Will I ever type out a trip recap in a timely manner? Probably not, but here I am months after our amazing trip to Paris + London finally ready to lay it all out aka just post a million photos.
I feel like I need to start with how this trip came to be because it was nothing short of a bunch of pieces coming together. Last Black Friday, I signed up for a new American Express credit card because they were having a promotion that if you were approved, you’d get 100,000 points! Signed up I did and approved I was so when those 100,000 points slipped into my life, Daniel and I couldn’t stop thinking on how we wanted to use them for airfare for a Euro trip. We threw around a few different trip itineraries (one of my favorite hobbies tbh), but it all felt a little hypothetical because 1. we couldn’t afford to take a big euro trip as a family— I know you’re thinking “Well they’ve taken a big trip to Mexico as a family” but remember that a week in Mexico is basically cheaper than living a week in Ventura. 2. If we left the kids, who the heck would watch them for at least a week?
So the new year rolls around and we find out that we’re pregnant! We bring up the idea of the trip again and decide to sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a service that emails you with cheap flight alerts, to keep our eyes open for flights for some of our possible trips and just to be aware of what flight prices looked like for different times of the year so we could get the best deal possible. Jump ahead a couple months and I’m talking to the wonderful Erica Tighe about how traveling is something that I really need in my life and have always craved and desired since being a child and how it’s something that nourishes our marriage and how we are sitting on these points but don’t know how/when we’ll be able to use them with a baby on the way + needing the kids watched and she ever so graciously offered to watch them for a week as long as I gave her a far enough in advance heads up so she can plan work around it. I couldn’t believe it. That heart of hers is so golden. Daniel’s family also agreed to watch them for a few days. Bless them all.
With child care now taken care of, we just waited for the right cheap flight to pop up for us to snag. We ended up deciding on Paris + a mini side trip because we were thinking longterm and it seemed necessary to start with some of the main cities of Europe before deep diving into some of the other trips we’ve dreamt about. Plus Paris was always the creme de la creme in my mind growing up so we just had to. We ended up finding an amazing deal for a flight at the end of May-beginning of June, all planned around important things happening at Oliver’s school so that we wouldn’t be missing anything. We were having the hardest time figuring out our weekend side trip because the options were so endless. Train to Amsterdam? Train down to Milan? Rent a car and drive through the French countryside? Rent a car and drive through southern Germany???? We ended up with the very vanilla choice of taking the Eurostar to London because Daniel had only spent a day there as a teenager and I had never been so I also wanted to knock out another major city. Also London. The Monarchy. Harry Potter. Plus is was the cheapest/easiest/most relaxing choice -____-.
About a month before our trip, I found out that Ollie’s last day of school and kindergarten graduation was changed to the day we were flying back home during the morning school hours…. so we’d miss it because we would be getting home that evening. I was a hormonal, crying mess. I talked to his teacher and principal and they were so understanding and sent home a parent survey on what time to make the ceremony and miraculously the evening won so we’d have a chance as long as our flights were on time + 405 traffic was decent. Phew, but also didn’t help with the mad anxiety I was having about leaving the kids for that long. We went to confession the day before our flight and the priest gave me the best encouragement and advice after I told him how anxious I had been feeling. He said, “Think of this time with your husband as a time for you guys to reconnect and fall back in love. Being parents, you have to work together and be a team. To strengthen the bond and connection, you need to spend time away from your kids and focus on each other— especially with baby number four on the way. You need this time together to move forward as a stronger unit in order to be the parents these 4 kids need.”. Well, there ya go. Exactly what I needed to hear. My friends had all been saying similar sentiments to me, but hearing it from the priest in the confessional was what finally pushed me over into accepting it and being at peace.
Now to the good stuff.
We got to hang out in the lounge for a tiny bit before our flight where I stocked up on a childhood favorite, “Delta Cookies”.
Anyway, our red eye flight to Paris was brutal. Not all of it was— like I got to watch half of Bad Moms and Daniel and I watched the uplifting movie Silence for 3 of the 11 hours. That maybe wasn’t the best film choice to watch before trying to sleep. I was 24 weeks pregnant and still recovering from bronchitis and already sleeping horribly in the most perfect conditions so scrunched up in my tiny seat in the dry airplane air thinking about the movie and leaving my kids was bad. I on and off cried for a little bit because I’m a wuss (very much due to exhaustion putting me over the edge) and slept for maybe 30 minutes. We landed in Paris with me feeling like I had the flu and might pass out in the customs line. We make it onto the train to the city from Charles de Gaulle and I finally was getting a second wind and so thankful for Daniel being so quick on his feet and figuring out train schedules and whatnot because I was kind of a wreck.
When we emerged from the Metro into the middle of Paris, I’ll never forget it. I feel like it’s not often you visit a place and it’s exactly how you pictured it (at least for melancholic me), but it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. I also may have been a little delirious from lack of sleep, but just everything was magical. It was still too early to check into our Airbnb, so we pulled up the handy map I made showing places of interest, restaurants, cafes, etc. to find somewhere nearby to get coffee. Felt a little overkill when making it, but it was such a life saver during the trip.
We stopped over at Cafe Kitsune in Paris 1 and it was so sticking cute. It’s located alongside the beautiful Jardin du Palais Royal.
After hanging there for a bit, we got settled into our Airbnb which was advertised as being in Le Marais, but it was totally in Paris 1 which ended up being pretty nice for sightseeing though, even if it was kind of loud at night. I FINALLY slept for about 1.5 hours before we went out to explore a little bit before our dinner reservations. We walked over by the Louvre and down to the Seine.
That super weathered older man was shirtless in cut off jean shorts fishing and Daniel and I both said how that will be Atlas in 65 years.
We got dinner at Ellsworth, which ended up being our best meal of the entire trip. The best glass of rosé I’ve ever had. The best starters. I, of course, ordered the fried chicken which was amazing. Just everything was so lovely.
We walked around a little bit more after dinner then settled down for the night because we were so beat.
Next day we woke up early around 6am and walked over to Ile de la Cite, the island in the Seine that houses Notre Dame and Sainte Chapelle (and a bunch of other stuff). Pro tip: arrive at Notre Dame super early to beat the crowds to get a photo with no one else in it.
After a quick walk around the outside of Notre Dame, we went over to get breakfast at Cafe St Regis on the other island, Ile St-Louis. I’m pretty sure this cafe has been around forever. I think they are better known for amazing weekend brunches, but we just were stuck with a simple Parisian breakfast of fresh squeezed orange juice with seeds in it (I found this beyond charming), hot chocolate, coffee, croissant, and a baguette with butter and jam.
Notice the man with the pipe on the left. The server said he didn’t speak English even though we are pretty sure he did but choosing not to (but still not rude! Didn’t really find the Parisians to be rude. Maybe it’s because all enneagram things says type 4s like me are similar to the French), but he came and said, “Voila mademoiselle!” when he brought my food. Dreamy!
After breakfast, we headed back to Notre Dame for daily Mass which is another pro tip as a way to be able to tour the interior without having to pay admission. But still go to Mass.
I had a mini crisis because we broke the hour fast before Mass so we weren’t receiving the Eucharist and wasn’t sure if crossing your arms for a blessing from the priest was a thing everywhere around the world, but it was! Also, can we talk real quick about how amazing it is going to Mass in a different country? Really opens your eyes to how universal the Universal Church is. It felt special attending a daily Mass in France too after what happened last year to Father Jacques Hamel.
I was feeling extra sentimental and emotional so I lit a prayer candle for my kiddos at the Chapel of the Holy Childhood at one of the many side alters inside Notre Dame.
After Notre Dame, we walked over to Sainte-Chapelle, the chapel built in the mid 1200’s by King Louis IX, who later became Saint Louis. It would become a place where he would house many holy relics like THE crown of thorns. We were so glad that we did a very touristy thing and bought the Rick Steves Paris Guide because it was beyond helpful letting us have a quick way to look up hours of operations, maps, history, etc for every place we went to.
It’s said that the entire Bible is represented in the stained glass and the rose stained glass at the back of the chapel is the book of Revelations and the second coming of Jesus. It was truly amazing.
After the busy morning, we went back over near our Airbnb and got lunch at Claus. We used broken French to order which ended up being a booboo because we didn’t recognize the word for shrimp for the item we ordered on the menu and thought we ordered just eggs and toast but when it came it had shrimp mixed in with the eggs which pregnant me could not handle so I had another meal that was just bread…not necessarily a bad thing. But we later found out there is an English menu (which wasn’t offered to us… oh well) so still would recommend because it’s a cute spot.
Keeping up with our busy day, we headed over to Musee d’Orsay which was really wonderful and in such an amazing space. Got to peep some work from two of my favorite men, Van Gogh + Monet.
Look at this view!
I think we spent the rest of the afternoon napping but not before I got a nutella crepe from a place a couple doors down from our Airbnb. We had a really funny interaction with the lady making the crepes because it’s said that American LOVE small talk whereas almost everywhere else does not. So Daniel asks the woman, “How’s your day going?” and she looks so confused and says, “MY day?? What? It’s actually very bad! It’s too hot outside and it’s too hot in here!”! As someone who hates small talk, I loved it so much.
Anyway, in the evening we headed over to Le Jardin du Luxembourg to explore before heading to our reservation at Le Timbre.
Le Timbre is a VERY tiny restaurant, seats I think 20 MAX. The people working there were incredibly sweet and we got to experience a very authentically French, drawn out meal. Afterwards we were so exhausted and full so we just decided to go back in for the night since we were getting up early-ish the next day.
Let’s stop here for now before this get too long! Part 2 hopefully coming soon!