Paris was like a painting. Every single thing was lovely.
It surprised us, how much we loved Paris. We weren't expecting to fall under its spell. But the twinkling lights and sidewalk cafés and interesting people wrapped us up in a feeling of awe, making us feel connected to the city.
Our short time there was not enough, which means one thing: we'll be back!
We stayed at Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais in the historical Marais district, or the 4th arrondissement. Our room had a tiny balcony that overlooked the rooftops of Paris—such a dream view!
On our first day, Garrett and I dropped our bags and walked around the pretty streets of the Marais. We got déjeuner à emporter (lunch to go) at L’As du Fallafel and walked with it along the Seine toward the Louvre.
From the Louvre Pyramid we walked to Saint-Germain-des-Prés and headed straight to Café de Flore, one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris and once a favorite for literary geniuses of decades past. We tucked into tiny street-facing chairs behind a small outdoor table and sipped from champagne cocktails as people walked by, umbrellas in tow, going about their days. I popped over to L’Ecume des Pages and grabbed a notebook to recount our day on paper while we relaxed at our little sidewalk table. An excerpt from my notes that day:
"Sitting with Garrett at Café de Flore in Paris. The sun just case out, but it's still raining. Our champagne cocktails are glowing pink in the light. I'm sweating. People don't seem to mind the heat, or the rain."
One thing I noticed about Parisians—and most of the French, really—is that they are all present. And completely comfortable, wherever they are. Nobody hides behind their iPhones. They’re either engaging in conversation or sitting in silence and observing the world around them. Being in Paris gave us a welcome break from the technology that so constantly consumes our lives in San Francisco. And I’m so glad that we spent that afternoon at Café de Flore soaking in our surroundings instead of staring at screens.
Later that day, we had dinner at Le Temps des Cerises, a small French restaurant in the Marais that’s a little off the beaten path. We sat a window table and split a bottle of red wine over a meal of escargot, local cheese, and lamb.
After dinner we strolled through the neighborhood until Garrett spotted La Belle Hortense from across the street. It's a bookshop and a bar, which, for the two of us, couldn't be a more perfect spot. We spent the rest of the night and the early hours of the morning there, drinking wine and whisky while chatting with locals and the ever so charming barman Emmanuel.
We got a little later of a start the next morning than I would have liked, but the night before was worth it. To kick off the day right, we ordered a decadent breakfast of croissants, baguettes, pain au chocolate (yes, you read that right; three different types of bread), coffee, boiled eggs, foie gras, yogurt, jam, and honey to our room. We dined on the balcony, slowly waking up among the rooftops as the city bustled below us.
When in Paris, you just have to go to a museum, even if you don’t like art. You’ll find something to like, whether it’s the architecture of the museum itself, the paintings inside, or the surrounding neighborhood. I think it’d be a sin to visit Paris and not spend time inside of a museum, but perhaps an even bigger sin wasting hours standing in line. Most allow you to buy tickets online in advance, which for us was a no-brainer. Garrett had never been inside of the Louvre so we booked a 12:30 entrance time, finished our breakfast, and headed back out into the city for the day—stopping, of course, for pictures along the way at Pont des Arts.
We meandered through the Louvre for two hours until hunger and aching feet got the better of us. From there, we hopped in a cab (see: aching feet) to the Eiffel Tower. I was hoping to have a picnic meal on the lawn, but the hanger set in fast so we settled for a touristy little cafe lunch instead.
We retired to our hotel to freshen up, and Garrett took a short nap while I walked around the Marais to take pictures.
Satisfied with our afternoon break, we walked over to Pont Neuf to take an hour-long river cruise. The weather was perfect—sunny and clear but not hot—and we appreciated learning about the history of the city while looking at it from the water. We enjoyed the cruise so much that we considered going back for another one later that night.
After our cruise we went back to the Marais (we obviously loved our little neighborhood a lot) and ate dinner at Robert et Louise, a rustic steakhouse where everything is cooked on a cast iron slab over an open fire. Then, to walk off dinner we strolled along the Seine to Pont des Arts and caught the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. The lights go off for the first five minutes of every hour after dark, and it really is a spectacular sight—I was really, really happy that we caught the show.
When the lights dimmed we turned and walked into town. Garrett followed his intuition again, and this time we landed at Chez La Vielle, a delightful and quietly famous restaurant and bar. I drank champagne, he tried Belgian digestifs. We struck up conversation with an expat who recommended we check out La Belle Hortense, our favorite bar from the night before. The three of us ended walking there together, weaving in and out of the lively Paris streets, and closed our second and final night in Paris by having drinks among the books with Emmanuel.
It had been about fifteen years since I was in Paris last, and I forgot how big it is. We weren’t able to cover nearly as much ground as I’d hoped to. I would have loved to go to Musée d'Orsay and Montmartre, among many other places. But our short time in Paris was perfect, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.