Many photos incoming, Yelp reviews for the below spots to come soon.
Sunday morning, we woke up super duper early because we had a photo shoot scheduled at 8AM! While we ultimately wound up staying in a hotel, we did a lot of AirBnB browsing before coming to Paris and discovered that AirBnB offers “Experiences”. These range from tastings to bike tours to yoga on the beach, and one that caught our eye in Paris was a photo shoot. We had a great time with Alex, who took photos of us at the Louvre and the Palais Royale, which were both startlingly calm and empty in the wee hours of the morning before the museums opened up. We noticed during the evenings that Paris gets quiet very quickly at night and we learned that it stays quiet for longer than we would’ve expected.
And that was just our first Paris engagement shoot!
After shivering through the photo shoot, as people swarmed on these picturesque spots (we saw another woman in a wedding dress being photographed), we strolled through the Jardins des Tuileries before stopping by Angelina (review soon) for breakfast and their famous hot chocolate!
Breakfast really hit the spot and we were very hesitant to leave the toasty tea room but we wanted to do some more strolling though the expansive Tuileries before… going straight to lunch. (Spoiler, we were not nearly hungry enough for more food at this point.) Since we weren’t able to visit while we were in New York, we hit up the Ippudo Paris location and had a really lovely bowl of ramen. It reminded us why Ippudo was such an enchanting first-ever ramen experience that maybe remains our favorite. Also, it was fun to hear people switch between French and Japanese, and Ippudo was one of the few places where we heard Japanese being spoken (by both staff and diners) versus English and French.
Completely and totally full at this point, we started walking our food off and decided to take our Paris Pass day to the hop-on/hop-off bus tour. For readers who remember my first Europe posts (I realize that I have now been back to Paris before finishing the recaps with London and Paris… but they’ll be out!), I am a huge fan and proponent of doing hop-on/hop-off as a first day/only day in a city way to explore. (I also like calling it a ho/ho bus but I don’t know if that’s catching on…) (I’m going to be calling it that in this blog post though.)
Ben was at first fairly lukewarm about the ho/ho bus idea but glad to have a place to sit and rest. He didn’t realize that the buses all come with a little audio tour, so we’re still engaging with the city as we ride around! We had been doing some fairly intense walking the past 3 days in Paris, so being able to just sit on our butts while still exploring the city was blissful. Having the little audio tour made that rest all the better because there is just so much to learn about this city. And one of my favorite things about ho/ho specifically is that you can get off, explore on foot, and get back on. Usually, I like to start my trips with ho/ho but ending with the bus tour was exactly what we needed.
We rushed to get back on the last ho-ho bus and high-tailed it to Sainte-Chapelle to see the famous stained-glass windows and squeeze more value out of our Paris Pass.
Sainte-Chapelle tip: It is recommended to visit early in the morning for a quieter experience with morning light or at sunset to see the light come through the rose window. However, on overcast days, like the day we visited, the light comes through the windows more evenly so don’t despair!
From Sainte-Chapelle, we walked next door to the Conciergerie, which was originally part of a royal palace but is now famous for its role in the Reign of Terror, during which time it served as the main prison for those suspected of being enemies of the republic.
Reign of Terror fact: During the 10 months that the Reign of Terror lasted, 2700 people were sent to prison in the Conciergerie, with most of them going to the guillotine. 1 in 5 people in Paris could find themselves going about their days, being charged and imprisoned in terrible conditions, and then being executed the very next morning.
As we arrived near closing, I was really speed-reading the informational placards. (I always read every placard in every museum/gallery/aquarium/zoo I’m in.) (Or in this case, I try to.) This was a particular challenge because the sheer quantity of historical content for me to consume was enormous but also because half of the placards were written only in French and I read a lot slower in French than I do in English! (I also had to slow down a bit to make sure I could then give Ben a briefing of what I learned as he enjoyed things like videos and interactive exhibits.) It was pretty sobering walking through and seeing prison cells and artifacts from before Marie-Antoinette was executed.
From the Conciergerie, we hustled over to Notre-Dame even though the cathedral was closed, just to see it again, before hopping back on the very last ho/ho (close call!).
Although it had been raining while we attempted to endure the open-top seats, the weather had cleared and we were enjoying just really beautiful scenes in Paris, where the trees leaned down to kiss our heads (and drop big spiky things, what were those?!) and a cool breeze blew through the open air markets and cobblestone streets. God, Paris is so beautiful. And before we knew it, we arrived near the last Paris Pass thing we wanted to do: the Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise.
I really do have to recommend this river cruise, because you can see so many of Paris’s most famous and most iconic sights from the Seine. We loved going at night because the sun was setting and the monuments were all illuminated. It was pretty freaking dreamy, let me tell you.
While the sun was barely setting when we set out on our river cruise, it was completely pitch black when the boat docked and we were super cold and super starving. With a quick internet search, we quickly became really interested in eating Moroccan food so we found ourselves at Essouira, which is about 2 blocks from Trocadero but was on a super quiet street.
The interior of the restaurant was incredible. We felt totally transported, especially when we considered that a few blocks away we were pushing through crowds and vendors trying to sell us things, thanks to the lush decor, the soft music playing, and the warm emanating from the smells, the music, the textures, the foods, and the people.
Except for the people sitting next to us. I have never felt my heart break so much for strangers I was so close to before. I don’t want to overtake this travel recap with this anecdote, but we were sitting next to a Chinese-American girl who was about our age and her mother. The mom would enthusiastically ask about certain sights and the daughter would just shoot her down repeatedly, venom with every single word she spat out. Even then, the mom kept trying to connect and get her daughter excited about something but the daughter was SO MEAN. And it was painful for us to hear because we could understand both the English and Chinese frigidness and pain, and for me it was extra painful because I know that sometimes I lose my patience with my parents and don’t sound too different from that girl. I really wish I had done something to comfort that mother, somehow, but it just wasn’t my place.
That experience aside, we had a really lovely meal and felt so warmed through that we went back out to Trocadero to take in some more Eiffel Tower sights. Trocadero is one of the best spots to get photos of the Eiffel Tower, so coming really early in the morning or really late at night will get you some amazing shots without too many people in the shot. There is a lot of room, though, so you may still luck out.
With that, our day ended and we headed back to the hotel, feeling so satisfied with how much we maximized that last day of Paris Pass value! Without having to run around too much to do it!
Do you get a thrill out of maximizing value like we did? The value of maximizing value is up there with the actual value of sightseeing we got out of this, no joke. It was so much fun and we felt really proud of ourselves, if a little exhausted at the end.
What are your favorite ways to cover a lot of ground when you’re sightseeing? I love love hop-on/hop-off, and I also really liked the river tour. I also got a kick out of hop-on/hop-off boat tours in the canals in Copenhagen. (That blog post will eventually come up!)
Have you ever intervened when you saw strangers in an awkward situation? Nothing really bad was happening but I felt like I wanted to do… something. It was just so not my place that I didn’t know how to do something, but I literally cried in the restaurant for a while after that mother-daughter duo left because I felt so sad for the mom and so sorry I couldn’t do anything for her and so sorry that I couldn’t make the daughter see how terrible she was being.
Anyway, the Paris recaps are coming to a close very soon! I am actually heading to New Orleans for RubyConf today and am so excited because New Orleans has been at the top of my list of American cities to visit for the first time for quite some time now! I will try not to drop the ball with the Paris recap update schedule.