After almost two years of living in Switzerland, my mom came to visit us. This was the first time she traveled outside the US and Puerto Rico. Thus, I wanted her to have a taste of Europe so I planned a surprise trip to Paris, just the two of us. This was my fourth time visiting Paris, yet this city doesn’t gets old. I discover something new with each visit. Also, with every visit I wonder how and why the French got the reputation of being rude. I personally experienced nothing but a welcoming culture, and this time was not the exception.
We took the 7:34am train from Zürich HB and arrived at 11:30am at Gare de Lyon. I chose this apartment on Airbnb because it was walking distance from the train station so that my mom didn’t have to walk too much hauling her luggage. I had trouble with my data plan and finding the place, so I decided to stop at a Le Bidule for coffee and Wifi. After finding the place, we left our bags and went to explore the city.
The first stop was lunch at Le Chat Bossu. The food was tasty, although my cotolette was a bit greasy. Then we headed to Arc de Triomphe. We didn’t go up the stairs, but my mom was happy to see it from the ground. Then we walked Champs-Elysées all the way to Place de la Concorde, one of the major public squares in Paris. By the way, this was the place where Queen Marie Antoinette was guillotined. Now, in times where the death penalty is illegal in France, this feels more like just a regular public place where many tourists pass through without realizing the historical value of it. Anyway, right there is where you can find the Grande Roue de Paris (our last stop). My mom and I took a ride in it and I recommend it. The views from the top were amazing, especially during night when the light show from the Eiffel Tower is in full swing.
Since we were going to be in Paris from Sunday to Wednesday, and the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays, Monday was our only option to visit the museum. We woke up very early and had breakfast at the apartment. Buying coffee, milk, bread, fruits and cereal and making breakfast in the apartment every day is not only a way to save money, but also to save time. We arrived at the Louvre 40 minutes before opening time. I was expecting a huge crowd, like in the past, but this time we were probably #7 and 8 in line. It was cold and raining a little bit, so perhaps that helped as maybe some people thought it was a better idea to wait in a warm place than standing in line. But it wasn’t too bad. We met Chad, a charming gentleman from Michigan, who was traveling solo. We shared the umbrella while exchanging travel stories and the time went by really fast. Once inside, we followed Rick Steves’ tour, which starts in the Denon wing with the Greeks. Then saw the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, and of course, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
After the Louvre, we headed to Notre Dame. On our way there, we stopped at Le Quasimodo, brasserie that serves inexpensive lunch plates. I highly recommend the Croque-madame. There was no line at Notre Dame, again maybe it was the weather, but I’m also sure the fact we came in March which is considered low season, helped us beat the tourists crowds.
My mom was impressed with Notre Dame, and I don’t blame her, this church (also cathedral), never ceases to amaze me. Knowing that I am walking on 800 years of history gives me goosebumps. Take the time to absorb the atmosphere, sit down and look around. You don’t need to be catholic (or religious by any means) to enjoy this gem.
We then strolled in historic Paris. Paid a visit to Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, a bookstore that was opened by an American bookseller and publisher named Sylvia Beach back in 1919. This place is not only a fantastic bookstore, with thousands of new and pre-loved books, but also offers a free place to stay to struggling writers who can afford a room in the city. We walked along the Latin Quarter, stopping at St. Séverin church, a classic example of gothic architecture and ending our tour at Boulevard St. Michel.
It was time for dinner and we chose Cafe Pierre, a bistro really close to where we were staying. Here we received amazing service and the food was tasty (I had the chef cut with blue cheese sauce and fries and my mom the chicken tikka kabob served with basmati rice). They have good happy hour from 17:00 until 20:00 with cocktails at 5eur. While we were getting ready to leave, my mom and I were stopped by the manager who gave us two glasses of champagne courtesy of the house.
By 10:00am we were arriving in Montmartre. My mom and I walked up the stairs instead of taking the funicular, because unless you really have no choice, taking the stairs is the way to do it. The views are breathtaking and with every step taken, the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur appears more and more majestic. Listening to a guy playing traditionell Musette on his accordion while admiring the view is like the perfect pinch-me-I’m-in-Paris-moment.
Montmartre is one of my favorite places in Paris. Is so artsy and feels so Parisian. I’d like to imagine how this place looked like back in 1904, when Pablo Picasso left Spain and moved here. I just took my mom for a stroll up and down the tiny streets of this wonderful neighborhood. One mandatory stop is at the Biscuiterie Montmartre, because they have the best macaroons (also more expensive, but totally worth it).
We saw the house where Van Gogh used to live, the studio where Pablo Picasso used to paint, and from where he unveiled his work Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and before finishing at the famous Moulin Rouge.
Since I got tickets online for the Eiffel Tower (highly recommend to book in advance and skip the lines to buy the tickets), we took the metro from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower. By the time we got there, we realized we were hungry and I regretted not eating somewhere in Montmartre, but with no choices I decided to give a chance to Eiffel Cafe. I mean, just with that name it screams “tourist trap”, but we were hungry and I needed Wifi, so screw it. I was actually surprised because the food was not bad at all. We had sandwiches with french fries (because we didn’t want to ask for anything too fancy just in case), and the service was also good. Now, their Crème brûlée is skippable. We finished our lunch by 14:00 and our reservation to go up was for 15:30, so we had plenty of time to roam around. Went to Champ de Mars to take pictures and then up to Trocadero for more views of the tower. Then we sat down to see the group of illegal street vendors (and now drivers of bike-taxis) dissipate when the police showed and then come back when the police left. It was a show. People watching has always been one of my favorite things to do when traveling.
This was a pleasant trip and I’m so happy that my mom visited Europe for the first time and was able to enjoy it. I would say that having an apartment so close to the metro station really helped making the experience more pleasant because she didn’t have to walk too much with her luggage.