Before we left for Paris, I had quite a few people comment on how short of a trip we’d booked. Only 4 days to go to Paris and back? The thing with travel is that you have to make it a priority if you want it to be a part of your life. So although Adam couldn’t take a full week off work in May, we didn’t use that as an excuse to not go anywhere or just go somewhere local, and instead decided to take a short and sweet trip to Paris. Spoiler: it was the one of the best trips of my life. Possibly even more so because it was short. The thrill of jetting off to Europe for just a few days. The whirlwind romance of Paris. Something about it being a shorter trip somehow removed the pressure of having to “see it all” since we knew we couldn’t and instead freed us up to just see and do the things we wanted. No lines at the Mona Lisa, no trek to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Below – exactly how we spent our 4 magical days in the City of Light.
Day One: We landed in the early afternoon due to a flight delay the night before (our only real hiccup of the trip – which cut into the things I had planned for the first day), but we made the most of it and quickly checked into our AirBnb in Le Marais neighborhood and headed out into a rainy Paris. I chose that area as its a young, hip neighborhood with a good balance of things to do alongside quiet little streets (like the Paris equivalent of New York’s West Village). Plus, when we travel we walk as much as possible and this area also made that easy to do.
The first thing we went in search of was food, naturally, and Cafe Charlot didn’t disappoint! A classic bistro feel with outside tables, lots of locals and the most delicious warm goat cheese salad I’ve ever had. Afterwards we headed to Au Petit Fer à Cheval – tucked away on a winding little street, this bar is over 100 years old and has a tiny horseshoe shaped marble bar that makes you feel like Hemingway may stumble in at any moment. If we’d had more time we likely would have popped into the library bar across the street. Next time! Afterwards, we took a stroll along the Seine in the rain until jet lag made it impossible to do anything but go get a good night’s sleep.
Day Two: We started off the first full day with a big appetite and a big agenda. First up was a coffee for Adam and a chai tea for me at Ob La Di, a hip little neighborhood spot, before exploring a few more of the back streets near our AirBnB, stopping every 10 feet to take photos of the grand double door entrances that the Marais area is known for. We had our first proper breakfast at Breizh Cafe (go early! soon after we arrived they were turning away people at the door) where galettes and crepes are on the menu. Next we headed to the nearby Picasso Museum, housed in a gorgeous building that dates back to the 1600s. We decided to skip the Louvre this trip and instead head to just a couple of “specialty museums” and I’m so happy with our decision. The smaller settings made the artwork feel more personal and you could see everything without devoting an entire afternoon to it.
After the Picasso Museum we decided to skip the metro and walk the 45 minutes or so to the Montmartre area. Of course, stopping for a nutella street crepe along the way. Once there, we climbed the famous steep steps all the way up to the Sacré Coeur for a sweeping view of the city below it. The winding streets up on the hill have a few tourist traps, but if you keep walking you’ll find some real, cobblestone gems. We’ve found, it usually simply takes being willing to walk further than the big groups of tourists. Wear comfortable shoes if Montmarte is on your agenda!
We popped into a few shops in the area including Chinemachine, a vintage store where Adam found a cool pair of boots and then stumbled past the Moulin Rouge (which didn’t exactly make me want to go in… but did make me want to watch the movie again). Then we headed to Pink Mamma to put our name in for a reservation and waited at a nearby cafe with a drink until our table was ready. It was worth the wait – this place feels like you’re eating in an Italian grandma’s house. Its 4 stories so you really feel tucked away from other diners within each room and copper pots hang from the open kitchen while there is artwork, wallpaper and plants covering the walls. The meal and drinks were 10/10 delicious and prices were really reasonable for such a hotspot.
After dinner we headed to Lulu White, a little neighborhood bar that had such a fun atmosphere. Blaring oldies and serving up absinthe cocktails, we easily lost a few hours in there before racing across town in an uber and catching the very last Eiffel Tower light show of the evening at 1AM. A perfect Paris night.
Day Three: After staying up until almost 3AM the night before, we slept in a bit and then headed to Neighbours, a bright and airy cafe nearby in the Marais. Both of our breakfasts were healthy and delicious – until we topped it off by splitting a piece of their famous grilled banana bread. SO good. SO worth it.
From breakfast we walked to the Palais Royale (where these photos were taken), passed by the Louvre, and wandered through the Jardin des Tuileries (and could have spent an entire afternoon just reading and people watching) before heading in the the Musée de l’Orangerie. Home to Monet’s famous water lilies. In stark, rounded rooms, his huge canvas panels curve around you in full panoramic. Standing in front of them was honestly breathtaking and easily one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever looked at. Don’t miss a short stop here.
After that, we wandered along the Seine all the way to the Eiffel Tower, picking up croissants, baguette sandwiches and a few sweet treats along the way. We basked in the sun and while I know it’s touristy, this was still one of my favorite things we did.
Afterwards, we headed back to our neighborhood, where we popped into Discocaso Record Shop and picked up a few vintage vinyls plus stopped into the classic Ladurée for the best macarons in the world. That night we had dinner at local spot Le Petit Marché where Adam had the duck, I had the ravioli, both of which were mouthwateringly good, and we finished off the decadent meal by splitting creme brûlée (when in Paris, non?).
Day 4: We began our last day in Paris in the Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood with breakfast at the classic Cafe de Flore. One of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris, the waiters in their crisp whites once served espresso to Picasso and Hemingway and it honestly felt like not much had changed since then. With a jar of honey, the flakiest croissants and a big pot of tea… I never wanted to leave.
Afterwards we walked to the Notre Dame (still very much standing and worth seeing from afar despite repairs and the fire damage), picked up a vintage book and a few postcards from the infamous Seine-side stands and then popped into the renowned Shakespeare & Company bookstore – there since the 1920s! I always try to buy a book – or 3 – as souvenirs and here I bought a copy of Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. Only fitting.
Afterwards we crossed over the picturesque little island in the Seine called Ile de St Lois (and would have gotten ice cream at Berthillon had it not been closed on Mondays!) and wandered back to Le Marais. I did a bit of shopping, finding a great silk scarf at a vintage shop and classic stripes at Amor Luxe then we had one last meal at La Paulette before heading off to Charles de Gaulle.
It was such an incredible trip, filled with amazing food, beautiful views and memories that are only making me want to plan a return trip. Until next time Paris!
PS. A few helpful tips: almost everyone speaks English in shops and restaurants but you’ll be met with extra respect and kindness if you at the very least begin with a simple ‘Bonjour’ (good day) or ‘Bonsoir’ (good evening) and finish with a meaningful ‘merci’ (thank you). I took 4 years of French and was able to mostly order food, ask for the check,etc. in French. Even when I fumbled, we found everyone to be incredibly gracious. French are matter of fact – much like New Yorkers – but I really don’t find them to be unnecessarily rude.
Lastly, Adam and I look out for each other at all times when traveling, and never felt unsafe in Paris, but I’ve heard of a good amount of people who have been pick-pocketed there. I 100% believe it was because these people weren’t paying attention to their surroundings (for instance, don’t set your camera bag down while at the Eiffel Tower and then turn around to rummage through your purse…). So I wouldn’t let that stop you from visiting. As with everywhere you go in life – best to be aware of what’s going on around you.