After spending the last couple weekends in Luxembourg, we decided to escape the cold, grey fall weather and take a road trip to Paris for the weekend. We headed out of town Friday afternoon and drove straight to the City of Light in just under four hours. After dropping our bags at our left bank hotel, we sprinted through the streets to the Champ de Mars to take in the sparklight light show at the Effiel Tower that takes place for a few minutes at the top of every hour. As the blinking lights dazzled all onlookers in the park, we soaked in the moment and took time to appreciate how lucky we are to be able to be in Paris without transatlantic flights and months of planning.
After enjoying the light show, we headed to dinner at a small French cafe on Rue Cler, near our hotel. The little restaurant was packed with wine-drinking, chic Europeans, and despite the chilly night even the outdoor seating was full. We drank a great Bordeaux, observed the patrons and shared vegetarian dishes and some sort of molten chocolate cake that left us both totally entranced by the Paris scene.
We woke up early the following morning to begin what would become an 11-mile epic walking exploration across Paris. We started as anyone should with a baguette and some fresh squeezed juice from a local boulangerie. From our hotel near the Eiffel Tower, we walked along the Seine toward the Tuileries Garden, which was filled with joggers and families enjoying the sunny but crisp October day. We cut through the Tuileries and headed to Place Vendome, where we took in the towering Vendome Column created by Napoleon and ogled its rich details.
We went window shopping at Chanel, Balenciaga and the other luxury flagships dotting the area and then headed to Palais Garnier to check out one of the most famous opera houses in the world. It was built in the late 1800s in a neo-baroque style, so we knew going in that it would be ornate, but we were both stunned by all of the gold, crystals, murals and sheer opulence. We walked around room to room and through the marbled entryway and tried to imagine Paris 150 years ago. We walked out on the balcony and enjoyed observing the modern Paris traffic below as a contrast to the timelessness inside. After the Opera, we headed to Galeries Lafayette, a Parisian and very chic version of a modern department store, where we took in views of the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and the Arc de Triomphe from the rooftop gardens.
From there, we headed toward the Marias to a French perfume house called Nose. Erin has been on a quest to find her "signature scent" and knew that Paris was the place to find it. At Nose, customers sit down with an iPad and complete a detailed questionnaire about the scents they've worn in the past to generate a list of what scent notes they enjoy most. Based upon these inputs, a scent sommelier at Nose selects perfumes that might be a match from among their entire collection for an initial blind test. We rated all of the scents and those ratings were added to the iPad inputs to generate a new list of potential matches. We went through the ranking process a few times to narrow down to a top four. Then the scents were applied to Erin's skin and left to breathe for 15 minutes before we made a final decision. It was quite a process, with lots and lots of sniffing, but very fun, unique and quintessentially French. Erin's match is called "Forbidden Games" which we both found quite humorous.
After working up an appetite with all the sniffing, we headed further east to a Sichuan restaurant with the top-rated noodles in Paris. The simple menu included dry noodles, soups and dumplings, with pork, beef or vegetables. For each item ordered, you select a level of spiciness from zero to five. We ordered three dishes and were cautioned not to go beyond a spiciness level of three, even though we both love spicy food. Two Taiwanese girls sitting next to us giggled when we tasted the level three, expecting us to not be able to handle the burn, and were surprised when we continued to enjoy. The heat was very intense and burned our mouths so much that even the water began to taste spicy, but the flavors were great and the noodles were perfect, so we pushed through the pain and headed out to an outdoor market and military surplus store for shopping.
We headed back toward the center of town to the Marais and picked up some treats at a Jewish bakery to enjoy during our walk home along the river. We pressed on for the three mile walk home and took an afternoon nap before heading out for a night on the town in Paris. Around sunset, we got all dressed up, strolled to the Eiffel Tower and across the river toward Avenue George V. We lived it up with champagne and people-watching and enjoyed an end to Saturday immersed in the Parisian night.
We woke up Sunday morning and rented city bikes. The cool and sunny weather was perfect for a bike ride, and we rode along the river on bumpy cobblestones back to the Marais for a world famous falafel sandwich from LAs. We arrived before the lines and were rewarded with a giant, messy, delicious vegetarian wrap filled to the brim with falafels, veggies, hummus and hot sauce. We walked around the winding, cobblestone streets of our favorite Paris neigborhood and then enjoyed our bike ride back past the major Paris landmarks. Before hitting the road, we stopped in at a boulangerie and picked up a piping hot baguette to enjoy on the ride home. We headed back to Luxembourg totally satisfied and in love with Paris even more.
Don't miss our adventures in Greece's Cyclades Islands - Santorini, Milos and Crete.
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