Thankful for family and Paris!

PARIS

OVERVIEW

  • When: 22 November- 27 November, 2022
  • Where (accommodations): Hotel West End Paris
  • Transportation: PLAY airlines from Boston with connection in Iceland
  • Sights/attractions: Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Crazy Horse Paris, Plaza de la Concordia, Tuileries Garden, Galleries Lafayette, Louvre, Notre Dame, Ile de la Cite, Sacre-Coeur Basilica, Place du Tertre, Wall of Love, Moulin Rouge, La Caveau de la Huchette, Saint Germain, Jardin du Luxembourg, Panthéon, Eglise Saint- Sulpice, Le Bon Marché rive Gauche
  • Food/drinks: Bellota-Bellota Champs-Elysées, La Patisserie Cyril Lignac-Chaillot, Le Bistro Marbeuf, Ladurée, Bustronome Paris, Liberté, La Petite Périgourdine, Carette, Grains Nobles et Plus, Mille&Un, Cook’ Saj, Perruche

Paris- the City of Love. And what is a better place to celebrate a five year wedding anniversary than one of the most romantic cities in the world? Add Thanksgiving holiday (that’s a four day weekend right there!), invite mom and sister (with their respected husbands of course) and you have a mini family vacation in less than a week! It’s been over a year since I saw my mom and almost a year since the trip with my sister and brother-in- law. Once we decided on Paris for our anniversary, we knew it would be a shame to not get together. After all, it’s is only a four hour train ride from Frankfurt and a couple hours flight from Lithuania. As for Sean and I- we booked our flights on Play airline with a short layover in Iceland. They were having a decent sale, so we sacrificed a direct and very expensive flight and decided to give this budget airline a try. We were pleasantly surprised. There was no food and we knew that, so had a big meal before we left and packed snacks. There is no in flight entertainment – again, not a problem if you bring your own kindle/tablet with downloaded movie or a Switch (in Sean’s case). Other than these few ‘lacks’, everything else was great. All four flights were on time (arrived even earlier than scheduled), staff was pleasant and most importantly it was plenty of room even for tall people like us! We actually got an exit row on two of the flights, so it was even better. Nobody weighed/measured our cary-on bags, so there was no stress about potential extra weight either. For $500 pp round trip from Boston to Paris it was a very good deal. We are already checking other Play destinations for a potential long weekend trip.

After an overnight flight we landed in Paris on Wednesday morning. Flight home was on Sunday, so we got four full days to sample amazing food, sightsee and even dance! Come along for our detailed itinerary.

WEDNESDAY

  • Arrival, check-in at the Hotel West End Paris, nap
  • Lunch at Bellota-Bellota Champs-Elysées
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Pastry stop at La Patisserie Cyril Lignac-Chaillot
  • Dinner at Le Bistro Marbeuf
  • Crazy Horse show

This is the easing into Paris day so to speak. Even though we did get some sleep on the flights, we still arrived fairly exhausted and jet lagged. Taxi to the hotel took almost an hour (Paris traffic is real), but our room was ready despite us being a few hours earlier than the official check-in time. The nap was something we desperately needed in order to make it to the evening when mom and Alius arrived.

Can we just talk about the weather? It was downpour rain all the way from the airport and stopped soon after we got to the hotel. The rain held off until Sunday morning when it resumed as we were heading back to the airport. I call this a true Thanksgiving miracle 🙂 . We even brought umbrellas, because every day forecast predicted rain. Did not use them once!

We chose Hotel West End Paris for it’s central location and the chance to have the view of the Eiffel Tower. There is no guarantees as they only have five rooms with the view, but since we booked mom’s room as well as ours, we doubled our chances and voila! We got a fifth floor room with the balcony and the view of my dreams 🙂 .

The room and especially the bathroom was very small (that is pretty typical for Europe), but the balcony and the Eiffel Tower view was all I wanted. Overall it was a pleasant stay-nice lobby, courteous staff, breakfast included, but we only ate there once. There are too many amazing bakeries in Paris to waste calories on hotel’s generic breakfast options 🙂 . We would definitely stay here again (especially if we knew we can get the same view).

My sister and brother-in-law arrived around lunch, so we met up right after our nap. Starving since the previous night we did not want to walk far, so ducked into the nearest place we could find and had an excellent meal! Bellota-Bellota Champs-Elysées is partially a store/partially a little restaurant with a small menu, but everything we got was delicious. The best part through- we are finally together!

Energy restored, rain out of the picture- perfect time to start exploring this beautiful city! We walked along the Seine river and crossed over the Debilly Footbridge towards the symbol of Paris- Eiffel Tower. Of course romantic tourists that we are, we got a lock (negotiate the price, the seller dropped it in half) and hung it on the rail.

Eiffel Tower is a pleasant 18 min walk from the Hotel West End, and initially we were just going to go and see if we can get the tickets to go up top the following day. When we arrived we saw that the elevator line was very long and the tickets could only be purchased for the current time and not a future date. The line to climb the stairs to the second floor and THEN take the lift up was only a few people long, so we made a decision to take this option. It’s about 15-20 min climb, but waiting in line would’ve been way longer and with sun setting it was getting chillier. We reached the second level and took the elevator up to the top just in time to see the view during sunset.

It was definitely worth a little stair climb exercise. It’s windy and chilly up there, so make sure to dress warm. Also, every top of the hour in the dark for five minutes the tower sparkles. Take the time to enjoy it. So romantic. So magical 🙂 !

All this walking got us hungry and the dinner was a couple of hours away, so we stopped by La Patisserie Cyril Lignac-Chaillot for some French pastries. Ooo la la! Absolutely amazing.

For dinner on the first evening we decided to book a restaurant very close to the hotel. The real exploring will begin tomorrow, so tonight we wanted it to be easy and convenient. Le Bistro Marbeuf was cozy and the food was good. Not the best we had in Paris, but no complaints either!

Lastly on the first day’s agenda- Parisian cabaret at the world famous Crazy Horse! We booked the tickets in advance (highly recommend) and the show on a Wednesday night was cheaper than on the weekend (you can always spend the extra cash on pastries!). We were not sure what to expect and we really enjoyed it. Yes, the girls dance topless, but it’s very classy/artistic show, not vulgar or cheap in any way. When in Paris, check it out! Conveniently it was only few minutes walk from the hotel- a real bonus when you are tired and still jet lagged.

THURSDAY

  • Champs-Élysées
  • Plaza de la Concordia
  • Tuileries Garden Christmas Market
  • Ladurée for macarons
  • Galleries Lafayette
  • Louvre
  • Loup for the drink
  • Dinner at the Bustronome Paris

Mom and Alius arrived last night, their flight was a bit delayed, but we are finally reunited!

Our hotel balcony had an excellent backdrop for a mini photoshoot. Once we all got the photos we liked, we set off to explore Paris. Gorgeous day for the stroll and window shopping. Most of the stores decorate their storefronts for the holidays mid to end of November, so we got to see some exquisite displays!

Slowly walking Champs-Élysées we reached Plaza de la Concordia and took a little rest by the water at the Tuileries Garden.

Right near the Paris Ferris Wheel there was a Christmas Market, so we walked through that and did a little bit of shopping. Fair warning- same souvenirs were a lot cheaper in the other parts of the city, as we found out in the following days.

All this walking got us hungry and our next ‘must visit’ spot was Ladurée– can’t come to Paris and not taste their macarons!

There are several locations, the first one we walked in had no sit down place, so we went to another one. Unfortunately they were only allowing to sit if you have lunch reservations, which we did not…So we got our macarons to go and enjoyed them sitting on the bench near by.

Not to be a snob, but we are kind of judgmental when it comes to good pastries.The shops were beautiful, state of the art. But we did not love these macarons. They were not bad, but extremely sweet. We have a better spot in Salem, MA that we love. Ladurée, your macaron game has some competition across the ocean 🙂 .

Galleries Lafayette Haussmann was our next stop and not even for the shopping purposes. We went to this department store purely for the window decorations, their incredible dome and the rooftop terrace.

Taking up the whole block this department store is worth a visit. All of the window decorations were super neat- moving, swinging, dancing to the music. Giant Christmas tree in the center of the gallery is the sight to be seen (best viewed from the third floor) and the terrace has sweeping views of Paris. No lines or entrance fees.

On the sixth floor of this mall there is a self service cafe where we grabbed lunch. We had no time to go to the actual restaurant, because we booked the tickets to Louvre for 2.30pm and didn’t want to risk missing our time slot. While the tickets to the Eiffel Tower were sold out a month ahead online, we had no problem booking them for the Louvre. Museum is huge and the amount of art is overwhelming. Definitely recommend doing your research in advance of what is your ‘must see’. I’ve been before, so had no real stress to run around. Of course we had to visit the Mona Lisa, so we checked that off the list first thing. We just beat the crowds, as soon as we took our picture a big group came in and the long line formed in front of this famous painting.

We dedicated three hours for Louvre, though you could easily spend there all day and still not see everything.

We split up- mom and Alius needed some rest, so they were taking it easy. Cosimo and Agne were running around because my brother-in-law has not been to Louvre and had a lot of things he wanted to see.

Sean and I wandered around, had a snack at the cafe and while connected to the wifi I found out that one of my college friends from Lithuania just happens to be in Paris on a short business trip! She was at the restaurant Loup ten minutes walk from Louvre with her colleagues- what are the odds?! We finished sightseeing and decided to go meet up. I’ve not seen Laura for four years and it simply felt like destiny.

The restaurant looked nice and the drinks were very good. They even had a dog who was super sweet and friendly. We had dinner reservations so unfortunately could not stay long, but it was SO nice to see each other and catch up even for a short time.

For dinner we had a very interesting plan- Bustronome Paris. Gastronomic dinner on a double decker bus! Elegant French dishes, multiple course dinner with the wine pairing while driving around Paris, passing by the most popular sights. Brilliant idea and I am surprised more cities don’t do this.

The roof/sides of the bus are made of glass, so we could see the Paris sights and not worry about the chilly weather. This was also Thanksgiving in the USA and even though not celebrated in Europe, it was wonderful to have this American holiday together with the family.

FRIDAY

  • Breakfast at Liberté
  • Ile de la Cite
  • Notre Dame
  • Lunch at La Petite Périgourdine
  • Montmartre/Sacre-Coeur Basilica
  • Carette for crepes
  • Place du Tertre
  • Wall of Love
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Dinner at Grains Nobles et Plus
  • Dancing at La Caveau de la Huchette

Since we did not love the breakfast at our hotel, we decided to look up the patisserie/boulangerie (bakery) and try the real Parisian baked goods. We went to Liberté and just beat the rush. It’s a pretty small space, so if it’s busy you’d have to take the pastries to go.

We tried a few different delicacies and my favorite was their plain croissant and a pastry with apples. I was slightly disappointed in a chocolate croissant (chocolate inside was cold and hard, but seems like that is typical for French pain au chocolat).

On today’s sightseeing agenda we had quite a few stops- first one being Ile de la Cite– an island in the river Seine in the center of Paris. Just walking along the river was very pleasant and really quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of the otherwise busy city.

We crossed Pont Neuf bridge and got as close to Notre Dame Cathedral as we could. Sadly since the fire it’s been closed and will remain closed looks like for a long time…

For lunch we went to La Petite Périgourdine and had foie gras, duck confit and Aligot- the most amazing cheesy mashed potatoes. You can substitute any other side with Aligot for a little extra fee (which is well worth it!).

This area of the city is called Latin Quarter and is super charming. I especially liked the amount of book stores lining the streets.

After a couple hours lunch (nobody is in a rush here), we took a metro to Montmartre/Sacre-Coeur Basilica. We used Uber several times, but to avoid traffic and when Uber was not available Paris metro was great alternative.

Sacre-Coeur Basilica is on a hill and there are quite a few steps to reach the top, so we took it slow with mom and Alius. The mass was happening when we arrived, so we sat there for a bit. It’s beautiful inside and out, including the sweeping view from the steps.

While in Montmartre you cannot skip the little artist plaza- Place du Tertre. So many talented painters, sketch artists selling incredible pieces or making art right in front of your eyes.

We did not have a lot of time, but I’d love to come back and spend and afternoon here – there were musicians, cute little cafes- lovely atmosphere. Of course we cannot go a day without sweets, especially in Paris. So Sean and I got a crepe each at Carette. Made right in front of our eyes, hot and thin- they were perfect.

Walk from here on was easier as it was downhill. We were ready to go back to the hotel and prepare for dinner, but had one more stop in mind- the famous Moulin Rouge. Right before we stopped by the Wall of Love– “I love you” written in over 200 languages! We found the Lithuanian ‘Aš tave myliu’, which was at a perfect hight for the selfie.

We grabbed an Uber to the hotel and actually had an hour nap- after the full day of walking we wanted to be rested for dinner. It was at the Grains Nobles et Plus and was organized by my friend Dominic, who lives in Paris and whom I have not seen for almost 10 years. We met in Thailand in a work conference and kept in touch throughout the years mostly just seeing how our lives are going via Facebook, so it was absolutely wonderful to meet up in person again. His friend owns this restaurant and we felt like the VIPs.

Multiple courses, wine pairing and the best part- no actual menu and no choices to make! You just tell what you don’t like and leave the rest for the chef. We were so well taken care of that by the end of the night we were giving good bye hugs to the sweet Colombian owner. It really is a special place that I’d love to come back to.

I am so glad we had the pre-dinner nap, because we had a surprise- Dominic took us swing dancing at La Caveau de la Huchette until 1 in the morning!

My friend loves dancing and so do we, so it was an awesome way to end the evening. Live music, people of all ages showing off their moves-it was super fun!

SATURDAY

  • Breakfast at Mille & Un
  • Saint Germain
  • Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Panthéon
  • Lunch at Cook’ Saj
  • Eglise Saint- Sulpice
  • Shopping at Le Bon Marché rive Gauche
  • Dinner at Perruche

Last day in Paris and we left it to be the most relaxing as we only had plans for dinner. We started our day by enjoying our breakfast at Mille & Un– French pastries with an Asian twist. I think here I had my most favorite croissants in Paris.

Bellies full of sugar we slowly walked around the Saint Germain neighborhood and crossed the Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg). All the way to Panthéon.

Built between 1758 and 1790 this monument was intended to be a church, but eventually became a mausoleum for the remains of distinguished French citizens (Hugo, Voltaire, Dumas etc.).

There is a fee to enter and we waited in line for about 15 minutes, but it’s worth visiting.

We had a restaurant in mind for lunch, but when we got there it was full, so we had to improvise. After a little bit of researching we decided on Mediterranean – Cook’N Saj. It was not only good food (especially their signature burger), but also the atmosphere and the friendly owners. Two brothers were joking, creating stories- it was very entertaining.

While walking for lunch we passed by the church- Eglise Saint- Sulpice. Now that we were not starving we decided to go back and check it out from the inside. Big, beautiful church with the large plaza and the fountain in front.

The last day was the chilliest of the four in Paris and the gloomiest. We didn’t have anything else ‘must see’, so we decided to go to the mall for some shopping before tomorrow’s departure. Le Bon Marché rive Gauche was conveniently walking distance away, so we spent a couple hours (and some Euros 🙂 ) there before heading back to the hotel to relax and prepare for dinner.

For our last night in Paris we booked a rooftop restaurant Perruche. We had to call to make the reservation about a week out, this is a popular place and definitely very busy.

Typically places with nice views are overpriced and the food can be mediocre. This was not the case here- we really enjoyed both the atmosphere and the dinner. But of course, the most important is the company!

And that is all for our mini Parisian get together… Sunday morning we had our last breakfast on the balcony followed by the gorgeous pink sunrise. On the way to the airport it started raining- even Paris was crying that we had to leave 🙂 .

CONCLUSION

Very short, one of the shortest trips we’ve done to Europe ever (we had a long weekend in Iceland, but that’s a bit closer than Paris). No matter the time, it was still worth it. Very grateful we all were able to make it, these uncertain times nothing is guaranteed. Grateful for the health, the reliable transportation that got us together from three different countries. Especially grateful for the time we got to enjoy this romantic, full of art and gourmet food city as a family.

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