Thursday, June 18, 2015

Activities & Where to Eat in Paris

This is a continuation of our London & Paris trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

Paris - Day 1

Sandemann Paris Tour

Similar to London, we did a Sandemann Paris tour. Our guide was Nancy from the UK and she was great! Very energetic, passionate, and had lots of information.

We started at the St. Michel fountain. While we were waiting for our guide, we grabbed a quick crepe from this shop close by  the fountain, and it was amazing! It was a simple nutella crepe, but I don't know how they make it taste so good. :)

St. Michel Fountain

The tour was 3 hours long, a bit tiring since we covered a lot of ground. Make sure you wear good walking shoes! There were a lot of people on the tour, so we were split into 2 groups.

It was a good overview of the city, and I think well worth our time since it was our first time in Paris. One thing to note though that during the tour, we mainly only saw the "outside" of monuments / famous places. Entrance tickets to museums, etc. were not included and must be bought separately. These tours were mainly to give a taste of what's around the city, and you'll need additional days to actually go visit the sites you want to see.

Picnic at Beautiful Parisian Gardens

Well, we didn't get to actually do one, but this would be an activity that I would recommend if you have extra time in Paris. The gardens in Paris were just SO pretty and beautiful! Everything was so symmetrical and just so gorgeous.

The main garden was the beautiful Tuileries Gardens, which you would very likely see during a trip in Paris due to its central location and proximity to the Louvre.

Snack at Angelina's

I heard about the famous Angelina's cafe and made sure that this was on our list. They are famous for their hot chocolate as well as their pastries. We came in the afternoon around 4 PM, and I was worried about long lines, but it turned out they were able to seat us immediately.

We ordered the famous hot chocolate, a croque madamme, and a millefeuille.

The hot chocolate was very good. It was very thick and rich - just how I like it. :)

Angelina's Hot Chocolate

The Croque Madame was also yummy! It was served with a small side salad.

Croque Madame

The restaurant was busy and definitely full of tourists. There's also a small shop by the entrance that sold their famous hot chocolate and other goodies to bring home.

We didn't realize it at the time, but there's a LOT of Angelina's stores -- they had one at the Louvre as well as at Versailles. So you'll definitely have a chance to try it at least once.

Walked along Champs-Elysees to Arc de Triomphe

We didn't realize it at the time, but this was a pretty long walk (2.25 mile one way!) and actually up hill, from the Concorde to Arc de Triomphe! If you want to do this walk, definitely start at Arc de Triomphe so you are at least going downhill. :)

The walk was actually quite tiring. You can do a leisurely stroll, stopping along the way and doing some shopping, but we didn't really take breaks and ended up being super tired by the time we made it to Arc.

Dinner at Breizh Cafe

For dinner our first night, I booked a reservation at the famous Breizh Cafe. I emailed our concierge at the hotel to help make the reservation. We unfortunately arrived at the Cafe a little later than our reservation time (we underestimated the amount of time it would take to get there!), so they ended up giving away our table -- but they were able to seat us a little while later at an outside table.

It looked like there's a restaurant area (reservation only), as well as a store with communal tables for people without reservation. If you plan on coming, definitely make a reservation in advance. 

This place is famous for their buckwheat pancake. We ordered the "Amuses Beurre Fume" which was bread with Bordier butter, Bretonne savory pancake and the Vannetaise (caramel pancake) to share. Dan also ordered a cider which was supposed to be famous as well.

I was expecting to get actual bread, but was surprised to receive a crispy crepe instead. :)  It was a nice surprise. This was basically a simple crepe made crispy, with the famous Bordier butter. It was good and definitely a different way of eating a crepe. It tasted good by itself, without any toppings.


We asked the server for recommendations and he suggested this Bretonne crepe, which included bacon, mushroom, cheese, and cream. :)

Buckwheat pancake

For dessert, we shared the Vannetaise crepe, ice cream and caramel topping. It was FANTASTIC! It was so simple, yet so good. I think the quality ingredients truly shined here. I was telling Dan that the caramel tasted like real locally made caramel, not from a store-bought bottle of factory-processed caramel-flavored sauce. We realized over the time of our stay in Paris that the reason why the food was so good was probably because majority of the ingredients were higher quality and more "real" than what we get in the US.

Caramel pancake

Paris - Day 2

Shopping in Paris (Chanel & Christian Louboutin)

Buying a Chanel Bag in Paris

We really didn't have much time for shopping in Paris, so I only budgeted one morning to do some shopping. Dan was nice enough to allow me to buy some luxury goods while in Paris...hehe. The USD exchange rate had been pretty strong against the euro, which meant I could save some $$ when buying in Europe versus in the US.

I had been eye-ing the Chanel classic bag, and decided to finally pull the trigger to buy it during this trip. I figured the price would only keep going up, and with the good exchange rate, this would be as good a time as any.

This would be my first ever Chanel, and I had to do some research (and ask some of my friends) to get familiar with what I wanted. Similar to buying a diamond where there are the 4 Cs (Carat, Color, Clarity, Cut), there are different combinations when buying a Chanel classic bag. They are as follows: Size (Medium, Jumbo, Maxi, etc), Color (Black, Nude, Red, etc), Material (Lambskin or Caviar), and Hardware (Gold or Silver). I specifically was looking for this combination: Black Caviar Jumbo in Silver Hardware.

We actually found the exact combination of the bag that I want while we were in London (at Harrod's), but we decided to wait until we got to Paris (which turned out to almost be a huge mistake). We actually had the hardest time looking for the Black Classic in Silver hardware in Paris! It turned out the inventory in Paris was very limited as lots and lots of tourists go to Paris specifically to buy luxury goods. So a word of advice: If you are looking to buy a Chanel bag, and if you happen to find the right combination that you are looking for at a price you are willing to pay, you should just get it and not wait because you never know if you will ever find that exact combination again.

The first store that we went to was Rue Cambon, which was the main flagship store. We came around 10:15AM and only had to wait for a few minutes for a Sales Associate. I told her what I was looking for and she said that they were sold out of the Black Classic in Silver. :(  I asked if she could check other stores, and she came back and said that the store in Avenue Montaigne had a couple in stock, but that I had to go there immediately since she could not guarantee how long they would have them.

Chanel Avenue Montaigne

So we took an Uber to the other store, about a 10 minute ride. The Avenue Montaigne store was much quieter than Rue Cambon, and we were able to get helped immediately. One thing I learned from shopping at these high end stores was that we first encountered a "greeter" when we first entered, but this person was not actually the Sales Associate. She then asked us to wait, and then found a Sales Associate to help us. There may be a wait to actually get a Sales Associate, but once assigned, she was solely dedicated to you for all your shopping needs at the store. Since we came early enough, we fortunately didn't have to wait that long. However, after we left, the wait for a Sales Associate was around 30 minutes.

I told the Sales Associate what I was looking for (Black, Classic, Caviar, Jumbo, Silver Hardware), and that I was at the other store but they only had the Gold. The Sales Associate said that they were all sold out of the Silver and only had Gold as well. My heart sunk. So I reluctantly tried the Gold hardware. It was nice, it was really nice....but it's not what I was looking for. I didn't want to spend that much money, feeling that I was not getting exactly what I had in mind. I mulled it over for a while, and then I asked her to double check again, as the other store told me this store should have it. She said she would double check, but was pretty sure that they didn't have it. After a few minutes, she came back holding a bag and I knew that was it!!! She said a shipment had just come in 10 minutes earlier, and now they have a few in stock. YAY!


I was super elated and purchased the bag! Afterwards she took me to the cashier who helped with the payment & VAT refund process.  

Some shopping tips I learned from this experience.  :)
  • Try to arrive early at the store to avoid longer wait times
  • When you enter the store, you will have to wait your turn for a Sales Associate. Don't interrupt a Sales Associate who is helping other customers as it turns out that they are solely dedicated to one person (or group) at a time.
  • Make sure you bring your passport with you because they need it to provide the VAT refund documents
  • Make sure to let your credit card company know that you will make a large purchase so the transaction does not get declined
  • I mentioned this earlier, but will re-iterate, if you find the combination that you like, don't wait around to buy it at another store - you should get it immediately :)
  • With the VAT refund, we ended up saving around 20% of the cost by buying the bag in Paris versus the US.

Christian Louboutin Shoes

Our next stop was the Christian Louboutin store. :)  Louboutin shoes are those with the red soles-- they are very popular and supposed to make your legs look skinnier (it's true!). Similar to Chanel, we went to two different stores to get the exact color and size that I wanted. I got the classic style, which is called "Simple Pump". I purchased one in Black Patent, 100 mm and one in Nude Patent, 85 mm. They were not super comfortable, but they are not meant to be worn for long periods of time. They are really beautiful though. The best part, they were MUCH cheaper than in the US.  I calculated the price and we saved about 35% in cost buying in Paris versus the US.

Beautiful shoes :)

Overall it was a very productive shopping trip! It took a bit of effort going to multiple stores to find exactly what I wanted, but it worked out in the end. :)

I wished we had more time to look around to be able to shop more leisurely, but we really didn't have much time -- and I'm sure Dan was happy that this was our only shopping time...hehe.

Lunch at L'avant comptoir

Our friend highly recommended this place (said she went twice during her trip!), so we gave this place a try for lunch.

This restaurant was actually a standing room only wine bar, hidden behind a crepe shop. We came during lunch time, and there was a long line for the crepes (and I thought the line was for the wine bar). To make things more confusing, there's a restaurant next door called "Le Comptoir" with its own long line.

Dan stood in line for Le Comptoir thinking that was it, but I wasn't convinced since the restaurant didn't look like the Yelp pictures. :)  I asked around and finally realized that the wine bar was behind the crepe store! How confusing! There was actually NO line for the wine bar and we went right in.

All the menu items were hanging from the ceiling, so we had to look up to figure out what we should order.  All the plates here were tapas style and prices ranged from 3.5 to 9 euros.

We each started off with a glass of white wine -- both excellent!

Our first dish was the croquette jambon--portion was a bit smaller than I expected but it was really creamy and delicious.

Ham Croquette

Next was the beef sandwich. The size was actually VERY tiny (2-3 bites), but again, excellent. The sandwich was toasted and served with a creamy horseradish sauce.

Beef sandwich

My favorite was the foie gras burger. The burger was cooked very rare (much more rare than what I usually order), but was so perfect for this dish! The foie gras was actually not too overpowering and the burger was put in a sandwich press so the bun was warm and toasty.

Foie Gras Burger

We ordered a couple more dishes, and overall, everything was just amazingly tasty and fantastic. Dan said this was by far our best meal in Paris.

We highly recommend this place!

Louvre Museum

This is probably the most famous museum in Paris. The sheer size of the museum was quite overwhelming.

We got the Paris Museum Pass (2 days for 42 Euros), which gave us access to multiple museums and skipping the ticket line. This would be a good option if you just want to check out a couple museums and was cheaper than buying individual tickets from multiple museums. The price per day was also cheaper if you buy the longer pass (4 days or 6 days). Be ware that there's another pass called "Paris Pass", which was different from the Paris Museum Pass. The "Paris Pass" included a LOT more but also cost way more. I wouldn't recommend getting the Paris Pass because it's just too expensive.

We didn't rent the audio guide and just walked around ourselves. There were lots of paintings, sculptures, and artifacts. We wished we had more time to look around, but we only budgeted 1-2 hours and it did feel a little rushed.

The most famous painting is of course the Mona Lisa! There were TONS of tourists around the Mona Lisa, with everyone trying to take selfies, ha!

The Famous Mona Lisa

Dinner at Les Cocottes

Another friend recommended this place, located not too far from the Eiffel Tower. This restaurant was owned by the famous chef, Christian Constant, who also owned several other restaurants around the area.

We were worried it would be super crowded, so we came in right when they opened for dinner, and it was empty. :) We got seated immediately.

We ordered the Langoustine Ravioli, Shellfish Bisque for appetizers, the skirt steak and pork with potato for entree, and the waffle with caramel for dessert.

The Langoustine Ravioli and the Shellfish Bisque actually tasted somewhat similar. and the soup part was surprisingly lighter than I thought, but still really good.

Shellfish Bisque

The beef was really good and tender, and the accompanying carrots are cooked beautifully. Dan's pork dish was also delicious.

The caramel waffle was also really good, again -- very simple ingredients but cooked really well.
Overall we had a great dinner here.

Eiffel Tower

After dinner, we walked to Eiffel Tower. The area around Eiffel Tower seemed to be very pretty upscale. There were lots of people picnicking on the grounds right by the tower, and I wished we had more time so we could spend an afternoon here.

We also didn't have time to go up the tower (line seemed really long), so we just walked around and then headed over to our next activity, the Seine River cruise.

Bateaux Mouches

During my last trip to Paris, we did a Seine River cruise and I thought it was a great way to see the city. There's a lot of tour operators, but we went with the original one called Bateaux Mouches. The boat runs every 30 minutes and takes about one hour. We just bought tickets at the dock for around 13 Euros each.

Our Sandemann tour guide recommended we do the cruise around 8:30-9PM (around sunset), so we could see Paris at night. This turned out to be an excellent recommendation, as we saw part of the cruise in daylight, and the rest of the cruise after the sun had set with the wonderful city lights.

One of the most amazing parts of the cruise was when we passed the Eiffel Tower at 10 PM and the tower not only lit up, but also "twinkled" for a good 5 minutes. It was kind of cheesy ("Disney"-like), but so pretty!

There were SO many tourists on the boat though, as this was a very touristy thing to do, so just beware. :)

Eiffel Tower at Night

Paris - Day 3

Eric Kayser Bakery

Eric Kayser is probably one of the most favorite bakeries in Paris. They have several locations and there was one right by our hotel. We tried their croissant, quiche, and other pastries and almost everything we had was excellent. I really recommend this place.


I really wanted to visit the Palace of Versailles. We went on our last day which was a Tuesday, since they were actually closed on Mondays. We didn't do any guided tours, went on our own by taking the RER train to Versailles.

The palace opened at 9 AM, and we arrived roughly around 10:30 AM. The line was already SO LONG! We already had tickets from our Paris Pass, so we didn't have to wait in line to buy tickets, but the longest line was actually the security line to get it. It took us 1.5 hours to get through security. Looking back, we should have tried any of these other options to avoid the long lines:
  • Come 10-20 minutes before opening time. We're not sure how the line might have looked then, but I'm sure it's better than our 1.5 hour long line.
  • Come in a group tour. There's a separate entrance with MUCH shorter lines for people in groups.
  • Visit the garden first and visit Petit Trianon, etc in the morning -- and then do the palace tour in the afternoon. When we left Versailles at 3 PM, there was NO line for the Palace. Had we known, we should have done the garden first, and then do the palace at the end and we could have saved 1.5 hours.
Anyways, we sucked it up and waited in line. :)  Once in, we walked around for a little bit. There were hoards of people everywhere, and at times it felt a bit overwhelming. The most popular room appeared to be the King's bedroom and the Queen's bedroom. Usually I could already tell when we were getting close to the bedroom as it got harder to walk and fight the crowds...hehe.

After the palace, we took the Petit Train that took us to several different stops around the gardens. This turns out to be a good option as Versailles was HUGE! Walking around would have probably taken forever and killed our feet. Other than the train, you can also rent bikes or golf carts to get around Versailles.

Petit Train

With the Petit train, the train made several stops, so we could hop on/off at our own leisure. We stopped at the second stop, Petit Trianon, which was Marie Antoinette's little section. There was actually a separate entrance fee, which covered both Petit Trianon and the Grand Trianon.

Petit Trianon

We walked around the smaller palace, which was definitely a lot smaller and felt more like a big house. Afterwards we took the train back. The train's last stop was the Grand Canal, which was SO beautiful! There were lots of people rowing on the canal, as well as people eating lunch on nearby cafes. Unfortunately we didn't have time to stop at all because we had to catch our train back. I really hope next time we can come back to Versailles and really budget a day to look around as the grounds were so beautiful.

Galleries Lafayette

After we got back to Paris, I told Dan I wanted to check out Galleries Lafayette, which was a famous shopping mall.

Galleries Lafayette

The mall was actually a little underwhelming. It was a bit hot inside, and super crowded. The layout was also a little confusing as they have different buildings for everything, and we got lost trying to find the "food court."

This was actually our last activity, and then we headed back to the airport.


We LOVED Paris so much! The food was excellent, the city was soooo beautiful, and the gardens were just so pretty. We only had three nights here, which was not enough. We both said that we definitely want to come back and hopefully can visit some other places that we missed during this trip, and just didn't have enough time to explore.

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