We booked a long weekend in Paris with Erin's bro and his friend, Pete, neither of whom had visited Paris before. With limited time and keeping a college budget in mind, we put together an itinerary that would provide a good introduction to the "la Ville Lumière".
We started Thursday evening with a 2 hour train ride from Lux, arriving at our Airbnb on Rue Saint Dominique after dinner. We walked about 10 minutes to the Eiffel Tower, and took in the light show. Despite it being garish to many Parisians, each time we visit, it is fun to walk around the famous structure as it glitters over the city.
Climbing the Eiffel Tower
The following day, we embarked on a ten-mile urban hike around the city, starting with a hike up the Eiffel Tower. We grabbed some warm baguettes and fresh-squeezed orange juice to power up. We decided to take the hard way up and climbed the stairs, and by the time we reached the top of the second level, we were surrounded by fog. Despite not being able to see the views, we all were so impressed by the size and construction of the tower, built for the 1889 World's Fair.
We then walk along the Seine, toward the Tuileries Gardens, which were being set up with mulled wine stands and festival rides for the upcoming Christmas markets. We stopped at Cafe Angelina for the famous, thick, decadent hot chocolate and some macarons for the road, and walked along the stately Place Vendome and passed the designer shops on Rue Cambon.
Next, we walked through the Tuileries to the Louvre, and headed in through I.M. Pei's glass pyramid into the museum. An art lover could spend days in the Louvre and not see everything, so for this intro to Paris trip, we focused on the highlights: the small and somewhat unassuming Mona Lisa, the Venus di Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Somewhat surprisingly, the college bros were into the art, so we spent some extra time wandering from room to room, admiring the works from across time and place.
Next, we continued our walk to Le Marais, Erin's favorite neighborhood in Paris, where we picked up falafel sandwiches and fries at LAs du Falafel. We walked around a bit and found a quiet corner to have a delicious standing fall picnic (except Erin and Pete leaned on a very dirty building stoop that was covered in a gross sticky substance, and Pete ruined his pants). From Le Marais, we headed back toward the river and stopped at Notre Dame. Though the line to enter was long, we couldn't pass up this free visit, so we toured around inside the gothic masterpiece before Uber-ing back to our Airbnb for an afternoon siesta.
Dinner in Saint Martin
The rain picked up in the evening, so we hopped back in an Uber and headed to the trendy Canal Saint Martin district for some Korean fusion food at a tiny hole in the wall spot. Our Uber driver educated us about the upcoming "yellow vest protests", which we didn't totally understand at the time, but would become evident the following day. Mason wasn't feeling the pork buns at our dinner spot and didn't vibe with the chopsticks-only requirement, so we ate quickly and headed toward the canal, walking in light rain to work off our meal. The bros finished the night at an Irish pub, tasting some specialty Irish beers.
The following day we hit Rue Cler markets, picking up croissants, roasted chicken, apple tart and mashed potatoes to prepare Mase and Pete a Thanksgiving-esque brunch, since they missed the American holiday during their study abroad program. Because we got a bit of a late start, our first stop, the Musee D'Orsay, had a very long line. Our other plan was to check out the Champs Elysses and Arch de Triomphe, but the yellow vest protests were taking place there, and we could see black smoke rising from the area, so we kept our distance. We would later learn on the news that the protesters overturned a truck and lit it on fire, so our inclination to avoid was validated.
We continued walking along the Seine to the famous Sainte Chappelle, with its otherworldly stained glass (Mase's favorite), but, once again, we started too late and the lines were too long. We decided to head a little further out to Montmartre, and we started our visit with the viewpoint overlooking Paris, and then headed into the Sacre Coeur, the famous, stark-white hilltop basilica. After visiting the inside and admiring the over-the-top metallic religious depictions, we headed outside the church, around the back to climb 300-odd stairs to the domes of the structure, where we had 360 degree views over Paris.
On our way down, we grabbed some hot chocolates and enjoyed a long walk around quintessentially Parisian Montmartre, with its stately residences and picturesque cafes. After getting our fill, we walked down the hill, past the nostalgic carousel at the base of the slope, and headed back toward the center of town for some pho. We shared a feast for Pete's first pho experience, adding beers, spring rolls and fresh noodles to our massive bowls of soup.
By this time, it was late afternoon, so we decided to head back to Sainte Chappelle to see if the lines subsided. We picked up some fries on the way (even though they are Belgian, they are French) and hopped in the now-shorter line, only to find out that the Gothic gem had been locked down due to the protests. We waited for a few more minutes, watching the yellow vest protesters stream by, before deciding to try our luck at the Orsay. We walked back along the river, but the museum was too busy, so we headed home to hang out for the afternoon.
For our final evening, we did Paris American-style, watching college football and ordering in burritos. We finished the night with another quick trip to the Eiffel Tower to watch the light show and get one more taste of Parisian magic. Mase and Pete left at 4am (only to find that the train was late and they shared an Uber with some other late college students to the airport). We slept in and headed to the Japanese area of Paris in the morning, picking up onigiri, Japanese chocolates and snacks for the 2 hour train back home to Luxembourg.
For us, Paris never gets old. Neither Mase nor Pete were super excited to visit, and it seems Paris gets a bad rap in the eyes of many Americans, so we were happy to have the opportunity to introduce the bros to Paris and to share with them how cool, fun and beautiful it is. We accomplished our goal of converting them. Next up, a long weekend in sunny Sevilla.
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