I was lucky enough to spend some time in Paris in both June and September of this year, so I thought I would combine the two trips into this one travel diary post. Paris is one of those city’s that just keeps calling me back… and I always find myself back in Paris a lot sooner than I expect. During my darkest moments of the pandemic and lockdowns, when I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, I would dream of Paris – popping in and out of cafes and galleries, dining on delicious food and wine, and feeling free in the city with endless possibilities and things to do. It seemed like the antithesis of what I was experiencing, so I promised myself that the minute things opened back up, I would go to Paris.
Back in June, when my husband and I were still living in Germany, Paris officially opened back up after months of lockdown – and we jumped on the opportunity. We quickly booked a long weekend, using a hotel credit from the previous year when we were supposed to go for my husband’s 30th. I decided to come a few days earlier to visit Monet’s House & Garden and have some alone time in my favorite city before my husband and best friend joined me. Then in September, my family planned a sister’s trip to Paris to go wedding dress shopping for my sister-in-law, so I was back for a few days at the beginning of the month. After traveling around the South of France for a few weeks, in Saint-Tropez and then Provence, I came back to Paris for a third time this year for a couple of days before my flight back home. As I said, I’m always back in Paris sooner than I think, and I hope that trend continues!
Where I Stayed
When I was visiting with my husband and family, we stayed at the La Reserve Hotel. The hotel is beautiful and luxurious, and we had the absolute best view of the Eiffel Tower from our balcony window. I had never seen the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room before, and it was incredibly special – I would go so far as to say I think booking a room with an Eiffel Tower view should be on everyone’s bucket list! The best part is at night once the sun goes down, when every hour on the hour the Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes. It’s enchanting! Back in June, my best friend and I stayed up chatting until 3 am, sitting by the window and watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle each hour – it never stopped being magical, no matter how many times we saw it! We found out that it does stop sparkling at 3 am, and that’s when we realized that if the tower was calling it a night, we probably should too 😉
When I came back solo at the end of September, I decided to stay in an area I had never stayed in before – Saint Germain. Normally I stay somewhere on the right bank, but after talking to a friend who loved the left bank and particularly this area, I decided to give it a try. I loved this hotel and this neighborhood! I stayed at the Hôtel de l’Abbaye Saint-Germain, a small boutique hotel in the heart of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district. First of all, the interior design of this hotel was exactly to my taste – the room I was in reminded me so much of my own bedroom back home, with the blue bird and tree printed wallpaper and the orange bedspread. The entire hotel is decorated so beautifully – it’s cozy, intimate, and felt like home. I particularly loved watching the rain one morning while eating breakfast in the glass-covered lounge, with a view of the courtyard and garden. The neighborhood also has some of my favorite shops and restaurants and is perfectly located to explore more of Paris. I’ll definitely be coming back here to stay again on my next trip!
What I Did
Paris is by far my favorite city to walk around. Some areas I love to wander are Montmartre and Saint-Germaine, and my favorite parks are Jardin Tuileries and Jardin Luxembourg. But all of Paris has something to offer, and I am endlessly fascinated and inspired on my long walks across the city.
I love Montmartre for its Bohemian atmosphere and winding, hilly streets that kind of make you feel like you’re in a small, quaint French town and not the metropolis of Paris. I always make a point to walk through Jardin Tuileries when I’m going somewhere, or if I have more time, grab a cappuccino at Cafe Kitsune and sit on a chair around the fountains. The best people-watching is here, and in the cooler months, they also serve vin chaud in the park. I love Jardin Luxembourg, which is smaller than the more popular Jardin Tuileries and a little more tucked away, but just as beautiful. I have a happy memory of my husband and me sitting in the shade at a little park cafe, drinking rose, and watching children push miniature, vintage sailboats around the duck pond on a hot June afternoon. When I stayed in Saint Germain I would start my morning with a peaceful walk through this park.
Paris has an endless amount of museums, art galleries, and sites to see. I have a habit of going back to a small handful of my favorites each time, and also making sure to add something new. I loved going back to the Musée Marmottan Monet, which is a 19th-century mansion filled with Monet and other Impressionists, and mostly feels like you’re in someone’s house rather than a museum. I also visited the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House) for the first time, mainly to see the Chagall frescoes on the ceiling of the opera. Marc Chagall is my favorite artist of all time, whom I first fell in love with when I saw his stained-glass windows in the Reims Cathedral. I love his whimsical scenes and color. You can view his frescoes in two ways: by either getting a ticket to tour the opera house or a ticket to watch a performance. I got a regular tour ticket and wow, I was blown away. Both by the frescoes, but also the rest of the opera house – it’s incredibly ornate and grande. Unfortunately with a tour ticket, you can only view the ceiling from a specified balcony, and part of the view is obstructed – so next on my Paris bucket list is to get a ticket to a performance so I can stare up at Chagall’s ceiling in its entirety.
I mentioned before that the best way to see Paris is by walking – and the second-best way is by boat. In the past, I’ve done this on the hop-on/hop-off batobus, which is great. But when I came in September with my sisters-in-law for wedding dress shopping, I felt like the special occasion deserved a special boat. I contacted Seine Privée and rented their private boat for a 2-hour champagne cruise before dinner. I loved their beautiful, old wooden boat, with both covered and uncovered seating areas. We lucked out with the weather, so enjoyed our cruise from the spacious exterior areas in both the back and front of the boat. They provided champagne and hors d’oeuvres, and we got to sit back and relax on our private, leisurely boat ride down the Seine while watching the sun set on Paris’s beautiful buildings and bridges from the water. It was a really special experience, and I hope to have many more occasions to share this experience with people that I love.
Where I Shopped
One of my very first stops, whenever I’m in Paris, is Shakespeare & Co. I adore this tiny, iconic book store in a crooked old building on the banks of the Seine, opposite Notre Dame Cathedral. It gives off an almost whimsical, lost-in-time aura, inviting you to come in and get lost in the pages of a good book. I always buy a book and have them stamp it – I love collecting them as souvenirs. I never leave Paris without a visit here.
A new shop I discovered this year that will also be a permanent stop on my future visits to Paris is Crimson Cashmere. My husband and I first visited back in June and loved their beautiful cashmere staples. I picked up their best-selling poncho and loved it so much that I got it in a second color when I went back in September. I also picked one up for my mom because I think they’re so versatile and luxurious, everyone should have one (especially moms). In addition to their own designs, they also carry other European designers as well. I was introduced to Italian designer Pierre-Louis Mascia here and instantly fell for his use of different patterns and color pallets. I came away with a robe and scarf by him that I wear all the time. Traveling and shopping at independent boutiques like this is my favorite way to discover new-to-me brands, as the pieces always hold a story that I’m reminded of when I wear them.
Another French brand I discovered was La Botte Gardiane, which specializes in handmade boots, shoes, and sandals, all 100% made in France. I think I tried on every boot and shoe in the store before I finally settled on a pair. The quality and craftsmanship are incredible and they were all so beautiful, it was near impossible to decide!
And then there’s arguably one of the most iconic French brands… Hermès. When I came to Paris again in September, I went into the Hermès store for my first time and went straight for their iconic scarves. The store clerks were so helpful, happily pulling out every single scarf I was interested in and laying them flat. I love their intricate details, whimsical scenes, and bold colors. I decided on a silk one and a warmer silk/cashmere blend one, and they gave me a deck of cards that showed a different way to wear a scarf on each one – which was really helpful! I had no idea there were so many ways to wear a scarf.
I mentioned we came to Paris in September to go wedding dress shopping for my sister-in-law. We went to a handful of places, ranging from huge designers to smaller boutiques, but my favorite place we went to was Elie Saab. Wedding dress shopping here was like something out of a movie. The gowns were exquisite, each one was a true piece of art and I felt like I was in a dress museum. We were served coffee and pastries from Ladurée while we watched my sister-in-law try on many of their most beautiful gowns. This isn’t where she said yes to the dress, and the dress she did decide on is absolutely stunning and perfect for her. But Elie Saab was a really incredible experience!
Where I Ate & Drank
Saving the best for last! I could write an entire book on my favorite places to eat and drink in Paris, but for brevity’s sake, I’ll just talk about my favorites from this year’s trips. The winner this time around was LouLou. Located in the courtyard gardens of the Louvre, on an elegant terrace with white couches and umbrellas, Loulou became my new favorite restaurant in Paris because of its super fun and chic atmosphere, incredible service, and excellent food. My husband and I went for lunch here back in June and we had an amazing view from our table of the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Pyramid. On a sunny and hot afternoon, it had a bit of a glamorous beach club vibe with party music playing over the speakers across the terrace and waiters full of energy and charm – they wanted to make sure we had a good time, and of course, we did! I loved it so much I made sure to come back again in September with my sisters-in-law. This time we came for dinner and again had a view of the Eiffel Tower from our table, with the added bonus that we could watch it sparkle every hour throughout our meal. Everything I’ve had on the menu has been insanely delicious, I think it’s impossible to choose wrong. I did get the millefeuille for dessert twice though, and I highly, highly recommend it!
Another favorite was Frenchie. My husband and I actually came to the Frenchie wine bar a few years ago and we loved it so much, we tried to go back in June but unfortunately, they were closed for the summer. In September, I came back with my sisters but we booked the restaurant instead of the wine bar, which is right across the street. It was fantastic! A little more upscale than the wine bar but still cozy and intimate. There is only a tasting menu but the portions were perfect – I’ve actually been turned off tasting menus recently because I find it’s just too much food and I leave feeling uncomfortably full, but not at Frenchie. Each dish was mouth-wateringly delicious and just the right amount. This meal solidified Frenchie as a Paris staple for me.
Other highlights include dinner on the terrace at La Girafe, which has one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower. Speaking of Eiffel Tower views, the rooftop bar at the Peninsula Hotel has a great one. I think technically you have to be a hotel guest to go up, but my Parisian cousin told me that if you go right when they open, say for a pre-dinner apéro, they will happily serve you – so that’s exactly what we did. It’s a beautiful rooftop terrace lined with rose beds and the Eiffel Tower off in the distance – the cocktails are really great too! One Friday night my husband, best friend, and I had a really fun time at Clown Bar – I loved their organic wines and their small plates were fantastic. We were brave and tried the brain, and to my surprise, it was absolutely delicious! My sisters and I had a lovely lunch at L’Avenue, an upscale French bistro with a great outdoor terrace perfect for people-watching. While walking around the Saint Germain neighborhood one day, I stopped into Da Rosa for a solo lunch. It’s an easy spot for a solo lunch as the tables are small and it’s a bistro setting. The venue is low-key, lovely, and cozy, with excellent service, tasty food, and great wine. Also in the same neighborhood is Café de Flore, one of the oldest and most iconic coffee houses in Paris, serving familiar French fare in a charming Parisian setting. I only ever went in the mornings for a cappuccino and croissant, which they do really well here. My experience each time was great and I loved the setting.