I arranged for a private car to pick us up from the airport and take us to our hotel. On our trip to Italy last year I learned that town cars aren't much more expensive (especially for 2 people) than taxis but are way nicer. Our driver met us with one of those signs at the arrivals gate, which felt pretty cool.
The ride to our hotel, Gardette Park, took about 45 minutes. We stayed in the 11th arrondissement, near Bastille and Pere-Lachaise. It wasn't a touristy neighborhood, which we liked. The hotel was super small though. It was a challenge to stand at the sink and close the bathroom door at the same time. The elevator, which only held two people at a time, stopped between floors, so you had to walk up or down stairs to get to your room. I liked the neighborhood and that it wasn't too touristy, but I don't think I'd stay here again.
We didn't do much on the 2nd besides eat lunch at Mac Do (MacDonald's), nap, unpack, explore our immediate neighborhood and have dinner at the Wall Street Bar. I didn't feel bad about eating at MacDonald's, as it is now a very parisienne thing to do. The bar had a really cool concept. It's a wine bar, but prices fluctuate based on demand for the particular wine. It was fun to try and time our orders when the price was best. We need this in America.
On Thursday we followed Rick Steve's historic Paris walk, starting at Notre Dame then going to the deportation memorial, Shakespeare & Company bookstore, St. Severin, the Latin quarter, Place St. Michael, St. Chapelle, Conciergerie, Place Dauphine and Pont Neuf. In the afternoon we toured the Louvre. Notre Dame is always stunning, but I was blown away by the interior of St. Chapelle. The bookstore was really fun, and had a cafe next door so we stopped for coffee. The Louvre is really just too big to enjoy in an afternoon; we hit the highlights.
On Friday we started at Musee d'Orsay then walked through Tuileries gardens and the Christmas market on the Champs-Elysees all the way to the Arc de Triomphe. We had time to kill before dinner so we found a bar and drank beer. There was a friendly cat and a way too makeout-y couple there too. That evening we did the most memorable thing on our trip. Casey booked dinner through Vizeat. The site pairs travelers with cooks to provide a meal and unique experience. We met at Marine and Roman's place at 8pm. It was an adorable Parisian apartment near the Eiffel Tower.
They were great hosts, and we had great conversation all evening. Marine served foie gras with gingerbread, cream puffs with caviar, trout and pasta with a cream sauce, bread, a cheese course and adorable individual Christmas Tree croqueembouche desserts. Each course was paired with a different wine. When dinner was over they walked with us to find a taxi.
On Saturday we started at the Musee de l'Orangerie. This was amazing! It's where Monet's Water Lillies lives. I found a new favorite painting, Les Biches by Marie Laurencin. Afterward, we took a tuk tuk to the Eiffel tower. What a cold but awesome time! We took some daylight pictures there, then walked around the Trocadero neighborhood and had a cocktail and snacks. That night we took a Seine river dinner cruise. The food was just fine, but the view was amazing and romantic. We then went up to the top of the tower. It twinkles every hour on the hour, and we were on it when it did this, enjoying a glass of wine.
On Monday we were up super early for our day trip to London. We got a taxi to Gare du Nord to catch the Eurostar to St. Pancras. I slept most of the trip (both ways) so I didn't really experience the chunnel. I booked the Golden Tours hop on hop off bus for our time in London. Normally I'm not a fan of these, but it actually was a pretty fun and cheap way to get around. We got off at the Tower of London, got Starbucks (sticky toffee latte for me) and then took some photos of London Bridge. We took a Thames river cruise over to the London Eye, but didn't ride that. We walked over to Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster, then through St. James park to Buckingham palace. For lunch we took a bus over to Marble Arch/Hyde Park/Oxford Street and found a fantastic pub for lunch, then went shopping at Selfridge's. They had a room just for Christmas crackers! Finally, we walked over to Hyde Park, before getting the bus back to St. Pancras. We popped across the street to see Platform 9 and 3/4s at King's Cross.
Tuesday we took a taxi to Sacre Coeur, then walked down the hill through Monmarte to the Moulin Rouge.
We flew home Wednesday, no first class this time, but it was still a pretty comfortable flight, connecting through Detroit.
I'm so glad we didn't cancel our trip after the terrorist attacks. We never felt unsafe (partially due to added security everywhere). Our hotel was maybe five blocks from some of the sites that were attacked and we saw endless flowers, candles and French flags at the memorials. Everyone we met was friendly and seemed grateful for our tourism dollars.
The first time I was in France in 1999 I expected the French to be rude, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. I'm happy to say that hasn't changed. The sights, the food, the culture make France one of my favorite spots in the world. I look forward to visiting again.