An Autumn Weekend in Paris, France
Paris is so easy to get to from London (just a mere 2-and-a-half hours direct on the Eurostar) that there wasn’t really an excuse for the 18-month gap between our first and second visits to the city, especially considering that we kept telling ourselves that we needed to go back and see more. This was the impetus behind our recent two-day visit. We spent most of our time during our first trip on the right bank of the Seine visiting the most obvious sights of France’s capital (the Louvre and Sacré-Cœur among them), so we dedicated most of this visit to the left bank with our home base at Hôtel Millésime in the heart of Saint-Germain.
Our bellies were rumbling after an early morning start, so almost as soon as we stepped off the train at Gare du Nord we found ourselves at Ladurée Bonaparte for a snack of assorted macarons. The weekend was off to a great start! Once we settled into our hotel (which we highly recommend), we set off on a walk around the neighborhood. Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés, from which the surrounding district gets its name, is a highlight of the area and worth a quick visit. From there we wandered toward Cours du Commerce Saint-André, a charming, semi-covered pedestrianized alleyway flanked by shops and restaurants, and then down to Église Saint-Sulpice, impressive in both its size (the only church standing taller in the city is Notre-Dame) and opulent interior. All this walking worked off the macarons, so we popped into Treize for a more substantial meal of French toast buttermilk biscuits and “not-fried” chicken. The restaurant is small, only able to seat about 20 people, so be sure to make a reservation if you can! Tucked in a small courtyard off of Rue des Saints-Pères, Treize pairs excellent locally-sourced and “thoughtfully crafted” food with a warm and inviting atmosphere buoyed by the charming interactions between the two owners.
While we visited the Eiffel Tower last time, we made the mistake of not booking a ticket and were left to appreciate it from ground level. This time we booked tickets ahead of time and were able to skip the looong lines. The views over Paris from the top viewing platform are fantastic and well worth the inconvenience of having to book weeks ahead and fighting through crowds of people (you just have to resign yourself to the fact that crowds come with the territory when you’re at the most-visited paid attraction in the world!). We finished our first day with a meal at Les Antiquaires (and dessert from our favorite chocolatier Pierre Marcolini) and a stroll along the left bank of the Seine from Pont Royal to Notre-Dame on Île de la Cité. The “City of Light” really is enchanting when it’s all lit up in the evening!
Fueled by tasty pains au chocolat from The Smiths Bakery, we started the morning of our second day with a journey down to Rue Mouffetard Market. The market, set on a quaint, hilly street, is popular with locals (there’s something charming about lines of old French ladies with baguettes under their arms waiting for their turn with the cheesemonger) and a great place to get a view of local life away from the center of the city. From there we wanted northward to the Panthéon, an 18th century church-turned-mausoleum home to the remains of a variety of notable French citizens. The striking building looms over the small square upon which it is built, but it’s the interior that is truly awe-inspiring (we’ll let the pictures do the talking). Nearby Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is also a beauty, but unfortunately, we couldn’t visit as we were there during Sunday mass.
The Luxembourg Gardens aren’t far from here, so onward we went! Though it was late fall when we visited, the park was still full of people and energy—a true personification of joie de vivre. We can only imagine what it’s like in spring or summer! We stopped at Margherita for some pizza (the restaurant had been hyped up to us, but honestly it was mediocre) and L’Éclair de Génie for assorted eclairs (anything but mediocre!) before moving on to the Latin Quarter. Église Saint-Séverin wasn’t on our list, but we were pleasantly surprised and spent quite a bit of time sitting inside and taking it in. Shakespeare & Company is an old classic that was worth a second visit—it’s crowded, but the space is just too charming to resist. The views from here of Notre-Dame across the Seine are spectacular as well. Sneak down Rue Saint-Julien le Pauvre for a look at the intersection with Rue Galande and the adorable pair of old buildings tucked neatly at its center.
Our weekend finished over the river with a visit to the Centre Pompidou (as a bonus we got to check out the fascinating Magritte exhibit which is only up for another couple of months). We were a bit discouraged by the lines (one to get past security, one to check your coats and bags, one to get into the museum, one to get into the exhibit), so we would come back in the early morning if we were to do it again (surprisingly buying a ticket day-of was the easiest part!). The views over Paris from up top make the visit worthwhile as well! With only a couple of hours left, we stopped by our favorite crêperie La Droguerie (Nutella and banana for Rico and lemon and sugar for Britt) and topped that off with more macarons, this time from Pierre Hermé.
Our second visit to Paris left us wanting more, probably even more so than our first. As cliché as it is, there really is something magical about the French capital, from its charming streets to its tasty treats, lively markets, and beautiful architecture. We have both agreed to come back in spring to see the city in bloom, and we’re pretty confident we won’t procrastinate this time!