As we were writing this, we realized we did so much in Paris that one post would be really long. Too long to read, honestly, once pictures get involved. So we’re going to break Paris into two posts. They’ll probably still be pretty long. There’s just so much to do in Paris!
Ooh la la. Paris. My parents had been to Paris about two years ago, and after their rave reviews, we couldn’t wait to see it for ourselves. We left Dublin on Friday afternoon and got to Paris in the early evening. After checking into our hotel, the Holiday Inn Opera (which you may remember we booked on points, and we lucked out because it was also a nice hotel in a perfect location), we only really had time for dinner. But that was actually good news because we had a perfect dinner in mind. We had read about a pizza shop called Pink Flamingo near Canal Saint Martin, which was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. Pizza in Paris might not seem like a must-do, but the way this pizza place works is pretty fabulous. You order in a small shop about 6 feet by 2 feet, and they ask if you want it to go, or if you want to picnic by the canal. We of course were picnicking by the canal. They then gave us a helium filled pink balloon. We walked behind the shop and took a seat on the edge of the canal. About 10 minutes later a guy rode up on a pink bike, handed us our pizza and rode off. All right, Paris, you were off to a great start!
Here’s a map of some of our favorite places in Paris:
Day two in Paris was the antithesis of day one. Where as our first day we barely did anything, on our second day we did pretty much everything. The morning started off with a car tour around the city with Paris Authentic. This was a gift my parents had gotten us. We got picked up in a little car that just barely fit two people in the back. The driver was a young guy probably in his mid twenties who spoke perfect English. He drove us all around the city and gave us a great tour. We really liked this because it wasn’t a canned tour (or at least didn’t feel like it), and it wasn’t over-loaded with history. He would just drive by things and tell us something interesting and also tell us why he liked it. It was also really funny being in the tiny car. When stopped at red lights, he would have conversations with people on the street. He told us that they were asking about the car, because it was so unique. At least that’s what he said they were talking about. He could have been saying, “These Americans are fools,” but he was so friendly that we wouldn’t have known.
After the driving tour, we decided we would walk around the city. Looking at the map we had, and at our phones, we didn’t think Paris looked that big and we could walk pretty much anywhere. Spoiler alert: terrible idea. Anyway, our first stop was lunch at a place called Hotel Amour in Pigalle, where we ate in a pretty courtyard garden. This was our first real experience with what we imagine is considered the “rude” culture of Paris. We walked in the restaurant and no one paid attention to us. Servers would walk by us and just keep walking. We had no idea what was going on. Finally another couple came in and just started talking to one of the servers in French. They started walking to a table and one of them looked at us and said something in French. I shook my head and said, “No, go ahead,” and he said, “Do you need help?” We said, “Yes, thank you,” and basically he and the server then showed us to a table.
That’s tip number 1 for Paris — you can basically just seat yourself at most restaurants. Once we figured out that we were expected to be assertive, we had a great experience everywhere we went. The servers aren’t being “rude,” they just have a different idea of what’s polite and what’s expected, and we actually really enjoyed not being interrupted every 5 minutes by a server asking us if we needed anything, like we get in the States. If we need something, we’ll tell you. We also had no issues with the language barrier anywhere we went, and almost everyone we talked to spoke at least a little English, even at non-touristy places.
Going over the menu made us realize tip number 2: Paris is not for vegetarians. Kerry could barely find anything on the menu (or any other menu) without meat, and finally settled on a croque monsieur, which is essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. She asked the waitress if she could get it without ham, and the waitress replied, almost shocked, “Just cheese?! I have to check with the cook.” She then came back and assured us that this incredibly strange request could be done. I had a mac and cheese (with ham) that was delicious, and Kerry enjoyed her grilled cheese sandwich.
We walked from there to the Sacre Coeur, which is a beautiful church in Montmartre that is the highest point in Paris. From the church, you have views of half the city. After climbing all the steps, taking in the sights and walking through the church real quick, we walked back down the hill through a nice little park and then took our first metro ride.
Tip number 3: download the Paris Metro app from RATP. This app is great in that you put in your starting point and your destination, and it’ll tell you exactly how to get where you’re going, which trains to take, which direction, where to change, how many minutes each ride will be. It’s a great app, free, and best of all it works offline, so you don’t need WiFi. We found that the metro in Paris was very easy to use. We took the metro from Sacre Coeur to another famous church: Notre Dame.
Notre Dame’s line to get in was sort of ridiculous, so we decided to admire the outside, which is pretty outlandish in its own right. The amount of detail that went into this building is hard to wrap your brain around. At one point, Kerry and I were looking at the many statues carved into the facade and I said, “Imagine when they were commissioning this. They must have said to the designer, ‘Can you carve some people into the front of the building?’ And that guy said, ‘Sure, how many do you want? 10? 20?’ And their response was, ‘No, like 500.'” I don’t know how many people are carved into that building but if you told me 500, I’d think, “Yeah, that’s about right.”
After Notre Dame we crossed the bridge to Ile Saint Louis to go to Berthillon, the most famous ice cream shop in Paris. We found the “original” Berthillon (which had been pointed out by our driver earlier), which is sort of funny because all the other ice cream shops around there also write “Berthillon” on their sign somewhere. It’d be like if any old random ice cream shop around town also wrote, “Ben and Jerry’s” on their signs. Maybe those other places served Berthillon ice cream, I don’t know. Our driver told us it was basically a trick the other shops were doing, but that the original was the best. So that’s where we went and we didn’t regret it. We both actually got sorbets because it was pretty hot, and they were delicious.
After much more walking (we strolled to a park and then had to get on a Metro again because we were so worn out), we had a quick nap and then went to dinner at Pause Cafe near the Bastille. We sat ourselves on the patio and were surrounded by Parisians in their early twenties. We had pasta and beer and Kerry had champagne. The food was delicious and the atmosphere made us feel like we were in the hippest spot in Paris. It was great and one of our favorite Paris experiences.
Check back on Friday for part two of our Paris adventure.