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xx, Mel

Paris Travel Guide

Paris Travel Guide

The city of lights. What can I say that hasn't already been said before? There's a reason people claim to have their hearts stolen by Paris. Even my mom, who would tell you she's definitely not a city girl, fell in love. 

It was my first time to France and even my first trip to Europe at all. My sweet mama who loves to travel gifted me with a girls trip. With just six days, we packed our schedule as full as we could! So many people gave me tips and lists and I looked up a lot of "must see" places - but in the end, we just explored and did what felt right for us and it was perfect. I'll share what we did, saw & ate below, but if you're planning a trip to this beautiful place my advice would simply be to trust your instinct - experience Paris in your own way.

BIKE TOUR
Two words: electric. bikes. We did this the very first full day we were there and loved it so much that we booked a second tour at night! Our guide Fabian was a hoot and a half, telling us French history in the most theatrical way possible as we scooted in and out of traffic, around land marks and through narrow cobblestone alleys. The electric bike did 90% of the work for you, so you don't even break a sweat. It's a great way to cover a lot of the city and learn a ton, and even see spots that are closed to most tourists.

GLUTEN FREE CREPES
I was devastated when I realized there's a difference between crepes and galettes. I arrived in Paris believing all crepes are created equal - that is, with buckwheat flour, which is naturally gluten free. Not so, I was told. Good thing I asked. Savory crepes are called galettes, which I can have. However, sweet crepes, which is all the creperies seemed to carry (no galettes to be found), are made with full on gluten. I did a bunch of googling and the fancy places that advertised gf crepes were all far away from where we were staying. UNTIL we walked around the corner from our apartment and found this majestic beacon of hope...Eggs, Milk & Flour. I'll never be the same after the caramel pancake I devoured...we went here for lunch every day the back half of our trip. No shame.

CLIMBING THE ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Truly shocked at how many people we met on our trip that didn't do this. As one of the most famous monuments in Paris, this is obviously a must do...but I guess a lot of people just go look at it from the street, and miss out on the fabulous views from the top. We started by standing in the middle of the road for the best angle of the arc (not super safe but still recommend), then used our handy "skip the line" passes we purchased ahead of time to bypass the wait to climb to the top. We were in better shape than most of the people making the climb so we were literally the first people to get up there - we didn't take a single break! I was panting but it was worth it to run around a take photos without crowds in the way. Far and above my favorite view of the city during our whole trip.

LADURÉE MACARONS
You've definitely heard of this one - there's a reason it's on my favorites list. Heavenly bites of cookie that come in the most perfect mint colored box. What a dream. I brought back chocolates from here as well, and their other desserts are also killer, but people definitely are here for the colorful macarons. Do it. The main store on the Champs-Élysées is suuuuper crowded but fun to see the beautiful exterior and decor. We went there for our first experience, then to the less busy locations later in the week for a quicker fix. Technically you can also go to their locations in the states, but getting them IN Paris feels so much more special. Also, calories don't count on vacation.

MUSÉE D'ORSAY
Again, super surprised at how many people have been to Paris and not gone to this museum. As soon as I heard about all the Monet here, I knew we had to go (my absolute favorite painter and period). Yeah, the Louvre was awesome and we did see the Mona Lisa, but the Orsay is built in what used to be a beautiful train station and is so much more intimate. The galleries are set up so that you have the artists who stuck with tradition on the right, and the rebels on the left so as you work your way towards the back you can see history changing and being shaped before your eyes. SO COOL. I bought a massive book on Monet that now lives on our coffee table. An absolute dream come true for me! There's also a really amazing view from the inside of the clock. Head upstairs and wait your turn for a photo. 

We booked our stay through the Hotel Crayon Rouge. My mom is the planning and booking master, and she read a gazillion reviews to land on this place. It was absolutely fantastic. Located right by the Louvre (a nice central location close to lots of stuff and near the metro), and boasting a friendly staff with excellent English (a must since our French is terrible), we very much enjoyed our stay. We actually got an apartment just around the corner from the main hotel (I believe they have two you can book). This was nice since we got a more authentic experience living in a building next to real tenets, but could still take advantage of the hotel breakfasts - which were AMAZING by the way, every morning there was a full on spread with charcuterie, hard boiled eggs, warm croissants - the works. We had such an amazing view of those classic rooftops and I loved enjoying a glass of rosé while watching the sun go down. It stays light out until practically 10 pm so we kept the windows open to soak up all the sunshine. Fair warning, all beds in Europe are hard as bricks no matter where you stay, so ask for extra pillows if you can.

FULL DISCLOSURE my mom and I are not foodies, and did not eat at fancy restaurants or try any of the "must eats" in Paris. So if you're one of those, skip this section. However, if you're like us and you're on vacation for the DOING and want tips for quick and easy bites, read on. We existed off of crepes and omelettes for the most part, and lots of coffee & tea. There were a few standout spots though:

MAISON SAUVAGE
Saw the adorable exterior while we were shopping in the Latin Quarter and immediately stopped for a glass of wine. My mom got this green lemonade that turned out to be the most delicious thing you've ever tasted? So good. So insta-worthy.

LADURÉE
We already talked about this but since I ate my bodyweight in macarons it's worth another mention. Didn't try any other macarons while I was there, and have no regrets about that. Mom got one of their little cakes and said it was also amazing (I didn't try that because I'm lame and gluten free.)

EGGS, MILK & FLOUR
Again, already talked about this, but was way too stoked to find gluten free crepes right around the corner from our apartment. The girls who worked there actually started laughing at me as I continued to come back day after day. I didn't snag any pictures but it was also a super cute and tiny interior. 

LOUP CAFE
Mom very nicely allowed me to pick breakfast one morning based solely on the cuteness of the tables. What a woman. We landed at Loup, a hip place with GREAT design that boasted a gluten free breakfast course. I took every chance I got to get GF pastries while in Paris since whatever they do is magic - you honestly can't tell the difference from real bread. Here you can see Mom laughing at me for being ridiculous. But I loved these light blue tables!

CAFÉ PALAIS ROYAL
Final mention goes to this cute little place because I got multiple omelettes here. It's right across the street from the Louvre so we hit it up for breakfast before heading to our tour of the museum. Not sure why omelettes in France are just a million times better than the U.S., but they are. Naturally I only took photos of the cappucinos?

Finally, my favorite section! There are a million things to see and do in Paris, we picked our favorites and highlights and went for it but again, do what feels right to you. We got a ton of recommendations that we didn't take, like the catacombs, the moulin rouge, etc. We just weren't interested. One word of advice I will give - the ONLY experience we did not enjoy was our dinner tour on the Seine. It sounded amazing, but you HAVE TO make sure you get a boat that has outdoor seating. We got stuck in a glass greenhouse of a boat for the most miserable hour ever...oh, and the food was horrible. Otherwise, everything was a blast and it was amazing to see, touch, and experience so much rich history!

BIKE TOURS
Listed this above in my favorites, seriously cannot recommend it enough. We did a day tour and a night tour. The night tour is timed perfectly so that you pull up to the Eiffel Tower right as it starts to light up. I think it sparkles on the hour every hour after a certain time (maybe 9 or 10 pm). During the day tour, we got to go to the oldest restaurant in Paris and get a drink. Upstairs they have the writing desk of Voltaire (no big deal) and a signed letter from Marie Antoinette right before she was executed. Out front they have one of Napoleon's hats. Just your average casual history museum slash restaurant.

VERSAILLES
Absolutely worth the day trip! BOOK IN ADVANCE, cannot stress that enough. The lines for people without tickets were HOURS long. The hall of mirrors and the gardens were of course, spectacular. My favorite part though was seeing Marie Antoinette's separate hamlet which is a short drive from the main palace. It's so peaceful and serene out there, I also would have definitely picked that over living in the palace.

NOTRE DAME
One hundred percent worth the climb to the top. We had some older folks in our group that struggled with the stairs but there are plenty of breaks on the way up and we had no trouble at all. It is so cool to hear the bells ringing while looking out over the city! The gargoyles are also super neat to see up close. The inside of the cathedral is hands down one of the most stunning things I've ever seen. 

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BUY PEONIES
You may laugh, but this was one of my top priorities! I love flowers and peonies are some of my absolute favorites. They just smell so good and make it feel like Spring. I found a darling shop around the corner from our apartment and got a bunch. I actually almost made it all the way home with them (cleared customs and everything) but the plane air was just too much and they wilted in the Philly airport. Sad.

WALK ALONG THE SEINE
Basically a postcard. We did a ton of walking our entire trip (necessary to burn off all the crepes) and the prettiest walk is to simply follow the river. 

THE LOUVRE
We talked about how I liked the Orsay better, but the Louvre is classic. We opted for a tour to ensure we saw the major works of art without getting lost, which was a great idea since it was more crowded than Disneyland in there. We went to the courtyard early in the morning to get pictures with the pyramid without anyone in sight!

EIFFEL TOWER
Playing a game called "how many pictures of the Eiffel do I have on my phone"...my favorite view was from the Palais de Chaillot, where you can sit on the edge of the stairs and get a great shot. We didn't do this, but it would also be really fun to take a picnic and sit on the grass underneath the tower.

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If you've made it this far reading, congrats. There are a thousand more things we didn't get to try or see, but I loved every bit of our trip and am so grateful to have spent some time in this beautiful city with my mom.

THIS was one of the best lists I found that really helped me figure out what I most wanted to do!

What did I miss? Let me know! And if you're lucky enough to go - bon voyage.

xx, M

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Terracotta Mood

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