Courtney and I always wanted to visit Paris, but it wasn't at the top of our list for our next destination. Last December we came across an amazing deal that Delta/Air France had going on for spring travel to Paris. We knew we had to purchase the flights or risk losing out, so we pulled the trigger without hesitation. We were so happy we did because the trip was amazing. Everything from the food and culture to the architecture was superb. We spent a week in Paris, which means we only experienced a small fraction of what the city has to offer, but we still saw and experienced plenty. The week went by so fast, but it was such a memorable trip for the both of us. I ended up taking a lot more pictures than I thought I did (which is a good thing), so I'll divide the week into two halves. More on our time in Paris after the jump.
We arrived in Paris early Thursday morning and got a taxi to take us directly to Hotel Providence. We couldn't have been happier with our accommodations. Our room had a great balcony view of the neighborhood. To the right is a shot from inside our room looking onto our balcony. The hotel had some excellent amenities including a delicious breakfast which was included in the daily rate. Thanks to the included breakfast I ate more than my fair share of croissants (chocolate and butter). After getting settled in, we decided to do a little exploring. First on our list was to knock off some of the essential tour stops that first day. Luckily, we were located just a short walk to a metro stop from our hotel. Side note, we had heard that the metro system in Paris was a little difficult to navigate, but we had no issues figuring it out. Anyway, we got on the metro and headed for Avenue des Champs-Élysées. We strolled along for a while until we reached the Arc de Triomphe. I had already made my mind up that I wanted to climb atop to see the view. We paid the 8 euros each to gain entry into the arc and made our way to the top. I'm glad we did, because it provided great views of the city, especially at sun-down. After we hung around the arc for a while we decided to hit up two pastry places (because you can never have enough pastries). First we got some macaroons from Ladurée, which is an essential stop anytime we are in New York, so making a stop at the bakery's hometown was a no brainer for us. After that we hit up Mon Éclair, which specializes in gluten-free éclairs. I will say that this was definitely one of my favorite stops even though it was gluten free. After having our dessert first we decided it might be a good idea to get some actual food. Courtney found an amazing Thai restaurant called Kapunka that was only a ten minute walk from the hotel. The space was pretty small, only a few tables inside the restaurant, which meant we had to wait a little while, but it was worth it. Courtney had her usual green curry and I chose the prawn and chicken pad-Thai.
The following day we decided that we wanted to try some crepes, so we headed over to Breizh Café, which offers an amazing selection of sweet and savory crepes. We didn't know that the inside café was reservation only, so we had to wait a few minutes for a table outside, which was actually preferable for us. The weather was excellent that day and it wouldn't have been a trip to Paris without eating a meal outside. We loved this place so much that we came back a second time a few days later for lunch. The second time we were able to sit in the grocery store section, which is a lot smaller space than the actual café, but also more quiet. In addition to allowing visitors to be served, the grocery offers a great selection of craft products. We picked up a few souvenirs from the grocery including some fresh jam and cookies. After our brunch we decided to explore the neighborhood around the café some more. One thing that Courtney and I like to do when we visit a city is to just walk the neighborhoods. Of course we like to see some of the must see sights of a city, especially if it's our first time, but we really like exploring the parts of a city that aren't overcrowded with tourists. I'll get more into that on the second entry on our visit to Paris. After exploring the neighborhood for a while we decided to make our way to the 4th over to Centre Pompidou. Centre Pompidou serves as an amazing modern art museum, in fact, the structure itself is a sight to see. The support structure of the building has been exposed on the outside and the escalator tubes that take visitors up to the four levels of the centre are all visible from the outside, rather than being enclosed. After wondering the galleries at Pompidou we headed back to our hotel for a brief recharge. We then headed out for dinner at Terrass, which sits atop of the Terrass Hotel. I would highly recommend this place just for the view of the city at dusk. The food and atmosphere is great, but the view is spectacular.
The following day we thought we'd hit up some more of the tourist hot-spots. The day started with a trip out to Shakespeare and Company, which is of course right across from Notre Dame de Paris. We explored inside the bookstore for a while and then went next door to the café for some coffee and an early afternoon snack. We walked around the Notre Dame for a little while and then made our way over to Sainte-Chapelle, which was just a short walk from the Notre Dame. The chapel had an amazingly beautiful interior. The line to get into Sainte-Chapelle was not nearly as long as the line to get into the Notre Dame. The following day we decided to take a trip to the Louis Vuitton Foundation. This was another must see stop on our visit to Paris. The building was designed by one of my favorite architects, Frank Gehry. The building does not normally have the color panels that you see in the pictures below. The panels are actually part of a temporary installation by artist Daniel Buren entitled "Observatory of Light". The foundation also operates as a cultural and modern art museum. The one thing that I absolutely loved about this building was all the pictures you could get from almost any angle. From the exterior and interior, I found myself wanting to take pictures of all the angles. The foundation is located in Le Jardin d'Acclimatation. which includes a beautiful Japanese garden. There are also goats and peacocks there. A powerhouse combination for sure. But in all seriousness, the park is a beautiful one. It definitely is geared towards keeping a family entertained. If you're interested in only checking out the Louis Vuitton Foundation building itself you can enter the park and enjoy from there. There is a small fee to gain entry into the park though, but totally worth it. Since Courtney and I purchased entry to the foundation, we also gained access to the garden.
We closed out the evening with dinner at Le Calife. Dinner at Le Calife was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't 100% sure about dinner on a boat. I thought that it might be a little cheesy, but it was anything but. We arrived along the shores of the Seine across from the Musee de Louvre a few minutes before our boat was about to take off. We settled into the very charming restaurant and were immediately helped by a very friendly wait staff. You have the option of a three course or four course meal for the evening. We both opted for a three-course meal and ordered a bottle of wine and we were set. The boat then takes you along the Seine for about two and a half hours. Like I said before, this dinner was one of the highlights of our trip. The food was excellent and my company was even better. The highlight of the ride was the moment the boat came along the Eiffel Tower as soon as the shimmering lights came on. I would definitely recommend this to first time visitors to Paris. It was a great way to see the city at night and made for a very romantic evening.
There are is still a lot more to cover and I'll do just that in the next entry. Some thoughts on the city itself, first, we were pleasantly surprised at how helpful everyone we encounter was. Courtney and I know very little French, but we encountered no problems at all communicating with people. When there was a slight barrier in communication, the locals were still patient with us, which we appreciated very much. The city itself is extremely beautiful. The aesthetic of the buildings in most of the city is the same with the exception of a more modern downtown-business area. We also lucked out on the weather the entire time we were there. We were worried that the weather would be uncooperative, but the only cloudy day we had was the first day we arrived. Like I mentioned earlier, there is still a lot more to share from the trip and I should be posting the next entry soon. For now, check out some more of the photos from our first half of our trip to Paris.