Post-Vaccinated Europe (The City of Light)

We caved in. We gave up hope on traveling Europe this summer, or at least the way we did in years past. We booked a three week trip to the States. The way I saw it, it was our only opportunity to see anything that resembles “normal.” The lockdown was really testing our resiliency. Behind the smiles on every hike was a family desperate for something normal. I mean, damn, I hadn’t eaten in a restaurant since October.

And suddenly, it seems like hope came out of nowhere. People were traveling all over during Memorial Day weekend, but how? We were skeptical about traveling under the current conditions, but the flow of vaccine and lowering rates started to make travel possible again. We started researching and saw that France planned to ease restrictions in early June. What a better way to test the waters with traveling. After all, we hadn’t traveled out of country in almost a year, so we decided to test the waters with the City of Light.

Since travel conditions rapidly change, we wanted to book a hotel that was in a great location, affordable, and offered flexible cancellation options. This ended up being a girl’s trip, with only I (Nellie) and our adult child going on this trip, so we only needed to book a room for two people. At €206/night, Hôtel Le Cercle was a great option and a very short walk to the Eiffel Tower. We booked directly through the website, and paid a little more for a balcony room. How wonderful it was to wake up and sleep with views of the Eiffel Tower!

We expected France to ease entry restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers, but we didn’t want to take any chances for this trip. At the time of booking, France still required a negative PCR test, which we were able to get for €69 each at the Kaiserslautern mall. By the time we left on June 10th, the test was no longer required, but it gave us piece of mind just in case someone asked for it on the train or at the hotel.

Many of you have already read our instructional blog post about buying train tickets to Paris from Kaiserslautern. You already know that the cheapest time to buy tickets is 60 days in advance. Since this was a last minute trip, we didn’t get the great deals you would get from booking months out and ended up paying €250 round trip. When considering the cost versus driving, we would have paid close to that amount in gas and tolls, so the decision was pretty easy.

We arrived into Paris just before 10am and immediately made our way to the hotel. Fortunately, our hotel is directly outside of a Metro 8 stop, so it didn’t take to much hassle to get there. I had previously asked the hotel to hang onto our luggage until check-in, but it just so happened that our room was ready early. We got settled in and made the quick walk to Paris’ most iconic landmark.

Early June is perfect to visit Paris, unlike our previous visits in the scorching summer or cold and wet winter. It did seem odd though, to see an empty city that is usually bustling with tourists in the late spring. We meandered through the Champs de Mars, noticing significantly less people lounging on the lawn that draws immediately out from the Eiffel Tower. While it was nice to not be crowded in such a world class city, you couldn’t help but to reflect on the toll COVID-19 has taken.

I almost hate to admit where we ate for lunch, but the food was too good not to share. My daughter will probably hate that I’m not gate-keeping this restaurant, but here I go. So here we are in this world class French city eating Chinese for lunch, and yes, it was amazing! Jia Yan is affordable, a short walk from the Eiffel Tower, and the best Chinese food I’ve eaten in Europe.

I mentioned earlier that our hotel was along the Metro 8, and despite our many posts about Paris, I’ve never discussed taking the Metro. Many people find The Metro daunting and uselessly waste money taking an Über everywhere. I personally find that ridiculous, well, unless you are there during Metro strikes like we were in December 2019. Paris has arguably the worlds largest and efficient public transport network, and taking The Metro can get you to anywhere you need to go.

A Metro adult single ticket is €1.90. We usually buy a book of 10 tickets, which costs €16 per pack. To avoid spending way too much time on The Metro, we try to consolidate everything we want to see as we make our way around the city.

After a visit to the Eiffel Tower and lunch, we took The Metro to the 4th Arrondissement, home of the Notre Dame. While Our Lady is still well under construction, it still is nice to walk along the Seine River to admire the cathedral. Just across the Seine from the Notre Dame is the vibrant Latin Quarter, which hosts some of our favorite spots to check out every time we visit. As usual, I stopped by to admire Odette and browse the book collection in Shakespeare and Company.

We took The Metro to the Champs Élysées for an afternoon treat at Ladurée. Ladurée Paris is a must, especially if you are a fan of macarons. I just love walking the Champs Élysées, admiring the high end shops that line both sides of the boulevard. We walked back towards the Eiffel Tower, stopping briefly at Flamme de la Liberté. This is the tunnel at Pont de l’Alma where Princess Diana died in a car accident in the 90s, and there’s a memorial established in her memory. More on that later.

We ate dinner at Trattoria Dell Angelo, an Italian restaurant not too far from the Eiffel Tower. We ended the night by heading back to the hotel, relaxing on the balcony, and watching the tower light at night. I forgot how the tower doesn’t sparkle until there is adequate darkness, and to my dismay, the tower didn’t flicker until 11pm.

Since we bought a few groceries at a nearby store, we leisurely got up the next morning with a traditional French breakfast on our balcony. After checking out, we made our way to the Eiffel Tower and visited with friends who also were in town. We made our way to Café du Trocadéro for lunch, which supposedly overlooks the Eiffel Tower. Personally, I found the food a bit overpriced and trees got in the way of our view.

After a final stop at the Eiffel Tower, we made our way to Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the French Capital. The square is known for the executions that it hosted during the French Revolution, but now is a place to enjoy one of Paris’ lesser known attractions. Place de la Concorde is always worth walking through, admiring the Obelisk of Luxor that was gifted from Egypt, as well as the fountains in the square. The fountains seem to be a natural gathering spot for people hanging out in the square.

Our last major stop for this trip was at the luxury hotel, Hôtel Ritz Paris. The hotel was built in 1898 and a favorite of the novelist Ernest Hemingway. He spent so much time there that there is a bar in the hotel named after the famous author. While we aren’t in the position to spend over €1000 a night to stay in the hotel, it won’t break the bank to have a couple drinks. For just over €50 total, the two of us were able to enjoy one of Paris’ most luxurious experiences. Just make sure to dress nice!

While writing this, I learned that prior to the accident that claimed the lives of Princess Diana and her company, they dined at the Imperial Suite in the Ritz. Just very interesting, since the day prior, we stopped at Pont de l’Alma where the car crash occurred. It just seemed coincidental to me.

After the Ritz, we didn’t linger too long as we had an evening train to catch. We made it back to the hotel to collect our bags, and then found our way back to Gare de l’Est. We were only asked to show our train tickets for the ride back to Germany, but had our other documents ready to show if asked.

(We did stop in Supreme. My daughter loves the skateboarding style, and Paris hosts one of 13 stores worldwide)

So that’s what we did during our Post-Vaccinated trip to Paris. It was nice being back in the City of Light since our last trip 10 months ago. As you all know, there are so many things to see and do in Paris, and we try to cover many of them in our blog. It’s only fitting that this was our first Post-Vaccinated trip, and I hope you can visit soon also!