Previously on Paris 2017, we did as many things as we could with our last day on the Paris Pass, including hop-on/hop-off, two side-by-side sights, and a river cruise… all after a photoshoot at 8AM in front of startingly empty landmarks.
Better photo captions and Yelp reviews for the below spots to come soon
Monday morning, Ben and I got most of our things ready to check out of the hotel and then headed off to the Bir-Hakeim bridge (made famous by movies like Inception) for our official engagement shoot with Sasha Lannier. Sasha was so fantastic to work with because she truly had our best interests at heart. She told us to bring our valuables in as small a bag as possible because pickpockets are brutal and she just puts valuables in her backpack that doesn’t leave her back during the shoot. She is very candid about what will look best for you, so if you don’t know how you look best, this could be a little bit blunt. For example, I know I have a good side (which is why in most photos of me with Ben, I stand on the same side), and Sasha agreed. Ben was very confused and she reassured him that he is a lucky one with a symmetrical face. (That man should be a model, I’m telling you…)
She was also hilarious and told us about what the photography industry is like right now in Paris. Photographers love relocating to Paris because there is no shortage of clients. A lot of foreign couples, like us!, have been coming for engagement, wedding, and anniversary shoots, as evidenced by the plethora of women we saw wearing bridal gowns with a photographer trailing behind them. And there are so many shoots happening now that landmarks are getting overcrowded to the point where people want to do something to somehow keep your photos of the Eiffel Tower from being of the Eiffel Tower and 10 women in wedding dresses with 20 photographers behind you yelling in French, Korean, Russian, English, Arabic, and Chinese.
After the shoot, we checked out of our hotel and stowed our bags with the front desk before walking out to enjoy our last day in Paris. First stop: FOOD. We walked to Banh Mi, a Vietnamese sandwich shop that was highly recommended to me by my friend Margaret. The lady who runs the shop is so jovial and the sandwich was freaking delicious, I really regret forcing us to share one.
Mouth aflame from the “mild” spiciness (… how spicy is regular spicy…???), we got up from the park bench we enjoyed our little bite at to grab some Amorino Gelato. I first had Amorino 4 years ago in Paris and I just love the little roses they do with the gelato, plus the delicious natural flavors they offer. There is an Amorino near Broadway in New York but somehow, we never make it.
Cooled off by the gelato, we enjoyed a really leisurely walk because it wasn’t raining (yet) and walked a long way to L’Avant Comptoir, which is famous for their tapas and for being standing-room only. (There are literally no chairs in this tiny shop.) However, the menu is presented via each item hanging from a string on the ceiling, with no English translations, and Ben really should’ve been given his own banh mi instead of being forced to share with me (sorry!) so he was really hungry and my neck started hurting trying to translate menu items for him. We wound up leaving and finding a Breizh Café location about a block away, where we had yet more delicious galettes in a much more spacious location.
Bellies appeased for a bit, I put my foot down and decided we were going to do the French skincare thing. We walked over to CityPharma, which has become internationally famous for their discounted French skincare products that are priced way higher abroad. I was expecting it it to be a madhouse with tourists clamoring over each other grabbing at shelves and staff members shouting answers to their questions above the din. But I was really shocked to see that it was really orderly and quiet inside CityPharma. These French pharmacists managed to keep a sense of calm despite the number of eager tourists filling up their baskets with creams and sprays. I panicked a bit at how much of a price difference there was and filled my basket way more than I walked in planning to do, thinking Ben would roll his eyes at my skincare impulse buys. He was actually enabling me, exclaiming at the discount and encouraging me to throw more bottles into my basket. I walked in wondering how many little items I’d have to try adding to qualify for the VAT refund and walked out easily doing so.
Shopping tip: VAT changes from time to time, but essentially, if you spend a certain amount in one visit, you can apply to get the tax refunded to you. This can be really crucial if you are buying French luxury goods (think designer handbags, etc.) because the luxury tax is really high and the price only beats domestic prices when you get that refund.
At CityPharma, I was able to get my refund back on my credit card, minus a small processing fee. Most people opt to get their refund at the airport for the full amount. You will need to get your paperwork while you are paying for your goods and get to the airport early as there is frequently a line for VAT refunds.
With two plastic bags full of products, we took the metro over to visit the Sacré-Coeur. Let me tell you right now that this journey involves a lot of stairs. Even getting off the metro, there was a sign indicating that we were in for a 200-step journey out of the metro station. 200 steps! And then, of course, there is the uphill journey through the winding alleys of Montmartre to get to the base of the hill that the basilica sits on.
Then… so many more stairs. (270 of them.)
There were many signs clearly stating no photos, but people were taking pictures in front of those signs, in front of security… clearly that rule didn’t apply anymore but I didn’t feel comfortable breaking rules in a scared place so I abstained and tried my hand at some prayer.
Entry to the basilica is free but tickets to climb up more stairs to the top of the dome are €6 for adults. (The crypt was closed when we visited.) So… 300 more steps.
But those views… wow. This was the best weather we had in Paris yet and it was absolutely stunning.
By the time we descended, it was growing pretty dark and we were really hungry again. (It didn’t seem like we ate too little but when we got hungry, we got STARVING.) We walked down the alleys of Montmartre towards the Moulin Rouge and stopped by the Café Deux Moulins because I had a hankering for buttery escargots again.
It wasn’t until I had walked in and noticed how familiar things looked and how excited people were to take photos with a movie poster that I realized this restaurant is the café from the movie Amélie!
The café was so toasty and warm and we were so full and content with our last meal in Paris. It was hard to get up and leave to go check out Moulin Rouge, just for a look, before it was time to head to Disneyland Paris! Family-friendly fun sounded really good after walking past the Moulin Rouge and seeing a bunch of strip clubs and adult stores. (It was a high density area of adult entertainment on this block here.)
We took the RER to Disneyland, and that was a bit nerve-wracking because it was so late and we didn’t want to accidentally get on the wrong train at 11pm. But eventually, after rolling our suitcases a few blocks, riding the subway one last time, and anxious waiting at the train station for a long while, we arrived at our destination.
(It still took us quite a while to find our way to the hotel because the signs were arrows that pointed to general areas and not specific paths but we made it eventually!)
Next up, Disneyland Paris!
What are some sights we missed that you would recommend? I had a lot of people recommend the catacombs, which I had not considered before but it was really highly recommended! There were also a lot of sights we passed but didn’t go into. Also, we stayed in the same general areas but didn’t even get to go out to the financial district or the Quartier Latin!
What are French foods we missed that you would recommend? I posted almost all of the food we tried, and we will get to try just a bit more in Disneyland Paris, but what are some food items we have to try next time?
What are places you want to see when you [next] visit Paris??