Our Paris Trip

Bonjour! Last week I wrote about the first half of an amazing trip we took two years ago this month to London and Paris. Read all about our time in London here. To recap we booked our trip through Costcotravel.com. The package we chose currently costs just over $5,000.

Our package included:

  • Flight from SFO to Heathrow Airport (LHR)
  • Transportation from Heathrow to The Milestone Hotel
  • Accommodations at The Milestone Hotel (daily English breakfast, champagne afternoon tea, three-course dinner for 2 and private appointment with the hotel concierge are included)
  • $400 tour credit with Golden Tours (we used our credit for the following attractions: Hop-on, Hop-off Bus Tour, River Thames boat tour, Tower of London tickets with Beefeater tour, Westminster Abbey tickets, Kensington Palace tickets)
  • Transportation from London to Paris on the Eurostar
  • Accommodations at The Westin Paris-Vendôme (daily buffet breakfast included)
  • Transportation from The Westin Paris -Vendôme to Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport
  • Flight from Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to SFO

This book was an extremely helpful in both planning our trip and guiding us once we arrived. We also dowloaded Rick Steves Audio Europe app to our phones. It includes walking tours of museums and neighborhoods as well as interviews with local guides that offer tips on how to eat, shop and even walk like a Parisian.

 

Paris Guide Book
Rick Steves Paris 2019

We also found the iTranslate Translator app and the My Currency Converter & Rates app to be very useful tools to have on our phone during our trip.

Day 1 Paris

  • Arrive in Paris (Gare du Nord)
  • Check in at The Westin Paris – Vendôme
  • Dinner at Flottes

Our trip on the Eurostar took longer than expected from London to Paris due to some unexpected problems. We actually sat on the tracks in the middle of the French countryside at one point for over an hour. The Eurostar staff tried to make up for the delay by passing out bottles of wine for the passengers to enjoy while we passed the time. Once we arrived in Paris we caught a taxi to our hotel. Luckily, Rick Steves had warned in his guide book about only using the taxi queue when looking for transportation at the train station. There are drivers everywhere trying to solicit passengers, but we learned the they are often up to no good and heard stories later from friends who had been taken advantage because they had not been aware of the danger. We arrived at The Westin Paris-Vendôme just in time to witness a picture perfect sunset from our hotel balcony. It was surreal to look out our window and see the Eiffel Tower to one side and the Louvre on the other. I can’t imagine a better view to fall asleep and wake up to each day. We didn’t have plans for dinner that night, so we asked the concierge for a recommendations. He suggested we eat at Flottes right around the corner. We enjoyed our meal, but we could tell that it was a spot that catered more to tourists.

Day 2 Paris

The Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour had been been such a wonderful way to get to know London, that we decided to explore Paris the same way. We walked to the nearest TI first thing in the morning to purchase our bus ticket and museum pass for the week. We rode the bus until we reached the Moulin Rouge where we decided to hop-off. Using Rick Steves walking guide, we spent the morning wandering around Montmartre with a baguette experiencing Parisian life and waling in the footsteps of some of the world’s greatest artists. We ended our morning at Sacre-Coeur Basilica where we were treated to an amazing view of the city.

Travel Tip: Beware of the people selling trinkets on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur. Scammers will try to attach a bracelet to your wrist then demand payment. This is also a popular area for pickpockets. 

We hopped back on the bus to finish exploring the right bank and get our first taste of the left bank before our evening tour of the Eiffel Tower. We had a 5 o’clock reservation at the Eiffel Tower which allowed us to bypass the initial entry line, but we still had quite a wait for the elevator to the top. We enjoyed the view and took the obligatory photos on the observation deck before heading back down and walking to dinner at La Fontaine de Mars. The restaurant had come highly recommended and we both thoroughly enjoyed our dinner there.

 Day 3 Paris

We spent the majority of day 3 on foot. First thing in the morning we set off to visit Notre Dame Cathedral. The line to walk up to the towers at Notre Dame was probably the longest we experienced, but the view once we reached the top was worth the wait. Next, we took a short stroll over to the Deportation Memorial that is dedicated to the 200,000 French citizens who died in concentration camps during World War II. Sainte-Chapelle was our next stop of the day. The outside does not prepare you for the beauty that you will encounter once you enter the chapel. We stopped at a cafe on the Il St Luis for lunch. After enjoying delicious frites at La Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Luis  we walked to the Musee d’Orsay. On the way we paused briefly at Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris and the Pont des Arts. The Pont des Arts was made famous by padlocks that couples would attach to the bridge to “lock” their love forever. Over time the locks started to compromise the structure of the bridge, the practice has now been banned and many of the locks removed. The Musee’ d’Orsay ended up being my favorite museum of the trip. Unfortunately, we only had a couple hours to explore before the museum closed for the day. I have always been a fan of impressionism and having the opportunity to view pieces by Monet, Van Gogh and Degas up close was mesmerizing. We walked back towards our hotel through the Tulleries Garden. It is a whimsical park perfect for children with its trampolines and carousel. We were there right before fashion week and enjoyed watching them set up tents and runways in the park. We ended the day with a little souvenir shopping at the Galleries Lafayette and dinner at Cafe de la Paix.

Shopping Tip: Do you have your eye on a designer bag as a souvenir? I was able to save several hundred dollars by purchasing a Luis Vuitton purse during our visit to the Galleries Lafayette in Paris instead of at home in the states. I went online before our trip to decide which style purse I liked best and wrote down the USD price. Once we were in Paris I compared the two prices. Luckily the exchange rate worked in my favor and the purse was a couple hundred dollars less expensive. I also applied for a VAT refund at the airport when we were leaving to reduce the price of my bag even further. The VAT tax can really add up on big ticket items. The VAT Tax in France is 19.6% and purchases of over 175€ are eligible for reimbursement of the tax. When all was said and done I saved myself around $400 by purchasing my bag abroad.

Day 4 Paris

We started off our last full day with a stroll down the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triumphe. After walking to the top of the Arc de Triumphe and taking in the view we did a little window shopping along the Champs Elysee and stopped for a light lunch at Fouquet’s. Fouquet’s is known for hosting the traditional gala dinner for the César Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars. It was the perfect location to enjoy a leisurely meal while observing both the other diners and people walking past. We spent the rest of the day touring the Louvre using one of the Rick Steves audio tours we had downloaded to our phones.  We chose to end our trip with a special dinner at Spring. The restaurant had come highly recommended and was a culinary adventure we will never forget. Instead of ordering from a menu, diners are served a unique multi-course dinner that the chef has created for that evening. Our dinner included mackerel, oysters served two ways, seared tuna, duck, pigeon, chanterelles, fois gras, cantaloupe sorbet, chocolate mousse, figs and plums. I tried many things that night that I had never experienced before and although I did not love everything that I tried it has changed how I approach eating at a restaurant and I am much more adventurous when I order. Unfortunately, Spring recently closed after being in business for a decade. Spring’s acclaimed chef, Daniel Rose, and his team also have restaurants Chez La Vieille, La Bourse & La Vie in Paris and Le Coucou in New York.

Day 5 Paris

We woke up shortly before 6 am (Paris time) and arrived at SFO around 1:00 pm (PST). I avoided napping during the flight and once we were at home. I went to bed at 8 pm that night after being awake close to 23 hours. I found that by forcing myself to stay awake for such an extended period of time I was able to get a full night’s sleep our first night back home and avoid feeling jet lagged during the days following our return.

Pplaces to see in Paris
Paris Point Zero

We were told that if you touch Paris Point Zero you will one day return to Paris. Au devoir pour le moment…

Our trip to London and Paris was one I had dreamed of taking for many years. It was such an enjoyable experience that I can’t decide if I would rather return to explore these cities more in depth or experience someplace completely new. Do you have a favorite travel destination I should keep in mind for our next trip? If you find yourself planning a trip to either of these countries and have further questions, please feel free to email me or post a comment. Wishing you safe and happy travels my friends!

 

 

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