lamb are some of the highlights. The French people in Paris can’t be any nicer.
More sightseeing in the Montmartre arrondissement of Paris including the beautiful Basilica of the Sacré Couer, which is the highest building in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower, adds to our Paris adventure.
Stopping for lunch at Le Nazir on Rue des Abbesses. The quiche lorraine is delicious. Wandering the streets here in artsy Montmartre is totally enjoyable.
Also in the 18th arrondissement, close to the district of Montmartre, is where the historic Moulin Rouge, with its large red windmill on the roof, is located, in the Pigalle district.
We also decide to visit the Marais arrondissement and make a stop at the Picasso Museum, and are pleasantly surprised to find no crowds at all.
Of course, we also are amazed at the architecture of the Notre Dame, both inside and out. While visiting here, it happens to be a Sunday, so the admission fee is waived, and we are even able to experience part of a Mass.
Both of us decide that Paris is a hit and we would return. These past four days have been great, but like most places I visit, it’s never enough time. You know we’ll be back.
I’m very happy this trip to Italy started out with a twist, that being our first time together in Paris.
Have you been to Paris? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment.