[Travel Europe] Late Spring Travel Diaries | 3 Days in Paris
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
If you have been following me on Instagram (if you haven't, where have you been?? ), you know I've been to Paris recently with my partner. The city of light is so romantic and captivating, I had so much fun and good memories, therefore, I would like to share with you my journey to this city of love, and maybe inspire your next trip to Paris. If you're with me, keep reading...
We took a late night flight on Friday night (yup, I am the type of person who will bring a suitcase with me to work and then had straight to the airport afterwards) from Heathrow Airport London to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris.
I was a strong believer that airport food sucks where they taste bad and are overpriced for what they are (with Japan being an exception of course). Yet I was pleasantly surprised by my dinner at Heathrow this time. We had our dinner at a pub called the River Crown, and I ordered a lasagna whereas my partner ordered a seafood risotto. The lasagna was cheesy, rich, and the pasta sheets weren't at all mushy as they usually are when poorly prepared. The green salad was fresh and crisp, making the perfect side to go with a hearty baked pasta dish. It was a good start to our exciting Paris trip indeed.
We stayed at the Ibis Budget Paris Marie de Clichy hotel throughout our trip. The hotel wasn't a big one, neither was it located in central Paris, but I was in fact quite happy with it. It took the Uber driver only about 20 mins to take us there from CDG airport, and by the time we arrived, it was nearly midnight. The reception staff was very friendly and helpful. Although he doesn't speak perfect English, he was extremely patient and attentive, and tried his very best to take care of our needs.
We were not surprised to find our room to be a small one. Regardless, it was very clean and tidy. I am a neat freak so you know it's clean when I say so myself. It's neatly arranged and whoever designed the room obviously have put thoughts to it. There wasn't enough space for a closet but there are hanging racks and shelves, which was more than enough for us as we're staying only for 3 nights. The double bed was spacious and comfy, and they even gave us an extra pillow so I have no complaint on it.
The bathroom is not that small when you consider how compact the room itself is. There's a shower pod with glass door (which is great because I find shower curtains hideous and disgusting to use) which is clean and spacious. Toiletries wise, there isn't much really other than a bottle of all purpose washing gel (for face, hair and body) and a bar of hand soap. So if you're considering to stay here in your next trip, don't forget to bring your own toiletries. However if you did forget to pack your toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant etc, don't worry, because the hotel do sell them in the lobby. If I had to point out one flaw, it would be the fact that there were only two towels and no floor mat. The floor is rather slippery so we ended up sharing one towel, and used the other towel as floor mat to avoid any potential accident.
The first thing we did on our first day in Paris was to purchase all the bus and boat tour tickets, after a quick grab and go breakfast at PAUL. I find hop-on-hop-off tour buses to be the best way of moving around in the city. They cover most of the sightseeing spots, and we don't have to worry about purchasing tickets while we move from one place to another.
We have chosen the Open Tour bus company for this Paris trip. Their buses take tourists around Paris in three routes, the red route covers the north part of central Paris, the green route brings us to the southeast area of Seine, and the blue route runs through all major tourist attractions in central Paris, such as the Eiffle Tower.
After taking some breathtaking pictures outside the stunning Opéra Garnier, we hoped onto the tour bus (red line) and headed north while we listen to the audio narrative on the beautiful stories and history behind each building. We drove through the romantically risque Mouline Rouge before hopping off at the Basilique du Sacré Coeur.
Ah, the famous Basilique du Sacré Coeur, otherwise known as the Basilique of the Sacred Heart or the White Chapel, is such a gorgeous beauty. That great white dome glowing serenely in the morning sun, under the bright blue sky... it really is one of a kind. On the Viewing deck, we overlooked Paris from up hill, with the stunning chapel behind us. I think I would come back here again to take some Instagram worthy photos if I ever get married in the future.
After marvelling the beauty of the chapel and (of course,) taken some pictures, we spent the rest of the morning exploring Montmartre itself.
There are so many lovely Parisian cafes here, I literally regretted having breakfast beforehand. I could have had my cup of caffe au lait here and took that iconic coffee shop shot. I guess that just gave me more reasons to revisit this amazing city, eh? Regardless, we explored the lovely hill where we discovered not only numerous cute coffee houses, but also unique independent galleries. I also took lots of photos of beautiful stairs here where I could find different artworks take canvas on. I always find stairs to be one of the most interesting elements in photos, especially in Paris. They just add so much more texture to a picture and makes it so much more interesting to look at.
Following our long morning walk on the hill, we travelled back to the Opéra Garnier and had our lunch in a brasserie nearby. It's not the best dining experience I've had in Paris but it's not bad for a quick lunch. The croque madame is cheesy and toasty, accompanied by crispy chips and fresh green salad, it is the perfect hot summer day lunch.
After lunch, we hopped back onto the bus. We switched to the green line this time and headed south. We made our first stop at Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Paris. Unfortunately due to reconstruction work after the fire, the Cathedral was close and we only managed to take some photos of it from a far distance. Regardless, it was nice walking around the island in a warm sunny day while enjoying the gentle breeze. The view of the river Seine is absolutely stunning no matter what time of the day it was, and we took so many pictures here recording all of our good memories.
Our next stop was the wide and beautiful Luxembourg Park. The park is very well maintained, the castle was stunning, but what we enjoyed the most was in fact the status scattered across the park. There's a wide range of different status with varying themes. Some of them where people from the past, whereas other are characters from legends and myths. Although they were all artistic and beautiful indeed, we were amused by the a lot of them as we were being too imaginative LOL, and the wildlife in the park was definitely not helping. We probably shouldn't have done it, but it was so much fun, and I definitely shared a lot of funny Instagram stories here.
It was all good until it started to rain. We found shelter at the stunning Panthéon, which is just 5 mins walk away. If I'm being completely honest with you, visiting the Panthéon was not part of our plan. We probably wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for the rain and the discount we got from the tour bus booklet. Although it wasn't part of our plan, I was glad that it happened, otherwise we'd have missed this great place. Both me and my partner are life scientists, so although the artwork and paintings were magnificent, they were at the same time completely exotic to us. It was fun though to imagine what's the story behind each paintings. And of course, we enjoyed the Foucault pendulum a lot. Indeed it's a very interesting experiment, but what really impressed us is how well this modern piece of scientific art blended in so well with the rest of the exhibits; especially when they're so heavily influenced by the Christian religion. We enjoyed ourselves so much here, that we didn't leave until it's the museum's closing time. Yes, it was really that good.
The sun had started to set but we weren't really hungry at the moment so we spent some time exploring the beautiful River Seine. The Seine is so beautiful and serine during sunset, it's almost unreal. We walked and talked and I wished time would forever pause at that very moment. We enjoyed the time we share at the river bank so much that when we finally decided we needed food, it's already 9 pm in the evening.
Have you ever heard of those stories where people had so much fun walking around the city while they travel, they ended up missing dinner time, to a point where all the restaurants are closed, and they had to eat crisps as supper? That was almost us LOL. As we didn't feel safe wandering around the city after nightfall, we decided to go back to our hotel and find food there. We found a small wine bar called Place des Fêtes just 5 mins away from our hotel. The staff there are not exactly proficient in English, but they are so kind and friendly, they tried their very best to make sure we're served well. When they learnt that we haven't had our dinner, they even offered us extra bread to go with our absolutely delicious cheese and charcuterie board. By the time we finished supper, it was past mid night so we headed straight to bed, before waking up early again the following morning.
On the second day of our trip, we took our time and enjoyed a classic Parisian breakfast at Le Mondial Cafe Brasserie. For 9 euros each, we got a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a cup of coffee of our choice, and a bread or pastry, also to our choice. I picked a croissant and my partner gave the famous French baguette a go. The food was perfect and the server showed us so much hospitality. He offered to take photos for us and kept us entertained. His act of kindness has made my day indeed.
After our nice and relaxing breakfast, we once again hopped onto our tour bus. We dedicated this whole day to the blue line, which covers most of Paris major tourist spots. We first visited Place de la Concorde, one of the most beautiful public squares in France. With the magnificent Luxor Obelisk in the middle, you have the gorgeous Pont de la Concorde standing over the River Seine on one side, and the mysterious Tuileries Garden on the other side which connects the square and Louvre. There really is no better place to experience the glistening view of Paris, in my opinion at least.
After taking some tacky tourist shot, we found our way to the famous Champs-Elysees. It's so well know that it even has its own song, Les Champs-Elysees. It is beautiful and expensive looking indeed (literally), but we did not come to Paris to shop so we quickly moved to the stunning Arc de Triomphe. It is not my first time here but the magnificent design and long standing history behind this beautiful piece of art still stuns me.
We then travelled to the Trocadéro, and took that classic Eiffle Tower shot. The funnest thing to do here, in my opinion, is not to take the photos we came for, but rather to observe the people around us. It is fun to look at how far people are willing to go, just to take that perfect Instagram shot. I guess it was to prevent people from falling over, the edge of the terrace was in fact surrounded by fences. But as you and me would have imagined, this wouldn't stop all the Instagram fanatics from taking 'the shot'. I find it amusing to look at how people would climb and squeeze through all the obstacles standing between them and their perfect Instagram photo. Only if I had that courage, it would have saved me 4 hours trying to Photoshop away those ugly fences out of my photo.
By the time we're done with all the photo taking, it's already 1 pm, so we marched towards the Champ de Mars Park with our picnic blanket. But before that, we paid a quick trip to the lovely Gros Caillou neighbourhood to grab some food. In this cosy yet stylish neighbour, you will find many cute diners and cafes. However, if you're like us and would rather enjoy lunch under the sun, you will also find nice bakeries and delis here where you could buy food from, and later enjoy them on the lawn. We got ourselves a ham and cheese sandwich and some quiche, and of course we did not forget the summer staple, a bottle of chilled rose wine. As we find our way to the Park, we found a Ladurée shop in the corner and I had to go in and grab our French favourites, macaron. There were so many too choose from, so I asked the shopkeeper to pick me her favourite ones. I later find that to be a very good idea as it makes every bite a surprise, because we would never know what we have got until we bite into these little delicacies.
When we finally stepped into the beautiful Champ de Mars, we were both stunned by the breath taking view of the gorgeous Eiffle Tower glistening under the gentle sun and warm spring breeze.
The time we spend under the tower was so dreamy and invaluable. If I had to pick my one best memories from this trip, it would be this romantic picnic under the sun, with just my partner and me, next to this beautiful landmark of Paris. We shared and enjoyed the good food and good wine, had the most delicious strawberries we ever had in our lives, we chatted and talked about life and future and dreams, it was in fact one of the best moments in my life.
As much as we enjoyed our picnic, the journey has to go on. We left the Effie Tower behind us, and crossed the beautiful River Seine. As part of the tour bus package, we hopped on one of Bateaux Mouches's tour boat. Although I have to say, this is not at all a good river cruise. I have had better experience with river cruises in Paris with another company. The tour boat was filled with lousy and poorly behaved tourists, and most importantly the narrative is absolutely rubbish. Unlike the other company I've use in the past, Bateaux Mouches does not provide one of those little device where you could choose your language and enjoy the story of Seine right inside your ears. The 'narrative' they gave is nothing more than telling you the name of the building you're looking at, echoing in different language through a broadcasting system. It was so bad that I had to tell the stories myself to my partner just so that he could actually learn the history behind those beautiful heritages. Next time when you're in Paris, please be aware that you have better ways to spend your money. A river cruise is nice and indeed would be a one of a kind experience, just make sure you do your research and choose a better boat company.
Although the boat trip was hardly satisfying, we decided to refresh ourselves with a nice dinner at the Brasserie de la Tour Eiffel. I picked this restaurant myself, as I have been here before and had a very nice dining experience. I liked their food and service, and most importantly it's just steps away from the Eiffle Tower, which we planned to watch the light show after dinner. We were served by a friendly and attentive lady this time. For starters, of course we ordered the classic escargot and some baguette to suck up all the delicious herby, garlicky juices. For main, I ordered some beef tartare whereas bae got their delicious roast chicken. We also ordered some red wine to go with our meal based on the server's recommendation. To put a perfect end to our meal, I asked for the delightful crème brûlée while my partner went for one of their most popular desserts tarte tatin. The food was so good and the dining experience was just as lovely as I remembered. I think this brasserie would, or have, become 'my spot' in Paris; and I have to come at least once whenever I visit Paris.
At 11 pm, we watched the mesmerising Eiffle Tower light show. It lasts only for 5 minutes but it's a truly magical experience and I would recommend watching it at least once when visiting Paris. The video could be found on my Instagram @flammingrowan if you're interested. The light show is up once every hour when the clock hits 00'. Since the show only starts after the sun sets, you will actually be able to watch it many more times in a day during the winter months, when the night is longer.
After watching the light show, we headed back to our hotel, packed our suitcase and got ready for our last day in Paris.
We have reserved our last day in Paris for the Louvre Museum. We prepared our tickets well in advanced, so all we did was to check out from our room, ask the reception to take care of our luggage, and then headed downtown. When we arrived, we found ourselves surrounded by a sea of people, so we decided we will first grab breakfast, and savour it while we wait patiently in the queue.
The story I'm about to tell you is most definitely not what you're expecting...
The Louvre Museum opens at 9 am everyday except for Tuesday which they're closed. Yet, we waited until 10:30 and the line has not budge We were told that there was some internal issue inside the museum, and the opening time would be delayed. People started to loose their patience and we too tried to figure out what exactly happened. At 11 pm, we finally managed to find someone who speaks English, and found out that there was a strike in the museum LOL. Yes it was annoying, but at that moment, we found it more funny than anything. And of course I took my chance to tease my partner on how unlucky he always is. Regardless, we waited patiently until 11:30, which was when we were told that the Louvre would be closed for the day. This is how I joke with my friends on how we 'got kicked out of the Louvre' when I got back to London. At least we got a refund from the Museum so we're not entirely mad.
Since the Louvre was off our itinerary at this point, I suggested we get some hot chocolate from the famous Cafe Angelina to warm ourselves up. So we did. We ordered the 'African' hot chocolate which they're well-known for, and a Mont Blanc, which is also one of their signatures. Unfortunately we didn't manage to get a table as the queue was insanely long, also because I didn't make any reservations for obvious reasons. Instead, we enjoyed the cake and the warm beverage at Tuileries Garden, while enjoying the sunshine, the birds sing, and each other's company. It was good time well spent, and maybe I wasn't so disappointed at not being able to visit the Louvre, after all.
After our quick snack, We made our way to the one place famous to all fashion lover in Paris - the Galerie Lafayette. On our way, a Pierre Hermé store caught my attention and so I went in, dragging my partner with me. I have to say that I prefer Pierre's macaron over those from Ladurée. I'm not saying that the later one isn't good, but I do prefer the crispier texture I get from Pierre's, and I find their flavours more unusual and interesting. And yes, I have asked the shop keeper to choose the flavours for me. If you prefer a chewier and softer cookie, I believe you'd appreciate Ladurée's macaron more. Also, unlike Pierre, Ladurée actually makes so much more than just macaron for all you sweet tooth out there. So maybe, at the end of the day, we should visit them both :P
We spent roughly 2 hours at the Galerie Lafayette, yet unfortunately, we didn't' find anything we like enough to purchase, so we turned our focus to food again. There is a food hall in the mall where you will find all sorts of goodies, from seafood to cheese, to pastries and souvenirs. One specific store here caught my attention, not by vision, but by fragrance. It's a spice shop where they provide a wide range of spices, herbs and flavoured salts. It smelled so good that my partner literally had to pull me out of it before I decided to camp there for the night.
Despite the fact that there were so many food choices in Lafayette, we didn't get our lunch there, as we wanted to explore our options in the local neighbourhood. We ended up in a small cafe near the underground station. Both me and my partner ordered a salad; I got a salad bowl which has burrata (one of my favourite cheese), fresh salad greens, dried apricot, and grains. Whereas bae got a classic Caesar Salad; and it's one of the best I've ever tasted. We also ordered wine, of course. I went for the Pouilly-Fumé while my partner got a glass of un-oaked chardonnay and both of them were amazing. The bread too was so good. If I have to pick one thing in Paris that I'm going to miss most, it would be their freshly baked bread.
It was quite a late lunch that we had. So once we're done with it, we quickly went back to our hotel, grabbed our luggage and called an Uber to bring us to the airport. There is a funny story I could tell here. When the Uber driver arrived, naturally he confirmed my name before letting us in, in French. I then answered 'oui'. I guess that's how the driver assumed that I speak French. But the truth is, other than 'oui', the only French I know are 'Bonjour' and 'Merci'. So obviously, when the driver asked me which terminal I'm heading to, again in French, I was utterly confused. Fortunately it was all fine and the driver took us to the airport safe and sound.
That as the end to our late spring, long weekend trip in Paris. It was so much fun, and I had a very good time and tons of great memories. Although there were accidents and such, those are all part of the fun of travelling isn't it? This city is truly amazing and I cannot wait to visit again, very soon in the future.