A peek into our Parisian home away from home and a few lesser-known treasures for visitors to explore in Paris.
Scott and I are finishing up an amazing two-week trip to France. The first week was spent at a lovely Airbnb, right in the heart of Paris. After that, we transferred our bags to a Viking riverboat and spent the next 8 days traveling up the Seine to Normandy. We're back in Paris now for two more days before we wing our way towards North Carolina. Before we say au revoir to Paris, we thought we'd share this Postcard from Paris, documenting our favorite experiences in this beautiful "City of Light".
Although we spent nine days in Paris on this trip and also visited back in 2015, we feel like we've barely skimmed the surface in regard to fun things to do, adventures to explore, history to absorb, cuisine to discover, and people to meet in this exhilarating city of over two million (Paris central). But we've had a fantastic time and wanted to share some of the unique adventures we've enjoyed on this visit.
When Scott and I travel to foreign countries, we love to discover off-the-beaten-path experiences and points of interest. We enjoy learning how the locals live and where they like to shop, spend their leisure time and of course... eat! We're not as interested in the classic tourist sights and try to avoid large crowds as much as possible.
So here is a little Postcard from Paris, sharing a peek at our home-away-from-home as well as some unique Parisian experiences. Enjoy!
Our Parisian Home Away from Home
Here are a few pics of our new friend René's beautiful Parisian Airbnb apartment, located in the 9th arrondissement. It's situated in the heart of Paris and is super comfortable, beautifully decorated and convenient to shopping, restaurants, the Metro and many of the city's attractions.
We loved that the living room area was above a bustling Parisian street where we could observe everyday life but...
The apartment is spacious and the rooms are connected by a long hall with the bedroom tucked into a super quiet interior section. So quiet and peaceful!
We didn't do much cooking in Paris as our visit was for culinary inspiration, but it was nice to have a simple, well-equipped kitchen for easy breakfasts with a nice washer and dryer too.
And if we'd stayed a little longer and met a few more friends, we could have had a party as the dining area is lovely and spacious!
The apartment was beautiful and perfectly suited for our needs, and, even better, it's located above one of Paris's charming passageways (more details below).
How to choose an Airbnb
Some our our readers have asked how we choose our Airbnbs. Here are the important criteria I consider:
- Decide what type of property you'd like. We like to have an entire house/apartment to ourselves, but you can also rent a single room within a larger property.
- Book as far in advance as possible. The earlier you book the more options you'll have. We booked this trip back in February and were very pleased with our choice.
- Know the general area you'd like to stay in and do a little research. Would you prefer to be able to walk to shops and restaurants? Is the area convenient as far as transportation? Is it a safe neighborhood? We had one negative experience with an Airbnb six years ago in that we didn't feel comfortable with the surroundings. We learned that it's important to check things out.
- We look at the pictures, particularly the bathroom/s and kitchen. If these areas of the house are modern and well-kept, the rest usually follows suit.
- READ THE REVIEWS! Probably the most important consideration. You can learn a lot from other guest's experiences. Take the time to carefully read the reviews. On Airbnb, you also have the option to check out the profile of the host and learn more about them personally.
- Look for Super Hosts and accommodations that are designated AirBnb Plus. Superhosts earn this status by providing outstanding hospitality and excellent guest reviews. Airbnb Plus, similarly, are high-quality homes/rooms that have been inspected for quality with hosts that have received lots of positive reviews
As I mentioned above, our Airbnb was located above one of the historic Paris passages. I've been to Paris several times in the past but had no knowledge of these amazing "hidden" walkways that are strewn all over the city. They were a delightful discovery and we enjoyed learning about their history. Here's how The National Gallery of Art explains the origin of these passages:
Passages, iron and glass-covered shopping arcades were introduced in Paris in the late 18th century and reached a fever pitch of popularity in the 1830s. Boasting a variety of shops with window displays of luxury goods, the passages were often located near theaters and also offered restaurants and cafés. Skylights provided illumination during the day, while indoor gas lighting made late-night socializing and commerce possible. A mid-19th-century guidebook described the arcade as “a city, a world in miniature, in which customers will find everything they need.” Although more than 140 covered passages were built, most were destroyed during the second half of the 19th century as shoppers gravitated toward the new grands magasins (large department stores) that offered a staggering proliferation of goods under a single roof.
By 1850, there were over 150 of these grand Paris passages in the city but sadly many of them disappeared over the years.
Today, only 25 remain but they house restaurants, boutiques, grocery stores, cafés... You name it!
You'll even find hotels and museums in these passages!
Paris from Rooftop Vistas
Another delightful aspect of Paris we discovered on this trip were the rooftop terraces. You'll often find these amazing vistas on the top of Paris hotels and department stores and they include wonderful restaurants, cafés and bars. We enjoyed delicious lunches "with a view" several times during our stay. Here are a few pics of Paris from the rooftops:
City E-bikes are available for rent all over Paris. It's a very reasonable and quick way to get around and Paris has bike lanes on many of the busy streets that are designated soley for bikers. It took a bit of courage to try it the first time but we found it was an easy, fun way to get around.
Plus, burning the extra calories made an additional baguette or croissant along the way a little more justified!
Via a phone app, you can view where the nearest bikes can be found and/or where they can be returned. We biked to restaurants, parks, shopping areas... just about anywhere we wanted to go. It was a unique thrill last Sunday to bike along the Seine, past the Louvre, past Notre Dame and then on to church! Not your normal Sunday morning in the mountains of North Carolina where we live!
Gourmet department stores!
Wow, so unlike many department stores in the U.S., these huge shopping complexes are alive and doing VERY well in France. They often have large separate buildings for men's clothing, women's clothing, home goods, etc. One of them we visited has an entire store dedicated to groceries, restaurants (all nationalities in addition to classic French cuisine) and every type of gourmet food one could ever dream of. There are patisseries, boulangeries, butchers, chocolate shops, macron shops, spice shops, fishmongers, cheese specialists... and on and on it goes. You could honestly wander around all day and not see it all! Here is a tiny smattering of the pics we took, just to give you an idea:
Fresh spices! Every type of blend imaginable!
A butcher, carrying evey cut of meat known to man!
Pastries of every variety - like you've never seen in your life!
Amazing quiche to enjoy right there or take away!
Beautiful bread and rolls - every variety imaginable!
Every chocolate and candy lover's dream come true!
Who arranges tomatoes like this? The produce department was a beautiful sight to behind!
I could go on and on with more pictures and explanations of this incredible gourmet market. It makes other markets I've seen look like child's play!
A Picnic to the Eiffel Tour
One lovely day during our stay in Paris, we visited a boulangerie (bakery) for a baguette, a fromagerie (for a wedge of delicious French cheese), an Italian butcher (for charcuterie) a acave à vins (for a bottle of wine) and a produire magasin (for some fresh fruit.) All these shops are within a stone's throw of our apartment. There is also a chocolatier (the oldest chocolate maker in Paris) within a 1-minute walk so a small box of fine French chocolates was a MUST!
As we went from shop to shop, the purchases were carefully placed into our backpacks. I felt like a true French woman when Scott showed me a picture with a baguette protruding from my backpack!
The next step was to call an Uber to drive us to the Champs du Mar (pronounced like this: shah~ də mars ), a large public greenspace with the BEST views of the Eiffel Tower.
When we arrived we chose a perfect spot to enjoy our picnic... and the rest is a delicious memory!
Check out the beautiful color of the Eiffel Tower. It recently got a face-lift - a new paint job in a metalic tan with a bit of glitter. When the sun shines on it oe when it's lit at night, it sparkles!
Book a market class
Another really fun adventure we experienced in Paris was an evening market/dinner class. We met Chef Paulo, at a lovely market where he taught us about French ingredients..
Then we all traveled on the Metro (the Paris underground) back to the Le Foodist cooking school where we prepared a fabulous 3-course dinner paired with wine.
It was a great evening of meeting new foodie friends and I lots of delicious recipe inspiration!
It's not true!
One last thing. There's a common misconception that French people can be unfriendly and a bit snooty. We've found the total opposite to be true. We've been to France six times in the last 10 years and, almost to the person, everyone we've met has been kind, gracious and amazingly helpful.
Yesterday, we were walking on a busy Paris street staring down at the GPS on my phone. The directions to the boulangerie didn't make sense. We must have looked a bit bewildered as a French woman stopped and asked if she could help us. The kind stranger spent several minutes explaining exactly where we needed to go. She also explained that there were two boulangeries nearby, one "for the tourists" and the other, "is where the Parisians go". I loved it!
Don't believe, even for a minute, that French people aren't friendly!
Au revoir Paris!
So that's the end of our "birds-eye" Post Card From Paris. There's so much more we experienced but I would be writing all day. Do know that I got a ton of FABULOUS culinary inspiration and I'm raring to get back into the kitchen! So au revoir, Paris and hello Fall!
Thought for the day:
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You. Psalm 9:9 & 10
What we're listening to for inspiration: