Last year TAP Portugal, was offering flights from NY to many destinations in Europe for only $285 roundtrip. Of course I jumped right on that deal. Initially I booked a few trips, one of which was to Lisbon, Portugal which I ended up cancelling the next day. We’ll save that story for another day.
I’d only been to Paris once for a day trip, it was many years ago while visiting London with my Aunt. We took the train between cities and jam-packed as much as we could into one day including seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre, Eiffel Tour, and Notre Dame. I figured it was about time to go back and really get a taste of Paris. Besides, what better way to celebrate a wedding anniversary than to spend it in the City of Love?
Since I had months to prepare and I had an idea of the types of things I wanted to do, I booked a few things way in advance including Ricki Stevensons’ Black Paris Tour and our anniversary dinner at Kei (a Michelin 2-star restaurant). A wine/champagne tasting plus a cruise down the Seine were also musts for this trip.
We quickly got acclimated to the city and our hotel Le Dokhan’s a charming, historic hotel located in the 16th arrondissement. From the time I stepped into their teeny, tiny Louis Vuitton elevator I was sold. This boutique hotel was oozing with old world charm but did not lack any of the modern comforts. It’s a SPG/Marriott property so it had a historic feel but with the amenities of a trusted brand.
We spent most of the day learning about the Black/African-American influence and experience in Paris through taking a tour with who else but Black Paris Tours. This full day tour started with breakfast in a cafe where we spent over an hour learning the history about famous Blacks who lived in Paris over the years (think Alexandre Dumas writer of The Three Musketeers fame and actress/philanthropist Josephine Baker) and discussed what led many African-American artists, poets, actors, and intellectuals there in the early-mid 20th century.
We explored most of the tourist attractions including Notre Dame, checked out some pretty cool areas of the city, and planned to spend the afternoon at Musee D’Orsay. On the way there, we stumbled upon The Color Line exhibit at Musee du Quay Branly. It was a pleasant surprise to find an exhibit in Paris that focused on the Black experience in America. That evening we learned all about French wines from expat Tanisha Townsend of Girl Meets Glass, I highly recommend her wine tasting.
Versailles, I have arrived. When you read about Versailles and how many talk about how opulent it is, those stories and photos truly do not do it any justice. We took a short taxi ride from our hotel in Paris, only about 20 minutes, and were transplanted to a different era. It was a cold and rainy morning when we arrived but shortly after, the rain had subsided and we were able to fully appreciate the buildings on the property as well as explored the many gardens. Definitely buy your tickets in advance to avoid the lines and opt for the recorded tour with headphones to learn more about the buildings and the property if you don’t want to pay or wait for a tour.
After we explored several of the buildings, we decided to rent a golf cart to explore more of the property. If you don’t have an entire day to wander about the property, I highly recommend this option.
We got back to Paris in time to relax and get refreshed for our cruise down the Seine River then dinner in the Eiffel Tower. While the restaurant isn’t at the top of the Eiffel Tower, you still get amazing views of the city. The food wasn’t particularly memorable and was of course majorly overpriced but saying you had dinner in the Eiffel Tour was worth it. After dinner and a bottle of wine, we had intentions of going to the top of the tower but once I realized we couldn’t take the elevator and we would have to scale several flights of stairs in 4″ heels, I decided to take a pass. Oh well, maybe next time.
After several days of tours and being on the go, we spent a leisurely day exploring the city and doing a little shopping along the Champs-Élysées. Of course we had to have lunch at a cute cafe overlooking the avenue and enjoyed a little people watching. Also, we couldn’t end our trip without getting some macarons from Ladurée. They did not disappoint and I’m convinced they tasted extra special because we were in Paris.
That evening, we celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary at 2 star Michelin restaurant, Kei. As a foodie, no trip is complete without having your final meal at a top ranked restaurant. Fortunately for us, Paris had so many to choose from. I decided on Kei, an intimate restaurant with seats for only 25, located in the 1st arrondissement. I still think about the precision in which the waiters expertly delivered each of the many items on our tasting menu. To call it choreography would not be a stretch. Each of the dishes were crafted with just the right amount of bites to satiate you before the next course arrived. Definitely check out Kei, you won’t be disappointed.
We departed the City of Love. Au revoir and returned to the States.
Before I forget, if you’ve never taken TAP Portugal, make sure to pack your patience and your own food and snacks. While they supply meals on trips, the meals we had were awful. I’m not usually picky when it comes to plane food because it usually serves its purpose but theirs was beyond mediocre. Also, since TAP Portugal is based in Lisbon, try to extend your layover to spend a day or two in Lisbon, when traveling to other parts of Europe. Trust me you won’t regret it.
I’m tired of hearing people comment in travel groups that Parisians are rude. I don’t believe that to be true at all. As with any metropolitan city, of course you may come across a few, but overall I’ve found the people to be very friendly. When you go to restaurants, don’t expect them to be overly attentive and try to rush you out like they often do in the States. French waiters are more reserved and will likely leave you alone until you get their attention. It’s not them being rude, they are simply giving you space to enjoy your meal. Also, a simple greeting of Salut/Bonjour whether speaking to someone at your hotel, on the street, or a store cashier and saying merci whens someone is helpful go a long way.