Friday, July 29, 2011

McGuffey Guide to Paris - Part I

I dreamed of going to the City of Love for as long as I can remember.  I wanted to walk the narrow streets past all of the window boxes filled with beautiful flowers.  I wanted to drink wine and have a picnic on the Seine.  I wanted to sit outside of a cafe and watch Parisian life pass me by.  I wanted to eat the fabulous food and refine my palette.  I wanted to see all of the sites and spend hours taking in the abundance of impressionist art that I love so much.  And last but certainly not least, I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower with the love of my life.  Last September, I got the chance to make my dream come true.  Mitch and I took a three week European tour in celebration of his completion of law school and the bar.  It was amazing and more than I could have ever dreamed of.  Our first five days were spent in Paris, and it was the perfect beginning to the trip and my favorite city we visited.

This trip was very fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, and while it worked out great for us, I thought I would share some of our tips and favorite places for those who enjoy a more planned vacation.  I've split the post in two so that it isn't the blog equivalent of Les Miserables.  Hope you enjoy our favorite places and the pictures from our visit.

We think hands down, you should stay in the Latin Quarter when on your visit to Paris.  It has the beautiful narrow streets and window boxes, it is close to most of the attractions you want to see (Notre Dame Cathedral, Louvre, Luxembourg Gardens, Musee d'Orsay), and it has the outdoor markets and quaint cafes that you will want to frequent.  We spent half of our stay at a lovely, budget friendly place in the Latin Quarter named Hotel des 3 Colleges.  We got an end room, so one of our windows opened up on the corner, and we enjoyed the sounds of the streets and felt very Parisian while in our room.  I will put the disclaimer that it is not a five star hotel by any means, but it is clean, has all of the necessities, great location and the price is right. 

We spent the second half of our stay in a hotel near the Eiffel Tower and would not recommend it; we felt very out of the loop.  It just seemed like less was going on in that area and we had to walk a good distance to get anywhere we wanted to go.

We looked into several other hotels that were recommended by Steph Modo here, but they were all booked up. They all look delightful and when we go back, they will be on the short list of places we check.

It is worth it to do your homework on places to eat dinner in Paris.  There are a lot of touristy places that are not very good, and you do not want to get stuck eating at them like we did one night.  Our favorite dinner during our time there was at a place called Cafe Constant.  It was recommended by a friend, and it was absolutely fabulous!  My fish was delicious, but Mitch's quail was out of the this world.  Seriously, do yourself a favor and go!

Our flight arrived at 8:00 am, so we were quite hungry by the time we dropped our stuff at the hotel.  We wandered around the corner and found
Soufflot Cafe.  It was exactly what we needed to initiate us into our time in Paris.  A lot of the locals stop in at a cafe in the morning for a quick coffee and baguette with butter and jam, so in an effort to blend in (or maybe just because we were hungry), we went back several times for our morning fix. :)  It has a very English friendly menu and a delicious onion soup if you choose to go for lunch.

There is ice cream and there is ICE CREAM!  Berthillon ice cream falls in the later category.  I'm not sure I've had anything better.  It is absolutely divine and a place that you will want to frequent throughout your stay.  My favorite flavor was peach; it tasted like I was biting into a fresh, frozen peach.  Berthillon is located on Isle St. Louis, which is right beside the Notre Dame and the Latin Quarter.  Everywhere on the island sells this ice cream, but you should definitely go to the real location.  They are closed on Monday and Tuesdays, so be sure to plan accordingly.

One of the best things about Paris is the abundance of fresh markets and shops.  So pick up your favorite cured meat, cheese, baguette and bottle of wine and head down to any of the benches along the Seine for one of the loveliest lunches you could ever ask for.

And last, but certainly not least.....crepes!  You can get them anywhere and everywhere, and they are amazing!  They make for a quick lunch on the go or the perfect evening cap.  My personal favorites were ham and cheese and butter, sugar and cinnamon.  And I am pretty sure we had at least one every day we were there.

Come back next week for Part II of the McGuffey Guide to Paris.  I will share our favorite museums, things we loved doing while there, random tips and lots of pictures.

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