TWO AMERICAN GIRLS IN PARIS:


Paris est magnifique! 

I could just leave it at that, but I won't because I have SO many pictures and SO much to say about Paris!  Every time I carved out some time to finish this post I'd get so caught up in the pictures and the memories that I'd get tired and go to sleep.  And because my travel posts are always so long I usually do them in two parts.  But no, you're getting this one all at once, because I'm just exhausted from traveling back and forth to Paris, in my mind.  So please be advised that this is the longest blog post in history.

I'll start with our arrival and some logistics.  We decided on a taxi from the airport to our hotel. They do have Lyft and Uber in Paris but we felt more comfortable going with a licensed taxi, and there was a taxi line right outside the airport, very easy.

Before we left the airport we exchanged some money at an ATM.  That felt weird but I had checked rates all over and believe it or not the airport was pretty good and definitely convenient and noted as a safe place to exchange with no hidden fees.  Also we needed euros asap to pay for the taxi and the first French Baguette that crossed my path.

You need euros immediately upon arrival. Some foreign countries take American dollars, France is not one of them.  You can order Euros from most banks in America before you go but at my bank the fee's were higher, also it was too late when I thought of it because the bank has to order the money as well and I'm just not that organized.  Economically speaking, for traveling outside the US, try and have a credit card with no foreign service fee's and then use it for everything, much easier then counting your change with currency you're not used to.  And if you have a card that gives you points you'll be saving for your next adventure!

It was raining slightly as we drove from the airport to our hotel, Hotel Alexandrine Opera.  It was a 20 min ride but there was some traffic because of the weather and that was OK with us as we were already sightseeing and snapping away pics out the window.  Here are some shots from the taxi.  It was a gray day but who the hell cared, it was Paris!
Paris is divided up by 20 Arrondissements, (Rs), also called districts, similar to what we call a neighborhood, only they each have their own elected officials.  We planned by which R was next to which, sounds easy but the city is shaped like a snail so not all the Rs were in order. Tricky but not impossible to figure out.  (I'll share all the links to our favorites at the bottom of the post).

The hotel was a real charmer and our room was quintessential Paris. The Juliette balcony is what dreams are made of.  And it was all about that balcony, and the view was the end.  The rest of the room, what there was of it, was teeeeeny tiny.  I am not exaggerating when I say I had to sit sideways on the toilet so my knees wouldn't hit the wall and I'm only 5'2!  Even the shower was tiny.  I laughed at the thought of my 6'1" husband, had he been with us, he would probably have gotten stuck trying to turn around in the bathroom!  But again, the view, the charm and that amazing balcony completely made up for the lack of space in the room.  It was perfect for the two of us.

When my daughter was twelve I started taking her on mother/daughter trips every year for her birthday.  I wanted her to develop a sense of adventure and to learn that making memories and sharing experiences was more important than material gifts.  This year, (as a successful young woman that I'm so proud of), she turned the tables on me and surprised me with this trip for both our birthdays making this years girl trip extra special!  
When it comes to planning trips, (I did know about my surprise a few weeks in advance), I'm kind of a planner fanatic. (This is the exception to my aforementioned not being organized).  Of course there's always room for surprises and spontaneity but I have to have a list of everything we want to do and see so there's never a moment lost.  We were about to cram a lot of Paris into a little bit of days.  We had our list divided by the Rs and my daughter had hearted them on the google map app on her phone so wherever we where we could pull up a cafe or sight from our list.  It worked great.  But FYI that does not mean you won't get lost.  We mostly walked everywhere, clocking in 20 miles on foot on our first full day!  The one time we did take the metro we went 9 stops in the wrong direction before we noticed.
Our first nights dinner was at Bouillon Cartier.  This place had such a great Euro vibe it was a perfect choice for our first Paris dinner.  My daughter eats snails...EW... I wanted a clothespin for my nose, not that they smelled but because of Lucy.  Also, I cannot bring myself to eat something I battle with in the garden.
Image result for I love lucy clothespin snails
There were two men on the other side of the partition at the next table, we thought it odd that they were not talking to each other, one was buried in his phone, the other started a conversation with us when we were trying to decipher the menu.  He told us to ask for one in English.  Duhhh.  Then he told us about his family and how they spend half the year in Boston and half in Paris.  When he got up to leave the other man didn't.  Ah Ha they weren't together.  Then we realized that people fill up seats wherever, next to strangers, no seat left unfilled, it's a thing.  Not like us spoiled Americans that sat down at a table for 4 so we'd have a place to spread out with the purses, the tote bags and the umbrellas. Our first French Faux Pas.
                 
On our first full day we were off bright and early to find the Eiffel Tower, on foot.  It's located in the  7th R.  It was a long walk and it was windy.  I loved the neighborhoods we went through on our way.  Some reminded me of NY, the upper East side on a quiet Sunday morning, only with better architecture.  And then out of no where we turned a corner and there it was, the Eiffel Tower.  It was such a thrill, a truly magnificent sight.  Our plan was to have a picnic on the lawn in front but it was too cold from the wind off the beautiful Seine, we could barley walk.  Taking pictures was also a challenge with the wind.  Didn't get a lot but I do love the ones we got.  Then we were off to find our first recommend cafe in the area.
And here I am, trying not to look like a tourist, looking like a tourist.  I brought the Barrett with me, I didn't get it in Paris.  It was my Moms and she use to say it was the only hat that wouldn't ruin her hair in the winter.  Turns out she was right, it was cold and I wore it a lot and it didn't ruin my hair.   Sadly, my Mom is in the final stages of dementia and she never saw Paris.  The Barrett was my way of having a little bit of her with us.  My Mom was afraid to fly over water and from the time I was about 12 I knew I wanted to see the world and that meant there would be a lot of water I'd have to fly over.  She once told me she wished she would have been as brave as me when she was young and I realized that it was her fears that taught me how to be brave and when not feeling so brave, she taught me to do it anyway.  And I'm very grateful for that.
Near our hotel we passed what appeared to be a big indoor mall.  Why would we go inside a mall in Paris you ask?  Well, because it looks like this.   We had no idea though, we just wandered in.  I had not read about this or seen pictures of it on instagram but there it was, that ceiling!  Our mouths hung open. Then we saw a sign for a roof deck!  We took the escalator up several floors to the top passing designer shops all the way.

The entire top floor was one big modern chic cafeteria, a hang out to eat, drink, maybe wait for a friend.  This was the cafe at the top of the Galaries Layfayette.  We headed straight to the fresh orange juice squeeze machine. By the way, these machines are everywhere in Paris, every market has an orange juicer and a basket full of fresh oranges, you pop them in and squeeze them yourself.  And of course a girl needs something to wash down with her juice so I had my all time favorite cookie, which happen to be a French Madeleine.  Now keep in mind that my only comparison to my favorite cookie is the three pack chocolate dipped Madeleine's they sell at Starbucks.  Yes, this one was better.  Then we went outside onto the deck.  It was an amazing 360 degree view of Paris.  The rain had stopped, we swapped photo ops with a bunch of girls from Sweden, and all was right with the world.

Every cafe was wonderful and every bakery was a treat to the senses.  We even found gluten free crepes in the Marais, my daughter was so happy and that made the owner so happy.  They bonded.  The Marais was one of my favorite Rs, we went back twice. The Picasso museum is there so we squeezed that in too.
I contemplated the meaning of this painting. Then I covered my eyes ;)
Favorite brunch at Le Deux Magots.
Odette, how adorable it this building, a must for tea and treats.
I'm now obsessed with toast sticks!
All the sidewalk cafe chairs in Paris face the street so you're usually not sitting across from the person you're with when you're sitting outside, you're always next to them.  People watching at its finest.
These two bonding over gluten free crepes.
Apologies in advance fellow animals lovers and please close your eyes if you're a vegan for this next story.  We went to this beautiful cafe recommend by a friend and we were very excited to order our first French Charcuterie Board.  In America, if you're not familiar with a Charcuterie Board, it's cheese, fruit, nuts, crackers and maybe a little meat.  But it's not this!  We ordered the house Charcuterie Board and learned that in France that means meat, lots and lots of meat, fatty, gross, raw ugly meat.  If you want cheese you have to order a Fromage Board. Who new?

Although we are not full out vegetarians we eat very little meat and believe me it's not raw!  This was just, what do you do with it?  We sat there staring at it mortified for several minutes.  Then we thought, well, at least there's one piece of cheese on the plate, we'll split it.  It turned out to be butter!  Butter and meat, I thought the only one who ate that was my husband from Minnesota because he eats butter with everything!

We weren't sure if it was appropriate to ask for a doggy bag in Paris but we asked anyway and after about 20 minutes the waiter came back with a little shopping bag full of meat.  When we left we saw a homeless woman and her dog sitting on the ground, I gave her the bag, $28 dollars worth of meat. That was about to be one happy doggy.  We were then on the hunt for another cafe with a Fromage Board on the menu. We found one in the Marais, how hard can it be to find cheese in Paris?
Our birthday dinner was in Montmartre at Le Consulat.  We loved this neighborhood on a hill in the 18th R.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the hotel on a cold night but we had such a fun time.  And she had snails... again! 
It's known that gluten isn't an issue in Europe because they don't poison their food with chemicals like we do in America and people that are gluten sensitive can eat bread in Paris.  I'm happy to report that it's true and so we ate our weight in baguettes.  So. Many. Bakeries.  And still there will never be enough baguettes in my life.
I'm a sucker for doors! And the doors in Paris did not disappoint.  They're huge!  I love colored, carved wood, over sized beautiful doors, and door hardware. The doors themselves as art and also what's behind them.  I always want to see what's behind them.  In Paris these gorgeous oversized doors lead to beautiful courtyards and through the courtyards are buildings, homes, schools, offices, it's secret doors to beautiful spaces.  We were lucky enough to be walking passed several when they opened to allow someone in or out :)
I had brought a little bendable tripod with me, not for my camera, but to put my phone on so we could take pics together without having them be selfies.  We had it sitting on a wide window ledge of a building and it wasn't working very well.  A family came around the corner, walked by and then the man, around 30ish, stopped and walked back to us.  He said "let me take your picture" Dana, my daughter, said jokingly "I know, this thing is ridiculous, I'm sorry" he said, also jokingly, "you should be" then she said "at least it's not a selfie stick" to which he said "I should apologize for my people for inventing that".  He was Chinese, it was hilarious.  He took a few pictures of us while his family waited, it was so nice of him.  We didn't like any of pictures and took this one after he walked away,  right before the tripod fell off the ledge, along with my phone.
The Abby Bookshop, the sweetest little shop over flowing with vintage books.  I brought home their burlap tote bag and it's my new favorite thing.  There's something about the smell of old books.
    
Places in Passing.
The Louvre Museum, they say (whoever they are), that you should spend at least 4 hours here and better yet an entire day.  And even then you will not make a dent, and you'd still have to wait in line to get up close and personal with Mona Lisa herself.  It's huge, like it's own city.  We chose not to go in, yup you heard me, our time was limited and there was so many things we wanted to see.  Saving it for the next trip along with the South of France. Very excited to go back.  But of course we got the obligatory juxtaposition picture of the modern glass pyramid against the ancient structure. Pretty spectacular.
This next picture is Notre Dame about a 2 weeks before it burned and that Spire fell.  So glad I go this picture to remember it by.
Took this picture of Dana at Luxembourg Gardens, not much was blooming yet, but still a beautiful place.  Reminded me of a smaller Central Park.
Lots of surprises along the way.

Favorite Arrondissements (R's)
  • 18th R Montmartre - Built on a hill in the 18th Arrondissement
  • 3rd R Le Marais - It spreads across the 3rd and 4th Arrondissements
  • The 7th Arrondissement - this one doesn't have a neighborhood name but is the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower
AR 1
AR 2
    AR 4
    AR 8 - 9
    AR 11
    AR 17 / 18th
    Happy Travels!