Our trip started Saturday around 5pm and we flew overnight, landing in Paris around 6:30am their time on Sunday. I had all the necessities for an easy flight -- noise cancelling headphones, an iPad with books and movies, magazines, and gummy bears. We slept very little on this flight (me more than Ian) and then hit the ground running when we got in to Charles de Gaulle airport.
Check-in at our hotel wasn't until 2pm, so we stored our luggage with the front desk and did the one thing that I'd heard was totally uncool -- we went to Starbucks. Yes! In the land of great cafes, we bypassed them all for the telltale green and black sign. I think we had a pretty good reason -- free wifi. We sipped coffee and got our bearings and mapped out a plan.
We first checked out the Metro which everyone had assured me was simple to navigate ... they were definitely correct. Buying tickets was a bit of a learning process, but by the third day we could purchase Metro tickets with our eyes closed. We headed to the Arc de Triomphe and were so speechless as we popped up from the Metro stop and saw it in all its glory.
We strolled all around the area and went down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, stopping on a side street to share a sandwich and an Orangina (and a pain du chocolat, of course!) at Paul, a cute little boulangerie-patisserie. These were scattered all around Paris -- sort of like a local Dean and Deluca, we thought.
After walking around all day, we were very excited to check in to the hotel and refresh. We even napped for a bit with the windows open, hearing the sounds of Paris and seeing the Eiffel Tower in the distance. We stayed at Le Chat Noir Design Hotel which is in Montmartre. I would highly suggest this area -- we fell in love with it. Quaint, charming, neighborhoody. Fair warning, it's in a bit of a racy district, so it may not be for everyone, but we thought it was a fun area and we loved the surroundings.
There was also a little market a few doors down where we could pick up some snacks or a bottle of wine to enjoy as we got ready for the evening.
Our first night was so special to me because we went to Cafe des 2 Moulins on Rue Lepic -- the cafe made famous in the movie (and my absolute FAVORITE movie of all time) Amélie. We had a drink there and I was in absolute heaven, looking around in awe at the very cafe that I've seen appear in that movie half a dozen times.
Afterwards, we strolled the streets (this is where Ian bought me the coral-colored capelet that you'll see in my upcoming Switzerland photos). We ended up at a small restaurant with an awesome prix-fixe dinner ... easily one of my most favorite meals. The French onion soup was absolutely incredible, as was the beef bourginon.
Day two for us started off again at Starbucks! I know, bad bad bad Americans! More wifi planning ensued and we mapped out our Metro lines to make our way to the Louvre. We got there by strolling through the Jardin des Tuileries which was just a breathtaking way to start the day.
There was a line to enter the Louvre, but nothing bad -- maybe 15-20 minutes total. The line is really just to get thru security. Once cleared, there are several areas to purchase tickets. The automated machines didn't want to read our cards at first but finally cooperated.
You may know that the Mona Lisa is at the Louvre, and to be quite frank, I thought that portion of the museum was a little disheartening. You know when you're coming up on it because there are signs everywhere and the noise level increases considerably. Once there, the crowd was just wild. It was packed and there are signs everywhere to beware of pickpockets. It sort of ruined it all for me! We were only as close as the photo you see below, and the threat of pickpockets was not worth pushing our way to the front. No thanks. Still amazing to be in the room as such an acclaimed piece, but it was a shame that most of what I could see was covered by iPhones being held up in the air.
After exploring more of the city and hitting the Champs-Élysées once more, we returned to Montmartre and picked a cafe with outdoor seating and a nice-looking bar tap selection for my beer-drinking husband. It was a great way to wind down together that afternoon after all of the exploring we did.
Montmartre just had the sweetest little shops that we saw on our walk back to the hotel to rest up and get ready for the evening! We ended up stopping in one and buying the most decadent truffle olive oil.
After getting read for the evening, we walked up Rue Lepic (had to snag another photo with my beloved cafe!) and headed up the hill towards Sacré-Cœur. This basilica was so pretty to me but I heard mixed reviews from the French -- I think some consider it to be a bit too much? It provides an excellent view of the city and was a fun walk.
On our way back down, there was the most adorable outdoor cafe with live music. It was definitely worth a stop in -- the location was prime for people-watching and just soaking up the French way of life!
As the evening went on, another trip to Cafe des 2 Moulins was inevitable. Can you tell I'm obsessed with that place?!
I also met a new French friend. Hey, when in Paris, do as the Parisians do!
Another chilly and dreary day was ahead of us. You can see from the outfits below that it was not gorgeous, warm weather. I was having to get really creative with my outfits. Several of the items I packed were just not going to work in that weather.
We made our way to Notre Dame, grabbing some crêpes en route to serve as our breakfast. Ian went with ham and cheese -- I chose Nutella and banana. Still dreaming of that one.
The cathedral was awe-inspiring. Afterwards, we wandered around some neighboring arrondisements and popped in and out of little shops along the way.
At that point, it was time to return to the hotel to get ready for our big anniversary evening. We had some really fun plans which I will post about tomorrow!
After that activity, we were given a perfect dinner recommendation for our anniversary. The restaurant is close to the Eiffel Tower and it's called Au Petit Sud-Ouest. The only item on the menu is duck! That's right -- duck in many different versions (and spectacular versions, if I may add).
I went with the cassoulet, which was just darling as it was served in its own pot. White beans, duck, sausage, oh my word it was perfection.
We caught the Metro back to our hotel, stopping in front of Moulin Rouge on the way as it was just a block away from Le Chat Noir.
I have so, so many wonderful memories of Paris. I truly hope to return one day. It was everything I expected and more. And although Ian wasn't gung-ho about the Paris portion of our trip at first, he really enjoyed our time there. What an awesome surprise that was. :)
Tomorrow's post is going to be a fun one ... and then on to Switzerland we go!