Our November visit to Paris reminded us to not take the city’s close proximity for granted and we promised then to return in the spring. Keeping the promise we made to ourselves, we hopped on the Eurostar for a quick 2-day visit. We had two goals: explore more of the neighborhoods we love most and visit Versailles for the first time. We’ll cover our time in Paris here and then will present Versailles in another post.
Montmartre is a place we really enjoyed our first time in Paris together and it’s an easy walk from Gare du Nord, so it was a logical first stop once we arrived. Square Louise Michel offers majestic views straight up to Sacré-Cœur but is also home to scammers keeping an eye out for vulnerable tourists. Unfortunately we were targeted and the group approached us asking if we were interested in buying bracelets. Rico gave them a stern “no,” but his firm refusal only made the group more aggressive. They worked us toward a corner while one of the men grabbed Rico’s arm to try to force a bracelet on. He pulled away and we shot through a gap back toward the crowds of people. It’s a classic trick: force your wares onto someone and then demand payment. We recognized it from the outset and remembered that the best way to deal with these kinds of things is confidence and a clear “no.” It wasn’t the best welcome to Paris, but I suppose it was all uphill from there!
Quite literally actually. We walked up through the park up to the beautiful white basilica and took a seat inside. Once back outside we worked our way eastward. Place du Tertre is a typical Parisian square lined with cute little buildings bearing painted signs and red cloth awnings. Head down Rue Norvins for a picturesque look at Le Consulat. Musée de Montmartre was a pleasant surprise. The museum is home to a film exhibition through January 2018 documenting the neighborhood’s many features in films from the early 20th century through today. The permanent art collection is made up of work by various French artists, some of whom spent time in Montmartre. One of the biggest surprises was opening an unassuming door labeled “atelier” to find a beautiful studio space that Britt has been obsessing over since! Outside there are paths through some pretty gardens and some of the last vineyards on the hill, which used to dominate the neighborhood before heavy development in the 20th century.
After a quick bite at Au Relais (we had planned on eating at Soul Kitchen, but of course we didn’t think to check if it was open on weekends!), where we met a friendly Canadian couple who offered some recommendations (more on that in a moment), we visited our old friend La Maison Rose for photos. We looped through Au Lapin Agile (a cute old cabaret) and Le Moulin de la Galette (check out that windmill!) before revisiting Villa Léandre. This quaint street is lined with beautiful vine-covered homes. While petting a cat friend we made we heard some meowing sounds from one of the balconies. Upon further inspection there was a little French girl trying to get out attention. She ran down to street level and was very exciting to talk to us about the cat.We did our best to chat with her with the language barrier and then left her to play with our new friend.
We checked into our Airbnb in Saint-Germain before setting up to wander the streets of Île de la Cité. We started on the western side of the island to watch groups of friends play pétanque on Place Dauphine (some of the games got quite intense!) then made our way eastward. Views of Notre-Dame from the parvis were obstructed by a huge tent hosting—get this—the Fête du Pain (“Bread Festival”). It doesn’t get much more French than that. We walked alongside the cathedral through Square Jean XXIII and to the eastern extreme of the island. Our Canadian friends recommended the Deportation Martyrs Memorial, dedicated to the 200,000 people deported from unoccupied France to Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and it was certainly worth the visit.
After a quick loop through the Latin Quarter we grabbed a delicious apple, goat cheese, bacon, and honey tarte flambée from L'Alsacien. We finished the night back at our Airbnb with some chocolates from Chocolat Rive Gauche that our host left for us. The bulk of our second day was spent at Versailles, but once back in Paris we grabbed macarons from Pierre Marcolini (our favorite!) and grabbed a seat at Luxembourg Gardens to enjoy then. We hopped on the train back to London soon after our dinner at quirky yet tasty Little Cantine. Stay tuned for our post on Versailles!