Paris

Thank you for visiting the Paris page!

I created this page because I love Paris and can’t stop talking about it!  In 2004, I packed up a luggage and went on a three-week trip around Europe solo.  Although I was terrified at the thought of going to an unknown continent all by myself (and this was pre-Eat, Pray, Love days when traveling alone was not considered hip), it was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done at that time.  Luckily, my friend Briana joined me on my Paris leg of the trip and we spent five days laughing around the city. That was when I first fell in love with Paris.

In November 2010, I successfully convinced my best friend Maya to escape from her busy work schedule to come to Paris with me, on my second visit there, and we spent about a week there (plus our mini trip to London).

Self-proclaimed food lovers, we literally ate our way around town.  We found our favorite cafe restaurant across the street from our hotel and we ate there so many times that the staff eventually remembered us!  The time I spent with my BFF, who now lives in a different state, is, and will always be, one of my most cherished memories!  She and I made a pact to return to Paris together again, and next time, we promised that we’d drag our beaus, who think Paris is a little too bougie for their taste, here, even if they’re kicking and screaming! lol

I created this page to document our good times, as well as to provide a recommended five-day itinerary (not including two travel days) for anyone who’s interested in visiting, or are currently planning a trip to, Paris.  Visiting the city twice doesn’t make me a travel expert, but I hope my humble recommendations will help someone out there get excited about the trip!

Bon voyage!
Hirono
October 2011

Paris Motivation

Need a little nudge to turn your Paris vacation fantasy into reality?  Watch these movies and you’ll be booking flight to the City of Light in no time! biggrin These are mostly chic flicks, so kick your boyfriend or husband out of the house for a few hours, uncork your favorite bottle of wine, and indulge in the beauty of Paris!

Amelie (2001): One of the best. movies. ever. I don’t even want to attempt to explain the magic of this movie, except to say that it revolves around a shy and quirky waitress who brings happiness to people all around her … and to you too. You will never see a a garden gnome the same way ever again! (Check out Day 4 for fun Amelie adventures!)

 

Paris Je t’aime (2006): The movie is a collection of short films shot in different Paris Arrondissements, or districts, by various directors. It’s a great way to get to know each neighborhood through the eyes of unique characters looking for love (in their own ways). Although not my favorite area, my favorite segment was 14th Arrondissement.

 

Julie and Julia (2009):  Superb acting by Meryl Streep who so beautifully portrayed Julia Child and her love affairs with Paris, her husband Paul, and of course, food!  The movie parallels the life of Julie Powell, a thirty-something who finds a zest for life by cooking through Child’s famous cookbook and blogging about the experiences.

 

 

Before Sunset (2004):  If you’re like me and loved After Sunrise, which took place in Vienna, you’ll love this movie.  The prequel ended with Jesse and Celine promising to see each other again in six months … and in Before Sunset, you get to find out what had happened to them nine years later, with the picturesque Paris in the backdrop.

 

 

Ratatouille (2007):  Remy is the most talented chef in Paris but fate has it that he’s a rat.  But that doesn’t stop him from creating delicious masterpieces, thanks to his human friend, Linguini, who hides his little friend inside the chef’s hat and channels Remy’s talent under his “guidance.”

 

 

Le Divorce (2003):  You get to see Paris from the eyes of two American sisters.  I love watching the contrast between a young bubbly American girl and her sister Roxy’s snooty but sophisticated French in-laws.  Stereotypical, yes, but intriguing nonetheless!  The movie makes you want to receive a Kelly bag and an Hermes scarf as a gift from a sexy older Frenchman.

Establish a Theme

Before you begin the planning process, I think it’s important to think about why you’re vising Paris and establish a “theme.” It makes decision-making much easier, like where to stay and what to do.  Mine was to relax and enjoy good food in Paris with my best friend Maya, so everything we did revolved around that.  In fact, we stayed in a particular neighborhood because it was near many wonderful pastry shops.lol

If your theme is to relax, you should choose a nice hotel and plan your daily activities around beautiful jardins and perhaps less touristy areas.  If yours is to see all the landmarks, pack your day doing sightseeing!  You want to make sure that you accomplish what you’ve come here to do!

Where to Stay

Deciding on which neighborhood to stay in Paris is one of the exciting yet stressful parts of the planning process.  My advice is to make sure that you stay at a place that is safe and fits your personality (and budget, of course) because each area is very different in character.

Here are my recommendations:

  • St-Gemain-des-Pres (6th Arrondissement):  A little pricey but you’re surrounded by great shops and cafes!  Think Robertson Boulevard (in LA) meets SoHo (in NYC).  This was my home away from home.
  • La Marais (3rd and 4th Arrondissements):  This fashionable neighborhood is the “hub of Paris’ gay community; and, though fading, the nucleus of Jewish life,” according to Fodor’s.  You’ll find a picturesque Place des Vosges and good felafels here.
  • Les Grands Boulevards:  A paradise for serious shoppers, with irresistible Au Printemps and Galeries Lafayette department stores in the neighborhood.
  • The Quartier Latin (5th Arrondissement):  A college town with affordable shops and restaurants.  This is the home of the famous Shakespeare and Company, the English-language bookstore seen in so many movies.  My sister stayed in this area during her Paris trip and said she enjoyed it very much.

Areas you might want to avoid:

  • Montmartre (18th Arrondissement):  Don’t get me wrong, Montmartre is a very charming neighborhood. The reasons why I don’t recommend it is because it is far from all the actions, is super hilly, and is near Pigalle, a super sketchy red-light district unsafe at nighttime.
  • Champs-Elysees (8th and 16th Arrondissements):  It’s a blood-sucking commerce here!  Unless you’re Carrie Bradshaw and the Russian is paying for your room in Plaza Anthenee, don’t even bother.  But if you can afford it, by all means, indulge!  And I so want to be your friend.

The Day of Arrival

When you arrive to Paris, the first thing you should do is rest. I recommend that you go to your hotel room, take a nice hot shower, unpack your luggage, call or email your friends and family back home, and just relax.  You’re on vacation so what’s the rush?  Just remember when you hop in a shower that C (chaud) is hot and F (froid) is cold in France.  I made an unfortunate mistake of thinking the opposite when I first arrived  …  eek

I know you might feel like you’re wasting away your precious time by doing this, but I think it will really help in the long run. It certainly helped me! After you take a cat nap, take a stroll around your neighborhood and get to know your nearest Metro station, convenient stores, and local eateries. It’s a great time to just pop in to a local café and just soak in the fact that you’re in Paris, over a cup of hot chocolate or a glass of Kir, or both, whatever tickles your fancy.  It’s also a great time to study the map and learn the basic layout of Paris.

Day 1:   Tourist in the City

Day 1 is all about touristy things!  Put the camera around your neck, secure the fanny pack firmly around your waist, put on a pair flip flops (with white tube socks) and let’s go out on the town!   We’re going to begin the day at Notre Dame and cross over to the Right Bank to the Champs-Elysees.  

Notre-Dame de Paris
(Michel Notre-Dame: RER B)

Exit the RER at the St-Michel Notre-Dame station and you’ve arrived at one of the most recognizable Catholic cathedrals in the world, decked out with Gargoyles. You’ll know that you’re in Paris when you witness this amazing landmark.  You can almost see Quasimoto ringing the bell.

You will most likely encounter a long line to get inside the cathedral, especially if you’re visiting on the weekend, but the line moves pretty quickly. The interior is as amazing as the exterior but it feels a little strange to be walking around as a tourist, when there are real church-goers attending a service.

Pont Alexandre III
(Invalides: M 8, 13, and RER C)

Walk across this picturesque Pont Alexandre III bridge over Seine, to cross over to the Champs-Elysees quarter. The view from the bridge is exquisite – with Eiffel Tower in the backdrop.  This is definitely a place you want to take out your camera and capture the amazing beauty.  I’m sure it’s as pretty at night as it is during the day.  There is something so magical about crossing this bridge.

You will find great statues and buildings on this stretch to the Champs-Elysees, including Grand Palais, or Great Palace, that is used as an exhibition hall and museum. You will also see a status of Charles de Galle, a former French general who also serves as the namesake of the airport in Paris.

Plaza de la Concorde
(Concorde: Metro 1, 8, 12)

The Egyptian obelisk is the sign that you’ve arrived at Plaza de la Concorde, a quick walk from Pont Alexandre.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been afraid of large fountains that shoot up water high in the air.  I don’t know why that is, but they give me some serious heebie jeebis, especially at nighttime.  With that said, you can imagine how spooked out I was of these two fountains in Place de la Concorde.  But of course, people find these green and gold fountains – The Maritime Fountain and the Fountain of the Rivers – breathtakingly beautiful.  Anne Hathaway might have thought so too, when she tossed her cell phone into the fountain in one of the final scenes in The Devil Wears Prada.

The Champs-Elysees
(Concorde: Metro 1, 8, 12, or Champs-Elysees Clemenceau: Metro 1, 13)

After a brisk walk from Place de la Concorde, you will reach the beginning of one of the most famous streets, not only in Paris, but in the world. It’s an equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, but on steroid. All the Who’s-Who in the commerce world have their presence here. I recommend that you treat this strip as “view only” and not purchase anything or eat anything here. We made the mistake of going into a busy restaurant right smack in the middle of the boulevard and was met with overpriced mediocre food and little service. On a different occasion, I went into famous Fouquet’s and received a Pretty Woman treatment. cry

The only place I would break the “view only” rule here is Laduree, but if you are unable to get into the legendary tea house like me because of the ridiculously long line, don’t fret. There are Laduree kiosks in Paris-Roissy Charles de Gaulle (in Terminal 2F) and Orly Airport (West Terminal) so you can stock up on its famous macarons and other goodies before flying home. Yipee! razzAnd there is one in New York’s Upper East Side too.

Arc de Triomphe
(Charles de Gaulle – Etoile:  Metro 1, 2, 6)

At the end of the Champs-Elysees stretch stands Arc de Triomphe, or Triumphal Arc, which signifies the western end of the boulevard. The Arc was built to honor those who scarified their lives for the county during the French Revolution, with unknown soldiers buried in the vault beneath.

I know there’s a world that exists past the Arc and Place Charles de Gaulle where it stands, but I’ve never really been over to the other side. Most tourists end their walk here and enjoy the view from the street or from the top of the Arc. I recommend that you climb up 280 steps and witness the view from the rooftop. I have to warn you that the climb is not easy, especially since you already have a few miles in you, but the reward is worth it. The view from the top is quite exquisite. You can see the brightly-lit Eiffel Tower at night, and Sacre-Coer and other landmarks during the day.  Enjoy watching the infamous five-way intersections that surround the Arc from above. It’s pure madness.

Day 2:  Shopping in the City

I eat a lot in Paris — those buttery pastries in particular — so I have to make an extra effort to incorporate as much walking as possible. It’s not too difficult to walk in this city because there are so many beautiful things and places to see. Day 2 is all about walking and shopping (or window shopping) around town (mostly) on foot.

Café de Flore
(St-Gremain-des pres: Metro 4)

I stayed in the 6th Arrondissement so Cafe de Flore was just around the corner from the hotel, but I think it’s worth it to hop on the Metro and start the day by having breakfast at this famous cafe. Grab a table facing the street and enjoy people watching over a cup of coffee and its world famous omelet. I noticed that Parisians don’t eat omelet for breakfast like Americans (in fact, I think I was the only one enjoying this egg dish at 10:00 a.m.) but who cares. I loved it. It’s really fun to people watch here. You can totally tell who are the locals and who are tourists. Across the street is its rival, Les Deux Magots, beloved for its wonderful hot chocolate, but I read that it’s snootier than Cafe de Flore.lol

Saint-Germain-Des-Pres
(St-Gremain-des Pres: Metro 4)

This neighborhood is the shopper’s paradise with brand names like Armani, Christian Louboutin, and Cartier all lined up on the streets. If shopping is not your thing, you can still have fun observing beautiful and enigmatic Parisian women in their own habitat.

Start walking down Rue de Rennes and detour onto St-Sulpice for the world-famous Pierre Herme pastries and my favorite bag store, Herve Chapelier. Or walk just a few minutes on Rue de Vaugirard for some Japanese-inpsired sweets from Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki.  You can locate where Carrie made a telephone call to Miranda in the final season of Sex and the City, across from the fountain in Englise St-Sulpice. I also recommend you check out Rue du Cherche Midi, a tiny and quaint street and pick up some sweets from Poilane, the most famous bakery in Paris.  So … can you now tell why this is my favorite neighborhood in Paris? lol

Tour Monteparnasse
(Monteparnasse Bienvenue:  Metro 4, 6, 12, 13)

It’s quite a walk, and you can always hop on the Metro, but I find walking from St-Germain-des-Pres to Tour Monteparnasse to be a lot of fun. There are so many cute shops everywhere! You will see the giant tower from pretty much anywhere in the city so just head toward that direction if you ever get lost. Navigating through the streets of Paris can be very tricky and confusing at times.

Although this neighborhood is highly regarded, it is actually one of my least favorite. It’s probably the presence of the cemetery that gives me the strange vibe, but it’s still a good place to be, especially if you’re interested in going up the Tour to check out the panoramic view of the city. Many people climb up the Eiffel Tower to see the view but the caveat to that is that you cannot see the Eiffel Tower when you’re on top of it … so people come up here instead so that they can include the famous Tower in the photograph. Do check out a restaurant, Chez Papa, after you say hello to famous dead people buried in Cimetiere du Monteparnasse.

Palais Garnier
(Opera: Metro 3, 7, 8 )

The shopping day continues but first, we head to the border of 2nd and 9th Arrondissements to Palais Garnier. I wonder if it’s just me that thinks of Fructis hair products when I hear the name of this 19th century opera house … but despite how some of us might associate the name with a drug store shampoo, Palais Garner, or known simply as Opera, is historical.  It is the birthplace of the novel The Phantom of the Opera and the popular Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the same name.

Around the structure are sculptures of world-famous composers like Mozart and Spontini. There is a miniature of Palais Garnier inside Musee d’Orsay that shows the intricate interior of the opera house. Click here to find out information about the Ballet and Opera seasons.

Galeries Lafayette
(Opera: Metro 3, 8, 7)

A quick walk from Opera is the shopping mecca in Paris, lavished with all things luxurious … need I say more? Granted, many of the things sold here in Galeries Lafayette can be purchased in the states, but it’s the atmosphere that makes any shopaholics swoon. If you’re about to drop some serious Euros in this place, consider visiting the welcome desk located on the main floor for discount information, as many places offer 10% discount to foreign visitors.

My absolute favorite part of this department store is not the cosmetics or the clothing areas but a food court in the other building. It’s called Lafayette Gourmet and is a food lover’s heaven. Very similar to the gourmet department in London’s famous Harrod’s, Lafayette Gourmet serves casual bites, as well as amazing varieties of cheeses, caviar, foie gras, and more. This is a perfect place to buy souvenirs to take home to your food-loving friends and family. I bought a bunch of sea salts, duck fats, Christine Ferber’s jams, and stocked up on my favorite teas from Les Palais des Thes. Yes, my luggage got REAL heavy REAL fast. lol

Day 3:  Relaxing in the City

Although the jet-lag may have subsided, you might start to feel a little fatigue on your feet from walking for the last two days. Day 3 is more about relaxing your body and mind, to ready for the latter part of the week. If you like to write, this is a good day to pack your journal and a pen (or an iPad) before heading out the door.

Musee d’Orsay
(Solferino: Metro 12 or Musee d’Orsay: RER C)

While most tourists come to Paris to visit the Louvre, there are so many other wonderful museums in the city, and Musee d’Orsay is my absolute favorite. Though not as grand as its more popular cousin, this is the home to many masterpieces you would see in art history textbooks, from artists like Vincent Van Gough, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Claude Monet. I’m no art history expert but I even recognized many of the artworks here. This museum is a converted train station build in 1900 and is known for the collection of French impressionist paintings, as well as sculptures.

As in most museums and exhibits, it’s best to arrive first thing in the morning, when the place is less crowded. I really enjoyed the recorded, self-guided tour. Because the place is smaller and not as crowded as the Louvre, you can spent many hours here without feeling rushed. I think I ended up spending almost half day on one floor!

Jardin Du Luxemboug
(Odeon: Metro 4, 10)

After spending the morning at Musee d’Orsay, it’s time to grab a takeout lunch and enjoy it at the Luxembourg garden!  Check out this wonderful pastry shop and deli, Gerard Mulot, just down the street that offers all kinds of mouthwatering food imaginable.  Maya and I went there religiously during our stay, even showing up multiple times a day.

Jardin Du Luxemboug is, hands down, our favorite spot in Paris.  It is so relaxing and you can spend hours without any worries in the world.  You can enjoy people watching or just submerge in your own deep thoughts.

When we travel, especially to other countries, we are often met with unspoken expectation that you need fill your day with activities.  While is it certainly important to do as much as possible when you’re visiting a new city, it is also important to be in the moment, even if that means you do absolutely nothing.

And when you’re ready, take a stroll around the park and check up the miniature replica of Statue of Liberty (the larger one can be found on Pont de Grenell, in 15th and 16th Arrondissements).

La Tour Eiffel
(Trocadero: Metro 6, 9)

Now that you’re well-rested and rejuvenated from the restful afternoon at the Luxembourg garden, it’s time to venture out to the hustle and bustle of the Eiffel Tower.  You cannot walk from the Garden to the Tower, so hop on the Metro and head over to the 16th Arrondissement.

There are many Metro options but I recommend getting off at the Trocadero station where it will drop you at a circle where you can enjoy the view of the Tower from a distance.  The place is alive, with live music and pushy by friendly street vendors.  The best time to visit is in the late afternoon so you can enjoy the Tower two ways — in the daylight and at nighttime.  It’s really something to watch the sun go down, and see the Tower radiates with bright, sparkly lights.

When the Tower lights up, walk down the steps and head over the the foot of the Tower and enjoy the view from up close.

Whatever feelings you may have toward this ultimate Paris landmark (some people love it while others think it’s overrated), this is the one place you must visit when you’re in Paris.  In all honesty, I used to be an Eiffel Tower hater, but after this experience, I became a fan!  And this is where Maya and I promised each other that we’ll be back in Paris together again.

Day 4:  Amelie in the City

Today’s itinerary is all about the movie, Amelie.  If you have not yet seen this French movie that was nominated for five Academy Awards in 2001, including Best Foreign Language Film, I suggest that you watch it immediately. I think it’s one of most creative and imaginative movies ever made, and is certainly one of the best ways to study Paris. The movie takes place in the neighborhood of Montmartre, in the 18th Arrondissement, and many of the places used in the movie really do exist!  But if you haven’t seen the movie, I think you’ll still enjoy this day.  

Moulin Rouge
(Pigalle: Metro 2, 12)

This famous cabaret and the birthplace of high-kicking can-can dance became famous when the movie of the same name opened in 2001 (I bet you now have Lady Marmalade stuck in your head). Pigalle, where Moulin Rouge is located, along with sex shops and ladies of the night working the corner, is pretty sketchy so it’s probably best to check it out during the day, instead of a nighttime.

If you’re interested in seeing a cabaret show in a safer neighborhood, there’s Le Lido on the the Champs-Elysees. I watched the show there once and it was an experience. It’s a cheesier version of a Vegas burlesque show.  I think this is the neighborhood where Nino from Amelie worked, in a dinky sex shop.

Café des Deux Moulins
(Abbesses: Metro 12, at 15 rue Lepic)

This is the café where Amelie worked as a waitress.biggrin  Collignon’s grocery shop is nearby too!  Cafe des Deux Moulins is a real café, and the interior, and even the famous bathroom, are exactly the way you see it them the movie.

The crowd is a mixture of tourists and locals enjoying a daily cup of coffee or cocktail.  Although I didn’t try it, I read on the Food and Wine website that there’s an item on the menu called “crème brûlée d’Amélie Poulain and is served warm, torched to order” so patrons too can crack the caramel with a spoon just like Amelie!  By the way, when you’re in this area, make sure to check out the Abbesses metro station where Amelie and Nino met for first time.  But sorry, I didn’t see a photo booth there …

Streets of Montmartre

Walking up the narrow and hilly streets of Montmartre can be a little tiring but the rustic houses and the lovely views you encounter along the way make you forget about all the leg-burning inclines.

I actually didn’t plan to hang out in this area when I visited. I just started walking aimlessly after leaving Café des Deux Moulins and ended up in this lovely part of the city, alive with stores, vendors, and performers. I didn’t realize that it would eventually lead me to Sacre-Coeur and the best panoramic view of Paris!  For more helpful information, check out this exerpt from the Fodor’s website titled, “A Scenic Walking Tour of Montmartre.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacre-Coeur
(Abesses: Metro 12, or Anvers: Metro 2)

My favorite guidebook, Fodor’s, described the visit to this church as this: “It’s hard to not feel as though you’re climbing up to heaven when you visit Sacre-Coeur, the white castle in the sky, perched atop Montmartre.” That’s exactly how I felt when I arrived here! This is the second-highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower. I remember sitting here for hours to figure out all the places I’ve already visited in Paris. The panoramic view from up above makes you re-realize how beautiful this city truly is. And if you look closely, you can almost see Nino running up the stairs to see Amelie.

Day 5:  The Louvre in the city

Musee du  Louvre
(Palais-Royal / Musee du Louvre:  Metro 1, 2)

Even if you’re not an art buff like me, the Louvre is worth spending some time in. I made a mistake of doing just a quick dash to Mona Lisa on my first visit here, and made another mistake of letting the time run out (due to my poor planning) and only spent a few hours here on my latest trip. There are so much to see and experience here. I don’t think I have to tell you how magnificent this place is.

One of the most memorable things at the Louvre was watching French students visit the museum during the day in a field trip, with many taking copious notes while museum curators explained the arts’ histories. It’s amazing how these youngsters get to see the actual historical artworks in person, at such close proximity, whereas we only get to see it through the pages of a textbook. This explains why there are so many artists that emerge from this country.

While here, spend some time at the picturesque Jardin Des Tuileries and soak in all the beauty that is Paris.  Before you depart, make a promise to yourself that you too will return here very, very soon … and make sure you keep that promise … no matter what.

Paris will be waiting for our return!

Thank you!

Thank you for reading this page! I hope you are now excited about visiting Paris as much I had fun organizing old photographs and revising the lovely memories to create this page! I know that there are so many other wonderful places that I didn’t mention here.  I’m looking forward to the next Paris outing to get to know this fabulous city even better.

Please leave me a comment if you have any questions or have any recommendations!  I would love to hear from you!

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7 thoughts on “Paris

  1. I want to go to paris. I have been watching “midnight in Paris” and now this blog. So it is time for me to book the trip. I really want to go there. I’m going to poke around more at your site to get more info.

  2. Pingback: Day 1: NYC Adventures « Time for Dinner

  3. Hi Angela! I’m so glad you stopped by! I hope you do visit Paris soon! It’s especially beautiful in the springtime. I’m no expert but let me know if you have any questions about travel planning, etc. I’ll be happy to help!

    Hirono

  4. Hello Hirono,
    I just fell upon your blog searching for a recipe for Japanese pot au feu 🙂
    I am Parisian and I think your 5-day itinery is great! And I do agree with the relaxing moment at the hotel (nothing better to start an exiting trip!)
    I always love to hear other people’s love for Paris.
    Take care and hope you can come back to Paris soon 🙂

    • Hi Anabelle!

      Thanks for the sweet comment! I’m glad you approve!!! Paris is one of my favorite places in the entire world. It makes me so happy thinking about how lovely the city is. I so want to go back soon!

      Your blog is so lovely! I can’t wait to read all your posts! 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Hirono

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