We love Paris. Literally on our Blog, we have a link that brings you to all our posts about Paris. Maybe one day we’ll get to live there, but for now, we’ll settle for a two-hour train ride or four-hour drive. After many trips to Paris since moving here three years ago, you could imagine our disappointment at the idea of not visiting the City of Light.
Following the first wave of COVID-19 in Europe, our first trip once things opened up was down to the French Riviera. While there, we started booking follow-on trips, to include heading to Paris in early August. The timing was perfect, as it would allow us to be there for our oldest daughter’s 20th birthday.
Over the past year, we seem to always book a trip to Paris during tense times. After all, you’ve probably already read about our trip during the canceled Paris Half Marathon, and also our trip during the strikes. We knew we would be visiting a post-quarantine Paris, but the opportunity was too good to pass. Fortunately we were able to talk our friends in making the trip with us.
Since we didn’t go over a four-day weekend, I got off work early on a Friday so I could hit the road before noon. Nellie and our almost 20 year old daughter left the Kaiserslautern Hauptbahnhof just past 7am, and arrived in Paris around 9am. A few weeks prior, we paid about €100 for a one way ticket for only those two. Check out this blog post for information about buying ICE tickets to Paris. Even though it was great that they arrived early, temperatures went over 100° that day in Paris, so they had a full day of exploring the city during a heat wave. I couldn’t wait for her to check into the hotel, and let me know if we had A/C.
We stayed in Hôtel Tourisme Avenue, spending €477 four two rooms for two nights. I booked two rooms so Nellie and I had our own room, and the three girls shared a room. Hands down, this hotel is in the best location we’ve stayed in Paris. When stepping out of the hotel, you are surrounded by several cafés, a Starbucks, Monoprix market, and two Metro stations. The hotel is a five minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, and yes, it has A/C.
I left Kaiserslautern with the two younger girls around noon, and arrived to the hotel just before 5pm. Nellie had already checked in to the hotel, so I parked at a nearby parking garage for €16 a day. Of course with mass public transport in Paris, I didn’t need to move the vehicle until it was time to leave. Nellie already had a full day of seeing all the sights and I was tired after the long drive.
Due to the COVID-19 situation in Europe, we wanted to plan a trip that included mostly outdoor events as opposed to jamming into indoor venues. That’s the beauty of Paris. Even though we’ve been there countless times, we still were able to come up with a trip doing and seeing things we have never before. Nellie found a blog of 40 Hidden Gems in Paris, and it became her goal to see as many as possible. We didn’t see all 40, but I’ll share what we saw each day while we were there!
After arriving into Gare de l’Est on the ICE train, Nellie’s first stop was to the other central train station, Gare du Nord, where Chuck and Blair from Gossip Girl met in Paris. Just outside the train station was this crooked little house – melting it seems, to remind us of the effects of climate change. They had lunch at Le Café Pierre, which was very beautiful with delicious food, but much overpriced drinks.
After a delicious lunch, they meandered over to Merci, a pretty funky little store with an iconic red car our front. Honestly, almost everything in there was way overpriced, but Nellie found a really cute single-flower vase. Really cute store and great for Instagram pics.
Continuing to find hidden gems in Paris, Nellie found that the Cour Damoye courtyard was a nice treat to explore. To think, she would have never known to even look for it, as it was tucked away like Merci. They then walked over to Coulée verte René-Dumont, an old viaduct that turns into a 3-mile long garden footpath. It is amazing how cities like Paris can be very creative with their green space.
Following the visit to Coulée Verte René-Dumont, our advanced party was hot and tired, and decided to take a quick café break before heading to the hotel. On the way back, Nellie decided to make a stop at her third favorite place in Paris, Rue Crémieux. I’d like to say it is our little secret spot, but it’s not as secret as it has become Insta-famous. Fortunately on this day, it was completely empty.
Nellie and the oldest made their way to the hotel to meet the trail party as we were arriving by car. Our pals arrived at the hotel at the same time as I, so after getting settled in, we took the short stroll to the Eiffel Tower. We are used to seeing a packed Champs de Mars as we stare at the Eiffel Tower from the front of École Militaire, but there was a noticeable lack of crowds surrounding the tower. Frankly, the one thing missing this whole trip was seeing tourists from the U.S. and Asian countries. It was nice to freely navigate through the tower to Trocadéro without shoving through a crowd, although dudes were still out there still trying to sell souvenirs, five for €1 they say.
From Trocadéro we took the Metro to the Champs Élysées so we could go our separate ways for dinner. Nellie and I chose Five Guys, our pals went to L’Alsace, and the kids opted for an Asian restaurant. After dinner, Nellie and I strolled to check out the neighborhood one of our friends recently moved to, then met up with our party for a metro ride back to the hotel. Before turning in for the night, we stopped at a café right outside our hotel, Café Le Pierrot, for amazing crêpes and drinks to end the night.
Saturday morning was early. Real early. We take family pictures every year, and Nellie’s idea this year was to take our pictures at the Eiffel Tower, at sunrise. She booked a one hour session with American expat Crystal, also known as Miss Paris Photo. After getting dressed in the clothes Nellie picked out for me and a short Metro ride, we met Crystal at Trocadéro just before sunrise.
We had an amazing photo session that was well worth the €300! As usual, we took family shots, parents-only shots, shots of the girls, and individual shots. Crystal kept commenting on how Trocadéro, with the Eiffel Tower backdrop, was unusually empty even for the early morning. While we took most of our pictures at Trocadéro, we also took some shots at the carousel closer to the Eiffel Tower, followed by several photos while posing at Avenue de Camoens. Make sure you book a session with Miss Paris Photo!
After our sunrise photo session Saturday morning, we joined our friends and took the Metro to Rue Mouffetard in our favorite part of Paris, the Latin Quarter. While we always enjoy the Latin Quarter, we had never before been to Rue Mouffetard, which seems like it would be a great place to hang around at night. During our stroll in the Latin Quarter, we saw impressive buildings like Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church and the Panthéon, but also Toussaint Louverture (Haitian General during the Haitian revolution) graffiti and some teddy bears having brunch. We also caught a glimpse of Notre-Dame construction from a distance.
As we continued walking in the Latin Quarter, we were disappointed to find a particular fountain in Luxembourg Gardens under construction. We still got a group photo and Nellie still snapped pics of anything and everything interesting as we walked. We made it to The Abbey Bookshop, a Canadian owned store with over 35,000 titles in English. Nellie randomly selected Anne of Green Gables, having no idea it was written by a Canadian author until informed by the owner, Brian Spence. He also invited us all to enjoy the coffee he was brewing.
We continued walking in the Latin Quarter towards Odette, Shakespeare and Company, and the Notre-Dame. We stopped for drinks across the river from the beautiful church which is heavily under construction. After drinks, we took the Metro back toward the hotel to grab picnic food from Monoprix. We then took our food, blankets, and bottles of wine and enjoyed an afternoon picnic in the Champs de Mars. The weather was so nice, I even snuck in a quick nap. Remember, Nellie had us up at the butt-crack of dawn.
After lunch, we took the Metro to Montmartre and the Sacré-Cœur. On our way out of the Metro station, I happened to see a thief attempting to pickpocket someone in our group! Let’s just say, there was a very loud one-sided “conversation” that ended up with apologies from the “wanna-be” thief.
After the tense interaction (probably more tense for Mr. Wanna-Be), we visited Montmartre, probably the most charming arrondissement of the city. We took the funicular to the top near the Sacré-Cœur, saving all those stairs for another day. Nellie thoroughly enjoyed finding the “Sinking Building” and getting me to jump a fence to pose in front of the building. We then took a break at Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet where we watched people play boules and spied a wedding party below.
We moved on to check out two famously beautiful restaurants, La Maison Rose and Le Consulat. We continued to Villa Léandre with its cobblestone-street and English-inspired villas. We saw Le Moulin de la Galette which is one of the two remaining windmills in Paris, and lastly the Buste de Dalida, a statue of a late-French singer’s bust from the 50’s.
We were enchanted while finding all the hidden gems in Montmartre, and we couldn’t help to think of all the things that Paris is. Paris is music, everywhere, on the streets, down in the subway, inside buildings. Paris is a wall with I LOVE YOU written in 311 languages, Le Mur Des Je T’aime. Paris is sometimes not-so-great meals at once great restaurants. Paris is drinks at your favorite pub. Paris is the rebuilding of her lady, Notre-Dame. And Paris is a pretty bistro, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole, sans flowers but pretty anyway. Paris is perfection.
It was the eve of our oldest’ 20th birthday and we planned to meet the kids at the Eiffel Tower just before midnight. After making our way back to the Latin Quarter for dinner at Mamma Mia followed by drinks at Galway Irish Pub, Nellie and I decided to walk the Seine to the Eiffel Tower to meet up with the kids.
As always, it was a lovely walk on a beautiful night, enjoying each other in conversation and people watching the Parisians as they enjoyed the outdoors on a Saturday night. However, as we walked along the Seine, we were pretty appalled to see party boats packed to max capacity, with no regard to the pandemic.
After checking out of the hotel on our last day, we took the Metro to Palais-Royal. Formerly a royal palace, Palais-Royal is now home to the Ministry of Culture and popularized by Louis Vuitton’s Fashion Week. We checked out the striped courtyard for a bit of modeling, showing off our best Zoolander impressions. While nothing was open on a Sunday morning, we enjoyed the tranquility while strolling through the courtyard.
It was close to noon, so we grabbed a bite to eat and decided to make a final stop before we hit the road home. We checked out the Westfield shopping mall, which seemed to be an interesting mix of indoor and outdoor shopping. We enjoyed browsing through this multi-story mall that features many well-known stores such as Lego, Nike, and Victoria’s Secret. It is worth the visit.
It’s amazing how different Paris is since our first trip there over three years ago. Since our love affair began with the City of Light, we’ve seen her endure multiple labor strikes, the severe burning of Our Lady, and now a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. As I write this blog post, Paris has returned to being a COVID-19 high-risk location, so who knows when we will be able to make our next trip.
As we pulled away, Nellie teared up at the idea of how long it will be until we can revisit our second home in Europe. We are thankful we had a short post-quarantine visit, but I guess now we are in the “post post-quarantine” period. Then again, that’s part of our enchantment with Paris. In 2020, we get to be part of the history book of visiting Paris during some of the craziest times in human history. The beauty of the city is that it will endure, and there will undoubtedly be plenty to see when we make our next visit.