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5 Days in Paris, France

Paris, France

We say "oui" to Paris!

Our trip to Paris, France was our very first time to both the country and the continent (of Europe). We definitely have many other places in mind for future trips, but Paris seemed to work out with our schedules and COVID rules. At the time we went, we needed to have a copy of our vaccine cards in order to enter the country and to dine in inside restaurants. Some places may even ask for the EU QR code for vaccination proof, so we visited a local pharmacy upon arrival to have our vaccine card inputted into the EU QR code system. The conversion to the EU QR code did require a small fee. 

Because of COVID, we found that there were restrictions on the number of tickets being sold per day for their highly popular attractions (ie. Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, etc). Our advice is to plan ahead and be flexible if tickets are sold out for a particular day. This is also why (as you will see in our itinerary) we only really visited one major attraction per day. Our strategy to "beat the crowd" was to be the first ones at each attraction every day. In hindsight, this worked out very well. We really got to enjoy each place thoroughly, get tons of photos without photobombers, and left just as the crowd came!

We were so excited to visit Paris because of its history but also because of its romantic vibes. The open areas to sit at parks and open seating at bistros allowed for a lot of people watching, which can be pretty amusing. Craving pastries? There are tons of bakeries, patisseries, and boulangeries to get your fill of carbs! We didn't find the romantic vibe, per se, that we were looking for. Perhaps we'll need to visit again. This time, the smaller towns.

Our Itinerary

Day 1

We landed in CDG. The flight was smooth, and we didn't really have any issues with delays or cancellations. Upon landing, the line for security was quite long and it took us about an hour or so to get through. Thankfully, we were traveling during low season. For a prior trip, where we transited through CDG, the line was even longer. I couldn't imagine traveling during the high season and the airport busyness. 

- Hotel check in - La Manufacture Hotel
We checked in at the hotel. The process was smooth and pretty seamless. The room was pretty small and reminded me of traveling through Asia. The room and amenities were just right for us. Granted we were out exploring most of the day, the room size and lack of a view (our window looked at the inner corridor) didn't bother us too much. 

- Dinner at Virgule
Virgule was our first stop for French cuisine. We were the first customers there, and the small but cozy restaurant filled up quickly throughout the night. The place is run by an Asian couple trained in French cuisine. The timing that the food came out was just right. We didn't feel rushed and took our time enjoying our meal. Taking our time to enjoy the meal was something we had to get used to while in France, since we're used to eating relatively quickly while back at home. We went back another night for dinner, since our other dinner plan didn't work out.

Day 2 

Our first historical stop was the Arc de Triomphe. We took the subway to the stop and ended up right across the street. We noticed people right under the arc and wanted to get photos from that vantage point too, especially since it was less crowded there. Once under the arc, we were really able to see the details of the facades on the four sides of the arc. There was even a memorial area with lighted fire and flowers roped off. 

TIP:  There is a subway stop that takes you directly under the arc. Don't try to cross the street. Safety first!

We hoped to see the Notre Dame in its entirety, but unfortunately, we should have done more research. Apparently, part of it was damaged by a fire in 2019 and is currently under reconstruction when we visited. We were only really able to see the top of the Notre Dame that extended above the construction gates/green fence.

TIP:  For those of you who must see the Notre Dame, it's supposed to reopen in 2024.

By the time we went to the Luxembourg Garden, the grounds were already quite packed with people. Children were renting sailboats and letting them float about the large center fountain. Meanwhile, people were occupying lawn chairs people watching and lost in conversation. As many chairs and seating areas as there were, most/almost all of them were occupied. My husband and I enjoyed the fresh air, and the lush and lavish view of the garden grounds. We also got more steps in for our day!

Day 3

My husband and I found that tickets were sold out when we wanted to visit. We decided to wait in line in the standby line to see if we may be able to get in. We were in line about half an hour before tower access began. We had to get through security first. After that, we waited in the line specifically for "non ticket holders." We were able to purchase tickets, but only for access to the first and second floors because the topmost floor was closed due to weather conditions. We were thankful to have even gotten tickets in the first place. We went on and explored both the first and second floors thoroughly, enjoying each and every view the tower had to offer. The air was chilly being high up top, so we recommend bringing a warm jacket. There are also novelty shops and restrooms on these floors of the tower.

Visiting the Champ de Mars next was a no-brainer. It is literally right across the way and a short walk from the Eiffel Tower. The field was a nice walk through and a good way to get more steps in. The grass areas were off limits and fenced off. 

Our walk away from the Eiffel Tower area subsequently brought us through another neighborhood and to our lunch stop. The brasserie was bustling, with almost all tables filled. We dined in and ordered the duck confit, beef tartare, and creme brulee. The duck confit was delicious. I remember first hearing about duck confit through some cooking game (Cooking Mama?) that was popular on Facebook some years ago. The duck was perfectly crispy outside with very tender meat. The potato wedges were the perfect, starchy, crispy complement. The beef tartare was an interesting dish. I was not expecting the wasabi spiciness to it, but it gave us some assurance given that the beef was raw. The creme brulee was the right rich creaminess paired with a burnt, crunchy, hardened sugar layer. Service was great, and the waiter was patient with us (knowing we couldn't speak French though we tried when ordering off the menu). We highly recommend stopping by to try their food!

We caught wind of this place because there was a small storefront at the Eiffel Tower. We went via subway to one of the main shops in town, since we figured this would be fresher than the ones at the tower. They had several cakes and macarons, but it was the latter that got more of our attention. We purchased a box with mixed flavors and enjoyed sampling them when we got back to our hotel. The macarons were delicious! We enjoyed their fresh taste, and lightly crispy texture! We also had fun trying to match the description of the macarons (I took photos of this while at the store) with what we ate!

One objective of our trip was to find a boulangerie and/or patisserie to try other classic desserts and pastries. Since it was nearing dinner, we decided to pick up food from there too. We tried their panini, eclair, strawberry tart, and  madeleine. Their paninis were pretty basic --lettuce, tomatoes, and meat of your choice served on a baguette. The paninis were pre-made and fridged, but warmed to order. I can't say I would recommend their paninis. However, I would recommend stopping by for their desserts. Each of their desserts were well-made -- the rich custard cream (not whipped cream like in the states) in the eclair, fresh strawberries on the tart, and the buttery madeleine as big as my hand!

Day 4

Since the Palace of Versailles is a popular historical site to visit, my husband and I made time to check it out. All I can say is everything was extremely lavish from the outer gates, to the building design, embellishments, and furniture. We also took a walk through the Parc de Versailles connected outdoors from the rear of the palace. There is a large area of water, where you can see some swans and ducks. We didn't complete the walk around the perimeter, but we walked about half way. Always remember, you have to pace for the return trip back! Since the park has other public entrances, expect to see local runners, joggers, and people getting their exercise done for the day.

- Late lunch at Cutie's Crepe
Because my husband and I finished the palace and garden walkthrough in the early afternoon, we decided to eat nearby since we were quite hungry. The cute bear decor and menu on display caught our eye, so we stopped in. Here, you'll have your standard fair and fill of crepes. They have both savory and sweet options. We each had a savory crepe and shared a sweet one. There isn't anything particularly special about the crepes, but they did keep us satiated and ready to proceed with our day. The inside of the shop is very "Instagram worthy" if that is what you're aiming for. 

I found the "Wall of Love" via Google Maps. It's literally a wall in a small, local park that has the phrase "I love you" in several different languages. There was a small crowd visiting the same time we were, but it definitely was not touristy (at least, not yet). If you visit, can you find the phrase in the language(s) you speak?

A large historic church on a hill. The hill took some walking and stair climbing to get to. Once you reach the a certain street, there is the choice of taking the furnicular up or continuing with more stairs. Once at the top, the city views are beautiful and spectacular! There are many vendors selling knick knacks, particularly popular are the love locks to put on the chain link fence. The church itself has a peaceful aura, despite the many visitors and crowds. 

Our dinner stop and last stop for the day was Chez Gladines. This small restaurant was so popular and fully packed with a line out the door when we arrived. To make things easier and so we could have time to wind down for the night, we decided to get our food "to go." We ordered their duck confit and escargot basque. Their duck confit was delicious with the exterior perfectly crispy and the meat tender and juicy. It was served with salad and fries. The escargot basque was de-shelled and served more with a tomato based sauce/soup. A side of sliced baguette was included with the escargot. The sauce was flavorful and rich, and there was plenty of escargot to go around. 

Day 5

Love art and history? Then this is a must visit! They have tons of historical art pieces packed into this place. How long you spend here will really depend on how much time you're willing to spend learning about each art piece there, although I'd say to expect to spend several hours. This is also home to the famous painting Mona Lisa. To see the Mona Lisa, you just need to wait in line. For all other art pieces, there isn't really a queue. We strategized our visit by visiting the most popular art pieces first, then taking our time to work our way floor by floor, and wing by wing. By the time we were enjoying other pieces, the most popular ones were with a long queue. 

When in France, you have to get a sampler of their baked goods. We tried the quiche from this boulangerie. It was definitely much fresher less salty than the ones you can get in the states. We also got some chocolate croissants to-go. The croissant was not too sweet, and was very flaky (which is good but meant more of a mess). We wished we had eaten it while at the cafe instead of on-the-go.

We visited this site, since we were hoping to see an Egyptian obelisk (literally from Egypt) and reminisce a piece of our Egypt trip while in France. Unfortunately, the obelisk was under repair, and we were just able to see the green construction fence around the base of what was the obelisk. Walking around, people watching, and trying to find what would have been a tall obelisk was fun though!

- Walk along Seine River (opposite side of the Eiffel Tower)
We ended our last full day in Paris with a walk along the Seine River. This time, we were opposite the Eiffel Tower. I wasn't sure what views we'd get but was glad we gave the walking route a try! There were much fewer tourists/crowds and a different vantage point of the Eiffel Tower! On our walk, we also crossed the Pont Alexandre III bridge, one of the many beautiful bridges that crosses the Seine River.

Day 6

Like all of our fun international trips, it always ends with our trip home to the bay area and, of course, our return to work. 

Fun Fact: Co-incidentally, at the end of our trip, the COVID QR vaccination requirement was lifted.


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Have you been to France before? If so, what cities have you visited and which cities do you recommend we visit next to find that "romantic" vibe or for the food scene?

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