My Trip To Paris By RaShonda’s Explore Savvy

RaShonda of Explore Savvy is one of my favourite local travel blogger. Between her recent trips to Cuba or Milan and her scooping of fabulous cheap or error fare her facebook and twitter feeds give me major wanderlust – and make me want to buy all the airline tickets! Earlier in the year, she posted about an error fare on TAP Portugal, which I quickly snagged for a cheap Thanksgiving get-away. I mean, $280 round trip to Lisbon? How could I not jump on that? She also took advantage of the mistake, but rather than just stay in Portugal, opted to hop along to Paris. Here are some highlights from her trip to Paris earlier this year.

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS
As Laetitia mentioned, I came across a TAP Portugal deal for $285 round trip tickets from New York to many popular destinations in Europe. It was too good to pass up. My husband and I like to celebrate our anniversary in a different place each year so I figured we would take advantage of the deal to spend it in the City of Love this time around!

Explore Savvy's Anniversary trip to Paris

 

HOW I GOT THERE
We flew TAP Portugal. It was okay but nothing to write home about. If you ever fly this airline, my advice is to bring your own food and snacks. For what they lacked in food, they had plenty of red, white, and sparkling wine which made the food slightly more palatable. All of their flights from the US transit through Lisbon. If you have the time, they offer free tours during the stop-over, which is always a plus.

WHERE I STAYED
I’m a member of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) which means I earn points when staying at Starwood properties like Westins, W Hotels, Meridiens or Sheratons. They have properties around the world and I always try to capitalize on the use of points when I can. I wanted to stay some place that had its original Parisian charm and not your typical American hotel chain. Fortunately SPG had a few options that fit that requirement in Paris. We booked a room at Le Dokhan’s, a boutique hotel in a 19th century Haussmanian building in the 16eme arrondissement. It was recently acquired by SPG and was definitely the best of both worlds. From receiving a complimentary anniversary toast in Paris’ first champagne bar (located in the lobby level) to taking photos in its Louis Vuitton elevator, this place was oozing with charm.

Louis Vuitton elevator at Le Dokhan's in Paris

Also, it’s a short stroll to the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower! And while we didn’t use our points this go around, we earned enough for a free night or two in a less expensive city.

BEST THING I ATE
Paris is known for having tons of Michelin-rated restaurants and I figured I’d book one for our anniversary. I’d gone through the listing and narrowed down our selection to a few choices and ended up picking Kei, a one-star French restaurant which a slight Japanese influence. Each dish was so unique and the best part was all of them were very tasty. The service was absolutely amazing and I’d definitely recommend it to someone who’s celebrating a special occasion.

Kei

Kei

BEST FREE ACTIVITY
I’d definitely recommend spending the afternoon strolling down the Champs-Élysées. There are so many cute cafés and restaurants where you can grab a drink or a bite to eat and just sit there and people watch. There’s also a ton of shopping. While many of the places can be found in the States too, they do offer different options in the European stores.

TOTALLY WORTH THE SPLURGE
I know they’re opening in Washington, D.C. soon, but I finally had a chance to a go to Ladurée. We went to the one located on the Champs-Élysées. The line was out of the door but fortunately it moved quickly. As we made it halfway through, we noticed people walking right past us and into the small café area. We followed suit and learned we could order our macarons from there with no wait. Who knew?

Explore Savvy at Laduree

We ordered 8 macarons to go but still ended up sitting down and ordering a tea, a cappuccino, and a fancy ice cream dish. While, this was not our most expensive eating experience, we spent nearly $60 on an afternoon snack with a few macarons to go. But hey, you only live once 😉

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS
I always hear people talking about how French people are so rude. Honestly, my husband and I had a totally different experience. As long as you realize that the culture in Paris is not the same as in the United States, you will see things differently and enjoy your experience. One major difference: service at restaurants! Waiters are usually not ignoring you, they’re just giving you your space. If you need something just make eye contact or wave to them and they’ll be right over. Also, if you’re not fluent in French, learn a few basic greetings. Trust me, when you simply try it goes a long way…

Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com

Explore Savvy trip to Paris

 About the author: RaShonda Riddle is a nonprofit marketing director by day and travel enthusiast by night. She loves food, art, architecture, and learning about other cultures. Her passion is exploring the world one country at a time. You can read more about her travels on her blog Explore Savvy and on her social media channels (facebook & twitter.)

My Trip To Paris (And Champagne) By Alison

There’s no conversation I love more than when one of friends tells me that they’re off to Paris. OK, there is: the conversation we have when they get back full of stories from my hometown and appreciation for it. So I was thrilled when my friend Alison of Bon Vivant DC told me she was stopping in Paris in between visits to Portugal and Champagne. OK, I was jealous too… but thrilled mostly. Alison runs a wine consulting business so I knew she’d have a fabulous trip. Here’s an overview of how it went, in Alison’s own words.

Alison Marriott in Champagne

WHAT BROUGHT ME TO PARIS

Paris has always been my favorite city, so when I found myself with five days between a vacation in Portugal and a weeklong industry event in Champagne, my choice of where to go in between these two stops was an easy one.  Besides its proximity to Champagne, Paris was an obvious choice for my extended ‘layover’ as I have several friends and acquaintances there. Oh, and the food.  (Doesn’t everyone travel for food?!)

HOW I GOT THERE

I was already in Portugal and flew I from Madeira into Paris’ Orly airport. On the way back, I took a direct flight from Charles de Gaulle to Dulles. 

WHERE I STAYED

I made a return visit to the Relais St. Sulpice, a small luxury boutique hotel ideally situated in the heart of Saint Germain. It’s on a quiet street that’s easily accessed by metro and walkable to many of my favorite sites in Paris including the Latin Quarter, l’Ile de la Cité, the Jardin du Luxembourg. It’s reasonably priced, with infinitely comfortable beds, and the lobby has a charming self serve bar and small library where you can read or relax.

BEST THING I ATE

One of my favorite things about Paris truly is the food- pâté, cheese, the bread, croissants… you name it, I love it! Although I had several fancier meals, café culture is one of my favorite things about Paris, and where I had one of my most memorable meals on this trip.  Café Bonaparte is in quite a touristy stretch of rue St. Germain, within a stone’s throw of the more famous Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. While no means a bargain, it beats the prices of its more famous brethren with the same amazing people-watching this neighborhood is perfectly suited for. The atmosphere is as quintessentially Parisian as it gets! It was one of the only dinners that I ate alone, and so its convenience to my hotel was paramount. Big thanks to Cécile of The Worldly Bite for this great suggestion!

Champagne at Cafe Bonaparte

I also adored having crêpes and Britany cider out of traditional ceramic bowls with Laetitia’s mom at Breizh Café, right behind the Picasso Museum in the Marais! It’s a place I can imagine returning again and again to try different combinations.

Lastly, I had a lovely time picnicking along the Seine with my dear friend Tanisha of Girl Meets Glass. We picked up everything we needed at the local Monoprix and were loaded down with an astounding array of cheeses, tapenade, fruit, bread, charcuterie and a few bottles of wine for less than 30€! As we made our way over to a quai on the Seine, the fading sun cast beautiful light and shadows over the city.  After pulling the cork on a bottle of Provençal rosé we watched the lights illuminate Notre Dame across the river – which is perhaps most impressive seen at night.

BEST FREE ACTIVITY 

Though pretty touristy, taking in the Eiffel Tower at night tops this list. Feel free to take a bottle of wine and settle in for the light show, which takes place at the top of every hour.

La Tour Eiffel

I also adore wandering around the jardin du Luxembourg.  It’s one of the loveliest spots in Paris, particularly in the spring, when thousands of tulips are in bloom. 

The Luxembourg Garden in the spring

Finally not technically free but at 3.30€, practically: the gardens at the Rodin Museum. Skip the pricier interior to take in the sculptor’s most famous works set amidst a beautiful park devoid of the crowds and tour groups that throng most large museums. This has to be one of the most under-rated sites in Paris! 

WORTH THE SPLURGE 

I was in France to attend the industry only Printemps des Champagnes series of tastings as I prepare to host DC’s first Champagne Week, which will take place in early November. What most people don’t realize is how very easy it is to visit Champagne as a day trip from Paris. The TGV train will get you from Gare du Nord to the center of Reims in a mere 40 minutes.  From there, it’s easy to visit the stunning Cathedral of Reims and pop into a few of the notable champagne houses.  Taittinger has spectacular tours and beautiful cellars. Travelers who venture a bit further into the countryside (which does require a car) are rewarded with beautiful scenery and small, grower champagne houses. Just be sure to make an appointment! 

Caves in Reims

MY TIPS IF YOU’RE HEADED TO PARIS 

1) Don’t over schedule!  Remember to schedule time to relax, peruse the charming shops, explore hidden courtyards, and lounge in any number of the lovely parks. Take time to soak in the city while relaxing at a picturesque cafe over a mid afternoon pastry. 

2) If it’s your first trip to Paris, pick a few sites that are most important to see and really spend some time enjoying them. My own “Top 5 Must Sees” are the Sainte Chapelle, hidden inside France’s Palais de Justice,  the light show at the Eiffel Tower, the Rodin Sculpture Gardens, the Musée D’Orsay, and the Jardin du Luxembourg. 

La Sainte Chapelle

3) Dress up and learn a few French words. There are a few things that can help you blend in a bit and not stand out as an American (or as a tourist) really.  We typically dress more casually than our Parisian counterparts so like to trade tennis shoes for driving loafers and throw on a blazer over jeans. Though you may not be mistaken for a local, dressing up just a bit commands respect and you won’t look the part of the dreaded “Ugly American.” Also, even though my French is abysmal, I’ve mastered a few key phrases like “thank you” (merci), “excuse me” (pardon), “please” (s’il vous plaît), “hello” (bonjour.) Parisians really appreciate the effort and you’ll find that many are actually eager to practice their english with you too!

Though I’ve been to Paris many times, there are still sites that I’ve never made it to- and that’s OK!  Part of the charm of this beautiful city is embracing the Parisian joie de vivre, luxuriating in the experiences you DO choose to enjoy. I can’t wait to visit the flea markets, more museums, and perhaps the Catacombes or nearby Giverny on my next visit, but you can bet I’ll still find plenty of time to enjoy a glass of champagne, pâté, and people watching – which will always top my list of favorite things to do in Paris!

Have you been to Paris recently and would like your trip featured on French Twist DC? Drop me a line at FrenchTwistDC@gmail.com

Alison Marriott of Bon Vivant DCAbout the author: Alison and I met through mutual friends and a common love of of all things vino. She runs her own wine consultancy Bon Vivant DC and is currently hard at work planning the city’s first Champagne Week, with a Grand Tasting planned on November 9th. There will also be a champagne pairing dinner held at Ripple, and custom flights of champagne around town. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.dcchampagneweek.com. Yep, that’s the week of the election and the perfect opportunity to celebrate your candidate’s victory — or plot your theoretical move to Paris over the world’s finest bubbles.

Guest Post ~ My Trip to Paris by Ashley

389176_10100620880866639_2081008904_nNeither David nor I can remember how we agreed that Paris would be our honeymoon location. And truthfully, it never occurred to either of us as being cliché (being the city of love and all). The truth is, we’re city people, and we like to visit other cities, and we both took enough years of high school and college French that we felt it needed to serve some purpose.

We flew to Paris a few days after our wedding, with only the vaguest ideas of what we would do or see. We had secured our apartment via AirBnB, a great little studio in Le Marais, exchanged our dollars for Euros and headed off on Iceland Air. When we got there we were surprised that Paris seemed trapped in time. For me, it was romantic to see metro trains right out of my understanding of the 1940’s. There seemed to be less automation, more stairs, and definitely fewer people using smart phones. For David, it was a thoughtful collision of the new (La Défense) and the old (“What do you mean they don’t accept our credit cards?”). The biggest adjustment? The lack of air conditioning on our fifth floor walk up–and the communal bathroom.

Either way, a trip to Paris is an incredible experience and one you’re not soon to forget–no matter which century you prefer. Here are some of the sights we loved and tips we learned doing our Parisian honeymoon:

1. Grab a Vélib’. Paris was one of the first city to implement a large-scale bikeshare program and it’s a great way to get around without losing out on any of the sights.  You will need to buy your pass online since the Vélib self-serving stations don’t take American credit cards.

Velib, paris velib, paris bikeshare, biking in paris

2. We loved Caffe Boboli and Bistro La Coopérative. The Cooperative serves traditional Southwestern food close to the Louvre Museum, but without the tourist mark-ups (or crowds) of other establishments nearby. Caffe Boboli is this tiny Italian restaurant with fewer than 10 seats; the owner serves your meal.

3. Visit the farmers’/merchant market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, near the Bastille on Sunday mornings (8AM-1PM, metro: Breguet Sabin or Bastille.) If the weather is nice, you can buy everything you need (but especially cheese, olives, cured meats etc.) for a picnic. Then grab a bottle of wine and improvise a meal by the Seine. Unlike in Washington, there are no such things as open container laws in Paris.

marche de la Bastille, paris farmers' market, bastille farmers market

4. Take a cooking class. I tried a croissant-making class at (American-expat owned) La Cuisine Paris, and took home more than we could eat!

5. Select your museums wisely. The museum pass was helpful if you really enjoy museums and plan to make them a dedicated part of your trip. But if you’re not a big museum person, don’t worry about it. And the Mona Lisa…eh. We visited the Centre Pompidou which has great modern art. Make sure you get in the entrance line and not the line for the library-we stood in line for an hour before realizing we were in the wrong one. Don’t miss the the whimsical Stravinsky Fountain nearby too. We also made a full day excursion to Versailles, rented a rowboat and leisurely strolled through the gardens. If the weather is nice it’s definitely worth the quick RER ride.

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6. We loved the view from Arc de Triomphe more than the Eiffel Tower. Then again, I’m terribly afraid of heights. If you want to save money (and a few hours), you can elect to walk up the Eiffel Tower via stairs.

7. Stroll up to Berthillon’s on the Ile St Louis. The celebrated glacier has many retailers behind Notre Dame, and there’s typically always a small line, waiting not-so-patiently for the best ice cream in the city.

berthillon, ice cream paris, best ice cream in paris

8. We took a fun wine tasting class at O-Chateau. Their wine pours are generous and the knowledge was invaluable-we learned that a high-dollar bottle of wine rarely tastes different than a more reasonably priced bottle of wine. We also learned a great deal about the the flavors you can expect from specific regions of France.

9.  The city of Paris spends a small fortune of their taxpayers’ euros lighting up the monuments at night and one of the most convenient way to appreciate them is on a boat tour of the city at night.  There are several offering dinner or drinks too.

10. Sacré Coeur and the surrounding neighborhood are a lovely afternoon excursion but watch out for pick-pockets and all their tricks!

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Last but not least, take the time to enjoy the city. You’ll never have the time to see everything so don’t stress out trying.

577526_10100624987931049_1043153038_nAbout the author: Ashley and David were married in May, 2012 in Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC. Following their honeymoon in Paris, they welcomed a sweet puppy named Jack into their lives. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Ashley through our mutual love of DC-city life and our involvement with the local blog Borderstan. I can’t remember if I suggested slash ordered that she gets ice cream at Berthillon before she headed out to Paris, but either way, I most definitely agree with that tip. Berthillon is the best. Period 😉 For more on Ashley, you can read her blog Metropoetrylis and follow @arlusk on twitter. 

Guest Post ~ My Trip to Paris by Cecile

Gertrude Stein once said “America is my country and Paris is my hometown.” I couldn’t agree more! When I am in Paris, I feel very much at home and become une petite Parisienne. Of course, it helps that my father is a francophile and my mother is, well, une vraie Parisienne. She used to live near the picturesque Place des Vosges and I grew up hearing all about Paris, its culture and its fashion. I’m lucky that I get to visit about once a year, and I’m thrilled to share with you a few of the things I love the most about my hometown…

… starting with fashion. French women always manage to look effortlessly chic, elegantly maneuvering the cobblestone streets of le Marais in their Louboutins and expertly wrapping a Hermès scarf around their necks. But all French women, myself included, know that the base of any great outfit is what only a select few people get to see: their unmentionables. French lingerie is typically designed for women by women and it shows! You can find a few good French brands in D.C. at Coup de Foudre on E Street, for example. But when I head to Paris, I love picking out perfectly fitted colorful pieces at Cadolle, the designer credited with inventing the bra (4 rue Cambon) or at Chantal Tomass (211 rue St-Honoré, 1er). Since those will set you back a bunch of euros,  I also love shopping at more budget-friendly Princesse Tam-Tam. The brand targets a younger crowd with affordable, fun, contemporary lingerie. It’s also a chain with locations pretty much all over Paris so you’re bound to come across one while exploring the city.

Another hidden yet important element of a French woman’s style is her fragrance. Perfume has been one of my passions since I pursued an MBA in luxury goods with a concentration in perfume in Monaco. Perfumes define your personality, whether it is fresh and fun, romantic or sensual, what better way to discover this than in Paris? Visiting perfume boutiques such as Annick Goutal (14 rue de Castiglione, 1erand Chanel (31 rue Cambon, 1er) will help you determine whether you are a Petite Cherie or more of an Allure Sensuelle. You can also visit Romano Ricci (yes, he’s related to Nina Ricci…)’s new concept store Nose (20 rue Bachaumont, 2eme) to get a tailored scent assessment. Finally, a sensory tour of Paris wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Ateliers Parfum Guerlain’s flagship store. Conveniently located on the Champs Elysees (68 Avenue des Champs Élysées, 8eme), the boutique dates back to 1912 and features a shimmering art-deco interior that will transport you to the famous avenue’s most glorious days, before H&M and Abercombie and Fitch moved in.
Beyond shopping, Paris is obviously known for its art and many museum. My favourite is le Musée d’Orsay, which houses an impressive collection of impressionist masterpieces in a former 19th century railway station. If you need to take a break from the Renoirs and bronze ballerinas, don’t miss the breathtaking views of the Seine from the fifth floor.
Great views of le musée du Louvre from le musée d'Orsay (picture: Cecile R.)

Great views of le musée du Louvre from le musee d’Orsay (picture: Cecile R.)

 

Shopping, art… I guess I can’t write a post on the things I love about Paris without mentioning the food. I definitely indulge to the max when I am in the city. I can literally spend my days eating! I recommend people watching over le petit dej at Café Mabillon (164 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 6eme); an afternoon break of delicious hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows at La Maison Angelina (226 Rue de Rivoli, 1er) or to-die-for macarons from Pierre Hermé (72 Rue Bonaparte, 6eme) and Ladurée (21 Rue Bonaparte, 6eme). If the weather allows, improvise a picnic Pont des Arts. The pedestrian footbridge with a wooden decking will l
ead you straight to the Louvre’s 
cour carrée and is a popular spot to take a break and soak up the romantic cityscape (and yes to leave a padlock too). I also love the inventive selection of eclairs at Fauchon (26 place de la Madeleine, 8eme). Rather than compete with the celebrated macarons makers, Fauchon decided to make a name for itself with another classic parisian pastry, which it declined in over 75 different flavors since 2003. During my last trip to Paris, I tried their foie gras eclair. It tastes as decadent as it sounds… And of course, there’s no shortage of options for lunch but I recently stumbled upon Le Petit Jacob (40 rue Jacob, 6eme), a cozy bio wine bar with simple, organic fare like charcuterie or tartines. I recommend it. 

Savory Eclair Foie Gras from Fauchon. Another fun flavor they have is the eclair chien chaud. It looks like an elegant hot dog, but tastes like raspberry and caramel.

Savory Eclair Foie Gras from Fauchon. Another fun flavor they have is the eclair chien chaud. It looks like an elegant hot dog, but tastes like raspberry and caramel.

As you can tell, Paris is near and dear to my heart. Do you have any favourite Paris spots? Feel free to share them in the comments… I’m already planning my next trip to Paris this summer and I always welcome recommendations!
About the author: born in India, Cecile grew up in Arlington, VA. She currently works in marketing for a French luxury hotel in the District. I had the pleasure of meeting up with her in Paris during her last trip there. And by meeting up with her, I mean we flew on the same plane and hung out everyday. I guess I should mention Cecile also happens to be one of my best friend and contributes witty postings to the French Twist DC facebook page 😉 Find her on twitter under the handle @cecileremington.