How our Weekend Getaway Dispelled Some Common Misconceptions
For our 2nd anniversary last year, my husband, Joel, surprised me with a four-night trip to Disney World. (Yes, he’s amazing, yes, we way overdo surprises, and yes, I’m the only one of the #fabfive without kiddos but clearly we are giant kids ourselves.)
Almost simultaneously, I started a new job, and shortly after, found out I would be traveling for work the day we were booked to leave. We considered rescheduling, but talked it through and decided we should redirect and go somewhere neither of us had been before.
After a TON of research (because what girl doesn’t like to consider ALL her options?!), we settled in on a long weekend in Paris. Just our type of grand adventure.
You would not be alone if you are thinking, “Are they crazy!?”…jury’s still out on that one. We didn’t have the vacation time (or budget) for a lengthy trip, but when we realized we COULD do a long weekend in Paris, we just had to give it a shot.
But but but…. We got a lot of that from friends and family, so I’m excited to bring all of you into the loop and share what we learned.
1)….but it’s too expensive to get there!
I would have thought the exact same thing before we took this trip. Joel and I are bargain hunters for sure, and we have stumbled across some pretty crazy travel deals, but this one might take the cake. We found this Top 20 deal on one of our favorite sites, Travelzoo. They feature a new list of 20 awesome deals each week and you will find us checking them out every Wednesday evening like clockwork.
Get this: we used Southwest points to get from Nashville to Boston, flew on Air France from Boston to Charles de Gaulle, and stayed at an adorable, very walkable boutique hotel with breakfast included for 4 nights in the heart of Paris for…. wait for it…. The same it would have cost us for the trip to Disney.
Under $1,400. FOR BOTH OF US.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Disney, but when it comes to Florida vs. France, we had to take the leap across the pond.
2)….but, it’s so far away!
I mean, yes, it’s a little bit more of a commitment than your average long weekend but SO worth it. Joel is a pilot by hobby and is totally enamored with aircraft; so flying (especially on a new airline or craft) is part of the adventure for us. We both are like giddy children exploring our seats, amenity kits and potential selections from the beverage cart. But even if long flights aren’t your jam, this one is fairly easy.
At 7 hours, most people snoozed almost the whole time, as we got an ideal flight leaving Boston at about 7:30 pm and landing in Paris bright and early the next morning! Having a limited amount of time, we chose to quick change, drop our luggage at our hotel and start exploring immediately.
3)….but Parisians are rude to tourists/dislike Americans!
And can you blame them sometimes? But really, we did not have that experience at all. Not having any knowledge of the French language or a ton of time to prepare, we only managed to cram in a few basic French words and phrases. Bonjour, Excusez-moi, Merci, etc. We were nervous they might be disgusted with our western attempts, but instead, it seemed to be enough to break the ice. We learned that it appeased the locals simply that we TRIED to speak their language instead of expecting them to speak ours!
A few other tidbits that have worked for us in many foreign settings: If you read my first Lifestyle Loop post, you probably know that joy means a lot to me, and I’ve found bringing that into travel situations can make a HUGE difference. People, no matter what language they speak, are people and they reflect what you project onto them. Be nice, and most of the world (in tourist settings) will be nice back. My husband has mastered the art of breaking any language barrier by finding the common ground through laughter. And let me tell you, when I see him making a Parisian guard chuckle or a Thai Gramma giggle, I love him a little bit more.
4)….but you’ll have to wait in line for hours just to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa!
I mean, you COULD, but you definitely don’t have to! Thanks to another fabulous blogger, we learned that the trick is to go first thing in the morning, arriving outside The Louvre ticket office about 30 minutes prior to the doors opening. Yes, you’ll have to wait those 30 minutes, but then you feel like you have the place to yourself for the next two hours. Seriously! The Louvre is SO big and those early risers all have different viewing priorities, so they spread out and leave YOU space to wonder. Which means a few great things: first, less crowds = less time trying to see all the things you want and more time outside exploring and second, that you actually CAN see that famous smile.
And, a ton of Paris museums are FREE the first Sunday of each month, October-March. We planned our trip knowing that, but thought it might mean bigger crowds. Instead, we literally danced through the halls admiring some of the most incredible art in history.
5).…but French food is weird/bland!
Being the resident foodie at the Lifestyle Loop, I am ALWAYS excited to try the food and drink wherever I go, and France was no different. As usual, I asked for recommendations, read guidebooks, did some lengthy blog and review reading and was NOT disappointed.
Just consider the C foods that French cuisine offers: croissants, champagne, crepes, champagne, croque monsieur, champagne, cafe au lait, chocolate croissants, champagne… Need I say more? At the suggestion of a friend, our very first stop was Stohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris, founded in 1730. It was, by far, the most amazing pastry I have ever had and I daydream about it still.
Another recommendation from friends sent us to this gem, The Relais de l’Entrecôte. They don’t take reservations (you walk up and wait in line) and there is no menu, but this place was my husbands dream come true. You get salad, steak (cooked how you want it) and frites (real French fries), and you get as much as you want. We ordered a bottle of their house Bordeaux, which was insanely delicious, and settled in for a cozy, tasty evening.
Food Tours – a Travel must!
And last, but certainly not least, a full on food tour! We booked this Secret Food Tour highlighting the charming Montmarte district. Food tours are one of our most favorite travel activities and we try to do one in almost every major city we visit. They tend to be walking tours that provide a fun (and sometimes humorous) historical overview, along with samplings of the best local food and drink, typically with a group of likeminded adventurers who make for fast friends. So basically, all the things I love about traveling in a few hours!
The Secret Food Tour was different than anything else we have done before – instead of enjoying your portion of food or drink at each stop, we would have a small sample and our guide would place our order. The abundance of food was then taken with us to enjoy as a full meal, with loads of wine, around a table with new friends in a very cool French cellar. Yes, you should totally do it.
BONUS 6).… but the Eiffel Tower is only beautiful in good weather.
I knew visiting Paris in December would come with some pros (like the charming Christmas Markets serving Vin Chaud) and some cons (like it was freaking freezing), but I didn’t expect it to be gloomy and overcast the WHOLE time we were there. Two days in, we’d only caught a faint glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, so we decided to get up close and personal on day 3. Even though the weather wasn’t great, we were still totally enamored once we got closer.
We decided to go all in and take the trip to the top, fearing we would regret it if we didn’t. And let me tell you, with great risk comes great reward. At the top of the tower, we were actually ABOVE the cloud layer and got this incredible, unexpected view.
I MEAN WOW. Can it get any better?! Actually, it can!!! Knowing my affection for champagne, my husband kept us lingering at the top until noon, when the champagne bar opens. WHATTTTTT?! Yes, we toasted our surprise and delight with a glass of French champagne atop the Eiffel Tower. And THAT is about as good as it gets.