Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Paris Recap + Top 5

We had the best time in Paris last week and I thought I'd do a quick recap post as well as highlight some of my top 5 favorite places, moments and tips.

Paris is a big city and it can be intimidating to tackle such a beautiful beast. The first thing my husband did was go out and buy Rick Steves current Paris guidebook. This was our lifeline, our third wheel if you will. We didn't go anywhere without Rick (tricky Rick as he affectionately became known). We downloaded many of his walking tours through our podcast app, which was a great shortcut and we followed many of his recommendations to the T. Like any big trip it's always great to do your research, set an itinerary and then go from there. Let's jump in shall we?

1.Seeing the Big Sights


The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, Arc de Triumph, The Louvre... you've got to see the big sights. Again we downloaded audio tours for many of these things from Rick Steves and it helped so much! Hearing a more detailed history helps you enjoy and appreciate these spaces so much more, yet because we downloaded audio tours beforehand we didn't ever have to pay or wait in line for audio tours on site. That being said, the Rick Steves versions probably aren't as comprehensive and he doesn't have audio tours for every single place we went, so there's that.


2. The art! 
When you think of Paris, you think of art. And we hit up aaaaaall the museums--maybe a little too many for my husband liking, but he was a good sport. We did the Picasso museum, the Louvre,  d'Orsay,  l'Orangerie, the Rodin museum and the Pompidou center. Really the main ones are the Louvre (ancient world to 1850), d'Orsay (1848-1914) and the Pompidou centre (20th century to today). If I had to skip one I would have skipped Rodin, because I'm not a huge fan but I'm still glad we went.

It is amazing to see famous works in person, works that I've studied and seen in art and art history classes for years. And like the art teachers always say, looking at a photo in a book is nothing compared to seeing it in real life. Even if I'm not super drawn to some of these artists, I still love seeing these works in person.

And obviously you have to see the Mona Lisa. It's basically a law. Even when you're waiting for the tween in front of you to take her 10th selfie with the Mona Lisa and the crowd never subsides, you've still got to pay your respects.

3. Versailles
It's not like you need to hear this from me because it's kinda famous on it's own, but Versailles is really amazeballs. This is another instance where Rick Steves came in handy. He suggested getting there before it opens so the line in shorter and a huge YES to that. We got there early and there was still a long line but nothing like the lines we saw later. And it just got more crowded as the day went on. Granted, it's a big enough place that you don't feel too crowded but still, less people is always better.

It's absolutely amazing that some people shamelessly lived this way--ha! No wonder the Frenchie's were pissed. We also went down to Trainon and the estate of Marie Antoinette. It was a full and fun day. The next day we watched Marie Antoinette from Luxembourg gardens, which was cool to see immediately after visiting as apparently they had unprecedented access to the Palace of Versailles when filming.


3. Going off the beaten path and having some downtime. 
One of my very favorite memories was when we decided to start renting the city bikes (velib) to bike around Paris. Not only was it a great way to give our feet a break, it was such a fun way to see the city. It was also a bit nerve wracking since I'm a safety nut and you're biking along with traffic without a helmet (everyone does this by the way--I was surprised to see hardly any helmets) but it was so magical. Especially biking around the city at 10PM while it was still light out. One night we couldn't find a bike rack that had space for our bikes (either that or the rack was empty and we couldn't find any bikes to ride--can't remember) and we ended up in front of a beautiful little gelato shop, so we ended up getting some gelato that night and it was our favorite! (Gelato del Marchese) Like, ever. We went back several times and since it was close to Luxembourg gardens we ended up going there a lot to walk around and eat our gelato.

We enjoyed the catacombs, ducking into little ally ways and courtyards and in general just making time to wander the streets of Paris. I need more wandering in my life.

5. Having fun with our photos
Now yes, I may have gotten scolded for lounging on this bench at the Palace of Versailles, and yes sometimes I feel a little silly jumping in the air for good a photo, but vacation photos can be a little stale if you don't spice them up. I took a lot of pictures of art, but I will never look at most of them because I can always find a better photo online. But me, standing next to a painting by my favorite artists--well that matters. Or my husband imitating a statue, or us taking advantage of cool architectural details, like this medallion below or always in front of some pretty, pretty doors--which are a dime a dozen in Paris. Either way, I want to have some fun photos when we look back at our trip. Sometimes you can get too caught up in photos and you miss the moment, but sometimes the photos ops ARE the moment. Like getting scolded at Versailles for lounging on the bench--that's a moment I'll remember!  


Other tips:
--Shoes! Bring good walking shoes and rub each other's feet at night.
--Do what you really want to do, not what you feel like you should do. Yes, see the big sights but there is so much to see and do you shouldn't feel pressured into seeing something you don't really care about. There will be plenty more to see.
--Take a day just to relax. We were going, going, going so much at the beginning of the week I was starting to lose steam. We had planned to spend our last day out in Giverny (Monet's gardens) but the night before we decided to sleep in and play it by ear. We ended up going to see Wonder Woman and had a great time with no plan and just exploring the city.
--Call your phone company and get international rates. We did this it cost us about $10/day for just one of our phones and it was so worth it. I wanted to have the peace of mind that my in-laws could connect with us about the kids anytime, but we also used it a ton to look up restaurants and to find other places.
--Speaking of which, look up good restaurants! A lot of people recommended LeFooding.com to me, but honestly I found the app sorta hard to work with, so I ended up using regular old Yelp and it was great. I wish I had made reservations ahead of time to eat at Frenchie, but we missed out. We still ate a lot of great food but again having an app to look makes a big difference when there are a lot of cafe's out there and some have great ratings and some have poor ratings.
--A little French goes a long way. You often hear that Parisians are put out by us rude Americans, but we found everyone so warm and charming. That being said, I did my best to ask en Francais, if they spoke English, and perhaps that helped.


Au revoir, Paris!
We love you and hope to see you again soon.
XO
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4 comments:

  1. Love Rick Steves! We used his guide for our Disney Northern European Cruise last month and when we didn't follow him we didn't enjoy our selves as much. Looks like the trip was super fun!!

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