Back to school for us last year in August meant packing our bags and flying off to Europe for a month! This trip, like many of our other trips, was booked on a whim when I received a notification that airfare to Paris dropped as low as the mid 300s. I think I booked it around the beginning of the year, and then put it on the back burner until summertime, when family and friends began questioning our itinerary for our big Europe trip. When we admitted that other than Paris, we didn’t really have any plans in place yet, suggestions came trickling in, which led our plans to evolve from a mother/daughter backpacking trip to opportunities to visit friends and family…plus, a Mediterranean Cruise for my dad’s 80th birthday!
I had taken Bridgette to Paris when she was 4, but she didn’t have much memory of it, so she was super excited to head there for their cheese, french onion soup, and macarons, lol! Top of her list for Paris though, was to have a picnic underneath the Eiffel Tower, so we purchased a light, travel-friendly picnic mat from Amazon and packed it into our suitcase for the city of love!
We rented a one bedroom Airbnb and ended up in a not-so-good neighborhood. We’re usually pretty careful about checking the safety of where we’re staying, but we had so many places to plan for this trip that we neglected to do this for Paris. 😅 We nearly got scammed multiple times at our subway station, had a bit of a scare when we learned that there was a shooting and hostage situation down the street from us, and intentionally didn’t stay out past 9pm each night to make sure it was relatively safe to get back to our Airbnb. The place itself was quite comfortable, but it was hot without any a/c, and we didn’t dare open the windows being that we were on the first floor.
Our 5 days in Paris were not jammed pack with activities, so we achieved a nice balance of sightseeing, exploring, and relaxation. We got around by foot, by subway, by bikes, and by Uber, and our trusty Google Maps worked perfectly fine there! Being that it was August, the weather was still hot and humid, even in the evenings, so no jacket was needed.
Here are some of the fun things we did while in Paris:
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
One of the best places to view Paris from high up is undoubtedly the Arc de Triomphe. We took the subway to Champs Elysees in the late afternoon the day we arrived, had an early dinner (french onion soup ofcourse!) at a random cafe, walked around some of the shops (like the flagship store of Sephora), grabbed some delicious macarons from Laduree, and then got in line to go up the Arc de Triomphe. Once we made it up there, it was nearly sunset, so the view was absolutely amazing!
We decided not to spend 1+ hour in line in the scorching heat to go up to the tower. Instead, we bought some delicious pastries, our travel picnic mat, and found a spot in front of the tower for an afternoon picnic. To be honest, we were both a bit disappointed. The area in front of the tower, which stretched for several blocks, was bare and filled with litter. While the view of the Eiffel Tower was fantastic, it just didn’t feel good to be eating amongst a sea of cigarette butts…
After finishing our picnic lunch, we ventured off to the side and found a greener area with less cigarette butts. We spent a leisurely afternoon laying there reading, taking photos, and chatting.
FAT TIRE BIKE TOUR
We booked a bike tour with Fat Tire Bike Tours and it was probably one of our favorite ways to see Paris! We had a great tour guide that taught us a lot about the different sites we visited, took the time to help us take photos, and made the tour both exciting and informative. Also, biking around the streets of Paris didn’t feel dangerous at all, even for the younger kids.
WITHLOCALS.COM FOOD TOUR
While planning our Europe trip, I came across a website call WithLocals.com. Basically it’s a site where you can book tour guides that are actually your ordinary local resident from a particular city. This local tour guide is suppose to be highly familiar with all the ins and outs of the city and be able to take you around at a fraction of the cost of what you’d pay for a professional private tour guide. The idea is to connect you with a local to get a more realistic and authentic experience on what life is like in that city. We decided to give this site a try for our Europe trip, and had our first experience in Paris, where we booked a local name Zoltan for a food tour.
Communication with Zoltan was pretty good leading up to our tour in terms of the logistics on where to meet. However, the actual tour itself proved to be disappointing for us. He basically took us to a small local market, where we went to several different booths to get some sample size tastings. He also took us on a day where half of the market was closed, so there were certain things that we didn’t get to try either. After the market, we walked around the block for a few other samplings, and that was pretty much it. It definitely didn’t feel like it was a very special and localized kind of experience, but Zoltan was quite nice and very patient with Bridgette and all her questions. For the 170 Euro that we paid, we probably ate 40 Euro at most, so it definitely was not considered a very good value for the money.
LOUVRE AND NOTRE DAME
I know it’s hard to believe, but we didn’t make it to the Louvre or to Notre Dame on this visit. Since we only had 5 days, we didn’t want to spend hours in line, especially with the weather being so hot and humid. We also wanted to avoid the crowds! But, we did walk by the exteriors to admire both from the outside! 🙂
In between all the arranged activities, bucket list items, and sightseeing, we explored different neighborhoods spontaneously and stumbled across lots of yummy food along the way!
Mid-day snack along the beautiful Seine River:
One of our very favorite restaurants was Danard, recommended to us by my sister. It’s a really casual cheese shop, with a few tables inside and outside the restaurant for those who want to enjoy a cheese plate while there. Since it’s suppose to be super casual, we didn’t think we’d need a reservation, and ended up being turned away when we went on a Thursday evening. Determined to try it before we leave, we went back on our last day for lunch (with a reservation), and it turned out to be our very favorite meal of the trip! The cheese selection was absolutely superb!!!!
After our adventurous week in Paris, we packed our bags and flew to our next stop…Bristol, United Kingdom!