We recently had the chance to spend four nights in Paris thanks to a very kind connection from fellow blogger Travel Yourself to ASL Airlines, a Parisian airline that offers round trip flights from Halifax to Dublin and Paris each summer.
What resulted were four local food-fuelled days that took us off the main streets and into quiet cobblestone neighbourhoods over aqueducts and into grottos. This itinerary is a selection of those adventures that you can mix and match.
We started the day on the metro – a six-stop ride in our running clothes to the Bastille.
We’d heard there was a pedestrian path hidden off the main streets. The Promenade Plantée (12th Arr) wasn’t easy to spot, but worth looking for. This aqueduct turned pedestrian pathway stretches 4.8 km from the Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes.
The path took us past gardens, statues, and water features, through vine-draped tunnels, and let us peek at Paris rooftops from a new vantage point.
The Promenade Plantée ends at Bois de Vincennes (12th Arr), the largest public park in Paris, where we continued our run. It’s the former hunting grounds of King Louis VII. There’s a lot of history and a lot to see in this beautifully manicured park, though you’ll have to share the space with these guys…
We especially loved exploring the grotto and the Temple d’Amour on one of the small islands in the park.
It would have been easy to spend the day here. Not only is the park huge (almost 2,500 acres), it is surrounded by a horse racing track, a zoological park, and a museum, and has a Buddhist temple within its grounds.
After a metro ride and a quick change back at 123 Elysses Hotel we set out on foot to Champs-Élysées, located just a few blocks from our hotel. The street is bookended by the L’Arc de Triomphe at one end and Place de la Concorde at the other.
There’s always lots to see (and buy) along this stretch, being known for the luxury shops that line it. Since we were there over Christmas, we sampled mulled wines, cheeses, and baked treats from the Christmas market and watched as couples and kids enjoyed the ferris wheel.
We also sang Joe Dassin’s “Champs-Élysées” at the top of our lungs repeatedly. Recommended.
From Place de la Concorde, we strolled through the romantic Tuileries Gardens all the way up to the Louvre. We’ve both visited the Louvre before. It’s one of those places that draws you in, where you can lose yourself for hours in history and art. You need a lot of time, something we didn’t have, so we made the reluctant decision to keep exploring.
Our wanderings took us over the Pont des Arts, with its thousands of love locks, and right off the main streets, to Paris’ longest continuously operating brewpub, O’Neill. They brew right in the bar area, and we watched the steam rise from the mash tun while we sipped our flight. You can read more about it in our post on Paris beer bars HERE.
We walked and watched the people watchers huddled with friends and espressos on the many Parisian sidewalk cafes. Paris is so committed to cafe culture that even at the end of December most shops we passed by had patios and outdoor seating in full swing.
We were also surprised with how many fresh food markets we wandered past. Check out that seafood tower!
On rue Vielle du Temple (4th Arr) we made three food stops, the first to L’Etoile Manquante (the missing star). There we dined on French cheese, smoked salmon, greens, and sparkling water.
The restaurant features many sustainable food items complete with the name of their suppliers. There are no lights in the bathroom, just stars.
Next door, I got my fill of French macarons, then we crossed the street for a glass of wine at La Belle Hortense. Few things in life are better than a good book and a great glass of wine, and La Belle Hortense knows it. The narrow bar doubles as a book store. Floor to ceiling books interspaced with bottles of wine, well worn wood, hopscotch tile, and pops of art all make for a cozy place to enjoy a glass of wine.
Now full, it was finally safe to head to La Grande Épicerie (7th Arr). This stop came highly recommended by most everyone we spoke to in Paris. It’s a food lovers paradise, an extensive collection of unique and luxury foods from around the globe. My favourite description (and indeed the most accurate) was second hand advice from a friend:
“Proceed with caution and a credit card.”
From La Grande Épicerie, a few stops on the metro will take you to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic structures in the whole world, so before you cross it off for being too touristy, stop. You’ve got to do it. Do it on your first day, go as close to the top as you can stomach, and get your first breathtaking look at all that is Paris. It is a one of a kind experience.
We took a tour by Fat Tire Tours, which took us through the history of the famed structure, then up to the second level for an aerial view and history of Paris. We’re both suckers for history and culture, and the tour brought up so many things we wanted to check out. Doing this early in your visit will likely add to your itinerary of things to check out.
We ate a LOT of great food in four days: French cheese, smoked fish and meats, bread, pastries, and wine, all of it fantastic. But it was an egg that really stole the show for me in Paris.
The Ouef Moullet avec Chorizo at Bouef sur le Toit was my stand out dish. It didn’t hurt that it was paired with champagne, or that the restaurant was the former hangout of Chanel, Dior, and a laundry list of celebrities and musicians. So if you go, don’t show up in leggings like I did :I
We finished the day at a packed local beer cave called La Fine Mousse (11th Arr). If you go to only one beer bar in Paris, make it this one. This “cave de bière” in the 11th Arrondissement is a fantastic introduction to French beer, with more than half of their 20 taps featuring a rotating selection of French breweries. Read more about it (and our other Paris Craft Beer picks) HERE.
We fell in love with Paris, not that that’s hard to do. But as someone who wants to feel a city under my feet, get lost in the moment, and taste as many things true to the city as I can, Paris was a perfect destination. The city inspires. It’s easy to get lost in it (metaphorically, not literally), and we found our best moments when we let go. A picnic of wine and cheese, taking time to savour an espresso sitting in a cafe rather than “to go”, the pleasure of discovering things as they come.
The Seine River runs east to west through the heart of Paris. Use this as your starting point, because historically, it is Paris’ starting point. The Champs Elysées, the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sainte-Chappelle, they’re all handy to the river.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, which are organized in a clockwise spiral beginning from the centre of the city. Each arrondissement is numbered as well as named, and #protip, postal codes end with the two digits that match the number for the arrondissement (ie. 75012 is in the 12th Arrondissement).
Explore Paris by foot as much as possible. Forget about “the sights”. The entire city is the sights. Soak in as many inches as you can. When your feet do get tired, jump on the Metro. It’s super reliable with frequent trains (we never waited more than four minutes). The 1 is the main line that runs along the Right (north) Bank of the Seine, most other routes intersect.
Where We Stayed: 123 Elysses Hotel
There are many places (at many prices) in Paris. We stayed at 123 Elysses, one of 10 boutique properties owned by Astotel. Each is set in a historic space that’s been beautifully renovated, maintaining the character of the original space. Ours was just a few blocks from much of what draws people to Paris.
They serve a great breakfast – French cheese, foie gras, and charcuterie, fresh baked breads and croissants hot coffee, juice and more. Plus there is a boulangerie, a Metro stop and a wine shop in throwing distance. We brought a bottle of Bordeaux and some cheese to the lobby one evening and settled in for some writing, a relaxing and memorable evening amidst the whirlwind of our trip.
Our four-day adventure was part of a quick but unforgettable press trip to Paris with a group of other local writers sponsored by Atout France, The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau, and ASL Airlines.
If you’re into the local experience, ASL Airlines is the way to go. Friendly staff, French food and wine served in style, despite the restrictions of an airplane. Even the blankets and pillows on the flight are French made!
ASL Airlines will offer flights from Halifax to Paris via Dublin for the third year. This weekly flight starts July 7, 2016 and runs until October 14, 2016.