Neither David nor I can remember how we agreed that Paris would be our honeymoon location. And truthfully, it never occurred to either of us as being cliché (being the city of love and all). The truth is, we’re city people, and we like to visit other cities, and we both took enough years of high school and college French that we felt it needed to serve some purpose.
We flew to Paris a few days after our wedding, with only the vaguest ideas of what we would do or see. We had secured our apartment via AirBnB, a great little studio in Le Marais, exchanged our dollars for Euros and headed off on Iceland Air. When we got there we were surprised that Paris seemed trapped in time. For me, it was romantic to see metro trains right out of my understanding of the 1940’s. There seemed to be less automation, more stairs, and definitely fewer people using smart phones. For David, it was a thoughtful collision of the new (La Défense) and the old (“What do you mean they don’t accept our credit cards?”). The biggest adjustment? The lack of air conditioning on our fifth floor walk up–and the communal bathroom.
Either way, a trip to Paris is an incredible experience and one you’re not soon to forget–no matter which century you prefer. Here are some of the sights we loved and tips we learned doing our Parisian honeymoon:
1. Grab a Vélib’. Paris was one of the first city to implement a large-scale bikeshare program and it’s a great way to get around without losing out on any of the sights. You will need to buy your pass online since the Vélib self-serving stations don’t take American credit cards.
2. We loved Caffe Boboli and Bistro La Coopérative. The Cooperative serves traditional Southwestern food close to the Louvre Museum, but without the tourist mark-ups (or crowds) of other establishments nearby. Caffe Boboli is this tiny Italian restaurant with fewer than 10 seats; the owner serves your meal.
3. Visit the farmers’/merchant market on Boulevard Richard Lenoir, near the Bastille on Sunday mornings (8AM-1PM, metro: Breguet Sabin or Bastille.) If the weather is nice, you can buy everything you need (but especially cheese, olives, cured meats etc.) for a picnic. Then grab a bottle of wine and improvise a meal by the Seine. Unlike in Washington, there are no such things as open container laws in Paris.
4. Take a cooking class. I tried a croissant-making class at (American-expat owned) La Cuisine Paris, and took home more than we could eat!
5. Select your museums wisely. The museum pass was helpful if you really enjoy museums and plan to make them a dedicated part of your trip. But if you’re not a big museum person, don’t worry about it. And the Mona Lisa…eh. We visited the Centre Pompidou which has great modern art. Make sure you get in the entrance line and not the line for the library-we stood in line for an hour before realizing we were in the wrong one. Don’t miss the the whimsical Stravinsky Fountain nearby too. We also made a full day excursion to Versailles, rented a rowboat and leisurely strolled through the gardens. If the weather is nice it’s definitely worth the quick RER ride.
6. We loved the view from Arc de Triomphe more than the Eiffel Tower. Then again, I’m terribly afraid of heights. If you want to save money (and a few hours), you can elect to walk up the Eiffel Tower via stairs.
7. Stroll up to Berthillon’s on the Ile St Louis. The celebrated glacier has many retailers behind Notre Dame, and there’s typically always a small line, waiting not-so-patiently for the best ice cream in the city.
8. We took a fun wine tasting class at O-Chateau. Their wine pours are generous and the knowledge was invaluable-we learned that a high-dollar bottle of wine rarely tastes different than a more reasonably priced bottle of wine. We also learned a great deal about the the flavors you can expect from specific regions of France.
9. The city of Paris spends a small fortune of their taxpayers’ euros lighting up the monuments at night and one of the most convenient way to appreciate them is on a boat tour of the city at night. There are several offering dinner or drinks too.
10. Sacré Coeur and the surrounding neighborhood are a lovely afternoon excursion but watch out for pick-pockets and all their tricks!
Last but not least, take the time to enjoy the city. You’ll never have the time to see everything so don’t stress out trying.
About the author: Ashley and David were married in May, 2012 in Meridian Hill Park in Washington, DC. Following their honeymoon in Paris, they welcomed a sweet puppy named Jack into their lives. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Ashley through our mutual love of DC-city life and our involvement with the local blog Borderstan. I can’t remember if I suggested slash ordered that she gets ice cream at Berthillon before she headed out to Paris, but either way, I most definitely agree with that tip. Berthillon is the best. Period 😉 For more on Ashley, you can read her blog Metropoetrylis and follow @arlusk on twitter.