If you know my husband and I, you know that we are adventurers at heart. We go on trips any chance we get and have moved all over with each other. One of the promises we made when we first started dating was to always make time for adventures, even when life gets in the way. Ryan had promised me before we were even married that he would take me to Europe before I turned 30 and well, the clock was ticking. He made good on his promise, and we spent a week in Paris last May with 5 months to spare! Follow along as I recap the trip, from how it came to be, to where we went along the way. I’m also mixing in my iPhone photos because some days I didn’t want to lug around my camera, so excuse some poor quality images.
Like I said, we had a promise looming over us, but no real plans. In the summer of 2018, we had started an envelope for spare cash to start the ball rolling on the Europe trip. We weren’t sure where exactly we wanted to go other than maybe Italy, maybe Greece, maybe Paris or London? I was scrolling AirBnb one night last fall and stumbled on a listing for a house boat on the Seine. It was perfect! I booked 3 nights and now had a reason to make this promise a reality. A few months later, I found a killer airfare deal ($800 roundtrip for two!) and then a few months after that I found a great hotel deal for the second half of the trip. We cash flowed everything and kept on our tight budget the whole trip. I’ve had a lot of people make comments to me that they wished they could afford a trip overseas, and I’m telling you, it’s no more expensive than a vacation in the states. You just have to watch for deals and be careful about spending, just like anywhere else. Our trip cost us less than if we stayed on the beach in Florida for a week.
Day 1: Travel and Bike Tour
We survived the long flight and layover in London, and took the train from the Charles de Gaulle airport into the heart of Paris. The train system in Paris is very easy to figure out. Everything’s in french, so you have to do a little research ahead of time with Google, but we figured it out without any trouble. If you’ve ridden public transit in any city in the US, it’s the same thing. We took the trains everywhere during our trip. I will say, the trains are much cleaner in Paris than any other city I’ve been in. The photo below of the Eiffel Tower peeking up over the souvenir stands was the first thing I saw when we came out of the train station! Our houseboat was just a half block away. Such a great location for sight seeing. Fair warning: the food around the Eiffel Tower sucks. Our AirBnb host told us you need to walk at least 15 minutes away from the tower before you find anything good to eat. Much to Ryan’s dismay, he forgot that he agreed to a 3 hour bike and boat tour for the first night we arrived. It turned out to be one of our favorite things we did on the trip! We didn’t get back to the houseboat until about 11pm that first night and were so exhausted, but it was worth it!
Day 2: Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, St. Chapelle, Notre Dame
We hit the ground running on our first full day and took the train up to the Montmartre neighborhood. The Sacre Coeur Cathedral is on the top of the hill here and it was breathtaking. Ryan was in awe and we decided to just walk into any church we walked by to admire the architecture. The streets immediately near Sacre Coeur were VERY busy and there were definitely pickpocketing scams going on all over at the foot of the church, which I thought was very ironic. But once you turned the corner, it was a very calm part of the city. Montmartre is very “old world” Paris, and looked like what we all think Paris would look like. It’s where artists like Van Gogh, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and a hundred other famous names lived. I was following along in a brochure of famous artist sites like Van Gogh’s studio, but gave up following along because it was just literally every building we came upon that was significant. Later on, we went down along the river again. Since the Notre Dame fire happened a month before our trip, we weren’t able to go near it, which broke my little art history nerd heart. But we still walked all around it, and also toured Saint Chapelle to see the intricate stained glass.
Day 3: The Louvre
The first thing I did when planning our itinerary was block off an entire day to see The Louvre. Ryan wasn’t so sure it would fill the whole day but about 30 minutes in he said, “okay, we are definitely spending all day here.” We were there for about 8 hours. It also spawned a new photography series that I’m going to be contributing to along our travels. I was floored by all of these people surrounded by masterpieces that would walk up, take a picture of the art, and then walk away…without even pausing to actually look at what they were seeing. There really is a difference to be in the presence of great art and it was fascinating to me to watch hundreds of people just rush through to take a picture they will never look at again. So included some of those photographs that I will probably be contributing to for the rest of my life.
That night was our last night on the houseboat, so we ate a nice little dinner from the grocery on the houseboat patio. Then I wanted to just walk along the riverfront and enjoy the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night. It sparkles for 5 minutes at the top of the hour at night, so we found a good spot for our love lock across from the tower and then strolled down to sit by the river and wait for the tower to light up. As we were heading back to the boat, we had to walk through a huge crowd that had gathered by the Eiffel Tower and as we were walking through, a light and laser show started. Most of it was pretty cheesy and we aren’t huge fans of crowds, but finally I made us stop to just enjoy because when is this ever going to happen again? Just as we stopped, they began playing Debussy’s Clair de Lune as the Eiffel Tower turned purple and blue. It was so beautiful, we both teared up. When we got back to the houseboat, I looked it up and apparently it was the Eiffel Towers 130th birthday. So cool that we were right there!
Day 4: Finally a good french meal and Musée de l’Armée
In the morning we left the houseboat and rode the train to our hotel in the Montparnasse neighborhood. We could tell this was where actual Parisians lived and we enjoyed being away from the craziness down near the river. Our hotel also had a big giant soaking tub in the bathroom, which was so nice after showering in a tiny closet that we couldn’t fully stand in on the boat. We took our time walking from our hotel to the Army Museum (Musée de l’Armée) and stopped in a restaurant with a lunch prixe fixe menu. We had been disappointed in the food so far, but this meal was delicious. I had a duck confit dish and Ryan had an asparagus risotto and they were both so good. I don’t remember the appetizer or dessert specifics, but those were also so good. We also walked through the St. Germain neighborhood and enjoyed one of the public gardens. We were pretty tired from moving lodging and being on our feet, so we enjoyed bread and cheese in the room for dinner.
Day 5: Latin Quarters and a concert at St. Sulpice
Our days had been pretty jam packed up until this point, so we planned to just explore at our own pace. We took the train to save our feet a bit, and then explored St. Germain and the Latin Quarters. The Latin Quarters is an important neighborhood for literary history, so Ryan was excited to see the streets that people like Hemingway used to roam. It probably used to be cooler, but has now largely become a giant tourist trap, which was disappointing. Still, it was a fun day and we saw so many beautiful buildings, churches, bakeries and soaked in the city. I had yet to find a good macaron, so a friend told me I had to find Pierre Herme. Y’all. They were so good. And right next to Saint Sulpice, another gorgeous church with a beautiful fountain and park in front. We actually attended a symphonic and choral concert at St. Sulpice that evening…because when else do you get to listen to live classical music in a 200 year old cathedral? Another once-in-a-lifetime experience we will never forget. I didn’t take any pictures, but trust me, we were there. Oh, we also fit another boat tour in there between walking around the Latin Quarter and the evening symphony concert. So our “relaxing” day was full of walking for miles, a boat tour and an evening concert followed by a nighttime stroll back to the hotel.
Day 6: Musée d’Orsay
Okay, by this point I had a ton of amazing experiences and…I was ready to be home and see my babies. We were tired, we missed the kids, and we still had a day to fill. We had been toying with the idea of taking a day trip to visit Monet’s gardens, but decided we weren’t up for heavy travel and went to Musée d’Orsay to see his art instead. The Louvre really focuses on art before the Impressionists shook things up, and Musée d’Orsay kind of picks up where it leaves off. I’m so glad we decided to visit, because it was full of some of my favorite artists and the museum itself was really beautiful. It’s in a restored old train station, which was really cool and a perfect backdrop for the art. When we finished, Ryan humored me as we tracked down some berets for the kids. The only time it rained all week was when we were strolling along the souvenir stands looking for the red berets! We had another nice dinner near the hotel that night and then went back to the hotel to pack.
Day 7: Home
Can I just say, flying internationally is freaking fun. They feed you a lot and you have a million movies at your fingertips in your personal tv to keep you entertained. It was the best. And, this cutie appreciated all my efforts for a red beret!