NYC Catch 22. New Yorkers know this feeling well: when you get sick of living in NY, where do you go? No city compares. Except maybe Paris.
Paris is one of the few cities Ross and I could see ourselves living in, one of the few places we’ve traveled to multiple times, and probably the only place we simulate “every day life” in.
Paris was the final leg on our honeymoon, and the perfect transition to the comforts of city life. We worked our way west from Shanghai, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and India, choosing Paris as our final destination. As peaceful as SE Asia was, there is nothing more calming than being in a bustling city. New Yorkers, am I right?
The year prior, we also found Paris to be a great city to meet friends in. For my (head scratch, how old am I?) 29th birthday Ross and I flew to London, hopped down to Morocco, and met our friends in Paris before our adventures in Iceland.
On both trips, Paris was a city to catch our breath in; a semicolon of sorts. Both trips were super lax and involved aimless wandering, eating, coffee shops, chilling, lots of shopping, and saywhat, exercise.
For an intro to Paris, see Paris 101.
Paris Part II: A Deeper Dive, The Would Do
The biggest plus to staying in an AirBnB apartment is having a kitchen. Our first morning in Paris, Ross and I went to a spin class, walked through a farmers market where we bought fresh fruits and cheeses (one of our NYC weekend traditions), swung by two bakeries (Du Pain et des Idées and Aux Péchés Normands), and made ourselves a killer breakfast spread, complete with espresso and… it’s never too early for wine, right?
I hope you come across a farmers market during your trip. When we travel, Ross and I love going to markets and grocery stores to see what the locals eat. We were excited to walk through on our way back from spin, and on my more recent family trip, I was lucky to find one outside our hotel. Everything is so fresh! Fruits, vegetables, cheeses, seafood, butchered meats, flowers, you name it. I love seeing bits of local life like this – people waking up early, walking to the market with their grocery bags and wicker baskets (I mean, seriously. Beauty and the Beast anyone?). The seafood selection is probably my favorite. It’s cool to see what different oceans offer!
We usually start our days by picking one or two things we want to check out, see if there’s anywhere we want to eat, look up bakeries/sandwiches/coffee shops along the way (one can never be too prepared for hanger), plot everything out on Google Maps, and voila! We have our walk for the day. Correction: I actually start my day by finding the nearest bakery to get sustenance to help plan our day.
Tip: Walking will always be our #1 means of transportation. We love wandering aimlessly. That said, wear comfortable shoes! Like NY, Paris is all about being comfortably stylish. My go to’s are clean sneaks, over the knee leather boots, and a pair of heels to spice things up. (Uber is available for heel days/nights!)
Between our walks, we’ll dip into bistros or cafés for espresso- sometimes a quickie at the counter, sometimes we’ll sit outside and people watch a while. So Parisian. On a more modern, Western, and increasingly popular front, we’ve also come across some great coffee shops. More coffee-snob-friendly, if you will. I think this is a newer concept for Paris, a shift to the American coffee scene.
I found this list of “best coffee shops” from 2016 that touches on the old world café vs new world coffee shop culture. As a coffee lover, I prefer the bistro/café espresso in Paris over the coffee shop specialties. Maybe because we’ve already perfected the coffee shop scene in NYC, maybe because I prefer the change of scene in Paris. Or quite honestly, because cafés do espressos right. No fuss, no muss, just a good shot of black espresso.
One café worth noting is Café Kitsuné. Not for its coffee per se, but its location. Located in the Palais Royal, it’s a nice place to find a seat and watch passerby (or rest your feet).
So where am I walking to?
Antique & Flea Markets. Between flea/antique markets in Europe and artisan markets around the world, admiring tokens of the past and arts of the present has become one of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling.
In 2007, I remember curiously taking the tram past my stop and finding a flea market, Puces de Vanves. Sidewalks were filled with knick knacks, wrapping around an entire block. Like any flea/antique, there’s junk to sift through but keep your eyes wide for treasures that speak to you. I bought two pairs of beautiful antique earrings. To this day, the ones for myself are one of my favorites.
More recently, Ross and I ventured north to the the massive Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, a market made up of 14 markets. When you emerge from the subway, you’ll be met with an open air market full of clothes, shoes, and fashion accessories. Memories of a college-me excitedly buying a pair of what I thought were designer jeans rushed by. Whatever, I loved those jeans. Tip: be mentally prepared for this one. It’s a trek, and it’s pretty overwhelming. Apparently you should get a map to navigate. We’re freestylers so we didn’t do any research and just let our feet guide us…
Thankfully we cut straight through the “fashion” in hopes of finding more, and came into an alley full of antiques, which eventually led to streets of more, and more, refined antiques. We wandered through the tables, in and out of shops. I mean… the things some of these shops collect. Antique doors, furniture, paintings, entire excavated rooms (matching walls, doors, and all)… Le sigh, if only. Such a wonderful place to get lost in, a museum of its own!
Pack a Picnic, People Watch. Go to the nearest boulangerie, fromagerie, wine store, farmers market, or even grocery store, buy a little bit of everything, take a walk to somewhere scenic, grab a seat, and people watch. Some suggestions:
Pont Neuf – The weather was perfect in September. We sat under the willow tree and watched ducks swim by. The seine was pretty flooded when we went a few weeks ago, not to mention the weather again, so make sure this is an option before you go!
A Garden, like Jardin des Tuileries – when the weather is nice, people are sprawled out, chilling. Think Central Park. Lounge a while!
Parks – when I was a student we went to Bois de Boulogne, which is a really pretty park to walk through and picnic in. I’d say do this if you really have time… it feels more of a local thing.
Shopping. My favorite kind of “aimless wandering.” So funny, I was looking for pictures from my trips in ’15 and ’16, and honestly, we barely took any. I just found a series of things we tried on and some wine breaks in-between.
Okay, *stretches*, let’s talk about shopping. I was in the market for a new leather jacket and was entertaining a wool coat and leather boots; I’m always looking at the newest collection of leather goods, and let’s not forget about skincare.
I’m not a hasty shopper, which makes for leisurely shopping. Remember, once you buy something and fly back home, you can’t return it. So make sure you love it.
My favorite places to shop in Paris:
- IRO. I love IRO, especially for leather. The quality doesn’t compare. Swoon. I love my jacket (not pictured).
- Sandro & Maje. I love their classic-with-an-edge style. I must say … I think the quality has gone down over the years. I bought my camel wool coat from Sandro about 5 years ago, and noticed their subsequent productions are not the same quality. Also, I almost bought a leather jacket from Maje back in ’15 (they have a great price point) but also noticed their quality changed as little as one year later. Honestly, quality is not what it used to be across all brands. Don’t get me started.
- APC. Ross’ favorite. He goes for jeans, but also walks out with sweaters and shirts – and they always end up being his staples. I bought a pair of APC jeans one year – I’m usually a Rag&Bone girl, but I have to say, there’s something very classic about my APCs. The denim gives me a throw back feel… great quality.
- Other French Brands: Moncler, Maison Kitsuné, Kenzo is always fun, The Kooples is stylish at a more modest price point
- Accessories: My personal preferences are Céline and Longchamp. I love the classic and inconspicuous designs of Céline, and Longchamp is the perfect travel bag.
- Other: YSL, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, Chanel, Goyard, etc.
- Shop other designers too, European brands are cheaper in Europe than the US
- Galeries Lafayette. Your one stop shop (mall). Definitely check it out, it’s a Parisian landmark and the building is beautiful. It’s a great place to shop if you don’t have time to leisurely wander and want to see a little bit of everything in one place. It’s also a great place to pick up your skincare, cosmetics, and smaller items in order to meet the threshold for a VAT Refund. Dingding! Winner! Also see Le Bon Marché
- Beauty – If you ask me, Korean and French women really know their skincare. 😉 If you have any French favorites, stock up in Paris. For me it’s Clarins, Caudalie, Avène, and Chanel. Don’t forget to check out the pharmacies, the “drug store brands” in France are pretty great.
- Areas: Le Marais and Saint-Germain-des-Pres for upscale; Les Halles, Champs-Elysées, Galeries Lafayette for more commercial
- Wander the quiet roads of Ile Saint-Louis, there are so many quaint shops
Eating in Paris – Take this with a grain of salt. Like New York, the food scene is always changing, new spots are always on the rise, and it will always come down to personal preference. I have lists from so many people- a random woman I talked to at a bar, “the list” forwarded from a food editor, suggestions from friends, … Everyone has their favorites, find yours! Also, full disclosure, I’ve become pretty hard to wow. 😥
Grazing in Paris. I’m a notorious grazer. I love eating a hearty breakfast then a little bit of this and that throughout the day. By dinner, I’m like, yea I could go big, but I can also go home. For grazing across the board: don’t overthink it. It’s hard to go wrong. As I said before, take it easy, you can eat more than once, calories don’t count on vacation.
- Paris 101 Staples
- Urfa Dürüm, Kurdish, quick bite
- Don’t feel like thinking, but want a Parisian experience?
- Any bistro, wine + meat/cheese plate
- Any boulangerie, patisserie, sandwich. You’ll probably see Paul a lot. It’s a chain, but always a safe choice.
- Any fromagerie: Julhes, Laurent Dubois, etc.
Meals in Paris. Ross is pretty good about looking up dinner options and reading about what’s trending (because I don’t want to). While I can appreciate traditional French fare, I don’t actively seek it. I normally don’t eat butter and fat in my diet (or bread and cheese, but something’s gotta give), so it doesn’t really sit well with me. Still, I love finding solid French restaurants. I’m sure if I lived in Paris I’d be more into the trendy, modern restaurants but I’ve become immune in NY so I prefer the classics. This is where I’ll backtrack a bit and say, meals are not necessarily good across the board- so don’t over think it, but… don’t not think about it. We had a meal or two where classic dishes such as duck, foie gras, bœuf bourguignon, cassoulet, and french onion soup either fell flat of good, or was outright not good. Don’t forget to make reservations!
- Comptoir de la Gastronomie – If I had to recommend one place, this would be it. Ross and I came across this restaurant right before our flight. It was so good, it was the only reservation I made on my family’s trip, and also our last meal in Paris. It’s classic French food, and everything is done perfectly. The restaurant is cozy, not stuffy, the waitstaff is friendly, the food is delicious, everything to make for a pleasant meal.
- The foie gras carpaccio to start is amazing, the french onion soup is full of flavor, and the duck is the star of the show. We also ordered the cheese plate, escargot, and cassoulet, which were all delicious, and my dad ordered the Sea Bass Risotto in oyster sauce which… is a hit or miss. Miss for us. (I think it was sea bass, some white fish. The oyster sauce was too much).
- I almost didn’t recognize the restaurant – they renovated the space in early ’17, so it feels more open, but still has its cozy charm. ALSO, the world is so small – who sits next to us at dinner? My sister’s college roommate, who she is still close friends with!
- La Poule au Pot – Also a great restaurant, classic French fare well executed, friendly waitstaff, and cozy atmosphere.
- Au Passage – Oh gosh, I just remembered that heinous line, and the four of us waiting in the alley. Au Passage is a modern European, small plates style restaurant that’s pretty trending. I’m sure it was good, not sure if it was worth the wait, and apparently not so amazing that I remember what I ate… But that’s just me. We also ordered a lot of plates. I remember it felt local and had good energy, and my friend says it was her favorite meal. Check it out for something more modern!
- L’Atelier Rodier – French gastronomy, 6-8 course tasting menu. Ross made reservations to check out the more modern food scene. I remember it was good, an honest price, and it was fun to try French gastronomy. It looks like they recently closed and are relocating.
- Chez Fernand – Classic French. We overdid it at the wine bar before, where we also had a cheese plate and gratin… but that didn’t stop us from ordering the duck, bœuf bourguignon, foie gras, escargot… Hm. Honestly, I didn’t think it was that great.
- Au Petit Sud Ouest – I learned they recently decided to retire. Wish I got to revisit before they did!
Casual Eats/Night Cap My sweet spot. More substantial than grazing, not as heavy as a meal. Read: wine bar and tapas/snacks.
- Chez Nous – wine bar with a cool, cozy atmosphere. Good spot before or after dinner.
- L’Avant Comptoir – popular wine and tapas spot. It has a European concept of ordering a glass of wine and small bites, and standing around the narrow bar. It will be crowded.
- Le Bistrot des Augustins – Surprisingly, I’ve been here twice. I say surprisingly because it’s rare I go somewhere more than once, and this place is really, so inconspicuous- which is what I appreciate about it. It’s easy, it’s cosy, it’s right next to the seine and Notre Dame, you can just go for some wine, like we did the first time, or sit and have dinner (or in our case dinner before dinner). We were so hungry and had time to kill before our reservations, so we ordered a bottle of wine, two gratins (very tasty, I think this is the place to go for gratin), and a cheese plate. The staff is very friendly, the space is cozy, everything you’d want for a casual eat.
- Wine Bars – I’ve also bookmarked Le Barav, Bar à Vins Frenchie, Ô Chateau, L’Ecluse, and more. Again, hard to go wrong!
Places I’ve been recommended or bookmarked: Le Cinq, Septime, Verjus, Ellsworth, Monsieur Bleu, Allard, Le Comptoir du Relais, La Potager du Pere Thierry, Le Petit Canard, La Veraison …
Last, Stay Active:
- Run. Ross, remember that time we ran 5k from Oberkampf to Jardin du Luxembourg in our Vibram FiveFingers?? lol. We went for a morning run with our friends, which is a great way to see the city. Pastries were had après run, obviously.
- Spin. Ross looked up spin classes during our honeymoon. There aren’t many options- we had to walk quite a bit, very early in the morning – but it was worth it. Nothing like exercising after weeks of traveling! Also, I didn’t think about it until class started, but it is not confusing to spin to French instructions. Just follow along!
And that’s a wrap on Paris, for now! What are some of your favorites?