Paris and London Journal

Our Paris and London trip was incredible! I couldn’t imagine a better two weeks spent. Okay, it could have been a tad warmer, but other than that, I have ZERO complaints. It’s only a few days after and my memory is already starting to fog up and I’m forgetting little details so I want to use this post to capture some of my favorite memories. Here I go:

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PARIS:

The first four days, we stayed in the 2nd arrondissement. This area is fabulous. It’s clean, the restaurants staff speak english and are super friendly and inviting. Lots of shopping, its close to the Louvre and everything is within walking distance. With that said, we did a  lot of walking! Almost 8-10 miles every day. If you stay in this area, (the Opera) area, you can pretty much walk everywhere. We stayed at the H’Orset Opera. We thought the room was small until we went to the next two hotels and learned that this was actually the biggest room we would get!

I gave up croissants in December because I knew I wanted one every morning in Paris. AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I DID. They are much better in Paris. so flaky. so yummy.

Brian fell in love with the baguette sandwiches on day #1. There are small boulangeries (bakeries) everywhere. It’s not difficult to find a sandwich in Paris. They are everywhere. And so yummy. I had one with avocado and Gruyere the second day. YUM.

We walked around the Louvre the first day (just the outside). Then we made our way to the Tuileries and went towards the river. We stopped into a restaurant and learned that cafe is coffee and its not drip. When you get cafe you’re going to get espresso. Oh and some restaurants and most public places like the train station make you pay to use the restroom. The restrooms are soooo small and dark and usually in the basement.

We walked to the Ile de Cite and made it to Notre Dame right before the rain. We listened to a Rick Steves audio tour and walked around Notre Dame. Then we tried to go to the Saint Chappelle but it was closed. I think something was going on because it normally isn’t closed on Mondays. Instead, we went to a nice people watching place across from the Square de la tour Saint Jacques. This is where we learned that tipping is included in the bill. AND when I order a glass of wine at some places, I’ll get a whole small bottle. Not a bad deal.

Brian and I checked out the Centre Georges Pompidou afterwards. It was okay. A lot of modern art but more walking than actual art. It’s very spread out.

The first night, we went to a restaurant called Gambino. It’s in the 1st arr. and it’s a great Italian place. Here’s where we learned that in Paris, you order everything at one time. From your drinks to dessert, all at once so be ready! The food came so fast! It was delicious, too! We sat by ourselves upstairs which i didn’t mind but I think Brian would have preferred being around more people.

(MY FAVORITE DAY)

We went to Versailles the next day. We hopped on the train at St. Lazarre but not before picking up a baguette, a croissant and two americanos at PAUL’s. I’m so glad Brian likes Americanos now! It’s all we ordered after that! The train station was hard to navigate at first but we figured it out and 40 mins later on a very brightly colored train, we were in the town of Versailles. We walked 5 minutes up the road to a sea of tour buses and waited in a very short line for a ticket. Versailles was one of my favorite spots. You’re away from the city but it doesn’t feel like it. The Palace of Versailles was a royal chateau back in the 1600’s when King Louis the XIV moved the royal court from Paris. Now it’s just a museum and tourist site but we were able to see all the rooms, the hall of mirrors, the gardens, the beautiful paintings on the ceilings and so much more. We had coffee and macaroons at the Angelina Bistro and then headed back to the city.

We grabbed a bite to eat at the Royal Opera Brasserie (Bar) which was close to our hotel and I had the BEST salad: mixed greens with fried goat cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, walnuts and a light vinaigrette dressing. So different and so delicious!

That evening we took a cruise on the Siene. We watched the Eiffel tower sparkle and it was cheesy perfection.

The following day we started off with croissants and baguettes and made our way through the Tuileries, to the Musee de Orangerie and saw Monet’s Lillies (probably my favorite piece of art), up the Champs Elysees and to the Arc de Triomphe. We split a pizza on the avenue and took in the sunshine as well as a lot of cigarette smoke- something you have to get used to in Paris becuase it’s not going away anytime soon like the U.S.

We walked to the Eiffel tower and took a break on the Champs de Mars. We watched a girl make her father take over 1,000 photos of herself in front of the Eiffel tower and I think Brian grew a greater appreciation on my swift photo requests.

That evening we went to a place called Comptoir de la Gastronomie which was very known for it’s duck. I had a cheese board and onion soup and I was content. Brian enjoyed the duck. it may have been his first quacker. The restaurant is close to two cocktail bars we wanted to check out; Experimental Cocktail club and Andy Wahloo’s. 

I loved them both. They are both hidden and we probably would have never have found it without the help of two parisian strangers. If you’re from the Ferndale area, I’d compare Experimental cocktail club to the Oakland. Andy Wahloos was our favorite and our tab showed just that. But hey, we’re on vacation ;).

Our last day in Paris (leg one) was spent at the Louvre museum. A lot of people told us we could spend all day here but we went in knowing what we wanted to see, followed the map to get there, took a selfie with Mona Lisa and got out in ~2 hours. If I could reccomend one wing it would be the Egyptian wing.

We went back to the Royal Opera for my delicious goat cheese salad, grabbed some macarons and rested up before heading to dinner at the restaurant at the Eiffel tower. It was raining that evening so we cabbed there and experienced our first taste of French rudeness. This lady refused to let us in this line that was clearly marked as the line we needed to be in. We sat and watched other Parisians get through with ease as we waited in a much longer line. The restaurant was good. Probably overpriced but we were IN THE EIFFEL FREAKING TOWER. If you want to spend ~100 a person for good food, three drinks and a three course meal, I highly reccommend it. The restaruant we went to was 58 Tour Eiffel. There is an even more expensive restuarant at the top of the Eiffel but this was one perfect and we could have rode to the top but we didn’t because of the rain.

LONDON

Traveling to London was easy. We took the Eurostar and two hours later we were there. London is gorgeous.

We stayed in Marylebone which was sort of further away from a lot but I didn’t mind. Next time, I would like to stay closer to the Thames. The first day was sunny. We walked to Hyde park. We desperatly wanted to rent bikes but couldn’t find any until we had made it almost all the way through. The grass was green, flowers were in bloom, it was really gorgeous…until the next day when it snowed and the temps. dropped 20 degrees. That evening we went to the Lowlander bar for dinner. We learned that England is more like the U.S. than France; we ordered our drinks and then the waitress came back for the food order + you tip 5-10%.  FYI: some pubs, we did have to order at the bar but not all of them. Just look for signs because we sat at the first pub for a while waiting for service until we read on the menu and the table that you order at the bar…

St. Patrick’s Day was fun. We created our own pub crawl and while Brian downed his lagers, I downed prossecco. We went to Liberty London, which is a department store a friend reccommended filled with designer goods, homewares, textiles, beauty products and so much more. It was really fun to walk around and dream of buying the clothes. I did purchase a few gifts for others here so it’s not all out of reach $$$.

We went to some more pubs and then Cote Brasserie afterwards for lunch. I had the best Fish and Chips and mushy peas and Brian ate steak and frites for the second time. When I say “the best” I don’t mean the best I’ve ever had because I’d be lying. I honestly don’t love English food. It’s sort of blah, lacks a lot of flavor and fish and chips are better in Michigan IMO. Brian’s steak was like someone stomped on it for hours- so skinny! What I meant by the best was it was probably the best fish and chips that I had in London.

That evening we met up with one of my childhood friends, Courtney. We double dated to this place called Dinerama, Street Feast food market. IT WAS AWESOME. Totally different than the posh neighborhood we were staying in. Super hipster where you order your drinks and shareables at these food truck-type stalls. We shared street tacos, fried cheese, fries (flavor included on these ones!) and dumplings.

The following day was super awesome, mainly because it was my BIRTHDAY and because Brian and my family still managed to make me feel special miles away.

It was super cold so we went to Westminister Abby, Picadilly square and the National Portrait Gallery before B lining to the hotel. If you know me, I don’t do well with the cold. My body tenses, my brain fogs and all I want to do is stomp my feet and shout curse words. When we got back to the hotel, I was greeted with a bottle of wine from Brian’s sister, two Alex & Ani bracelets from my parents and yummy desserts from the hotel. It was a nice surprise and helped me set my mood back right.

I was ecstatic to try out this Indian restuarant, Dishoom. Neither of us had had indian but we did hear that London’s indian food is second to India and we had to try it. To get Brian onboard, I requested it for my birthday dinner ;).

It was probably my favorite part about London. We told our waiter we wanted to try whatever he suggested so he curated our dinners and it was one of the most lovely dinners I’ve ever had. The flavors were all new to me. It was a mix of sweet and savory and spicy and minty and earthy and yummmmm. They sung me happy birthday and I slowly scooped the Chilli Ice cream into my mouth before falling into a happy comatose. We returned the following night and requested to try all new foods, which we did and we’ve been craving it ever since.

On our last day in London, we finally gained the courage to take the Tube to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Maybe we didn’t gain the courage but lacked the courage to walk in the cold. Either way, we walked around the different areas of the castle and saw the crown jewels, the guards, and some pretty wicked torture machines.

We went to Buckingham palace next and then made our way to our final fish and chip stop. This time I tried mushy peas. I think I stick with garden peas…

Brian’s one request was to check out ICE BAR London. At 23 degrees, the bar is open to guests 40 mins at a time. Basically we bought a ticket for 6:30 and your ticket includes one drink. When you arrive, they give you a parka and gloves and you go in with a group of people. When they let you into the bar made completely of ice, you order your drink and can stay in there up to 40 minutes. It was a cool (literally) experience. Everything is ice- even your cup! We didn’t stay long (because Brian loves me) but it was fun and worth while if you’re looking for something to do besides the traditional sights.

PARIS

Our second time back to Paris (becuase we were flying out of Paris) we stayed in Marais. We actually stayed at a hotel called Home Marias and I’m telling you this because I would def. never reccommend this to anyone. I didn’t like the area. It was dirty, further away from things and def more local. I LOVED the 2nd arrondissment and while Marais is still in the 3rd and 4th arrondissments, I would reccommend the 1st or 2nd for staying in Paris for the first time. The restuarants were more challenging as their english was far worse and even our hotel was weird- they made us leave our key with them when we left and said they only have one key per room and it was for emergencies…? THAT IS SO FALSE AND WEIRD AND TROUBLESOME. 

Maybe we were just homesick and maybe we were ready to go home but the other BIG reason we didn’t like this area was because of the cab ride that dropped us off.

PSA: If you are at Paris du Nord train station, do not get in the taxi line. Get an uber. They charged us 55 Euros to go less than 2 miles! They claimed it was a fixed rate but I claim BULLSHIT.  I can honestly say Brian loved Paris until this moment. I’m still team Paris but this definietly jaded me.

Our last couple days were very chill. We mostly walked back to the area we knew best (Opera) and went shopping and ate and relaxed. I had to get Macarons at Laduree for my family and friends and I wanted to get a couple more souvineirs like bracelets from Merci.

Brian finally tried the hot dog in the baguette bun covered with cheese. I had one more croissant from PAUL’s and we walked our last 10+ mile day.

The one good find we had in Marais was this amazing italian restuarant, also the world’s narrowest restuarant called, L’Osteria dell’Anima. Friendly service and incredible pasta.

This trip was over the moon incredible. We have seven weddings to get through this summer and then we are planning our next trip! I’m thinking somewhere warm!

XOXO

Courtney

**** This has not been edited or proof read.

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