Without further ado, hang on to your boots for a high-speed journey through our Europe travels (high-speed but with a nap in the middle of the day...). Here goes post number one: Paris!
After traveling through the night (best way to travel with little ones I must add...as long as they sleep), we arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in Paris at 10am for Day 1 of our adventure.
We pulled up to our hotel - Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan, Paris Eiffel - and were super excited to see this view from the front door...I mean how good does it get??
The hotel was fabulous - the staff was engaging with our little one (gave her a rose upon arrival!), the location was phenomenal (see photo above), and the amenities were very nice (a large modern bathroom and Nespresso machines in the room...Amen, Hallelujah!)
Our bathroom had a window which was very nice in a hotel room...our view from the bath was quaint and very Parisienne.
After we settled in a bit, we started to explore the areas around our hotel. There were flower shops everywhere. (Oh, why can't the rest of the world follow suit with that?)
I'm a french onion soup fan no matter where I am, but no place can do French Onion soup like Paris!!
Architecture love on overload, folks...
We strolled around Trocadero circle and got our first close-up view of the Eiffel Tower!
Then we took a short walk over to the Are de Triomphe on the Champ Elysees...
We didn't bring our stroller with us this first day but everything was quite close so we made it alright with the babe. There was a bit of "hold me" going on, but we averaged about 5-8 miles off walking per day in Paris so that can be expected. Our last event before an earlier bed time was a super yummy dinner at a gourmet burger joint and some dessert - ice cream and a crepe - at the local Haagen-Dazs.
I think all our excitement and a well-deserved nap in the late afternoon helped get us through the first day. We all slept well that night and were rearing and ready to go for Day 2.
Day 2 was our private tour day. We HIGHLY recommend splurging a bit for a solid private tour. Here's why...you learn so much more about the culture and the people, and you get to see so much more of the city than you would with a large tour group. They gauge it to your needs and go at your pace which was very important with a three year old on board.
Our guide, Pamela, of Paris Strolls was phenomenal!! We booked her based on her stellar TripAdvisor ratings (always check out the TripAdvisor website before traveling abroad) and we were so pleased with our time with her. If you go to Paris, you must check out her stroll options.
We started out in a taxi with another quick visit to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, then we cruised down past the Louvre (we visit again tomorrow...).
Then we started the walking portion of the tour at Place de la Bastille, where a monument stands signifying the start of the French Revolution in 1789.
We walked through the Marais District, which has some amazing architecture and even more amazing parks!
The Place des Vosges in the Marais was one of my favorite sites in Paris...
Isn't it just quintessential Paris?? Then we visited Le Eclaire de Genie for a little snack.
I don't typically like eclairs but this was divine...
After our snack we got to see one of the few remaining timber and plaster facades in Paris which dates back to the Middle Ages when all the buildings looked this way.
Then we crossed a few bridges as we walked through the two islands that sit in La Seine - Ile de la Cite and Ile Saint-Louis. If I had a little spare change, I'd live on Ile Saint-Louis in a little pied a terre of my own. A girl can dream, right?
The Notre Dame Cathedral sits on the larger of the two islands, Ile de la Cite.
There is so much meaning in every little detail of Notre Dame. You could spend a full day learning about it.
You can see in the photo below that we're getting a little tired at about this point (check out that face in the middle), so we were glad we only scheduled a half day tour. Pamela was so patient with us - she rocked!!
We rounded out our tour with a short walk through the Latin Quarter of Paris. It's called the Latin Quarter because it's where the first universities were established and the academics all spoke Latin at the time.
We got to walk through the coolest old restaurant - Le Procope - which was founded in 1686 and was a favorite meeting place for many of the people who planned and led the French Revolution.
Sadly, we didn't get to eat there. Maybe the next time we get to visit Paris...because at this point, smiles aside, it was time for a N-A-P.
After a nap, our friends (who live in Germany...you'll see in the rest of our photos because they were with us for the rest of our trip!) joined us for some lunch at a little bistro near our hotel. Bon appetit!
We finished this day just catching up and enjoying each other's company. It's so wonderful to see the faces of old friends when you're far from home!
Day 3 began with an early arrival at the Louvre. You can purchase advance tickets but we weren't sure which day we'd go, so we opted to arrive when it opened at 9am and stand in line. It wasn't all that bad for us, but I've heard it can be a bear.
To be fully honest, we really breezed through the Louvre because we only had a few must-sees on our list. I know that sounds like sacrilege to most people but when you have a toddler in tow only the must-sees are worth seeing...know what I mean?
Mona Lisa, check!
(she's so stinkin' small in person...squint and you'll see her in the background)
Venus de Milo, check!
(a favorite quote..."Where's the lady with no arms?" - my 3 year old)
Egyptian artifacts, check! (which by the way have nothing on the Museum of Antiquities collection in Cairo)
(I call this "The Pedicure")
By this point we were all grumpy and put-out with the crowds so it was time for open air activities...boat ride on La Seine anyone?
It was really good to get a boat perspective of Paris. It's another beautiful and unique view that helps you take it all in and I've never met a toddler that doesn't want to go for a ride in a boat.
After another much-needed nap (do you see the trend here?), we headed back over to the Latin Quarter to a must-visit street called Rue Descartes for dinner. You could eat every meal on this street and be a very happy camper. There were so many restaurant options and they all looked so good!
We ate at La Maison de Verlaine which has 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor and gets 2 happy thumbs up from us!
I had the best steak I had ever had (smothered in French cheese)...and that's saying a lot for a girl born and mostly-raised in Texas. I know my beef...
Creme brulee anyone?
(Anyone else read The Paris Wife by Paula McLain? It's a good read!)
We finished off the night with some gelato and fun on Rue Descartes. Had we discovered this street sooner, we would have been back for every meal...
Day 4, our last day in Paris, was really only a morning in Paris. We did one very critical thing before we left - find some macarons! You simply cannot go to Paris and skip macarons.
The friendly concierge at the hotel told us to skip the lines of the famous LaDuree on the Champ Elysees, and head to the closer and more boutique Pierre Herme.
Ooo La La, check out the color and design in this place!! I'm so very glad we got the recommendation.
Are you drooling yet? Macarons are the ultimate edible eye-candy. They taste even better than they look...really!
This was my first introduction to macarons, and I'm a believer! I always thought they were hard but they're actually soft and the frosting is light, fluffy, and delicious.
A revoir Paris! Onward to Brussels, Belgium...that post (a.k.a. tour) is scheduled for next week.