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The 3 best Paris experiences for the offbeat adventurer

Last summer, Marcelo and I took a European vacation – our first Eurotrip together! He had been to Paris and London previously with family, and I had been to Spain (for study abroad and again for vacation), Italy, and Portugal. I had never really wanted to go to Paris because of the stereotype that Parisians were so unfriendly to tourists (which we found to be untrue), but Marcelo had enjoyed going there with his family so much, that I was convinced, it’s not where you are, it’s who you’re with that counts!

We decided to go someplace I’d been (Italy), a place he’s been (Paris), and a place neither of us had been (Greece). It was a breathtaking 2 week trip, and we both wish it could have been longer! However, we also went during that massive heat wave of 2019, which we probably wouldn’t repeat if we had a say in the matter.

OH – we started out with some BAD LUCK leaving the States. We had booked a flight from Louisville to NYC, were going to spend the night, then fly out the next day to Paris. Our flight to NYC got delayed, but we figured it would be fine since we had a day between flights. What we didn’t expect was that all flights to NYC would be cancelled due to the weather. We rented a car and drove 12 hours (mostly Marcelo) on no sleep to make our flight the next afternoon to Paris.

Once we got to Paris, though, we basically forgot about the horrendous start to the adventure. We stayed in a cute little apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower, and we had to take this tiny, old little elevator up that I could barely stand sideways in – I’m not sure how regular people fit in that on a daily basis!

Read on for a recap of our favorite places and unique experiences in the City of Love! Disclaimer: Since we only had 3 days, we wanted to spend more time getting a ‘feel’ for Paris and not spend all of our time there in lines waiting to get into museums.

Our first French breakfast did not disappoint! The Arc de Triomphe was just a 5 minute walk from our Airbnb, so we wandered around that area, slept off some serious jet lag in the afternoon heat, and later we went to meet Marcelo’s friends who were on Sabbatical and staying near Montmartre for dinner.

Unique Experience #1: Fondue at Le Refuge des Fondus

Montmartre is a very trendy Parisian district with cute restaurants and lots of nightlife. We took a quick stroll past the Sacre Couer and ventured our way to Le Refuge des Fondus, a historic fondue restaurant.

Sacre Couer

Le Refuge des Fondus has writing ALL over the walls and family style tables that you had to actually CLIMB on top of to get out if you were in the middle. The most interesting part of this restaurant’s history is that they serve wine in glass baby bottles! Apparently, this was a trick to avoid a city tax on alcoholic beverages in open containers, which they got around by serving wine in baby bottles – technically closed containers! We got to keep one as a souvenir 🙂 The fondue was delicious and it was a very unique dining experience for sure – click here to read more about Le Refuge des Fondus!

Unique experience #2: Baking with a real French pastry chef

We spent most of Day 2 we went to the Palace of Versailles, where we stood in the world’s longest line in the heat and I tried to steal shade from taller people in front of us. The Palace was totally worth the wait, the highlights being the Hall of Mirrors and the Gardens. We sat on a ledge overlooking the Gardens and walked through the landscaped paths. On our way out, Marcelo searched his pockets and realized he lost his passport!!! He went back inside to see where it could possible have gone, and I went to talk to security. Thankfully, some kind soul had turned in the passport to them and we were able to get it back and make the last train back to Paris in time for our baking class!

the baking class

We found a pastry class on Airbnb Experiences, and this was by far the BEST and tastiest way to experience French culture! Two weeks ago, I shared a recipe for French choux pastries, which is one of the recipes we learned to make in this class. We really enjoyed getting to talk to locals as well as other travelers, while making delicious Choux, Chouquettes (sweet, and with cheese), and Éclairs filled with different flavored creams which we got to top with ganache and other toppings! Pastries definitely taste amazing when you make them from scratch 🙂 We all got to sample each other’s pastries made with different flavors and take a box home for the next day!

Click here if you’d like to book the same experience!

Afterwards, we realized we were close to the Louvre, and we found a great outdoor restaurant and tried escargot for the first time, which was interesting but not something I’d eat every day. At least I can check that off my French cuisine list!

Unique experience #3: Riding bicycles along the Seine River

Our last day in Paris, we rented bicycles and rode along the Seine River to the Eiffel Tower. This was also our third bad luck experience, because the machine with the card reader was not working properly and Marcelo’s card ended up with a hold of 600 Euro for a one day bike rental! This came back to haunt us later in Greece, when the hold had still not been lifted…

However, riding bikes through parks and on the cobblestone streets was a nostalgic experience that felt very Parisian. We rode past people selling books, postcards, and all sorts of trinkets alone the river. If you’re riding bikes in Paris, I would suggest using the pathway down the steps and along the Seine – it was much calmer and we stopped at a few places for drinks and ice cream along the way! Here are a few of the classic Paris musts that we saw on our bike ride!

Later, we picnicked under the Eiffel Tower near rosebushes and enjoyed some sandwiches and frites we ordered from a local restaurant in the grass. The view from afar was stunning, and the city definitely glowed at dusk. We also saw at least 10 wedding couples having their pictures taken near the Eiffel Tower in the City of Love!

PS – want to buy some of these classic Paris prints?? Click here to visit my print shop!

Although we definitely hit the “highlights” of Paris, taking it slow and focusing on the experiences were definitely OUR highlights! I wouldn’t trade our French pastry class for standing in lines to get into museums at all #noregrets. We left Paris after 3 eventful days and flew into Venice, Italy!

Coming up on the blog series…

June 1: A musical and colorful Senior Portrait Session in Downtown Louisville

June 15: Kenzi + Steve’s Waterfront Engagement Session

June 29: Italian recipe (Summer food + travel series)

July 6: Italy travel recap (Summer food + travel series)

Thanks for reading!

johanna elise

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