We went to Paris, France in April 2014
Despite the nearly idyllic lifestyle that Linköping provides, it is necessary to escape on the regular to remain sane. It’s nice to be reminded that not everything is uniform, lagom, or rolled out on a schedule (holiday pastries, spring Converse, etc.). Variety is the spice to life, and Swedes don’t do much spice. We need spice.
Despite our Sweden Bucket List, we ended up in Paris for the long Easter weekend. Not for lack of trying to cross some of our items off, though! Turns out it’s just as expensive, if not more, to travel up to Abisko National Park, where it was still covered in FEET of snow. I’m not going to lie, with a baby, a big city trip seemed easier than hiking/driving/exploring around in snow. However, after researching for a trip up north, a Kiruna/Abisko/Narvik exploration is a high priority.
Do you know the first thing Swedes will say to you when you mention you’re going to Paris? “It’s great, except for the French.” To which we think, “Well, the same can be said for Sweden and the Swedes…” (OK, and the USA and Americans, but I digress). All the Americans that I know who’ve recently visited Paris have had nothing but great things to say, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Parisians do have a reputation after all, right? In all seriousness, everyone we encountered was so kind, helpful and incredibly friendly; it was so refreshing! Swedes are often the first to say that they can come across as cold, and yeah…it’s true even though we know it’s not really true about Swedes. It’s just nice to be around people who don’t seem “so cold”, if you know what I mean.
The French saturate a visitor in all senses – sights: the buildings, parks, and people; tastes: food, wine, chocolate and desserts; sounds – bustling city, clanking dishes and chatter at bistros, scooters whizzing by; smells: bakeries, coffee, flowers, trees; touch: sitting in a grand park in the warm sun, carrying a baguette, the feeling of your camera as it clicks a postcard view…
For me, the most surprising thing was that Paris reminded me a lot of San Francisco. Honestly, Matt and I both felt so comfortable and at ease in the city, which I’d have never guessed. The best part (mostly relief) was that people and places were far more baby-friendly than expected!
Logistics: We flew straight into the belly of the beast (Charles de Gaulle) from our local airport. SAS has a new flight out of LPI so we booked tickets on it, hoping that flying on a less budget-airline straight out of and into our destinations would be easier. (Yes, it was so much easier! However, SAS gave us a giant headache on the way home though…) We booked a great apartment on airbnb, right in the heart of the 2nd arrondissement, and arrived there via the RER train from the airport (super easy). Most meals we made ourselves, shopping at the local boulangeries, boucheries, vegetable markets, and grocery stores. And wine shops! Can’t forget the wine…don’t want to forget the wine… Are you drinking your wine?!
Each day, we picked a sight and just set off to walk in that direction. Our choices happened to be the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, and Luxembourg Gardens. Then, of course Notre Dame and Pont Neuf, the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay, and the Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe were points we also wanted to make it to when and however we could.
Most of our trips I/we end up planning next to nothing and just wing it each day, but for Paris I knew I’d regret not seeing some of the big touristy things. When in Paris, after all… If we’re lucky enough for a next time, our plans will include nearly no popular tourist destinations, as it was far nicer to be far away from undulating crowds, naturally.
Day One: “Paris Death March”
then crossing over the Seine, and finally over to the Eiffel tower.
After taking some pictures and playing at Champ de Mars, we walked through Rue Cler (at the suggestion of Rick Steves via my father, but I’d recommend Rue Montorgueil over Rue Cler), and had a little lunch.
They brought out a plate of cooked veggies and bread for the baby right after we ordered! So awesome!
up to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs-Elysees, and then over to Blvd Haussman and finally back to where we were staying. I think we calculated it to be over 10 miles, most of which was powering through an insane sea of tourists. We literally walked around the entire city, half of which I was wearing the baby and Matt was pushing an empty stroller, and that is why I call it the death march. Totally worth it though.
Day Two: Sacre Coeur for Easter Sunday
Setting off early in the morning, we walked up Blvd Poissoniere towards the Sacre Coeur basilica, getting a pain au chocolat on the way for breakfast.
We entered the church to walk around and lit a candle and said a prayer for our Grandmas (always makes me tear up a little), as is tradition for us. Easter mass was starting soon, but it wouldn’t have been feasible to stay with the baby, so the rest of the day was spent wandering around beautiful Montmarte. We had an Eggs Benedict brunch on the corner of Ave Junot and Villa Leandre, at a nice place called Marcel, before moseying over to see les Moulins de la Galette et Rouge.
Day Three: The Louvre
We chose the Louvre, over d’Orsay or another museum, simply because it seemed to be the most worth our limited time (baby life). We set out early to stand in line which was an estimated hour long wait at the time. It was moving quickly and we had no issue, but a group of museum staff walked by us and told us we didn’t have to wait in line because there was a special Family entrance – instant access! Point for Porter. So we just walked in, got our tickets and set off.
General notes on the Louvre: It is HOT inside and the tourists are insane. Most people barely stopped to look at anything other than the popular pieces (Mona Lisa! Aphrodite!), and some just walked through videotaping all of it without even glancing at the art. It’s also a maze, one that I’d happily have gotten lost in for a long day had I not had a 25 lbs dependent strapped to me.
Speaking of, Porter had countless photos taken of him inside the museum as well, so yes I will consider Matt and I fine artists for our collaborated creation. And sorry to say, he was a temporary exhibit.
After the Louvre, we went to Chipotle. THAT’S RIGHT. Because we’ve lived in Sweden for two years and haven’t had a burrito in that amount of time and you know what…it was awesome and tasted like home. SORRY. NOT. SORRY.
Day Four: Jardin du Luxembourg
where we spent the morning relaxing in a sunny patch of grass, playing and people watching. We got a crepe and some coffees. We moseyed around the gardens. We spent time watching the little kids play with the boats and feed the ducks in the fountain. It was relaxing and lovely.
If we had more time we’d have walked over to Tour Montparnasse to go to the top. Tip? I would suggest paying the bit more to go to the top of this, instead of the Eiffel Tower because 1) you’ll get a view of the incredible Eiffel Tower and 2) you will not get a view of Montparnasse tower, which looks like a giant black skyscraper. Which panorama would you rather have of Paris?
Crossing back over the Seine, we walked around Notre Dame, then left an engraved looooove lock on Pont de l’Archevêché (even though I know we shouldn’t have…).
I had totally expected Paris to be far more intimidating than magical for me. I didn’t know what to expect, honestly, because I never really thought I’d get to go! Paris is everything they say it is, and more. It is a city to fall in love in and with. We both felt comfortable and at ease everywhere, people were incredibly kind, and it really is a breathtakingly beautiful place to be. There must be something in the air that intoxicates people, because how else can it be explained? My mountain man has even agreed to an annual Paris trip from now on (in a perfect world!), so, you know it must be love 😉