This is the first post of our two day walking itinerary through Paris. This is over 10km of walking and the walking will take you most of a day.
My husband and I decided that we wanted to spend our first wedding anniversary in Paris. I mean, where else would you want to spend it?!
The problem with Paris in August is that it’s the same time that many Parisians take their holidays. In fact, citizens of France get some of the best vacation time in the world. So this made my planning of the perfect Parisian anniversary itinerary quite tricky. We made the decision not to take transit and instead walk our way through the city. I love peeking down side streets and snapping photos of the Parisian architecture. I discovered this EXTREMELY handy traveling tip: when you have wifi, load the map of the city you are in and star/save landmarks and restaurants that you want to see. When you leave wifi range, the map will still be loaded and the little blue dot will actually follow you as you walk. No data necessary and you can see exactly where you need to go!
We arrived into Paris via train at Gare de Lyon in the wee hours of August 9th after a delay and unexpected train switch in the middle of the French Alps. We grabbed a cab (which turned out to be quite cheap) and headed to our hotel in Montmartre – Ibis Hotel Montmartre. I booked this hotel ahead of time on booking.com as there was a steal of a deal ($295 Canadian for three nights!). The cab ride past the roundabout at Place de La Bastille, past the river and through the windy streets of Montmartre was a beautiful view of Paris at night. We arrived in our room – small, basic and minimal but clean and served our purpose – and just went to bed.
Bridge over Montmartre Cemetery
The first morning goal: croissant. We headed over top of the Montmartre cemetery – beautiful and eerie all at the same time – towards the Sacre Coeur. After unsuccessfully trying two highly recommended bakeries, we found a bustling one called Au Levain D’Antan and stuffed our faces. Turns out, it was ranked the best baguette in 2011 so that was totally fine with me. We continued on our way towards the Sacre Coure admiring all of the little shops that weren’t open and checking out the restaurant scene on Rue des Abbesses.
I had looked at a post from a fellow blogger on how to get to the Sacre Coeur and avoid all of the pick-pockets, but we definitely ended up taking the typical tourist route by accident. This was one of two times on our entire Europe trip that we got suckered in by those scammers. They literally just grabbed my wrist and started making a bracelet on it! They did the same thing to Billy, and I just gave them 5 euros to go away.
Anyway, we reached the top of the steps for a beautiful view of Paris. I literally let out a little giddy squeal every time I saw the Eiffel Tower from afar – and this was the first time! The hike up the steps is totally worth it, but GO EARLY! It was getting busy as we left. We decided not to go to the top of the tower as we had other things to get to and the line was already long. I’ve heard the view is beautiful, but we enjoyed what we saw from the steps.
More information on times and prices of Sacre Coeur dome & crypt here.
From there, we wandered down roads in the direction of central Paris. We passed the Opera House and made our way down to the Louvre. We hummed and hawed about going inside, but unfortunately neither of us are art buffs and found the idea a little intimidating (and we realize you need to spend HOURS here and didn’t want to spend our time inside). So instead we cross the river, browsed street vendors and wandered to a little café in the St Germain-des-Pres area. We eventually encountered a friendly couple who recommended that we eat lunch in a little park with beautiful buildings surrounding it just around the corner called Square de Missions Etrangeres. We grabbed baguette sandwiches at the chain Le Pain Quotidien – Varenne (recommend for sandwiches and baguettes in multiple locations around Paris & Europe) and peaked into the park. I couldn’t really contain my excitement any longer, so instead we decided to just eat in Champs de Mars – the garden area adjacent to the Eiffel Tower.
I thought my hair looked nice that day and paired well with a photo of the Louvre from afar.
It’s important to note that there are signs everywhere saying that alcohol is “banned” in Champs de Mars but we decided to be rebellious (hey – it was our anniversary!).
First view up close!
After the necessary photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower, we chose to walk the steps to the first and second levels instead of waiting in the line for the elevators. I highly recommend this – in August the lines for the elevators were hours long. We still waited about 30 minutes to buy a ticket to walk up, but the walk was satisfying and really not that difficult. You will have to purchase a ticket to the top floor once you get to the second level – more line ups waiting for a ticket and then waiting for the elevator. While it was long, to us it was worth it to do it once.
If I can walk it in Toms and a dress, you can definitely walk it.
Eventually we did get a little tired. And sweaty.
At the top, head to the south side and splurge on champagne while you enjoy the view.
Plan to spend upwards of 3-4 hours at the Eiffel Tower with the lines, taking in the views and enjoying champagne at the top or a snack on the lower levels.
After we visited the Eiffel Tower, we crossed the Pont d’Iéna and up to Avenue des Camoens for a great, tourist-free (and quite romantic) view of the tower. We passed hundreds of tourists taking photos from Trocadero Passy, but the quick extra walk is worth it.
Again, good hair days make for nice photos.
A few photos later and we walked to the Arc de Triomph. What an intimidating place! The non-stop traffic in the circle around the Arc is difficult to maneuver so we just took photos from the sidewalk instead.
I was attempting to use a slow shutter speed to capture the crazy traffic, but I’m obviously still learning.
Before going to Paris I had NEVER tried a macaron. I felt as though if I was going to have my first taste, it would have to be at Laduree. Men – listen up! While I waited in line to purchase these tasty things, Billy sat on a patio at the Irish Pub Cottage Elysees on the side street and had a beer. I could actually wave at him from the line up. I bought us (ok, myself) a box of 8 macarons. They were heavenly.
You have the choice to just purchase macarons and treats, or sit in their restaurant. Plan to spend some time on Champs-Elysees shopping and people-watching.
We walked down Champs Elysees and through Jardins des Tuileries. They had a fair set up at the time with rides, so you can hop on the ferris wheel for a beautiful view. Walking past all of the tourist-trap restaurants on Rue de Louvre, we headed to Redd – a wine bar with tapas and an excellent craft beer list on a quiet side street. Rob, one of the owners, was extremely helpful with making a reservation well ahead of time for us. Our entire “meal” was amazing. Keep in mind, I am totally capable of eating appetizers as a meal at any time.
Splurging on wine flights.
After our meal, we decided to spend the evening wandering the streets back to our hotel. We snapped photos and popped into a few busy pubs. And then… we ended up at McDonald’s.
I know, how sad right?! There’s a back story there. We consider our first date a trip to McDonald’s prior to watching our school’s girls volleyball team play one night. So we figured we should at least visit one in Paris on our first wedding anniversary.
One discussion we did have was as we passed the HUGE line up for Moulin Rouge on our way back to our hotel. I had looked into attending a show, but we just didn’t think it was worth it. Tickets for that night started at over 100 euros just for the show, and we didn’t want to see it that badly. But if you are interested and more willing to splurge, it could be the perfect touristy way to end your night while you venture back through Montmartre.
Stay tuned for day 2 of our walk through Paris!