Long time, no see! During my lengthy absence from the blog, I have traveled half-way around the world and back several times. My travels in 2019 already took me to France, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam. I can hardly wait to share insights and tips!
I have several friends with upcoming travel to Paris, so I’m covering that trip first.
Zachary and I traveled to France in late January in celebration of our dear friend Sundar’s birthday. We knew we wanted to take a friends trip since last summer, but had the most difficult time deciding where we wanted to go.
We ultimately settled on France because we felt it had the best mix of history, culture and adventure and at just over $400 roundtrip flights, we were sold. We split our ten-day vacation between the French Alps and Paris! And boy, did we make the most of it.
Between eating one-too-many pain au chocolat, averaging six to ten miles of walking and sight-seeing, and shopping far too much, we made memories to last a lifetime.
Here are a few off-the-beaten-path things we think every first-time visitor should do:
1. Order hot chocolate at Angelina
Angelina‘s delectable hot chocolate is richer and more delectable than any hot chocolate I have ever had. I don’t drink coffee often, so hot chocolate and chai are my go-to’s. To say I’ve had a lot of them in my lifetime is an understatement.
Angelina’s hot chocolate is incomparable to other hot chocolate. It may be too rich for some people’s taste, so I recommend ordering light food or having water on hand. On our visit to the Louvre, I also had delicious ravioli there that I give two thumbs up!
Angelina is a chain, so we went to different locations across the city. The one in the Galleries Lafayette was very pretty and paired nicely with an upscale shopping experience that included some pretty great photo-ops. Pro-tip: there is more than one Galleries Lafayette — be sure you select the one that is the splendid shopping mall.
I admit — I stole this recommendation from Julia Engel over at Gal Meets Glam. Her Winter Guide to Paris is to-die-for and grabbing hot chocolate at Angelina tops her list.
2. Buy a book in the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
My parents visited Paris before we did and they told us that we could not miss Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore. They did not lead us astray.
The bookstore may be teaming with tourists, but along the River Seine, it’s lovely and romantic to wander around. They have an eclectic mix of books, and frankly, one-too-many dreadful novels by disgruntled divorcees decrying their womanhood. But it has books old and new, classic and modern, so there is really something for everyone.
Since Zach proposed to me at the end of a Midsummer Night’s Dream, how could we really resist visiting a bookstore making a hat-tip to Shakespeare? Not to mention, the surrounding neighborhood has a great mix of little creperies and road shops.
In the end, I bought a copy of George Eliot’s Middlemarch (on my reading list) and Zach settled on a book by Jack London and a few mystery novels. Everyone left happy!
3. Buy a classic French beret
Sure, you can literally buy a French beret in any color of the rainbow for between $3-$5 on nearly any street corner in Paris, but it is worth it to pay a little more to purchase from a legitimate vendor a hat that will carry with it the memories from your travels.
As we were wandering the streets of Saint Germaine, just as a little drizzle hit the pavement and the chill started to get into our bones, Zach, Sundar and I stumbled into a hat retailer and got a classic red beret for me and smoking caps for the gents. It was the perfect start to our Parisian adventures. :cue Paris in the Rain:
4. Go swing dancing at the Caveau de la Huchette
Zach and I decided we couldn’t pass up on a date night in Paris. As avid swing dancers, Zach planned a date to go to one of Paris’s oldest swing dancing clubs, Caveau de la Huchette. It’s been around since 1946 and was even featured in La La Land!
This place is not for the inexperienced swinger or for the faint of heart. The cave, which is what it is, is typically filled to the brim with little room for dancing out of sync, but that makes the experience all the more intimate. There’s a minimal cover charge for entry, but it’s worth it even if you just watch others dancing the night away.
5. Grab dinner at L’Avenue and brunch at Hardware Societe Paris
We had many incredible culinary experiences during our travels in France! (eat.all.the.gluten) But these were among two of our favorites in Paris.
L’Avenue is a gorgeous upscale restaurant just steps from the Eiffel Tower. I recommend making reservations in advance and requesting seats either in the front of the glass-windowed restaurant or upstairs seating. We went for a 7 pm seating and due to the length of meals, we were able to watch the Eiffel Tower light up the night sky twice.
L’Avenue was definitely our splurge meal. The sticker price is a bit of a shocker.
What I especially liked about L’Avenue was that you could dress to the 9s if you wanted to or come casual. The staff accommodated both, but were definitely dressier. I saw one woman come in wearing a ball gown, for example, and another in furs. Really fun to see Parisians really take the fashion scene to the next level. I enjoyed people-watching.
We also really loved brunch on our last day at Hardware Societe. The original branch is in Melbourne, Australia, where the owners of this branch were originally from. They fell in love with Paris and decided to establish a restaurant there. The chai was absolutely incredible and the variety of choices on the menu and oogle-worthy dishes on the tables surrounding us made it hard to select our main course. We only wish we had discovered this place sooner during our travels. We likely would have returned daily!
A visit to Hardware Societe is nicely paired with a trip to Sacre Couer, which other than being a gorgeous church, overlooks some of the most beautiful vistas of Paris. This is a must-see for first-time visitors to Paris, so why not get great food, too?
Hope you enjoyed some of our insights from our winter travels to Paris!
[B]ut they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
~ Isaiah 40:31