Here are days 3 and 4 of our jam-packed Paris party!
Day three started as we went to Versailles, which is quite a ways out of town, about a 45 minute ride on a very crowded metro. It’s funny to think the king lived so far away. Of course he had no idea what was going on in the real world, he was so secluded in this incredibly opulent palace. Everything I ever heard about Versailles was confirmed as soon as I saw it. It was huge. It was gaudy. There was so much gold. Walking through the actual palace can be a little crowded. There are so many tourists there, and the rooms are big, but often you’re only allowed in very small parts of them.
The real treat here, though, is the gardens. Once you walk out the back doors, the countryside opens up in front of you. The gardens of Versailles are breathtaking today, and I can only imagine how grand they must have seemed in the past. I imagined arriving there after traveling by horse and carriage for a month or so, and then being treated to that. I think our favorite part of that day was sitting down and watching a water show where fountains were timed to music.
This outdoor “ballroom” grotto that was completely covered in shells. Apparently they would dance in the middle, surrounded by these shell walls and cascading fountains. Can you imagine? It was incredible. And just so over the top.
After getting back in to town, we had dinner right around the corner from our hotel, at a place called Bouillon Chartier. We had read some interesting reviews and our experience confirmed them. When we got to the restaurant, we were seated right next to two other people at the same table. There were probably 20 empty tables in the restaurant, but we got seated next to two other people. Part of the charm, I guess. I ordered chicken, which was okay, and Kerry got salmon, which was pretty good, but there was something just so fun about sitting next to another couple (who were speaking a language we couldn’t place), and just being part of the environment. As the place filled up, we saw it was very common to fill up tables all the way before starting a new one. The best part of this meal was the fact that when the people next to us got their bill (which is all added up on the paper table cloth) it turns out they had spent over 63 euro on just cheese and wine! (Servings of cheese, by the way, were about 2.50 euro each and bottles of wine were only about 10 euro. It’s a very affordable place.) They started laughing, and said to us, “We ate a lot!” And drank a lot too, apparently. We had a great time at this dinner, even if the food didn’t blow us away. It was just a lot of fun.
After dinner, we decided to just stroll around our neighborhood, which had gotten very quiet. Tip number 4: stroll around Paris with no agenda. This is when we finally found the beauty in Paris. Up until now, it felt like a big, modern city. I didn’t get that Paris charm yet. I enjoyed my time, but I couldn’t find that magic. As we were just meandering up and down streets as the sun was going down, Paris really came alive for us, even though there weren’t many people around. The city finally had that romantic feel you hear about. I’m guessing the bottle of wine we had at dinner didn’t hurt. And the drink we stopped for at the bar next to our hotel helped too!
On our final day, we did a lot, again, but did less walking and used the metro a lot more, which was a smart move. We started off by getting amazing macarons at Laduree. The spread of treats at Laduree was stunning.
We walked down the Champs Elysees eating our macarons and then climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to get amazing views of the city.
Then we walked over to the Trocadero, which has the best view of the Eiffel Tower in the city. We stopped for lunch at Cafe Kleber (where the waiter seemed shocked that all I wanted for lunch was meat and cheese on a baguette).
From there we travelled to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. This park had been described as a very “Paris local” park, and not really a tourist attraction. I’m not sure why not, because in the middle of the park is a beautiful man-mad waterfall in a huge cove. It was so cool. Just a few minutes walk from the park, up a bunch of stairs and down a narrow, winding street, was a secret little vineyard and community garden that was fun to stroll through, and which also had a great view of the Montmartre area and the Sacre Coeur. It’s not the tourist-centric Paris, but it was incredibly charming. We were so glad we decided to make the trek out there. (HERE is more info on how to find the vineyard.)
Dinner that night was at Au Pied du Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, where we started with French Onion Soup, or as I am guessing they call it, Onion Soup. I ordered a steak with blue cheese (which the waitress said was a “very French way” to eat it) and Kerry got a three fish tagine, which was some sort of three fish stew. She said she wanted to “just go for it” and try something different, and I’m glad she did. The food was amazing.
We followed up dinner by going to a tiki bar we were told about in the Pigalle area near the Moulin Rouge called Dirty Dick. Yes, that’s the real name. Yes, it’s hard to google. Yes, it used to be a brothel. Now it’s a super cool, dark and cozy tiki bar where lots of young, fashionable Parisians hang out. It was so fun and the drinks were very good, all made with care and no sticky, pre-made syrups (I’d compare it to Velvet Tango Room in Cleveland). It was a great end to a wonderful time in Paris.
Kerry and I are already planning our next trip to Paris. Our goal would be to see less of the tourist stuff. While that stuff is amazing, and an absolute necessity to see your first time, the real beauty of Paris is just sitting back and becoming part of the life there. That’s when we had our best times.
Keep checking back to see what we loved about our final stop, Lisbon!