We have gotten a lot of requests from friends regarding our itinerary and food selections from this short trip to Paris. We left on a red eye Tuesday night after work and came back Sunday night. Knowing we were only going to stay in Paris (as opposed to our previous European adventures) meant that our four full days were going to need some “light” planning to fit everything in but still stick to our travel goals of feeling like a local. We learned some basic french to help with our travels, and off we went!
*Of note, learning basic french will take you a long way with the locals- simple hello, goodbye, thank you, please, do you speak english?, will afford you all the kindness that Parisians have to offer- don’t be rude!
Paris has been on my list for awhile since we started down the path of appreciating good food and wine. Fortunately, with cheap flights, we were able to squeeze in a five day weekend to explore a new city. Packing in a carry on, wearing our heaviest clothes and winter jacket on the plane since it was the winter. I packed four long sleeve of three-quarter length sleeve tops along with a black blazer to wear with jeans and knee high black leather boots. I dressed up the outfits with jewelry when we went out to dinner at night and brought one wrap dress to wear with the boots and fleece lined leggings (which I also wore under jeans to stay warm!) for our tasting meal. Off we were set to go!
The red eye on Tuesday night was relatively painless. We used eye masks for the first time and we were able to get much better quality of sleep then on previous red eye flights- won’t leave home without them now. We landed at CDG airport around 1PM and make our way to the RER train to take us to the heart of the city. A huge airport- but we managed to get out of the airport and took the train arriving around 3PM at the Les Halles station. This particular station was a large port for many trains, and designer stores, so it was a gigantic station. We noticed multiple police “casually” checking bags given the recent events in the city- it was expected. Out of the train station, we had a few blocks to walk with our bags and arrived to our red door Airbnb in the Le Marais district ( the 3rd “arrondissement”). With minor difficulty figuring out how to open the multiple doors to get into the building, followed by 6 flights of stairs (95 stairs- I counted!), we made it to the apartment and met our host.
With the logistics out of the way, we decided to adventure out and true to our travel mantra, get ice cream. It was cold and wet outside (travel umbrellas were used a lot on this trip!) but that never stops us from our daily ice cream goals while on vacation. Berthillon was recommended by multiple people so we headed that direction, spotting our first glance at Notre Dame along the way. Once arrived, I got chocolate and Kevin got chocolate and pistachio flavors at the Berthillon window. The flavors were super rich and velvety like gelato but was a different texture- more thick and creamy. Worth the pricey splurge on vacation.
Our next item of the evening was a 5PM reservation on one of the Seine river cruises, we booked Bateaux Vedettes du Pont Neuf. While this activity checks our box of “too touristy”, given the short amount of time we were in Paris this gave us an overview of the sites and a good map of where things are in the city. Docked by the famous lock bridge, we sailed the Seine for an hour as the sun set over the city. Since the city is central to the river, this really gave us a great way to see glimpses of all the places we would discover over the next couple days, including getting our first view of the Eiffel tower- which is truly enormous.
The well rated and Anthony Bourdain approved. We walked in and noticed a few things immediately- the place was very small, perhaps 10 tables max, with two seatings a night, two servers, and two people in the kitchen. This formula continued with each restaurant we went to- small room, limited seating, small staff- no wonder in my searching most recommendations noted to make reservations- “highly encouraged” as with each meal we watched the tables quickly fill up and more people get turned away for not having reservations. Only one choice for dinner which was the chef’s tasting menu and we also opted to explore the somm’s recommendation with the wine pairings. Of note, this creative chef changes the menu on average every week and a half- crazy! Full review can be found HERE. We had a fantastic experience here from the food to the staff it was fun and delicious. While I came with the price tag of a fine dining meal, we felt it was worth the expense.
Breakfast: Du Pain et Des Ideas Boulangerie
Another approval by Anthony Bourdain. After a long walk from our Airbnb, we made it to the Boulangerie and it was gorgeous both visually (appointed with gold accents) and on our nose- amazing smells of butter and fresh baked bread goods. We got the pistachio and chocolate escargot (named for the snail shape of the pastry) and a chocolate croissant- both were deliciously flaky.
We then made our way to start our sightseeing. Notre Dame was first on the agenda and we were fortunate to meet no wait to get in. The inside was jaw dropping- simple structure with ornate stained glass windows. We actually got there a few minutes before the noon service which we sat through, listening the french priest sing the hymns.
Walking along the Seine, we passed the famous Shakespeare and Company and reluctant at first because we were wary of it being a tourist trap, it was empty in the store so we decided to swing inside. We were so happy we did and we could have spend hours in here.
Lunch: Le Comptoir
Without reservations, we were able to squeeze into a small table in the corner of Le Comptoir Bistro. What we loved about Paris restaurants is they make the most out of their real estate, including outside. Regardless of the weather, there are almost as many outdoor seats as indoor at some places, with an overhang to protect you from rain and heaters for when it is cool outside. Our first bistro meal included the croque monsieur (simple but delicious due to the freshness of the ingredients, not the mention the caliber of bread!) for me, and an artichoke dish with tomato sauce and ham for Kevin, along with house wine. We hadn’t had cheese yet so we decided on a cheese plate for dessert while we finished our wine.
Daily ice cream (since cheese really isn’t dessert for me…)- check! Then went back to take a nap since we had some jet lag and happy with our trip progress so far. We didn’t have set dinner plans but given what we have seen, we know that small places, limited tables and increase demand meant if we wanted to eat good we had to try and get somewhere when it opened to have the best chance of grabbing a table.
Dinner: Casse Noix
My brother had recommended Casse Noix on his recent trip to Paris so we made sure to arrive at 7PM when they opened for dinner. While we got disheartening looks as we responded “No, we don’t have reservations”, they were able to sit us in at small table as long as we ate quickly- deal! We immediately loved the pre-fix set up- 34 euro for an appetizer, a main dish, and dessert (up chargers applied for certain selections). And the food was incredible. We both got the poached egg over sautéed mushrooms and onions in a wine reduction as our appetizer. I had the chicken over creamed cheesy rice while Kevin got the partridge with a similar mushroom reduction as the appetizer. The dessert I got was homemade profiteroles with caramel ice cream over candied pears with a chocolate sauce and Kevin got homemade rice pudding with caramel drizzle. This entire meal was so delicious and a true representation of French cooking. And for the price- very affordable for such a meal. Highly recommend!
Since we were near by, we finally took the opportunity to go to the Eiffel Tower. We thought the “sparkle show” when the lights go off started at 10PM so we had over an hour until wait. We decided to go up in the tower, something we weren’t planning on doing. There was a short line and perhaps took about 20 minutes to get to the elevators up, during which the lights went off at 9PM (whoops!) and watched from under the tower all the lights sparkle. Once at the top, we viewed all the places we recognized along the river, admiring how far you could see and how lovely everything looked at night. We were so glad we got the chance to get to the top and see the city from above. Once back on the ground, we quickly made our way across the river for the perfect view of the Eiffel Tower for the 10PM sparkle show, frozen in time watching magic of the lights twinkle for us.
Breakfast: We had big plans this morning to get Coquelicot bakery for the 7AM opening time for some of their breakfast plates that looked amazing. We had a late night so it was a challenging morning to get up but what we will do for good food. Arriving just at 7AM, we excitedly entered the bakery noticing it was mostly unlit with their pastry section open only. They didn’t start their breakfast dished until 9AM. Grabbing a croissant and forgoing the dreams of a fuller breakfast, we went next door to Sacre Coeur that had been open since 6AM.
Before the sun came up, we made our way up the steps to the church, which was reminiscent of San Miniato in Florence. When we walked inside, it was complete silence and peace. Besides a few locals stopping in for their morning prays, we had the entire place to ourselves. We sat in the pews for a while, alternating eyes closed in a meditative state and gazing at the interior of the church, which we found quite unique from the European churches we have seen. When we walked out of the church around 8AM up on top of the hill, we could see the sun rising and waking up the city.
Lunch: Juveniles Wine Bar
We had reservations at the family run Juveniles Wine Bar at noon. The staff was so friendly and they even have a restaurant doggie (do NOT feed!). Place was completely full by 1PM for the regular lunch crowd. I started with a calamari butternut squash risotto, which I could have eaten the rest of the day, and Kevin got the black truffle cheese potatoes that was also very tasty. We both got wines by the glass to try some new grapes. We split the fish entrée that had an out of this world cauliflower puree and squid ink gnocchi. We each got (no sharing for dessert) the chocolate cake topper with a spoonful of chocolate mousse. This entire meal was so spectacular and we have recommended it to everyone asking for places to eat in Paris.
We then made our way over to the Louvre and saw all the hits there, spending about 3 hours roaming the enormous museum (making the Da Vinci Code movie an impossible feat! It took us so long to find a way out of the museum.)
Still full from lunch, we decided to check another destination off the list by getting macaroons and hot chocolate at Angelina. The line for a table was out the door so we went to the counter for take out and ate the treats in our room. While the macaroons were yummy, I do not understand the hype around macaroons- may I just needed some ice cream.
Torn between wanting to fit in another meal and exhausted by the day, exhaustion ultimately won as we waved the flag of defeat, missing out on another potential for an amazing meal for the need for sleep.
A lazy Saturday morning, we got up and made our way down to the famous store that Julia Child shopped at, E.Dehillerin. Much simpler then we expected (found Bourdain’s prized duck press), we found many practical items a chef would need in the kitchen, and most certainly nothing that would fit in our backpack or approved on an airplane.
Breakfast: Breizh Cafe
We did not have reservations at Breizh Cafe so made sure we were at the door at 11:30AM when it opened and we were once again very glad we did since they were turning people away as it got towards noon. We ordered simple crepes- thought I think in retrospect we definitely could have been more adventurous in our selection. We both got similar various of cheese, ham and eggs on buckwheat crepes in the style of crepes from Brittany. It was mentioned that when you get crepes it is traditional to get cider as well so we did just that- the whole meal was delicious.
Since we finished breakfast quicker than anticipated, we made our way to the Palais Garnier were the Phantom of the Opera is said to have been based. There was no line so we bought the self guided tour and roamed the ornate building. The pictures do not do it justice on how ornate everything is inside. The opera room itself it littered with gold sculptures, red velvet seats and , of course, the giant chandelier. The grand foyer was the biggest surprise as it was floor to ceiling gold and chandeliers and huge fire places. We were happy to be able to have snuck this in!
Our tickets for the Musee d’Orsey were quickly approaching so we made our way to see the Monet, Manet, and van Gough pictures that awaited us. The museum is a converted train station and we immediately loved the layout more than a traditional museum set up- it was open and natural light was allowed in. While I am not a fan of impressionism (gasp) Kevin loved this period so we spent a lot time “discussing” the impact of some of the pieces.
Museum’ed out, we headed for some wine and cheese at Bottles, a recommendation from our somm at Frenchie’s, since we had time to kill before our 9PM reservation at ASPIC.
Our final dinner in Paris and ending the way we started with a tasting menu. The place gave a similar vibe to Frenchie’s- 11 tables, 1 server, 1 cook, 1 sous chef, two seatings, distressed wood tables, casual fair as a fine dining establishment. We picked this place because it was #1 on Tripadvisor for all of Paris at the time, opened just under a year, and if I translated the website properly, it was going to be 49 euro a person for this tasting menu. The restaurant offers wine by the bottle but does not have a somm or wine pairing for the dishes, but I have a feeling that may be an expansion in the not to distant future as the place continues its high praise and popularity. We grabbed a bottle of Macon-Cruzille Chardonnay and were ready to start our tasting adventure. Full review can be found HERE. A genuine passion for providing an exceptional experience and product. We were able to sit and chat with him and the other servers about the start of the restaurant, the future of the restaurant and other random topics that flowed into our conversation. This was truly the best way to have ended our trip in Paris.
Our last lazy morning before our long journey back home.
We arrived for our reservations to Ellsworth for an American styled brunch menu. We were instructed the plates were sharing styled, recommending three plates for two people. That was happy news for us as it is allowed us to try more menu items! We got the ricotta doughnuts in a vanilla lemon curd (devoured in seconds), duck confit hash topped with sunny side up egg (who doesn’t love duck fat?), and their signature fried chicken with buttermilk dressing (deliciously friend!). With full bellies, we made the trip back to the airport.
One thing to mention as well is that the metro system in Paris is amazing. Occasionally using ride sharing, we primarily used the metro as it was affordable and could get you almost any area of the city you want. The metro in Paris is definitely one of the best public transportation systems we have seen in a major city.
Looking back, we were so impressed with what we were able to accomplish on this short trip! We got to explore a new city- both the famous attractions and the pulse of the city. It is a vibrant place that in constantly moving and we love that aspect about a new city.- particularly culture, food, and wine. While we pride ourselves on steering away from tourist destinations, these areas were all surprisingly fun. I am glad these icons are checked off the list so that on our return trip to Paris, it will be focused on the local side- bar scene (we did not get to explore), the thousands of food options, and all the chocolate stores!