My recap of our last weekend in Paris! Sorry, there’s no pictures in this post (my internet is too slow to load so many on this site), but if you check out my facebook album, you can follow along 🙂 Fair warning, it’s a long entry!
Flew through weights and practice- was up late packing and basically being super excited. We got in the car and got on our way as soon as we could. According to our GPS/google maps and our drive from the previous weekend, the drive was to take about 4 hours. Marti drove the first 2.5+ hours and we were making great time. So I was gonna take the last leg of the journey. But of course, I drove about 15 minutes flying on the highway and then reddddd lights everywhere. Oh ya, getting to Paris on a Friday evening around 7 pm is gonna be a slow process. It took probably another 2 hours to get through lots of stop and go stuff as well as driving right thru the heart of the city- crossed right over the River Seine. Glad I can check off ‘drive thru crazy Paris traffic’ from my bucket list. Good news is that since I made it through that I am officially declaring myself fluent in driving a manual. Bonus points!
We found our hostel, the Caulincourt, and checked in around 9:15. Changed clothes and made ourselves cute right quick then bolted for the metro to see the Eiffel Tower at night! It took us a bit to get our bearings with public transportation, but we made it! We snagged a little space and pillar in front of it all lit up and went photo crazy. Coop, having visited Paris before, knew on the hour the Tower sparkles for 5 minutes so we held our ground on that spot til BOOM Eiffel was all types of lit up and sparkly and gorgeous! So, more pictures naturally 🙂
After that, we needed to go grab a late dinner at whatever place ended up being close. I had a salad with chauvre chard- warm goat cheese on toast. I NEVER would’ve thought I would like goat cheese, but WOO. It is so delicious. France is doing crazy things to me! We also had a bottle of Bordeaux red wine and a banana split for Kristy’s BIRTHDAY! Celebrating 23 in Paris, ain’t too shabby. One of her friends from high school (playing professional basketball in Belgium) was actually visiting Paris for the weekend as well, so he met us at the restaurant and join us for the rest of the evening.
We were kind of clueless for our next move, but our waiter said we’d be bound to find something on the Champs d’elysees. So there we went. Passed a few places we were clearly underdressed for then found a fun little bar with music bumping and some party lights. We grabbed a beer and hung out for a little before calling it quits- it was late and we were planning for a busy Saturday.
Next step was locating the metro to take us back, but apparently the metro stops running after 2 am, even on a Friday in Paris? We got directions from a local about getting back with the buses, and then proceeded to hail a cab ASAP. 8 minutes and 10 euros later we dragged ourselves into the hostel and PASSED. OUT.
Even after our late-ish first night out, we had lots to fit in on Saturday so made sure we were our of our hostel with a light breakfast by 9, to meet Marti at the Arch de Triumph at 9:30. First off- BRRR! Paris was cold and wet and we were definitely under weather-prepared. But onto the Arch!
A big, beautiful structure that was originally erected by Napoleon to celebrate the soldiers in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Based on the other famous Arch in Rome (saw that one in march 🙂 link to that blog post here). You have to take a walkway under the road to get to it… Some other tourists must’ve missed that memo because they almost got tagged by a few cars when they made a run for it. The Arch is HUGE, ornate and really meaningful. There are names, inscriptions and designs all over it. Parts are celebrating war heroes, some generals, different historical highlights of France. But the next stop was up: climbing the 284 steps to get to the top of the Arch. Kristy and I just motored through it to knock it out: close your eyes and go, athlete mentality, haha. It really wasn’t too bad, and the view was worth it. Cloudy and chilly out it sill gave us an incredible sight. All 12 major roads of Paris lead to the Arch.
Back at the bottom of the Arch we took a few minutes to check the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the eternal flame. It’s a remembrance to all unknown fallen soldiers in World War I and II. Pretty neat to think that the flame has been lit since 1921.
We strolled down the Champs d’elysees and made a stop at, yup, STARBUCKS 🙂 I know I said in my post last week that I would be getting my iced chai latte WITH ice this time, but due to the weather I had to rock a hot chai latte anyways. AND, bonus points because they had pumpkin spice syrup available and added a couple pumps of that to make the ultimate fall latte. (Shout out to Mary McCormick who introduced me to that drink)
Since it then decided to really start raining on us we thought the Louvre would be our next logical step (read: Mona Lisa + indoor attraction). We still managed to brave the weather to photo shoot with the Pyramids from outside. I’ve heard that the Louvre is HUGE, but I still didn’t realize how GIGANTO it is. The good news is we knew that all we really wanted to do was see the Mona Lisa and whatever else that was on the way. (By the way, didn’t know that Mona has another name: she’s also known as La Jaconde in France/Europe)
It was pretty surreal seeing the Mona Lisa in person. Tons of people shuffling into get a picture and a closer look. I had to stop taking pictures and just look for a few minutes, that I was really seeing this famous painting with my own 2 eyes. Woah.
We skidaddled out of the Lourve pretty quickly after peeking our heads into a couple other galleries on the way out. With lots of rain coming down, we hightailed across the Seine to the first cafe we could find to regroup. We all had some soup and salads to refuel then it was onto find Quasimodo and the gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral!
I was singing to myself the whole way there, I love the music from that Disney movie, but once we finally caught a glimpse of the giant church it was unbelievable. The Cathedral which is known as one of the best examples of French Gothic Architecture did not disappoint. Its construction began in 1163 and was finished in 1345- imagining people building something of this magnitude that long ago is nutty. The entire facade is so intricate and ornate and BIG. Just a few minutes wait in line and I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped upon entering. The arching ceilings are so cool and the stained glass windows are so beautiful. I lit a candle for my family and said a little prayer before we left.
(Kristy and I wanted to climb the stairs to the top of Notre Dame, but we didn’t really have a lot of time to fit it in. Guess I’ll have to come back 😉 )
Surprise, surprise- all it took was a stop in the Notre Dame and a little faith for the SUN to finally come out! Seriously, blue skies all around once we exited the Cathedral. So what do we do? Jet back to the Eiffel Tower of course! It was really a race against time as there were some clouds looming in the horizon, but we made it JUST soon enough. A relatively quick wait for tickets and we were on our way up 🙂 We only went to the second story but still had a gorgeous view. The clouds were just starting to roll in but the sun was starting it’s descent, it made for some really cool views- minus how blisteringly cold it was up there. So glad we were able to squeeze that in though. (Guess I’ll have to come back to head to the tippy top of the Eiffel Tower too, darn it 😉 )
After that we needed a serious regroup. We took the subway and got back to our hostel around 8:00- LONG day of being on the go. Kristy, Coop, and I all clambored into our beds for a good 30 minutes before I decided we needed to go eat dinner and have a relaxing evening. The man at the front desk recommended we walk a couple blocks where we could find some nice-ish restaurants with yummy food. Boy was he right.
We stumbled on the cute area and poked our heads into a restaurant called La Basilic. It had the cutest, warmest ambiance inside and also had unbelievable food. We each ordered the menu (choice of appetizer, entree, dessert- a very typical process in France) and were fat and happy afterwards. I had vegetable soup, baked mashed potatoes with duck, and an upside down apple crisp. And we had some red wine, of course. It was a perfect way to spend our evening.
Afterwards, being re-energized, we wanted to walk the area just a little bit. There were lots of cute restaurants and cafes nearby. We also thought we were pretty smart and could figure out the way back to our hostel on our own. That didn’t happen. We got a little lost, then asked a couple passerby’s for some help. We ended up walking a few blocks with them towards a tram stop and into the Montmarte district where there were adorable little squares, studios, cafes, restaurants. It’s apparently known as an artists area, where many famous painters used to come and do their work. The people were SO nice though, chatting with us for a good 15 minutes about Paris, the area, food, wine and Nantes. The only thing they couldn’t really help us with was getting unlost. We walked a bit more and then asked some police officers for directions. That paired with my phone GPS that I switched onto roaming (thanks Dad!) did the trick. But ya know what, it felt pretty awesome getting lost in Paris after midnight.
Our last day (half day really) and we only had a few things we reallyyyy wanted to do. First up was to do some souvenir shopping. It’s fun buying little trinkets and postcards for people, and there was plenty of options in the Latin Quarter. But we went to that area because of the next stop on our list- mass at Notre Dame.
I noticed the day before that an International Mass was held at 11:30 on Sunday, so helloooo, how cool would that be! It ended up being really neat, and really frustrating though. There was only one reading in English, and the rest was all French, so it was pretty difficult to follow along and stay focused. Again, it was beautiful to see the Church in action, and hear the pipe organ fill up the church, but it was definitely challenging to stay connected.
Our next stop was Cafe Angelina. My brother’s girlfriend Mary McCormick recommended this place to us, and boy am I glad she did! It’s the CUTEST little Parisian cafe and patisserie (drinks and desserts, but it does also have brunch and some meals). Apparently some famous people used to frequent the cafe, Coco Chanel used to be a regular to sketch here. It was a 15 minute wait to snag a table but the wait was so worth it. Kristy and I got their signature hot chocolates. WOAH. It was so so good. It was like drinking chocolate. We also split the signature dessert, a Mont Blanc. It looked like a cupcake but had a thin meringue bottom, lots of chantilly (whipped cream) and then was topped with hazelnut icing or frosting or something. Different, but definitely delicious. Happy, happy campers 🙂 Thanks Mary!
We had one last stop to take care of before we had to get back on the road towards Nantes: GET CHIPOTLE 🙂 Even with all these new foods and drinks and things to try in France and Paris, there’s nothing like getting a little taste of home. There is one Chipotle in all of France and we knew way ahead of time that we were gonna get to it. We all got out burrito bowls and chips and guac, and could not contain our excitement. Still delicious, even in Paris. (side note, we all had to ask for extra scoops of beans and veggies because apparently their spoonfuls are quiiite the same as our American spoonfuls)
We headed back towards our hostel to pick up our bags and head on back to Nantes. It was a quick (actually a really quick ) trip to Paris, but it was so great. We hit pretty much all of the things we wanted to do