Friday, September 7, 2018

The French Diaries: My Paris City Guide

Paris. There's no city like it in the world. Romantic, historic, and endlessly inspiring. It was a challenge coming back to life in Los Angeles. This was my third time in France, and I fell in love with it even more. Below you will find my sights + eats + tips to make your Parisian experience even more magical. 
STAY: Typically, when I travel, I like to book from Air Bnb. This trip I opted to stay in a hotel. I had read many recommendations suggesting that air conditioning was a must during August. I stumbled upon the Hotel Panache on Instagram, and knew it was perfect for our trip. Charming interiors, affordable prices (we got a suite for the price of a regular room), and the friendliest staff. The location was central (9th Arrondissement) 20 minute walk north of the Louvre. When it came to the length of our stay, I think that was our best decision. We chose to stay in Paris for a full week. We contemplated exploring other parts of France, but even on our last day we were not tired of wandering the streets of this city. That's how we love to travel though- pretending to be locals as much as we can. 
 SEE: The list for tourist sights can be extremely daunting. There is truly so much to see in Paris (especially if you have limited time.) Since we had a week, we chose one to two tourist sights each day, then allow for the rest of the time to be spontaneous. I love getting lost. Discovering little alley ways, and small shops that you can't find on a website or guide. Sometimes you gotta ditch the tourist traps, and pave your own way. I bought all my tickets in advance to create a mini schedule, and also to avoid lines. Here are my must sees:
-Il de la Cité + Il Saint-Louis: These two island are on the Seine river. Find Notre-Dame, the iconic, Gothic Catholic cathedral. Grab Berthillon ice cream on Saint-Louis. My secret spot: The Square du Vert-Galant. A small park at the point of island. For my birthday, we grabbed a bottle of champagne, bread and cheese and sat underneath a willow tree on the water.
-Saint Chappelle: Small medieval gothic cathedral. I was in awe over the stain-glass windows. It's tucked away, not visible from the street. My mother recommended this stop to me.
-Musee d'Orsay: Located on the left bank, it holds one of my favorite collections Impressionist art.(Think Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Toulouse Lautrec) The building was formerly a train terminal, which makes your art viewing even more breath-taking.
-The Louvre: Of course, go to the Louvre. Yes, its touristy but the actual building is worth the visit. Previously, the Louvre was a palace of the French Monarchy. I loved learning about the history of the architecture, not just the art it housed. Do not miss the halls of ancient Greek + Roman sculptures.
- Jardin des Tuileries: Parisians love their outdoor spaces. Parks + gardens are strategically plotted and cared for with the utmost detail. I fell in love with the Tuileries Garden. We came back almost every day while our visit. Avocado colored chairs, manicured trees, and breathtaking skyline. Love love love this spot, and wish I could be there right now.
-Le Marais/ Jewish Quarter: This district is a fashionable, trendy and rough around the edges part of the city. The best vintage shops are in this neighborhood. Plan to explore- the best vintage shops were the ones I accidentally stumbled upon them.
-Saint Germain: Located on the South Bank. I adored the architecture in this neighborhood. I couldn't stop snapping photos/looking up. There are so many fantastic restaurants (listed below). Walk the Rue Bonaparte down to the Jardin du Luxembourg. Posh, and glamorous park. Sit by the fountain, read a book, people watch.
-Montmartre: I stayed in this neighborhood when I came to Paris in college. I love this edgy hillside neighborhood. It is a far trek but always worth the quick metro train. Walk the steep hill to Sacre Coeur. I love the cobblestone streets and tight alley ways. Grab a glass of wine at a cafe, and pretend you live there.
Palais Royale: A beautiful park to walk. Infamous for the instagram spot with the white and black pillars. I loved the grove of trees that lined the park, and arched covered hallways. Grab a coffee-morning is the most lovely time to come. See locals commuting, gaggles of tourist. People watching at its best.
Jardin du Trocadéro: By far my favorite view of the Eiffel Tower. It is just classic, romantic Parisian vibes. Go early in the AM, you'll avoid the crazy crowds and get your photo. Also, the crepe stand at the top honestly was the best crepe I had in the city. No shame.
-Catacombs: This was my boyfriend's top sight to see. I thought it would be very touristy. It actually ended up being really informative about the history of Paris. It felt like a real adventure, exploring the caverns and tunnels underground. The remains of six million people lie in the abandoned mines of the city. A little creepy, but definitely a sight to see.
-Palace of Versailles: If you have time, I HIGHLY recommend going to the Palace. It is an easy train ride outside of the city. I have never experienced such a grand, and ornate place. I couldn't stop looking at the marble floors, and gold trimmed ceilings. My favorite part was walking the gardens from the palace to the Trianon estate, where Marie Antionette's private cottage was.
 EATS: Bread, wine, cheese. Too many choices for food in this city.
Semilla- This was our number one meal in the city. Located in the Saint Germain. They sat my boyfriend and I right in front of the kitchen. We got to watch the sous chef craft all of the dishes. The presentation was stunning, and an experience that can't be recreated. 
Monsieur Bleu- I celebrated my birthday here. We had lunch on their patio which is across the river from the Eiffel Tower at the Palais de Tokyo. The menu features french cuisines with Japanese flares. Try the calamari, hot salmon ceviche, and cipriani beef carpaccio. It was the upscale, and chic vibe I was looking for on my bday. 
Poploare: From the very trendy Big Mamma Group, this hot spot pizzeria was down the street from our hotel. We came here twice, and both times waited around 35 minutes in a line down the block. It was buzzing with locals, and you sat at these long shared tables. The pizzas were fresh, and cooked in a stone oven. I loved the classic margherita pizza with fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella. I think about this restaurant all the time, and wish it was in LA.  
Le Saint-Régis: Located on Il Saint-Louis, this charming cafe was the classic French experience I wanted. My boyfriend and I both got eggs benedict. It was by far one the best we ever had. I loved the interiors, and the views of the river. I highly recommend stopping here for breakfast before you visit to Notre Dame. 
Miznon- A recommendation from my best friend. This Israeli spot, in the Marais, is a local favorite. The restaurant was packed when we got there, but the staff quickly helped us snag a seat at the counter in front of the chefs. As they cooked, they gave us some samples to try. Drake was playing in the background. This is the cool and quality find in the Jewish Quarter. Get the grilled cauliflower, and the lamb pita. 
Claus- This is a trendy spot for locals. We got there right when it opened on a Sunday morning, and did not have to wait for a table. Their 'brunch' menu was three courses. Each meal came with a coffee, fresh squeezed juice, entree and a sweet pastry. If this restaurant was in Los Angeles, it would be very popular. 
Le Richer: We had just landed in Paris, and our hotel gave us this restaurant recommendation. The interior was rustic and cool. There served classic bistro dishes with creative and fresh ingredients. I really loved the ambiance. There were no Americans at this restaurant and it was enjoyable to hear French, Italian etc buzzing in the air. 
Café Kitsuné- I had seen this coffee shop on the blog Paris in Four Months. We stopped here on our walk through the Palais Royale. They had iced coffee here (a comfort from home). The cutest little cafe to stop by. 
Pierre Herme- So, I am guilty for skipping Ladureé and its famous macaroons. But when you have it in Los Angeles, why should I go? I did try Pierre Herme. (Kind of like the cooler more chic older sister.) Flavors included rose, orange blossom, olive oil, and jasmine flower. 
Masion Sauvage - This restaurant surprised me. We stumbled upon it during a walk in Saint Germain. It's instagram worthy flower wall, made me skeptical of the food. To my surprise, not only was the interior darling, but our lunch was amazing. I didn't order their avocado toast, but that was on every table around us. Sip some rosé, and own that it was a little for the gram. 
Angelina's- Many people recommended Angelina's to me. We actually ate here during our visit to Versailles. We got to the palace early, and sat in their restaurant. No one was there, and it felt truly like a royal dining experience. We ordered 'petit dejeuner'- which included a coffee, orange juice, a croissant, and fresh bread. On the side were fresh made jams, and the best butter I've ever had. 
Café de Flore- The iconic cafe. The instagram everyone posts. This cafe is apart of the 'golden triangle', where famous artists and writers (like Hemingway and Picasso) frequented. Let's be honest, the food was very mediocre. I am happy we went, but I would of much rather enjoyed a coffee + wine or dessert verse a full meal. 
I hope you find this guide helpful + inspiring as you plan your own travels to Paris. This city is definitely a place I wish I could live. Every year, I save up my money for one big trip. There's nothing more special than seeing the world, with my boyfriend or family in tow. What city should I travel to next? Comment below!
Photos by Anna of Paris With Me. 


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