24 Hours in Paris
I love Paris. It’s one of my favorite cities, if not my absolute favorite city. I love the history of the city and French culture, the architecture, and most obviously, I love French food. There’s something so perfect about butter and garlic with a glass of wine that costs maybe $6. In Paris, there’s just so much to see and do, it's hard to not love it. Full disclosure, as much as I love Paris, it is a pretty dirty city. I’ve seen a fair amount of human defecation and wish I could unsee that. But even with the hygiene issue, Paris is splendid.
To date, I’ve been to Paris three times. Once in 2015, again in 2017, and then recently in 2019 (I guess I should make a pattern of going every two years). My most recent trip to Paris was just last June and it was literally a day trip. I had gone on my first international work trip to the Netherlands for a summit and was able to take an extra day after the event to travel to Paris. Why Paris when I’ve already been there twice? Well one, I had some friends living in Paris so I figured—hey if I’m on the continent, it’s a quick trip! And then two, it’s Paris...nuff said.
So what does one do in Paris for 24 hours? Well, you have the option of going to popular museums such as the Louvre or the Musée d’Orsay, but 24 hours doesn’t really give you a lot of time to really see Paris. (If you’ve never been to Paris absolutely go to the Louvre. It’s a beautiful building and there’s so much art. Easily can kill 2-3 hours there). Anywho, here’s a way to spend 24 “non-toursity” hours in Paris! Warning - because this is a food blog you bet your bottom that this is going to be a food-centric 24 hours in Paris.
Enjoy Some French Onion Soup
Europe and DC both had/are still having ridiculous heat waves, but I’m a weirdo who will eat soup in super hot weather. But even if it’s not summertime, there’s nothing better than a croque of French Onion Soup. You can find French Onion Soup at most any french bistro and it’ll run you anywhere between 8-13 euros. For this trip, I enjoyed some Soupe à l’oignon gratinée at Bistrot Richelieu, which is right between the first and second districts. Joined by my college friend Jeremy, we enjoyed a friendly catch up and lunch. The soup was good but not the best I’ve had. It was deliciously cheesy though I wish the broth were thicker. Still enjoyable nonetheless.
Relax at the Tuileries Garden
The lovely thing about Paris is the amount of green space. There are lots of little parks and gardens where you see people just lounging and relaxing. One of the larger gardens is the Tuileries Garden in the first district between the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. As I said earlier if you’ve never been to Paris, go to the museums and see the centuries of artwork and history this city has to offer.
But if you’re in the mood for low-key people watching, the Tuileries is the place to be. Especially for a hungover exhausted human-like, I was when I was in Paris (going to sleep at 1 am and waking up at 4 am to check out of the hotel and get a train is not a good look). There are plenty of chairs and benches to relax in, soak up the sun, watch the ducks swim, and just see the people around you. It’s also a great place to grab a pastry or coffee from the Paul bakery stand and nosh surrounded by stunning topiaries and expertly trimmed hedges. Pure bliss.
Slurp Some Oysters
Now I love oysters on most days but for some reason oysters in Paris taste much better. On my way from the Tuileries Garden to check into my Airbnb and take a much-needed shower, I stumbled upon a cute little seafood nook. L’Ecume Saint-Honoré is a literal hole in the wall but had a shelf of fresh fish, oysters, and shellfish ready for consumption or to take home and cook.
A bit on the pricier end, I got the “Formule Express” which you can find at many restaurants. The Formule Express is much like a prix-fixe menu for lunch where you can get a set of dishes for a bit cheaper than the full menu. At L’Ecume Saint-Honoré, the Formule Express was six oysters, bread, and a glass of white wine for about 18 euros. I saw the wine and thought “sign me the hell up.” The wine was refreshing and not too sweet, which I like, and the oysters were good for the price. Not super briny and with a little mignonette sauce, the perfect afternoon snack.
Picnic at the Place des Vosges
So that greenspace I mentioned above? My absolute favorite garden in Paris is the Place des Vosges. This quaint little square is a serene oasis in the heart of the Marais. And it’s the perfect place for a picnic with fountains stationed in the quad and little lawn patches to sunbathe. And what’s a picnic without bread and cheese (and wine but I didn’t get any wine for my picnic).
Before getting picnic supplies, stock up on some foie gras at Comtesse du Barry. This gourmet grocery store is where you can get awesome foie gras, fruit spreads, and even wine at a fairly reasonable price. It’s definitely cheaper than the stuff you buy in the duty-free part of the airport, even though it’s the same brand. So I highly recommend making a stop at any of the locations for some souvenirs to take home--and yes you can bring sealed, unopened foie gras on a plane. I was able to at least :).
Once you’ve gone gift shopping, head to Fromagerie Laurent Dubois Bastille to pick up for the first ingredient of your picnic. This cheese shop is stocked with all different types of cheese from triple creams to funky bleu and beyond. I got myself a tiny ¼ kilo (I won’t do the math to figure out how much that is in our dumb non-metric system) of a cheese called Volcanique - a creamy goat milk cheese from the Cantal region of France. Regardless of which cheese you get from the fromagerie, I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it.
Okay, now you have your cheese. Next, you need a vessel to eat the cheese with (or don’t I don’t know your life). But in Paris, there are bakeries plenty, or boulangeries if you speak the common tongue. Stop somewhere, grab yourself a baguette or even a tiny baguette if you spot one, and maybe a pastry for dessert. Usually, bread will run you a euro or two. And you know it’s fresh.
Now that the picnic meal is assembled, time to go sit at the Place des Vosges, people watch and dig in.
Dine on Pommes Aligot
Now it’s about time for dinner. I’m sure you’re thinking at this point “Nina, all you’ve done is eat how are you still hungry?” Well, I’ll tell you how--I walked so much. Paris is an extremely walkable city and even if you don’t have the time to visit the museums, there’s still so much you can absorb about the city from just walking down the many streets. You’ll pass flea markets, shops, canals, and centuries of history and you won’t have to pay a euro (unless you buy something ;)). One of the sights very worth a walk past is the Notre Dame cathedral. Despite the tragic fire back in April, you can still revel in the beauty of the architecture. I have no pictures of the cathedral post-fire mainly because I couldn’t get a good angle since the immediate surrounding streets were closed off as the city prepared for construction. I couldn’t really capture the beauty of the building even with the scorch marks, but it was a somber vibe surrounding the area as visitors crowded by the fences attempting to just see the facade.
In my stroll through Paris, I had walked nearly 12.4 miles by the end of the day according to my phone. So what does one do to reward oneself for such a great walking achievement? Eat some decadent potatoes--duh. Back in 2015, my mom and I were introduced to this incredible potato dish called pommes aligot at a restaurant by the American Embassy, Flottes. Pommes aligot is a french potato dish made with a specific semi-hard cheese only found in France called Tomme d’Auvergne. To best describe this dish, it’s basically mashed potatoes super hot cousin. There’s so much butter and cheese in these potatoes that it’s more cheese than potato. The specific melting point of this cheese allows for the most ultimatest of cheese pulls that foodies everywhere seek.
There are a few places where you can try pommes aligot and I wish I could remember the restaurant where I first had them but I enjoyed a helping from L’Ambassade d’Auvergne. I first visited here in 2017 and ended up sitting next to Grammy Award-winning actress Rachel Bloom so that was cool, but more importantly, I very much enjoyed the aligot here. Joined by Ashley and her family that was in town as well, we enjoyed a good meal together. I will say, the aligot was good but I remembered them being much better when I first visited, the second go-round they could’ve been seasoned a bit more. It seems to have become a bit more touristy but either way, we enjoyed some wine, good food, and had an overall good time.
Watch the Eiffel Tower Sparkle
Now if there is anything you HAVE to do if you’re in Paris, is go visit the Eiffel Tower. Touristy or not it’s beautiful and must be done. Sure you can climb it and look at the Paris cityscape from the highest point if you’re willing to wait in line, but you miss out on the cityscape with the most important icon...the Eiffel Tower. Instead, if you want to see the tower, grab a bottle of wine from a Nicolas store (there are TONS in Paris it’s basically a chain), grab a spot on the Trocadero across the way from the tower, and just wait till the sunsets.
Don’t do what Ashley and I did, which is to buy a bottle of wine from the street vendors walking around. It’s overpriced and was...very very bad wine. But we appreciated it more as an experience and it’s something we still laugh about now.
For five minutes of every hour on the hour the Eiffel Tower twinkles in a beautiful spectacle that is awe-inspiring. Yes, it’s fairly short, but it’s beautiful to see how the tower glitters. And with a glass of wine, it’s a perfect nightcap to a day in Paris.
P.S. - If you want a good view of the Paris city-scape that includes the Eiffel Tower, climb up the very narrow stairs of Sacre-Coeur. For only five euros you get a beautiful view of Paris with the Eiffel Tower included. Just be careful going up and down the stairs, especially if you’re claustrophobic.
Wear comfortable shoes - you’ll be walking a lot and that’s not by any means an exaggeration. Like I said earlier, I walked 12.4 miles in just one day, so if you’re not wearing shoes with support, your feet, ankles, and knees will not be happy. And unhappy joints might put a damper on your experience in this beautiful city. Comfortable shoes are important not just for the distance element but some of Paris’ sidewalks aren’t as smooth as others so you want to protect yourself from stepping the wrong way in shoes that don’t offer much support and really hurting yourself.
Download Maps.Me - International data is expensive. I have AT&T which has a $10/day international data plan, which I used this trip, but it’s totally possible to travel to Europe and not have to pay for any bit of data. Before you travel, make sure you download Maps.Me. This is an app I learned about from this very sweet girl I met in a hostel in Italy two years ago. The app allows you to download maps of almost any city around the world for offline use. So you can navigate yourself while roaming around in airplane mode. If you’re in a desperate bind for data, there are lots of Starbucks in Paris that offer that glorious free Google Wi-Fi.
Salut et Bon Voyage!