This spring, Dan and I realized this summer would be the perfect time to take our dream trip to France. The history (for Dan), the food (for me), and the wine (for both of us) made this a perfect summer destination.
Paris is fast-paced, even in August when many residents are on holiday. This was the opposite of our trip last year to Maine, but this trip was exactly what we needed.
My great-grandmother lived in Paris, and I have distant relatives there who we have stayed in touch with. Camille is about my age and would to visit for a few weeks during the summer when we were teenagers. We would travel to New York, Philadelphia, and the shore. We would spend days at the pool and come home and eat giant ice cream sundaes. I would teach her English while she would teach me French – fast forward 14+ years and she is fluent in English and my French just barely got us by. I first went to Paris when I was just barely 14, to visit Camille and her family. It was my first time on a plane and a truly incredible trip, but as a 14-year old, I didn’t comprehend the magnitude of the city the way I do now.
Thursday, August 23 – Arrival
We landed at 9:30 am after an easy flight and were excited to get started with our trip.
Camille’s parents were on holiday and graciously offered their flat in Neuilly-sur-Seine, a beautiful suburb just outside the Paris city limits. We were a 15-minute walk from 2 metro stops, which meant the metro was our best friend during our trip.
Just 30 minutes after we got to the flat we were whisked away by Alex, a cousin-of-sorts, who drove us down the Champs-Élysées for sightseeing and steak-frites at L’Entrecôte de Paris. What a way to start the trip! We were welcomed to Paris with lunch of perfectly cooked steak and a few glasses of Bordeaux.
We went back to the flat to settle in and rest for a moment before exploring Neuilly. Of course, that included a stop for croissants and coffee and tea to help keep us up and adjust to the time difference.
Later that evening, Camille stopped by the flat to show us around and give us recommendations on things to do during our stay. She made us Aperol spritzes and a great spread with Comte, foie gras, baguette, and tomatoes with salt.
Friday, August 24 – Versailles
One of the top places for Dan to see this trip was Versailles. As a history teacher for 8 years teaching AP European history, he was simply amazed by the grandeur and extravagance of the entire property.
We stopped for a quick breakfast on the way to the metro at Boulangerie du Parc in Neuilly, which included my favorite croissant of the entire trip! It’s about an hour from Paris to Versailles including the walk from the train station, and with the size of the property, Versailles is a trip that requires a full day. We walked nearly 30,000 steps and 12 miles!
For lunch, we stopped at a small cafe in the gardens where we got ham sandwiches served on sliced baguettes.
On our walk back to the train, we found Le Fromagerie Royale where I bought some Saint Félicien, a soft cow’s milk cheese that I have already started searching for here in the US because it was simply incredible. Because of the amount of walking, we were exhausted and couldn’t fathom a long dinner out so we stopped at the Franprix mini-market for quick dinner supplies to make at the flat.
Saturday, August 25 – Central Paris
The time-change and massive amount of walking caught up to us and we decided to sleep in on Saturday. Our relaxing morning continued at le Crépuscule, where we had GIANT crepes for an amazing brunch for just €10.95! For our first course of savory buckwheat crepes, I chose roasted tomatoes, bacon, and goats cheese and Dan picked ham, potatoes, and eggs. For our dessert course (this is a vacation, after all) I picked lemon-sugar and Dan picked chocolate.
Then we met up with our Fat Tire Tours group for a French Revolution walking tour. This was a great introduction to the history of the city and led us through some of the major sites including, les Invalides, the Place de le Concorde (where the guillotine was 😳), the Assemblée Nationale, Conciergerie, and the Reign of Terror. We also walked through the Tuileries gardens, the Louvre, and the Ile de la Cite including Notre Dame.
The tour ended on the Ile de la Cite, which made it the perfect time to see Sainte Chapelle. This was one major site I remembered from my previous trip, how stunning this church is. An absolute must-see for any trip to Paris. I think Dan’s jaw hit the floor when we walked up to the second floor and saw this view:
After all that walking, we were ready for some relaxation. We walked through the Latin Quarter and stumbled on this charming, quiet street called rue Galande. Cafe le Dante was on the corner and we decided to sit down “en terrace” and order a mixte plate (cheese and meats) and a bottle of wine. The baguette kept coming as we spent over 2 hours watching life go by with this wonderful view. A perfect ending to our very Parisien day.
Sunday, August 26 – le Tour Eiffel
Our mission for Sunday was to visit the Neuilly market for a real look into the life of locals. We spent the morning wandering through all the vendors to pick out supplies for a picnic at the Eiffel Tower, we got grapes and cheese at the market, wine at a small wine shop, and picked up a baguette (and more pastries) at Boulangerie du Parc on our way to the metro.
After making our way to the Camps du Mars, we found a nice grassy spot for our picnic and sat for as long as it took to finish our bottle of wine.
Later that night, we met Camille and her boyfriend for drinks at le Klay, then we wandered through the 2nd and had more cheese and wine at Café du Centre. Dan and I went out for incredible ceviche at la Cevicheria and wrapped up our night with gelato at GROM Montorguiel (which I have actually dreamed about since).
Monday, August 27 – Marais
Many people told us to visit the Marais district for true Parisian shopping. Dan bought a new wallet and I bought a fun skirt. Dan even found a Starbucks and was able to get the drip coffee he had been missing. Naturally, the afternoon included another stop for croissants.
We took a brief break at the Place des Vosges before an early dinner of crepes at Crêperie Elo Bastille.
We then went on the Fat Tire Night Bike Tour, which was a great way to wrap up our busy few days in Paris. In this almost 6 hour tour, we saw the sights lit up at night, stopped for ice cream, and it included an hour-long boat tour down the Seine. My only recommendation is to bring a jacket – it got very chilly!
We spent Tuesday to Friday in Normandy, read all about that here.
Friday, August 28 – Montmartre
We arrived from Normandy and took a quick metro ride to our hotel, Hôtel Le Chat Noir. The hotel was super nice, with a fun black cat theme all over the hotel. It’s on Boulevard de Clichy, which I don’t recommend for young children, there’s a lot of inappropriate shops and things, and we were about a block from Moulin Rouge.
After turning off the main street, there are lots of small streets with fun shops and restaurants. We walked up the steep hill to see Sacre Coeur and had an amazing brunch at The Hardware Société. I had burrata on their housemade bread with swiss chard, tomato tartare, 64-degree eggs, and fried capers.
We wrapped up our trip with what might be the best meal we’ve ever had at Seb’on (say it out loud, sounds like C’est Bon, which means it’s good.) It’s a tiny 22-seat restaurant with just one waiter and one chef. From my seat, I could see the chef’s every move. The food is modern French, with sophisticated plating and creative combinations. The style was perfect for us, all white walls with wood and black detail.
We shared the beef ravioli appetizer which included homemade melt-in-your-mouth ravioli topped with foam. Dan had veal with risotto and mushrooms, and I had squid ink gnocchi with fish and pesto. We were both amazed at everything we saw coming out of the kitchen.
We wrapped up the night with gelato and celebrated our wonderful trip.