Paris travel diary

It feels slightly surreal to be writing this mere hours after Trump announced a month-long travel ban to Europe, considering I just returned from a weeklong vacation to London and Paris on Saturday. While our friends in London were good-naturedly indulging in gallows humor (and stocking up on toilet paper), things in both places generally felt like life as usual. Granted, our flight home was less than half full, and in retrospect, some things were definitely a bit emptier than normal (but more on that later). That said, we had a wonderful time and are glad we went, regardless of when we'll be able to return. Here's how we spent two days in Paris, just as the Coronavirus began to spread.

Day 1
We had been staying with friends in London and took the Eurostar to Paris, which was super easy and fairly quick (slightly over two hours). While it probably would have made sense to stay on the Right Bank, closer to Gare du Nord, where the Eurostar arrives, I was determined to do the Left Bank this time, having not made it there at all on our last Paris trip. That said, we took the Metro to our hotel, checked in, and were sitting at an outdoor table at Cafe de Flore before sunset. A croque monsieur and glass of Bordeaux were just the right thing to tide us over until dinner, although I could have sat there all night due to the amazing people-watching.

In spite of having been to Paris countless times, I'd never been to Le Bon Marché, the famed Left Bank department store. Since it was open till 8pm, we decided to swing by before dinner. If you have limited time to shop in Paris, you kind of can't go wrong here—it has nearly every designer from Sezane to Isabel Marant, plus an amazing beauty floor that includes Biologique Recherche. Speaking of beauty products, we stopped by the famous Citypharma on the way to dinner. You can probably find most of these products on the Internet in the US, but the prices in Paris are way better. I stocked up on Bioderma, Embroylisse, Nuxe, Panier des Sens soap, and other hard-to-find-brands; the store was absolutely mobbed by tourists, so obviously the word is out. Still, it's totally worth a visit, especially if you're a French beauty junkie.

We wrapped up the night with dinner at La Boissonerie, which I'd been wanting to try for ages. Its owners also run Semilla, Freddy's, and a bunch of other restaurants on the same block of Rue de la Seine, and the vibe is very foodie yet neighborhoody. Everything we ate was gorgeous to look at and delicious yet light on the palate.

Day 2
Our hotel was on the eastern edge of the 7th arrondissement, which made it easy to get to the heart of St. Germain but also convenient to everywhere else, including the Eiffel Tower. We had meant to walk over there just to take a peek and maybe some photos, but when we got close, we realized there were no lines whatsoever, so we decided to fork over 25 Euros and go all the way up. (In retrospect, I'm now realizing why there were no crowds, but at the time, we were just happy to experience it.) I hadn't been inside the Eiffel Tower since I was 13, and while it was definitely colder than the last time, the views were even better than I remembered.

The restaurants near the Eiffel Tower tend to be either touristy or super fancy, but thankfully we ended up at Bistro Saint Dominique, which was mostly filled with locals (usually a good sign). We gave ourselves away as tourists by ordering soupe à l'oignon and escargots (and with my super-rusty French) but it was totally worth it, and delicious.

On a random tip, we decided to check out the Museum of Modern Art on the Right Bank, and I'm glad we did. First of all, it's free. Secondly, it's filled with a bunch of Matisse, Chagall, Modigliani, and Delaunay works I'd never even seen before. You can do the whole thing in under an hour, or longer if you prefer to linger.

After that, we strolled over to Avenue Montaigne, which is home to some of Paris' most storied couture houses and also the flagship Celine store. After months (or possibly years) of debating which bag I wanted (and dragging Sean into every Celine boutique I spotted), as well as researching the best time and location to shop, I finally pulled the trigger on the medium Cabas Phantom tote in taupe. I will probably do an entire blog post devoted to this process, but let me say that the experience was a delight, I'm SUPER happy with my bag, and the price was right.

After one drops a significant chunk of change on a bag, one needs a stiff drink, so we hightailed it to the bar at the Four Seasons Georges V. I love the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz—and it's definitely something I suggest experiencing—but when it comes to 28E cocktails, the Georges V may have it beat. Also, everyone working there is gorgeous and super friendly, to the point that I almost forgot I was in Paris. Speaking of which, we took a spin down the nearby Champs-Elysees afterward, another place I hadn't been in nearly 30 years. It still feels like Paris, albeit with a little Times Square thrown in.

One works up an appetite while shopping, so we headed to Le Relais de l'Entrecote for dinner. It's a mini chain, and literally all they serve is steak frites; it feels like the House of Prime Rib of Paris, minus the theatrics. Also, it's delicious, especially thanks to the green sauce they slather on everything. We capped off the night with more wine at Le Bonaparte, which has a lovely heated, enclosed patio. We may or may not have been seated next to some boisterous Serbian mobsters, but that did not impede our enjoyment in the least.

Day 3
Due to a strike (how French!), Sean had never been to Musee d'Orsay, so that was our first order of business on our last morning. (Plus, it was a five-minute walk from our hotel, if that.) If you love Impressionist art, there is no better museum in the world, except maybe the Art Institute in Chicago. And on a somewhat related note, though we had every intention to make it to l'Orangerie this time, it had stopped raining and so we elected to spend the rest of our day outside instead. Next time!

I had stupidly taken out a bunch of cash that I hadn't spent (note to self: no one uses cash anymore, even in Europe), so we went back to Le Bon Marché, then to Buly, where I spent an embarrassing amount of money on a bar of soap (that, admittedly, smells amazing). I also snapped up some macarons at Ladurée, which I know they have everywhere and may be thawed from frozen, but whatever, they're delicious and have the best packaging.

Finally, we wrapped up our day with a late lunch at La Palette, which is my second-favorite café in St. Germain (they have better food and more reasonable prices than Flore, but Flore wins for people-watching). It rained on and off, but we were snug as bugs under our awning (with heat lamp) with our glasses of wine. I could have stayed there all day—hey, I could still be there! But we had a train to catch. And travel ban or not, I'll be back.

Where we stayed
The hotels on the Left Bank, especially those in the more prime locations, tend to be on the smaller side, so I was glad we upgraded to the most spacious room at Hotel Verneuil. It's located on a quiet side street just a few blocks from the Seine and right across the street from Serge Gainsbourg's graffiti-covered former home. The hotel was recently renovated, and our room was clean and super comfy; everyone who worked at the hotel was super friendly and approachable. It was pretty much the perfect location for us, and I'd definitely recommend it, especially if you want a romantic Left Bank experience.

For what I wore in Paris in March, please check out this post.


eva @StyleMyThrift said...

I never tire of looking at pictures of people in Paris! because there's so much to look at and each picture so different...lovely!
xo eva

Nancy 's Fashion Style said...

That you even had some money left for a stiff drink! Lol! Congratulations on your Celine bag! And thanks for this lovely tour of Paris!

mummabstylish said...

Oh I'm so envious, your trip looks super and don't you look like the cutest couple! glad you had a wicked time, thanks for sharing on the #linkup Jacqui

Makeup Muddle said...

It sounds like you had an amazing time! I have always wanted to visit Paris, it is such an incredible city with so much to do! xo

Makeup Muddle

Elizabeth Walker said...

Oh I also wanna have a trip like yours!
All About Belt Reviews

Gata Collins said...

I'm so envious with your trip!
All About Gloves

Carrie @ Curly Crafty Mom said...

I would love to go back to Paris with my husband. He proposed to me there. The food all looks delicious, especially that scallops dish. It is my fave! The Eiffel Tower never disappoints. I am so glad you were able to get this special trip in!


Mica said...

It's so beautiful! I'd love to visit Paris one day! When we went last year it was just to do and stay near Disneyland so we didn't get to experience the rest of it, but when the boys are bigger I want to go! Love that you got to splurge on a bag too.

It's so nice you got to experience it and come back before the travel ban - hopefully you didn't pick anything up on your travels!

Hope that you are having a lovely weekend! We are having a quiet one here :)

Away From Blue

Joanne said...

What a wonderful trip! I haven't been to Paris since I was in high school... So glad you got to go and squeeze in your trip before all the travel bans were put in place.

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It sounds like you have a great time! I've always wanted to go to Paris, this is an incredible city and there is so much to do!

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