Jim and I recently got to take a trip to Paris together. It was our first time to go to Europe and the longest trip we’ve ever taken with just the two of us. It was wonderful!
I wrote about my apprehensions about taking the trip in this post. Like so many of the things we worry about, it all turned out fine. More than fine, actually! We are so grateful that we booked the trip and went, even when there were many reasons to keep us at home.
Maybe you’ve been thinking about a memory making trip or another event, but something is stopping you. I know that there are times it just doesn’t make sense to follow through, but often we put things off for small reasons. We hold ourselves back, making up excuses to not follow through, building up false barriers. If that sounds familiar to you, let this post be your encouragement to follow through! You’ll be so glad you did.
Our Tour Group
Instead of going it alone, we decided to take a Rick Steves Tour. I never would have considered a tour, if not for this post from Amy at MomAdvice on the tour they took in Italy. We loved being part of the tour group. Our guide was phenomenal. On the first day, she taught us all how to use the metro and equipped us with metro tickets just like the locals use. We rode the metro all over the city by ourselves and never felt uncomfortable about it, thanks to her instructions.
The tour gave us plenty of time to explore the city on our own in addition to group times. We also had local guides at the Louvre, Versailles and in the Marais district. These guides were fantastic in helping us really understand what we were seeing.
As for our times together as a group, we really enjoyed that as well. We met a lot of interesting people and had a great time getting to know them. We toured together in the mornings and also had three dinners together. The rest of the time was ours to spend in any way we liked.
It’s impossible to pick a favorite out of everything we saw, but Sainte Chappelle would at or near the top for me. We toured here one morning with the group and had to leave far too soon. Lucky for us though, there was a violin concert that night and our guide offered to arrange tickets for us. Jim and I took her up on the offer, used the metro to get back to the oldest part of the city where Sainte Chappelle is located and paid for our tickets at the table our guide told us about. We chose the cheap seats at the back, which was perfect because could see all the windows during the concert. What an amazing experience to listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in that beautiful place!
Food in Paris is everywhere and it’s all so good! Fruit and vegetable stands line the streets, there are boulangeries on every corner and most restaurants have seating outside. Often the chairs face the street at these cafes. I guess French people take their people watching seriously.
I had put a number of things on my Paris food bucket list before we left:
A picnic style meal
We had an unintentional picnic on a bench near the Abbesses Metro Station in Montmartre. We saw tables at the place we chose to eat and also a line to get food to go. We got in line and chose our food, then realized that since we’d gotten it to go, we couldn’t sit at the tables. Had we sat down to begin with, we could have ordered food brought to us. For some reason this concept threw us a couple of times. It turned out fine though, because we found a place to sit on a nearby bench, the drizzly rain paused for a while and the warm baguette we bought was the best of the whole trip. We also picnicked near Notre Dame with these eclairs for dessert:
This was served at our first group dinner and it was delicious!
I wanted to try macarons, because the only time I’d had them at home I wasn’t impressed. We had macarons from a small bakery in Montmartre and again at the famous Laduree.
It was fun to go to Laduree on the Champs Elysees. We chose a box of six macarons in six different flavors.
They are beautiful. We liked them all except the Rose flavored one. I thought that tasted like my grandma’s bathroom! Overall though, macarons are not my thing. There are so many, many other sweet treats to eat that are much better. They’re very photogenic, but I’d rather feast on croissants, pain du chocolat, creme brulee, eclairs …
Fallafels in the Jewish Quarter
I’d heard about this fallafel place and seen photos on Instagram. I really hoped we’d get to eat here and we did! If you look closely at the crates in the left of the photo, you can see they are full of eggplants.
This meal was fantastic. We shared it with two people from our tour group. It was fun to get to know them while we ate messy, delicious fallafels.
The best meal
The best meal I had was at our second group dinner at Bistro de Gaspard. I had duck with potatoes and roasted onions. The menu gave it a longer, more appetizing name, but I can’t remember that. I only remember how amazing it tasted! The picture doesn’t look like much, but trust me this was wonderful.
The caramel dessert topped the meal perfectly. Every spoonful carried the most intense caramel flavor without being too sweet. Perfection!
The biggest surprise
At our first group meal, we were served coffee. In France this means a shot of espresso. I don’t care for espresso, but I decided to try it anyway. Oh my! Un cafe in Paris is not the same thing as an espresso in the States. Instead, it’s an intense coffee flavor without any hint of bitterness or harshness. I could have downed several of these a day easily.
If anyone knows how we can make coffee like this at home, please let me know. I did try a Starbucks espresso when we got back and yuck! Not the same at all.
What we brought home
I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in our group to bring home salt as a souvenir.
This type of salt is very expensive here in the States, but at the grocery store in Paris it was under three Euros a bag. It adds a lot of flavor to recipes and it’s a fun way to remember the trip while doing an everyday task like cooking.
We also brought home a fantastic chocolate haul. Visiting a chocolate shop was on my Paris bucket list, but I didn’t have a specific shop in mind. One afternoon we asked the young lady working the desk at our hotel and she gave us the name of a great little shop on Rue Cler.
This is the pistachio filled bar. In the words of the young man who let us sample a bite in the chocolate shop, “it’s crazy”! The color is reminiscent of guacamole, but the taste is pure pistachio. So good!
We also bought this stack of single origin chocolate. We haven’t unwrapped these yet, but I’m looking forward to trying them all.
Paris was everything I imagined and more! I’m so, so grateful Jim and I were able to go together. To top it all off, we got bumped up to first class on the way home. Those seats that fully recline to a bed are no joke. That’s the way to travel!
New Motto – Take the Trip!
I hope reading about our trip has been an encouragement to you to follow through with your dreams. Don’t let little worries get in the way of living life. I’m not just talking about big trips to Europe. There have been plenty of times in the past when I’ve let small worries get in the way of date nights, short get-aways, etc.
My new motto is “Take the trip!” Whether it’s a small trip to take a walk in a new part of town or a larger opportunity, it’s worth it to stretch myself and do something new.