My other Valentine's Days from here on out may pale in comparison to this one, spent with the intention as a long layover stop for a few friends, my husband, and I on our way to ultimately Capetown!
Why Paris you ask?
#1 Valentine's Day
#2 My husband and friends had never been, and my last trip was maybe 8 years ago
#3 The flight to Capetown from the US is extremely long with usually at least a connection or two. Air France flies directly from Paris to Capetown making the trip in about 12hrs. Spending a few days in Paris to break up the flights was definitely the right way to go.
So basically altogether we had about 4 full days in Paris. We flew in overnight to start the trip and landed early morning Valentine's Day. We checked into the Maison Astor by Hilton. Good hotel, cute bar, good buffet breakfast, good location in between the Arc De Triomphe and the Lourve, small rooms (I think this goes for most hotels in Paris. Last time I came I stayed in Airbnbs, which are great alternatives if you are looking for something roomier). After some jetlagged naps we were ready to tackle the next 3 days and get the most out of the little time we had. The first day we took it easy, and tried to hit some highlights. Lunch at the best hot chocolate spot in the world, Angelina- by the Lourve. Seriously the hot chocolate is like nothing you've ever had, basically a melted chocolate bar in a cup. From there we walked the park to the Lourve, down to Notre Dame, and back up to the hotel. We had absolutely perfect weather for February - around 60 degrees and sunny- could not have asked for more. Dinner for the big night was at Nola restaurant. They had a pre-fixed menu upstairs, while their downstairs had their full creole-style menu in a casual setting with no reservations needed. We dined upstairs and had a pretty good 3 course meal with champagne. Great way to start the trip. From there we went for cocktails - first at a corner cafe where we sat outisde and people watched under heated lamps, then onto Cambridge Public House- a new bar only open for about a month at this point, which had amazing cocktails.
Day 2: Champagne
I started the day out with a run along the Seine. Paris is great for running. Super flat and there is a trail on both sides of the Seine that goes for miles where everyone runs. Just make sure to use GPS when going to and from your hotel- the small winding backstreets make it extremely easy to get lost.
Our major activity for our 2nd day: took a day trip from Paris to the Epernay Region of Champagne
A local train which costs about $30 each way takes you directly to the epicenter of Champagne- all in a little over an hour. We arrived around 1pm. We had pre-booked on their website a 1.5 hr tour of Moet and Chandon (5 min walk from the train station), and from there we walked down the Avenue of champagne and had drinks at the Castalleno Champagne house. From there we bought a bottle from a local wine shop for the train ride back, and caught the 5:30 train back to Paris. We strolled from the train station to the Monmartre area to check out Sacre Couer, see some views of the city, and from there headed to dinner at a french bistro on the hill. After we took a longer walk back through the city, and after trying a few packed bars, found our way to Dannico. Maybe my favorite bar of the trip. Great cocktails, the bar is located in the back of the restaurant which is an italian concept, but it's separated so a completely different dimly lit space with a great feel. I highly recommend you check this place out (and their food in the restaurant looked amazing as well).
Another run to start the day. Back to Angelina for more hot chocolate and actual food this time (onion soup was delish). More eating and more people watching at Le Comptoir (Anthony Bourdain recommendation- the man knew his shit). Lobster bisque and the snails yum. Long walk from there to the Catacombs (buy your tickets from their website online otherwise you will be standing forever in line). After the hour long Catacomb self-guided tour, we had drinks at a cafe, dinner at a small French Bistro, followed by more drinks at the Maison Astor hotel bar.
From here we spend the entire next day traveling to Capetown.
We returned to Paris for one night after about a week in South Africa.
For our 2nd visit we stayed at the Hotel Josephine Bonaparte- which was closer to the Latin Quarter/Notre Dame area. Another extremely small hotel room, but cute and had a nice breakfast/good location. We grabbed some sorbet around lunch for a snack, then tapas at a restaurant across the street. We hit all the tourist landmarks we had missed on the front end of the trip- Notre Dame again, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, etc. We had purchased tickets to the Moulin Rouge show for the 9pm show, which included a reserved table and 2 bottles of champagne (so worth it), and made reservations for dinner at La Salinger Bleu which was literally a couple doors down from the Moulin Rouge and turned out to be a great spot. Wow the Moulin Rouge was weird- about an hour and 40 minutes long show- in a beautiful old dinner theatre- half freak show and half topless dancing. An experience for sure. To end our Paris trip we finally made it into the Little Red Door - a speakeasy which we had tried to get into the week prior but the line was always too long. Sunday night was the right choice, we only waited about 10 minutes. Very cool spot with great drinks and not too many people.
Notes on Paris:
-The traffic sucks
-The hotel rooms are small
-The CDG airport in a good 40min-1hr outside of the city
-The train system is great for day trips like the one we took to Epernay
-If you want to do something and can buy tickets online - do that. Lines are a waste of time. If you love museums, they have a million, welcome to the Mecca.
-February turned out to be a great time to visit! Not too cold at all
-The city is meant to be walked (again the traffic sucks), or take a stab at their Metro- it goes everywhere
-Ice cream from Berthillon is a thing- we went and had no patience to wait in line for the multiple ice cream shops. If you urge hits you, just be prepared to wait.
-Get Angelina's hot chocolate and thank me later.
-There are so many good cocktail bars- Cambridge Public House, Little Red Door, Dannico. We were also recommended Le Syndicat but never made it.
-Onion soup and snails and bread and croissants and champagne... get it allll and walk it off!
-The fashion and people watching here are next level- it's entertainment on it's own
-The people are not rude, and they all for the most part speak enough English for basic communication- so don't listen to the rumors!