France Travel Update: Paris {Beauty, Grace, Stuffing my Face}

Oh la-la, la vie est belle! I’m here with a France travel update, this time from Paris. Life is beautiful indeed.

Eiffel Tower

After our uncharted adventures in the Riviera and Provence,  we’ve settled into our teeny, tiny, and oh-so-charming Paris apartment. It’s located an area called St. Germain, a neighborhood with which I’m smitten.  It’s an eclectic mix of art galleries, shops, and (most importantly), my top three must-visit bakeries and chocolate shops (more details below.)

View from the Balcony

View from our 6th floor balcony. No, we do not have an elevator. Yes, Ben chivalrously carried my 60-pound bag up the spiral stairs. My hero!

Our time in the City of Light so far has been a lovely mix of historic sights, café lingering, and of course FOOD!

TOURISTS BY MORNING, LOCAL CAFÉ DWELLERS BY AFTERNOON

We started off slowly with neighborhood exploring. Essentially, we picked a different area of the city, then spent an entire day walking its streets, shops, and lingering in cafés for hours.

Marais/Bastille

Place de la Bastille

We also took time to visit a few of Paris’ lesser-known museums, including the Carnavalet (dedicated to French history) and the Marmottan (lovely mansion strewn with all things Monet and other Impressionist works.)

Our agenda escalated to full-scale, camera-wielding tourist mode with the purchase the four-day Paris Museum Pass, which gives us unlimited access to many of Paris’ big hitters and allows us to jump to the front of many of the lines at major sights within the four days its valid. It makes life a little crazy (you do need to squeeze in a number of sights for the pass to pay off), but I’ve found it to be absolutely worth it. If you are traveling to Paris anytime soon, definitely check it out, and there is a two-day option as well.

Musee d’Orsay: My favorite museum in the entire world, with an incredible collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art. I’m a Monet/Renoir/Van Gogh geek to the core, so I would move in if they let me.

The Orsay

The Louvre: Twice! I love having the four-day pass because we are able to take in the Louvre in pieces. It houses one of the finest collections of art in the world and is large enough to deserve its own zip code. We visited lesser-known collections on Monday and plan to battle the crowds to see the “celebrities” (Mona Lisa; Venus de Milo) Wednesday.

The Louvre

The Orangerie: OK, I lied—this is actually my favorite museum. (Don’t tell the Orsay.) The first floor houses large (I mean LARGE)-scale water lilies, completed by Monet towards the end of his life: 1,950 square feet of painted gorgeousness in all. The museum also contains a lovely assortment of paintings compiled by art dealer Paul Guillome in the 1920s. Paul had great taste—I adore this collection, which includes a good variety of works ranging from Renoir to Cezanne to Picasso.

The Army Museum + Napoleon’s Tomb: A must visit for any war or history buffs. Ben’s enthralled by this book about D-Day right now. I’ve never seen him so attached and emotional about a book. He says it’s the best he’s ever read (this from a man who reads A LOT), so the museum was especially meaningful for him.

Army Museum - Les Invalides

Rodin Museum: I didn’t know much about Rodin before our visit, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to take this picture:

The Thinker

Climbing the Bell Tower at Notre Dame: We waited two hours and climbed 422 stairs for this view. Worth it.

View from Notre Dame

GOING WITH THE FLOW

Despite my Type A diligent trip planning, we’ve needed to channel our inner yogis and be flexible (easier for laid back Ben than for me.) France’s main rail line, the SNCF has been on strike since we arrived, and it’s caused serious travel disruption. Many trains are cancelled last minute, and passengers are forced to pile onto later trains, whether or not they have a seat. The results look something like this:

Go with the Flow

We’ve also found the city apt to periodically closing major sites by means of a sheet of paper taped to the door. Though we never made it up the Arc de Triomphe or inside the Pantheon, we used the extra time to visit the Cluny Museum (Medieval art), and bust out the portable tripod for a few night shots.

Arc de Triomphe

The strike also caused us to miss a planned side trip, but we used the extra time to explore Paris, which is another way to say, we used it to do more…

EATING

Yes, I came to France to see more of a country with which I fell in love eight years ago. Yes, I wanted to see my host family and speak French on a regular basis. Yes, yes, yes I wanted to view some of the world’s greatest art. But, deep down inside, what I really want to do as often as I can, as wildly as I can is…

EAT

France, without a doubt, contains the best food I’ve had in my life, both for its variety and its quality. I’m definitely a girl who goes to bed dreaming about breakfast, spends her days plotting what to make for dinner, and never skips dessert, so for me, France is a grand food adventure, and I WANT IT ALL. All the intricate pastries; all of the incredible artisan meats and cheeses; all of the fresh bread, be it crusty, fluffy, buttery sweet, or deeply nutty.  I’ve devoured everything from the most classic of croissants, to snails, blood sausage, and fois gras, to the most delightfully crisp fries and the creamiest, most intensely flavored gelato. It’s all wonderful, and no matter how full I am, I can’t help but be hungry for more!

Breakfast

Every morning, I climb out of bed (um, futon if you want to get technical—I wasn’t kidding when I said the apartment is small!) and follow my nose to a new bakery. I pick up a classic croissant, along with one or two other new pastries to try. (If you’d like to join us for a virtual cup of coffee, I often post shots on Instagram.)

Eric Kayser

Though we’ve tried many wonderful bites, our consistent favorites are:

Eric Kayser: I’m going to say it—best baguette in Paris. Eric’s Odeon baguette (which is loaded with yummy, crunchy grains) might not be traditional, but it’s my hands down pick thus far. I’ve also developed a small obsession with his fig-stuffed wheat bread, and the soft, fluffy viennose rolls are Ben’s must-have for any of our picnic sandwiches.

Pierre Herme: Best. Crossaints. Ever. We’ve now tried croissants from at least 10 bakeries (they’re also a frequent afternoon snack), and nothing has come close to Pierre’s for its superb balance of fluffy interior and lightly flakey exterior. It’s a mega butter bomb in flavor, without being greasy. Complete croissant perfection.

The Smiths Bakery: Croissant runner-up, though I intend to do more research to ensure that my findings are accurate.

The Smiths Bakery

I also made a personal pilgrimage to a bakery I have been longing to try since I read about it years ago, Poilane. Poilane’s wood-fired, lightly tangy, and deeply complex sourdough is widely regarded as some best bread in the world (and it’s ordered and shipped all over the world), so as an avid at-home bread baker, I was wildly excited to try it at last. The shop selling this celebrity loaf could not have been more welcoming and low-key. The bread itself: superb. It’s sold both by the large, round load and by the slice, so tomorrow morning, I plan to jog over (a quick 5-minute trip) to pick up a few slices for toast.

Poilane

Mid-Morning Macaron

This is turning into a dangerous habit I have zero intention to break: the 10:30 a.m. macaron snack. I have mad respect for macarons. How these patisseurs are able to create such impossibly light, yet intensely flavored pillows of meringue and buttercream (or curd or chocolate) filling is beyond me.

Pierre Herme Macarons

While I have enjoyed a rainbow of macarons in creative flavors, my top two shops for quality and taste so far are:

Pierre Herme: This is a Class A addiction. If I don’t ingest at least two every 48 hours, I develop the shakes.

Laduree: I took myself on a date for an enormous cup of coffee, bowl of whipped cream (50% in the coffee, 50% direct spoon-to-mouth consumption), and this plate of macs at Laduree’s lovely tea salon. I meant to bring two home to Ben, but then I thought that I’d accidentally smush these delicate little treats in my bag on the way home. It was too sad a thought, so I had no choice but to eat all four on the spot.

Laduree

The 4 p.m. Pastry Run

A pastry a day keeps….Erin extremely happy. Again, so so many to share! Two of my favorites were this smooth lemon tart with shortbread crust and ridiculously buttery, caramely kouign-amann from the Le Grenier a Pain in the Monmartre neighborhood. Eclairs, mille-feuilles, and strawberry tarts have become dietary staples as well.

The Anytime Chocolate Fix!

In addition to croissants and macarons, I’m doing a self-selected sampling of some of the cities best-known chocolate shops (or any chocolate shop I see that looks tempting, of which there are many). Top two picks so far: Jean-Charles Rochoux and Patrick Roger. Key take aways: if you can’t choose one, choose four; basil and chocolate are outrageously tasty together; just asking the kind woman behind the counter to toss a few of her favorites into the bag for you is likely to come out in your favor.

Jean Charles Rouchoux

Despite my best wishes, a girl cannot live on pastry cream and chocolate alone. In Paris, I’ve enjoyed some of the most memorable meals of my life, but as this post is already flirting with the line between “obnoxiously long short story” and “novel that wouldn’t end,” so I’ll save my restaurant recap for a later post. For now, let me simply say:

LIFE IS WONDERFUL

For its serendipity. Our dear friends Bridget and Dan happened to be in Paris at the same time, so we met them for dinner and World Cup watching. Our paths crossed in Paris, so we spent a few nights hanging out, and I could not have wished for more company than these two. Next year, we’re thinking group rendez-vous in Italy.

Bridget and Dan

For its beauty. Yesterday morning, I went for a run along the Seine and around the Eiffle Tower. Last night, we watched Notre Dame light up at night.

For its grace. I feel incredibly blessed to have this experience. Every day is a treasure, and I will carry it with me always.

Notre Dame

If you are still reading, please go serve yourself a triple scoop of ice cream, preferable with whipped cream. You deserve it for enduring my endless babble!

For more France travel updates: Like The Law Student’s Wife on Facebook (don’t forget to double click the “Like” button and select “Get Notifications”), where I’ll be posting quick blurbs of what we are up to each day. I’m also sporadically posting on Instagram when wireless connections cooperate, so you can catch a few shots there too.

 

Take a mini-vacation to France with these other travel posts:

About Erin Clarke

I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, lover of bourbon, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN...

24 comments

  1. A 10:30 macaron habit sounds like a keeper to me!
    Great pics. Super jealous, but enjoying vicariously. Keep the updates coming!

  2. OBSESSED. I am adoring these updates sweet girl!

  3. Love the update Erin!! You guys have taken some stunning pics, and the food looks (and sounds!) to die for!!!

  4. Awaiting the gelato reviews—hope you have discovered Gelati d’Alberto. http://www.gelatidalberto.com/index01.php?page=home

  5. I’m totally with you on Monet! His water lilies … I could stare for hours! And 1,950 feet! Heaven! Again, your photos are beautiful! So many sweet ones of you and Ben! :)

  6. Looks like you’re having the best time. I’m living vicariously through you on the morning coffees and croissants! Oh and the 10am macs :) We found the most amazing croissants along Rue St Honore near a circle. I’m kicking myself for not remembering the name!

  7. You two look gorgeous! Thanks for the travel update, I have enjoyed it a lot.

  8. Awww … I feel like I just went on a little trip to Paris with you, Erin! Wonderful, especially those macarons. My favourite part of any day spent in Paris is always the morning croissant and cafe creme. Hope you enjoy the rest of your trip and survive the SNCF strikes!

  9. I’m loving all of your Paris photos. Looks like ya’ll are having so much fun.

  10. Loving all your Paris shots!!! Looks like you guys are having a blast-and I think you’ve really mastered the couple photos, definitely need to show my husband and be like ‘LOOK BABE!’ lol!

  11. Hi Erin, I’am so happy to see that you enjoy our beautiful town.
    I live in Paris for years but I’m always amazed by those streets, buildings, museums and restaurants.
    Your photosd are really nice!
    Thanks for sharing
    Chantal

  12. Your pictures are gorgeous — and your instagram pics make me hungry on a daily basis :)

  13. You are living my dream, lady! All that delicious food, all of those museums, your Paris apartment… love it all. So glad you guys are having a blast even with a few hiccups in the travel plans!

  14. OMG… Your adventure looks like something I would watch on the big screen, far out its amazing. Love your outfits Erin, so cute. You are living one of my dreams… Im not jealous, nope… Not at all! #nart

  15. You are GLOWING!!!! I am so glad you are taking this time to travel.. we talk constantly about how we are glad we traveled so much before kids. Thanks for taking us along for the ride!!

  16. Wish I’d taken the leap to live in France earlier. Sounds like you’re taking good advantage of this part of your life. May the happiness and adventures last a lifetime! Bfblogger.com

  17. How beautiful! I am so jealous of all that delicious food. I could use a 10:30 macaron habit!

  18. I made it to the end of this post, but I’ll have to pass on the ice cream, because I’ve already gained at least 5 pounds reading about what you’ve been eating. Besides that, I’m looking forward to our afternoon red wine and dark chocolate snack… My husband and I love to travel, and it’s really nice to see you so enthusiastic about what you are doing. There is a lot of wonderfulness out in the world, just waiting to be discovered. I hope you continue to get a lot of joy from traveling.

  19. Great pictures! You are lucky you guys live in Wisconsin, otherwise your husband would be knee deep in bar review courses and studying for the bar exam instead of being able to travel. I had to study and take the bar exam after I graduated from law school, but was fortunate to be able to visit Paris (and a few other spots in Europe) for a couple weeks after I took the bar exam.

  20. Such cute photos!!! It makes me excited for the tour de France : ) I really hope to get there sometime soon!

  21. You have no idea how useful this ‘babble’ is!! Aaron and I will be setting foot in Paris in 13 days time, how I wish that you and Ben were still there (macaron date? Ah!). I am going to visit all of your top bakeries, you gorgeous thing! Love these photos xx

  22. Love all of the pictures and updates! Such an amazing trip!

  23. I love your France updates! Keep ’em coming! I’m so glad you’re having a fabulous time! Eat all the pastries you want, skinny minnie! :) xoxox

  24. Great post. Love all of the pastries. Want to mention to you and your readers, that before they go on their next adventure, to visit Travel Beauty to but together the perfect travel kit. Travel Beauty curates wonderful products from around the world that reflect the interests of the well travelled. There is absolutely no reason to not have great products wherever you may go. Happy Travels.

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