What do you do when you find a flight to Paris for 36 Euros? You buy it, obviously, and figure the rest out later. Never in a million years did I ever think that this would be my life someday, but here we are. My time living in Europe is quickly (too quickly) coming to an end, and that means none other than a super normal and totally casual weekend trip to Paris.
I genuinely can’t imagine what kind of mental effort it would cost me to find something to complain about right now, BUT there is one teeny tiny problem: it’s the end of the month and the money from my paid-monthly stipend has all but disappeared, despite constant attempts to be budget-conscious. With planning for future trips (my family will be here soon!), rent, student loans, and you know, eating sometimes, I’m not in an ideal place financially to be visiting one of the most expensive tourist destinations on planet Earth….
Also, I only have two days there! How in the world am I going to see everything and EAT everything in just two days? It’s impossible, of course, but I want to make the best use of my limited time and money.
What does one do in the face of such uncertainty?
The metro pass. Every last bite of croissant. Free attractions. Money-saving market dinners in the park. I booked the hostel way in advanced and recently received an email reminding me that it’s a VERY SIMPLE AND BASIC HOSTEL and I booked a BUDGET BED in the CHEAPEST SHARED ROOM (their emphasis, not mine).
GOT IT, THANKS.
But then… I also splurged a little. I couldn’t go to France and waste the opportunity to learn about French wine from a French wine master, so I booked a tasting with Le Foodist, on my credit card of course. Sorry, future self.
Anyway, I decided it might be interesting to write a “before” (what I planned) post with all my ideas for the trip and an “after” (what actually happened) post once I return to Madrid, hopefully with a backpack full of baguettes. I’ve spent the last week or so obsessively planning, reading about things to do and how to save money. I’ve also been trying to resurrect the three semesters of college French that are hiding in some long-forgotten corner of my brain (this is going poorly). So as of right now, there’s only one question left to answer:
Will I love Paris as much as I think I will (and will she love me back???)?
Day One: Zero Chill
On Saturday, I have a very specific route planned for the entire day due to where I’ll start, where I need to end up, and what there is to see along the way. On account of the specific route and the tight schedule, I’ve affectionately dubbed this day My Zero Chill Day in Paris.
My flight lands in Beauvais airport at 9:00 AM and there’s a shuttle that takes a little over an hour to get into the city (if the internet is to be believed, fingers crossed). From there, it’s a 20-minute walk to my hostel. If all goes smoothly, I’m hoping to officially start my day in Paris around noon.
Noon: Head towards the Arc du Triomphe (about a 15 minute walk from the hostel). Gawk. I may dish out the 9 Euros to go up to the top, depending on time. I’ve heard this is the best view of Paris!
1 PM: Walk down the Champs-Elysées towards the Louvre. Stop for a pastry or two or five along the way (I’ll be starving at this point, guaranteed). Ogle the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. Meander around outside the Louvre (not enough time to go inside, sadly). Google Maps says it takes about 45 minutes to walk from the Arc to the Louvre. I’ll give myself a full 1.5 hours, just in case.
2:30: Head towards the Jardin du Luxembourg (a 20-minute walk across the Seine from the Louvre). On the way, there’s a restaurant called Breizh Café, which is famous for its crêpes. It’s also on a handful of lists for cheap eats in Paris that I’ve found online. I’ll stop there for a quick lunch (10-14 Euros) before heading to the gardens!
3:30-5: Walk (skip, realistically) around the gardens, smell the roses, maybe cry a little. I’ve wanted to come here ever since I saw pictures of the palace and gardens in my French 101 class, freshman year of college. If I get thrown off my schedule at any point, I’ll spend whatever time remaining before 5 wandering around. I’m sure I could spend a whole day here, easily. At quarter to 5, I’ll start walking towards the wine tasting, passing the Panthéon along the way.
5: Commence wine tasting: Discover France in 6 Glasses! I’ll sample six French wines, frantically scribbling notes in my journal or on my phone after each sip, while snacking on whatever munchies they so generously provide.
7-8ish: I will probably be tipsy and hungry and a little bit sleepy at this point. I will have been awake since 4 in the morning, so the night following my not chill day is destined to be more chill. Here, I imagine one of two things happening:
- I’ll find a market (something fancy and Frenchiful or something as basic as a Lidl or Carrefour) and buy some thing for dinner, probably bread and cheese and fruit. I’ll visit Notre Dame, then walk along the Seine at sunset towards the hostel, stopping at a bench or park to eat.
- If I have the energy, I’ll find a market (as above) and buy some goodies, then I’ll metro to the Eiffel Tower and munch as the sun sets. I’ll stay there on the lawn throughout the light show and head home afterwards in the dark. (If I decide not to go to the Eiffel Tower tonight, I’ll go the next day for sure).
At night: I’ll go to sleep in my budget bed in the cheapest room of my very simple and basic hostel.
Day Two: More Chill but Still Good
When I travel, I like to meander along side streets, sit outside at cafés and watch people, stop for pictures of rustic doors and old signs and fountains and statues. I like to pause on little moments. I like to take my time. That’s why this entire second day will be dedicated to wandering around and getting lost in the streets of Paris. That’s also why the second day of my trip has been aptly named My Considerably More Chill Day in Paris. After a day of seeing all the sights, I’ll be eager to take it easy and explore the lesser known side of Paris.
While I’ll be mostly wandering and grazing for food on Sunday, I won’t be walking aimlessly, without direction or intentions or things to check off my list. In fact, most of the things I’ve discovered during my research will have to be done on the second day, it’s just a matter of if and when.
I’ll start the day as early as my body will let me, realistically around 9 or 10 in the morning. I plan to start in the Montmartre neighborhood, where Sacred Heart is located, and finish in Le Marais for dinner at Marché des Enfants Rouge (before potentially going to see the lights at the Eiffel Tower).
I probably wouldn’t have made these two areas a priority if it weren’t for Clotilde Dusoulier’s recommendations and Paris guide. Clotilde is a Paris native, a cookbook writer, and the owner of the blog Chocolate&Zucchini. Her site is incredibly helpful for foodies like me who have a limited time in Paris and need a little guidance for making the best use of their time and resources. From her “6 Best Croissants in Paris” piece to her “French-to-English Food Glossary,” I’ve read almost all of her guides and I’ve incorporated a lot of her insight into my plans. I’ve added many of her restaurant and bakery recommendations to my Google Maps, and most of them just happen to be located in Montmartre and Le Marais. So, there I’ll be.
9-10: Wake up and metro to Montmartre. Find one of Clotilde’s Best Croissants in Paris and see how it compares to all the run-of-the-mill grocery store croissants I’ve eaten and found to be unlawfully delicious. Breakfast croissant candidates include Goutran Cherrier and Maison Landemaine.
11-1: Visit the winery in Montmartre. Yup, you read that correctly. There’s a winery in the middle of Paris. The region has been producing wine since before the Romans, and the Romans even built a statue to the goddess of wine here to honor the tradition!
1-2: Find somewhere for lunch near Sacred Heart if possible. This will be my big meal during my magical and mystical weekend in Paris, so I want to make it count! I’ll order a “prix-fixe” lunch, which is typically 2 courses and a drink for around 20 Euros. I already have a long list of potential restaurants, so I think it’ll come down to where I am when I decide I’m hungry for lunch, prices, offerings, etc. I’ll report back in full detail in my next post.
Afternoon: Wander. Visit the Moulin Rouge in broad daylight. Pop into the pastry shop Popelini or a chocolate shop or a bakery for a little box of macarons. Explore Le Centre Pompidou. Venture into some of the open markets. Saunter down La Rue des Martyrs, “a half-mile of magic” according to Elaine Sciolino. Visit the house of Victor Hugo, one of the few free attractions in Paris (I watched Les Misérables yesterday in preparation). Find the Place de Bastille. Maybe try another croissant from one of Clotilde’s top contenders (just found out Du Pan et des Idées is closed Saturday and Sunday, womp). Maybe check out a fromagerie and get a small sample of various kinds of French cheese. Maybe sit down at some point. I’m sure I won’t run out of things to do in this window of time.
Evening: Eventually, when my body tells my it’s time for dinner, I’ll end up at the Marché des Enfants Rouge in Le Marais to explore some of what the market has to offer. To save money, I’ll probably go see what all the fuss is about with Chez Alain Miam Miam. Apparently, this place has the best sandwich in town, which suits my fancy.
Night: I’ll either spend the night eating chocolates and pastries under the stars while watching the lights of the Eiffel Tower, or visit Candelaria (everyone’s favorite bar, apparently) or a wine bar and continue trying to learn some of the basics of French wine (because practice makes perfect, right?). Either way, it’ll be beautiful. I think it’s hard to go wrong in Paris.
Do you have any suggestions for me? Any favorite restaurant or bakery or secret spot I should check out? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from people who are more experienced with the culinary behemoth that Paris.
Also, here are the links to some of the guides that have helped me find my way!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for how it shakes out this coming weekend!