Paris, France

Et voilà! We are one week into our Around the World trip and Paris was the perfect introduction: a big city with an easy enough train system; a place where bakeries stand on every street (mon coeur!). We got around with our broken French and a lot of “bonjour, parlez-vous Anglaise?” Many would reply “only a little” yet proceed to have a complete conversation in English with us. We achieved new walking records on our Garmins, set foot in a boulangerie at least once a day, and spent an unforgettable evening at Chez Germaine. We were incredibly blessed to have friends and family with us for a couple of the days, so we couldn’t have asked for a better start!

Logistics

In November, the weather is already leaning towards winter and we practically lived out of our jackets and beanies, though scarves were much more common among the locals. The daylight has shortened and though we saw mostly cloudy days, it made for some magical lighting. Everywhere we looked there were beautiful views – keep in mind that the best shots of the Eiffel Tower is not right underneath it, but some streets away, up on a hill. A popular spot is up on the Trocadero, or walk and wander around, peek through small alleys and you’ll discover your own perfect shot!

general

Good to Know

Vaccinations: Routine Vaccinations

Mosquito problems: None at this time. Their windows don’t have screens, so it seems as if there wouldn’t be such a worry

Problems for tattoos: None

Traveling as a woman: Standard Precautions

Getting around

Paris is not a small city so transportation can definitely influence your budget. Prepare to walk some hilly cobblestoned streets and that can help you save. We primarily walked and used the metro and found it fairly easy after the first couple of runs.

Conveniently the tickets machines are multilingual, but most machines only accept card and coins not bank notes. Tickets are priced per zone, one way and with a set time limit for transfers. If you can, plan your trips through the city ahead of time to see if buying a booklet of tickets (10 total) makes sense, it can save you about 4 EUR. One of the things we found confusing is that the turnstiles will always give your ticket back, even when it seems you’ve used it up, so remember to toss those when you’re done. The couple times we got stuck behind the gate we were able to flag a ticket clerk, even from behind the gate, they’d buzz open the gate and let us go through.

To get from the CDG airport to the center of Paris, we took the airport shuttle to the metro station and then purchased tickets to Paris for 10.3 EUR each. To get to the Eiffel Tower we took the RER B and transferred to the RER C and got out at the Eiffel Tower station.

budgeting

Currency: 1 EUR = 1.15 USD
Tipping is not necessary, but appreciated. Tax is already included in their pricing, so the price you see is what you pay.

Daily Budget

$100-150/person: This was for 5 evenings in Paris with a private Airbnb apartment located near Eiffel Tower, mostly simple meals of baguettes and cheese, pastries or sandwiches, an occasional latte and eclair, and only a couple nice meals at a restaurant. We went to the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles. We walked an average of 3 miles, but still took the metro at least once a day.

Some typical costs

  • Baguette: 1-1.5 EUR
  • Latte: 5 EUR
  • Metro: 1.9-10.3 EUR
  • Casual meal: 15-20 EUR
  • Special meal: 40-60 EUR
  • AirBnB: $65/night

What to Eat

Paris has no end to options for food, but you can’t beat getting a fresh baguette or pastry. If you’re in a rush there’s plenty of food stalls around, but you must set aside some time for a proper French meal, like Chez Germaine (I know, I know, I’ll get to details soon!). Be prepared to rub elbows with your neighbors as table arrangements tend to be crowded in France (compared to the States).

If you have a favorite pastry, get some “research” in and try them at each patisserie you pass. Mine are éclairs, which you can find anywhere, they range from 2.50-5 EUR depending on whether you get them from a boulangerie or a specialty patisserie, which are delicious but usually not twice as good.

  • La Patisserie Cyril Lignac, 5 EUR, chocolate and caramel flavors. Very tasty and comes in a cute box. It held well over the course of the evening, very thin crust and not too sweet.
  • Festival des Paris, Marche de Passy, 2.8 EUR, chocolate and cafe flavors. Also good texture on the crust, just as delicious.
  • Des Granges Boulangerie, 2.70 EUR, chocolate and caramel flavors. A softer crust which got a little too mushy quickly, but had a richer darker chocolate taste.

marché rue cler

Our favorite thing to do was explore all the neighborhood markets or marchés; a street with a couple produce stores and restaurants. We bought some tiny but delicious strawberries, a bottle of freshly squeezed zingy but fragrant orange juice, and the adventure of the day: Groiseille, a tiny red glass berry from the Netherlands, bursting and tart. Turns out they’re usually used to make jams, so it makes sense that they went well with the triple creamy cow’s cheese we got from Fromagerie de Grenelle and a fresh baguette from Top Halles (along with a pain au chocolate, a croissant nutella, and broiche de suisse – just being honest here!).

Le Petit Cler

lepetitcler.com, 29 Rue Cler, $$
Also in the same area is this cute little French cafe style restaurant, they speak and have English menus. Try their plat du jour (on a Wednesday), blanquette de veau, a savory stewed veal or the emince de volaille, a delicious chicken with red curry and coconut milk & sautéed potatoes. Both were fully satisfying with bold balanced flavors and perfectly cooked meat.

Amorino

amorino.com, 42 Rue Cler, multiple locations, $
We don’t usually visit chain stores, but this popular gelato shop knows what they’re doing. Their gelato is super smooth, creamy and almost fluffy. They’re famous for their “flower” cones, but we just got a small cup of the Hazelnut chocolate and it did not disappoint!

marché bourse

Not sure if it was just the season, but I was a little disappointed by the size of this market. It was a mix of about 10 food and flea market-esque stalls, but we did enjoy the African food one with its flavored rices and curries. Ordering was a bit confusing but luckily pointing sufficed. Beware! They’ll ask if you want chili sauce: it is super spicy, so proceed with caution.

Cuillier Sentier

Cuillier Sentier

cuillier.fr, 85 Rue Montmartre, multiple locations, $
We surprisingly did not have much coffee while in Paris, but this was the best we’ve had in a long time. We went to the one north of the Louvre and loved the modern and cozy interior. A simple latte or cappuccino is the way to go, as the coffee itself is really fragrant and the milk foamed beautifully.

Kozy Bosquet

79 Avenue Bosquet, $$
A bustle cafe popular with a younger crowd, we had the Oeufs Benedict and Grilled Cheese with a latte caramel and a mocha. Unfortunately the coffees were too sweet and had no milk foam (rather disappointing after Cuillier), the food however was decent though a tad expensive.

Les Crepes a Tonton

les-crepes-a-tonton.business.site, 33-35 Rue du Vieux Versailles, $
A popular spot for lunch in Versailles, just outside of the tourist zone. Try the Touslaine and the Breton!

Chez Germaine

Chez Germaine

30 Rue Pierre Leroux, $$$
And last but definitely not least, our number one recommendation for Paris is an evening at Chez Germaine. We met Frederick, the host and owner, who was incredibly personable and quick to make recommendations. If you get a pick of tables, make sure to sit near the kitchen so you can chat it up with him. It was the quintessential French meal, unhurried, filled with conversation and high quality food. Reservations are a must because the small space fills up fast.

  • Cappuccino coco a l’oeuf mollet, emulsified coco beans frothed like a cappuccino and a poached egg, rich and earthy
  • Foie gras toasts briochés, a sweet and decadent slab of foie gras, so creamy
  • Escargots, still in the shell, quite entertaining to pluck them out yourself
  • L’entrecôte d’argentine, frites maison, Argentinian style steak is very popular in France for some reason, simple but pure quality
  • Navarin d’agneaux Germaine, a savory and comforting slow stewed lamb with vegetables
  • St Jacques Poêlées au Caramel de Betterave, purée de Celéri-Rave aux noisettes, such sweet and delicate scallops
  • Sabayon, a delicious hot pudding with fresh fruit baked inside, our favorite dessert
  • Chocolate lava cake, an excellent though typical hot lava cake, not too sweet
  • Roasted pear with currant, better than the typically poached pear, this roasted version is has a better texture and a lovely fragrance
  • Tristan and Julien, Chateau la Grave, Minervois, a strong red wine, aromatic and smooth, high viscosity: the best we had in France
Check out Carl's take on Chez Germaine

From boulangeries to boucheries and creperies to fromageries, the reason why French food is regarded as one of the best in the world is because they give a shit! It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Paris and the last time I was here was before my culinary school days and everyone that knows me knows how I feel about culinary school. And if you don’t know me here’s the short: it’s waste of time and money.

You always hear that good food is made with passion and love, that couldn’t be any truer here. There are no Costcos or huge grocery stores and that’s what I love. Specialty shops are everywhere. Bakeries that make fresh baguettes every morning and afternoon. Cheese shops that carry the best cow, sheep or goat cheese. My most favorite: butcheries that carry all the proteins your heart could desire like Jambon to Foie Gras. Any of these things can be had in a shop where each employee’s skillset, knowledge and culinary passion specializes in that area, it’s amazing! Don’t know what you like? No problem! Tell them what you’re craving and they’ll be sure to recommend the right thing to you. Also, every time you ask them if they speak English and they say “only a little…” it’s actually more than you would think haha.

The most memorable meal I have had in Paris was at Chez Germaine. A quaint little French bistro with the most outgoing and awesome host/owner, Frederick. We didn’t have a reservation but came right at opening and he was able to seat us as long as we left in 2 hours as the table had a reservation for later but not a problem as we are fairly fast eaters. But we were in luck as the reservation cancelled! Let me tell you, Frederick is beyond nice! He didn’t try to rush us and he interacted with us quite a bit, telling us jokes and stories of his restaurant and where he’s been. He’s the kind of person you would meet and think that he probably never gets mad or sad haha. To the food!

Starters of the night: I ordered the Foie Gras, Adrienne with her Cappuccino coco a l’oeuf mollet, and my brother and his wife had the escargot. Adrienne’s won the most interesting of this round. The soup tasted like that of a light cappuccino with fluffy froth surrounding her perfectly poached egg. It’s as if you were eating the most delicious pillow. Escargot, for those that don’t know, is a snail. Most are hesitant to try it but France would be one of the best places to take that leap. The texture is like your normal proteins and the taste, after you take that first bite praying that you won’t hurl whatever meal you had earlier, you’ll realize (in the words of James Carter from Rush Hour) “it’s kinda goooood!”. Well it’s more than kinda good! Pair that with the fun it is to take them out of their shell and you have an experience you’ll always cherish with a food that could be an XFactor challenge which I would take over snakes and scorpions any day! And last but not least, the Foie Gras! I am a huge fan of Foie and with it being banned in California it was hard to pass on this opportunity. Each place can prepare it differently. My first experience of Foie was in culinary school during my last set of classes where students cook for the school’s restaurant and people actually pay loads for a lunch or dinner… ridiculous! I was running the app station during our dinner service one day and one of the apps was Foie. As most ordered that, we would get our pan smoking hot, crush different colors of pepper and sprinkle it on top of a couple slices of Foie Gras then sear it off literally for a couple seconds on each side, serve it with slices of a baguette and let it go. Until this meal, that experience was the best I had of Foie (yes, I ate a couple but aren’t you always supposed to taste test?). Foie Gras at Chez Germaine blew that out of the water! The soft buttery texture of their slightly sweet Foie spread onto a piece of toast with a small drizzle of a balsamic reduction is now my definition of heaven.

Main course of the night: My sister-in-law and I had the slow cooked lamb, Adrienne with her scallops and my brother had the Argentinian steak with frites (fries…my weakness). Main dishes were still delicious but at this point I was still dreaming of the Foie. The lamb was slow cooked to perfection, soft and flavorful stew topped with an enormous amount of peas and snow peas. Adrienne’s scallops (her favorite) had the right amount of sear. The Argentinian steak was cooked to the right medium rare with rock salt served alongside for you to add as you wish. The salt really brought out the flavor of the steak. Main course did not disappoint and successfully carried the food high we had coming from the starters.

Finishers of the night: Normally we pass on dessert but honestly talking with Frederick and us getting to enjoy each other’s company after a busy stint back home we didn’t want the night to be over. As Frederick was about to pass the dessert menus we asked him what his favorites were. He then asked “do you trust me?” But at that point we trusted him with our lives if it came down to it. He said he would bring us two desserts of his favorites so we agreed. One of his favorites, a chocolate lava cake a la mode and a hot sabayon. He then surprised us with a roasted pear as a gift for “being his favorite table of the night”. I’m not a big chocolate person but the cake was excellent. Moist flavorful cake with a gooey dark chocolate center paired with the vanilla ice cream was a great first bite for me. The roasted pear topped with a sort of black currant sauce was a surprise! My only other experience with pear as a dessert was again in culinary school where I had to make a red and white wine poached pear. That’s about all I remember so I probably didn’t make it that well. This roasted pear dish was cooked perfectly. Soft with just the right amount of texture and bite to not be mush. The sauce was sweet but didn’t overpower the flavor of the pear at all. The sabayon took the prize for best dessert. If you’re not familiar with sabayon, it’s a dish that can be served hot or cold, in our case hot, and is a custard with fresh fruit on the inside with the top being either baked or torched (like creme brûlée) to create different textures for the topping. The custard; light yet flavorful of fresh vanilla bean and the fruits (grapefruit, grapes and berries) soft and mild in their flavor as if someone stared at a clock to pick them at the right moment. The fruit flavors didn’t overpower the custard at all and the topping was like a toasted crepe.

What an amazing meal, even writing about it has me salivating and dreaming of it. The biggest takeaway from the dinner that one could learn in the kitchen is that not one flavor overpowered the other things in the dishes. Sometimes in the states we want that bold strong flavor of sweet, salty or what have you. Maybe it’s because we tend to want to feel like something is winning the battle going on in our tastebuds to let us know that we’re eating. After culinary school and going straight into a large number catering setting I wasn’t really able to learn much about how to play with flavors. It’s one thing to read about it in my text books or cookbooks but to experience it and try to create that is a different story and a true skill of a chef: using quality ingredients and preparing them so that they work with each other for a complete flavorful meal instead of battling each other for the top spot. I guess a lot in life can be learned from a great French meal experience, I know I learned a lot from my experience at Chez Germaine.

What to Do

La Seine
Just like your food options, there’s an endless list of activities in Paris. If you’re tight on budget, then simply walking the neighborhoods around the sights is your best bet. You’ll get some amazing views just walking along la seine and across her bridges. Browse vintage French literature and records along the Bouquiniste Book Stalls or the marché fleur, a small gardening market (for cut flowers, visit any of the numerous flower shops around town, they’re as proliferous as Starbucks back at home). Get those obligatory photos of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or L’Arc de Triomphe – all for free.

Louvre

Everyone comes to the impressive Louvre, but if museums aren’t your thing, then don’t bother going in as there are plenty of amazing photo opportunities just outside. If you do want to make a visit in, make sure to purchase tickets online. The timed tickets must go through the front entrance but they have a separate line which goes very quickly. Just be prepared for a long day and a large crowd!

Palace of Versailles

Palace of Versailles

We were late heading out to Versailles – my phone hasn’t adjusted time and the alarm didn’t go off as planned. Nonetheless, we trudge out into the quiet cold morning, half a baguette in hand, munching on some sweet comte cheese. Plan at least a full day for this trip, as the train ride takes almost an hour.

Arriving at the palace we see rows of tour buses and a winding line and we know we’re in for it: turns out that we happened to go on a free Sunday. Still, we managed to enter before 9:30 and skipped past all the first couple video rooms, allowing us to bypass a number of tour groups.

After the palace we took to the gardens, savored the contrasting expansive air, and walked to the Grand Trianon. The grounds are beautiful even with minimal flora and most the statues covered. I had not expected so many trees and the symmetry everywhere was fascinating and overwhelming. The Trianon was much quieter than the Palace, like a small sample of the palace and well worth going to instead of if you don’t care about the specifics and want to avoid the crowds. If you make it out to the Grand Trianon, make sure to save some time for the Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet – maybe even rent a cart, as the trek wore us out before we got a chance to.

Where to Stay

AirBnB

Our Paris Centre Eiffel Tower Trocadero AirBnB was tiny and old, but functional. Unfortunately her photos were not up to date, so we weren’t expecting all the exposed pipes, peeling walls, mold in crevices in the bathroom. We could see the top of the Eiffel tower in the window, but would not consider it a view. There is a small lift, which is helpful after all the walking but it’s a snug fit. Overall, a good location that’s better suited for a single or a smaller couple. Hopefully they’ll fix the bathroom soon, then maybe the price will reflect the value.

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