If you didn't get a chance to read Part 1: London, you can check it out below.
In the past when people talked about the magic and romance of Paris, I didn't quite get it. The only other time I had been to Paris was when I backpacked around Europe in my early 20s, and I went with a high school friend. However, this time, going with my husband and celebrating our 10 year anniversary, I finally now see how the City of Lights really is magical and romantic...
We took the Chunnel from London to Paris and arrived at the Gare du Nord, a large train station. Look at that architecture. Our train stations are never that beautiful. We took a car from Gare du Nord to the Hotel Monte Cristo in the 5th Arrondissement, a charming boutique hotel, designed after the travels of Alexandre Dumas, the author of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. They put us on the top floor, right next door to the Hermine room. Hermine is such an unusual name, and it was my husband's mother's name. She passed away in 2016, but I felt her with us on this trip, and this was proof that she was just next door.
Don't you love the wall color of our room? I did! While there, we also had a private swim in their basement pool, and I was inspired to write a short story, while sitting on the little balcony. It's lovely to have a little outdoor space in a Paris hotel.
Speaking of writing, I get why so many writers move to Paris. It really does inspire. Below (on the right) is Hemingway’s writing apartment - when he first moved to Paris, in 1921. As a journalist for the Toronto Star newspaper, Hemingway took a grimy, cheap room on the top floor of a hotel at 39 rue Descartes.
On the left is a charming street that we happened upon, near our hotel. Turns out, it's quite a famous street. In his novel A Movable Feast, Hemingway referred to Rue Mouffetard as, "that wonderful narrow crowded market street which led into the Place Contrescarpe". That description still fits, and as our Frommer guide book states, "lt’s narrow, crowded and wonderfully Parisian."
Since our hotel was so close to Hemingway's old haunts, we found the below plaque, which commemorated his brief stay at this location. On the 3rd floor, a 22 year old Hemingway and his wife Hadley rented their first Parisian apartment in 1921 at 74 rue du Cardinal-Lemonine. The plaque above has a note from Hemingway who states, “Such was the Paris of our youth, when we were very poor and very happy."
I love that quote by Hemingway because money isn't everything. You can live in Paris and be poor and happy. In A Moveable Feast, he felt all he needed at that time was a potbelly stove to keep him and Hadley warm, a good meal, and the feeling of putting in a good day of writing.
Above is a better shot of the Rue Mouffetard. Place de la Contrescarpe is located along Rue Mouffetard, at the center of the 5th Arrondissement.
Also nearby -- Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church, which Michael figured out was the same church steps Owen Wilson sat on in Midnight In Paris...you know, when he goes back to the 1920's to rub elbows with Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, and Salvador Dali.
Les Deux Magots is a famous café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. It had a reputation as the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city. Surrealist artists like Pablo Picasso and intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, as well as writers Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, James Baldwin and Richard Wright were regulars here. The food was delicious.
One night, we went to Bar 1802 at the Hôtel Monte Cristo. It's a moody lounge that specializes in exotic rum cocktails. Our server presented our menu options from a globe that he opened up..."here is a rum from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia...paired with bananas...etc." I wish I had a video of it, but he did it so quickly, and we were so mesmerized by what he was saying that we didn't even have time to pull out our phones. Pictured below are our drinks: Michael’s bitter, apertif Coffee infused cocktail and my sour, smokey, and tropical Pineapple cocktail rum from Reunion Island. Both were delicious!
So, we of course, did go to some touristy locations, like the Louvre Museum. Below, I'm on the same staircase where Audrey Hepburn floated down, commanding Fred Astaire to "take the picture, take the picture, take the picture" because she couldn't stop! Of course, we didn't have the museum all to ourselves, late at night, to take our pictures. Fun Fact: We were at the Louvre the day after a man wearing a wig and sitting in a wheelchair got close to the Mona Lisa and threw cake on the painting!
After the Louvre we ate, shopped, drank, ate, shopped, drank. And oh yeah, stopped by the Arc de Triomphe and saw the Joan of Arc statue.
Now, if you like impressionism and post-impressionism art, you'd love the D'Orsay Museum. The history of the building itself is quite unusual. In the center of Paris on the banks of the Seine, the museum was installed in the former Orsay railway station, built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. So the building itself could be seen as the first "work of art" in the Musee d'Orsay, which displays collections of art from 1848 to 1914, including the Renoir and the Toulouse Lautrec pictured below.
Most people don't know this, but Michael's friend Lionel brought us together. The moment I fell in love with my now husband was when he told me about his friend, who passed away in his 20s. In that moment, I saw who he was on the inside. That's why I believe he brought us together.
In 1991, Michael and his friend Lionel backpacked around Europe. Lionel was a Swiss foreign exchange student who stayed with Michael and his family in Michigan. They went to a cafe called Le Bastille, where the two had drinks. Michael wants me to let you know that he was able to find this very local cafe by using the photo below (on the left), did a reverse image search on Google, identifying the statue in the background - which stands on the former Bastille prison...a spot where the French Revolution started.
I spoke some rusty French to the manager at the cafe, and he confirmed we had the right spot. Michael even showed him a picture of the old French toilet (see below). The manager laughed and agreed that was their old toilets... he even showed our server.
A crepe place next door is called, Crêperie l’hermine. Yes Michael's mom's name again.
In 1991, when Michael and Lionel were in Paris, they stayed with Lionel's aunt and uncle, who lived in a neighborhood of Paris called Le Marais....It used to be the Jewish quarter, so it still has a lot of kosher restaurants, and now it's a fashionable part of Paris, with trendy, Instagrammable cafes like the pink and white awning one below. As in most neighborhoods in Paris, there's usually a park in the center, and for Le Marais, it's the Place des Vosges, a beautiful park where Lionel’s aunt & uncle took Michael back in 1991, and where Victor Hugo had lived.
One evening, we went to dinner at The Counter of Le Relais de Saint Germain. It's a restaurant attached to a hotel, and on our right and left were American couples, so we made some new friends. We invited one of the couples with us to the Caveau de la Huchette, a jazz club briefly featured in the movie La La Land. It was a fabulous night of dancing to Nirek Mokar & His Boogie Woogie Messengers.
The next day, we just had to stop off at Angelina's for some macarons. Angelina is a legendary 1903 tea room offering refined pastries & hot chocolate. The main location near the Louvre had a line down the block, while the smaller shop in the 7th Arrondissement was exclusive to us.
After fueling up with some delicous macarons, we headed to one of my favorite museums in the world - Musée Rodin. This was his former home, and while The Thinker is his most famous scupture, I really love The Kiss. It's sooo romantic and sensual.
Our last meal at Hotel Monte Cristo’s restaurant, La Grand Dictionnaire. It was really cute and delicious. No menus. They would just bring out food, based on what you like/don't like and any dietary restrictions.
One of my favorite parts of this trip was the Jardin du Luxembourg. It was the perfect way to end our trip -- a day in the park, eating crepes, seeing the little toy sailboats float in the water, watching people around us, and relaxing in the beautiful afternoon sun. Tres Paris!
I'd love to know what you thought about the trip in the comments below.
With celebration, love and gratitude,
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