It definitely wasn’t love at first sight.
It was a rainy month in June 2012 when I first truly visited Paris. I was traveling to London & Paris with one of my closest friends, Elissa. Much to our chagrin, the weather in Paris at that time was unseasonably cool and rainy – everything we hadn’t packed for. Memories from that adventure include gracefully leaping across fast-moving streams of water as we attempted to cross the streets near Versailles & climbing the 704 steps of the Eiffel Tower while battling nasty colds.
Fast forward 5 years and I was back in the city of light, this time with my partner, Harrison. I was determined to experience the French capital differently. For starters, we elected to stay in a historical Haussmann-style hotel, in the quieter 17e arrondissement. When people talk about Parisian architecture, “Haussmann” is typically top of mind, as 60% of Paris’ buildings today are in this style. Haussmann was a bold urban planner, who helped turn the medieval city of Paris into a modern capital city, with wider streets, large parks and an upgraded sewer system. His namesake buildings had some very strict rules; for this reason, many of Paris’ beautiful buildings & squares look quite similar and almost symmetrical. Our hotel, Le Dokhan’s, was one of these charming former 18th century private mansions and also home to Paris’ 1st champagne bar. It was the perfect starting point for our Parisian adventure…
Typical of the many transatlantic flights, our first day in Paris was an early start; so we began our day wandering the labyrinth of streets around our hotel in search of a strong cup of café to help get us through the jet lag. As we refuelled, we built our plan for that day: a nice stroll through the city to take in some of its key landmarks and historical sites. You can explore our itinerary in the map below; it includes a number of more typical sites, in addition to a few that piqued my own personal interest: the Ritz Hotel Paris (which was personally “liberated” by Ernest Hemingway at the end of WW2, who had spent many evenings at the bar) and 31 Rue de Cambon, Chanel’s original shop.
Given our limited time in Paris, Harrison and I were determined to eat up la vie Parisienne at every possible moment. It’s well known that the French are unbeaten when it comes to freshly baked goods (à la croissant ou à la baguette). Given that, it should come as no surprise that un jambon-beurre (ham on a butter-lined baguette) is Paris’ most popular quick lunch fix. To stay true to the local custom, we went in search of the best jambon-beurre in Paris (noted on the map above).
Parisians & the French have another local custom that we were intent on following:
l’heure de goûter (tasting hour). While the French are generally opposed to snacking, l’heure de goûter is the loophole: a time when local patisseries are visited for the most French of snacking pleasures, such as a freshly-baked pain au chocolat. Our l’heure de goûter was spent at Pierre Hermé. A well-known French Pastry Chef & Chocolatier, Pierre Hermé takes macarons to a whole new level by exploring inventive, unthought of flavors that are released every season. I have to say, the mint pea macaron was delightful 🙂
We rounded out our first day with a visit to le Palais Garnier, the opulent opera house commissioned by Napoleon III. A host of performances have taken place at this historic building, including Phantom of the Opera, which was inspired by the grand chandelier which actually had a swooping fall one day at the opera house.
Day 2 in the City of Light was spent wandering the streets of Montmartre. The 18e arrondissement was once the gathering place for composers, writers and artists and was originally outside city limits, which made it a popular drinking area. These days, parts of it look like a vintage postcard; however, brace yourself for hoards of visitors and tour groups.
It was hard to believe how quickly our 2 days in Paris disappeared. I left the city of light & love appreciating it in a newfound way. As Thomas Jefferson said “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life”. À la prochaine Paris.