Stephen and I snagged this amazingly cheap flight from NYC to Paris round trip. We bought it on a whim and figured we could iron out the details once we were there. It worked out as calmly and as lovely as we hoped. And TBH French people really are the best!
Le Marais literally translates to “the Marsh” in French. While it’s currently not marshy, there is much to be said about the history of the location. It spans across the 3rd and 4th arrondissement and is a very local neighborhood with hardly any hotels or tourists compared to other locations. We noticed this even on our first day that most people we saw were conversing in French and not a single person looked like they were out of place.
We arrived in the afternoon to Charles De Gaulle airport and quickly checked into our AirBnB with enough time to grab a drink before the sunset over the Bastille Monument.
There is much shopping and local hustle and bustle in Le Marais. It was so beautiful to watch all the people walking home from work with their baguettes in hand, especially as the sun was hitting the golden hour.
We wandered around the area trying to find a light, decently-priced dinner location. We definitely found it at Le Bistrot D’Antoine. In fact, I wish we ate here more than once. Likely my favorite meal of the trip overall.
Of course we had to order the Soupe A L’oignon Gratinee, or French Onion Soup. By far my favorite soup of all time, and strangely the only soup that Stephen will eat. This one had a deep rich flavor in the broth, and you could tell it was 100% homemade and probably simmering all day long. The onions were caramelized but not overcooked, and obviously the cheesy crouton was demolished almost immediately between the two of us.
The Foie Gras de Canard Mi-Cuit came with hard rock salt and crispy wheat bread. The beautiful marbling of duck fat was the treat in each bite. Definitely something that can’t be found easily in the states, especially not in New York anymore.
I was surprised when Stephen requested the Terrine De Campagne A L’Ancienne, mostly because I knew that he had no idea what it was. “Old-fashioned country terrine” as they call it in France, is having a recent resurgence among chefs. Packed miscellaneous meat, liver, “unwanted parts” are stuffed into a baking dish and baked in a bain marie. It comes out texturally similar to pate but slightly more chunky. It’s served cold, so the “jelly” part can be hard to get used to, but I found it quite tasty.
It was a beautiful autumn morning and we began the approximately half hour walk into central Paris from Le Marais. Walking is ideal in Paris (if you can, of course) and we actually never used the metro outside of getting to and from the airport. If the distance anywhere was a little longer than we wished, we found Lime electric scooters as a reliable alternative. Be careful though – the scooters hurt if you somehow hit yourself with it!
We found a little cafe (no name unfortunately) and stopped in for a crocque monsiour -not the best, but we had to order it at least once here. It’s basically a cooked ham and cheese sandwich, but usually more elaborate and I like it with a bubbling bechamel cheese.
We walked along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine, wrapping around the Place de la Bastille (top left) and continued on to the Paroisse Saint-Paul Saint-Louisn (top right).
There are lots of cute outdoor cafes across the street from Église Saint-Gervais in the plaza. We stopped there briefly to people-watch and grab a cocktail. Also to note: the Parisians love their “happy hour” hours. It varies per venue, but I’ve seen them start from around 3pm until closing hours. Always helps to walk around to get the best deals.
Of course Stephen would find a burger restaurant in Paris with a huge Times Square mural in the background (it’s funny mostly because I work just a few blocks from the Chevy’s intersection). Ben’s, which showcases both “burgers” and “bagels” outside, caught his attention immediately.
The space was clean and quite large once walking in. We were given English menus and it resembled that of what I would expect at a burger joint in the states.
The Blue Cheese burger was cooked perfectly as requested, medium rare, and the melted d’Ambert cheese along with the tangy mesclun salad was a great choice. Also added was candied onions, parsley, and a homemade bearnaise sauce.
We spent the rest of the night walking around viewing the sights, all mostly in Marais.
This was the only day I requested we follow a schedule. New Europe provides free walking tours (you tip based on what you think they deserve) and I’ve used them quite a few times across Europe in general. The tours are daily at multiple intervals, and some in different languages, so it’s helpful to plan ahead based on the days that you’re going.
New Europe – Free Tour of Paris
The tour meeting point starts at Fontaine Saint-Michel. It’s a very central location that can be accessed through public transportation or even walking from most places in the city. We walked about half way there from Marais (about 3-4 km distance) and then took a Lime scooter. The hour walk isn’t bad and actually covers a lot of the scenery you’d miss from public transportation.
Before the tour started we quickly snagged a rare photo of the two of us in front of the fountain.
We walked by the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which was coincidentally closed only that day due to a global climate strike. The 100-year-old bookstore had a profound impact on the literary culture, housing the likes of Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce just to name a few.
We all remember the unfortunate Notre Dame fire in early 2019. The historic church will likely remain closed until 2024 when French President Emmanuel Macron set for reconstructions to be completed. In the interim, our tour guide showed us a bridge in which we could still get a closeup of the facade. We discussed the differences between the left and right, the masculine and feminine, and it really was an amazing experience to be up this close seeing it with our own eyes.
We walked around the Palais de Justice de Paris, which was the King of France’s residence until the 14th century. After that, it became the French treasury and judicial headquarters, famously housing Marie Antoinette during her trial.
The tour was about 3 and a half hours long, walking through and around Ile Saint-Louise, ending up the Lourve. Our tour guide (I forgot her name unfortunately) was amazing and engaging, and also oddly enough a French girl who grew up in NYC so we spoke about that for a while. The tour itself never felt long or grueling, and we got just the amount of info we needed to continue on with our Parisian trip.
Although it’s been a dream of mine to see the Louvre, we really didn’t have the time or budget for it this trip. And when I mean this was a “budget trip”, I really mean that – from the flight, to the AirBnB, to the activities. We planned this entire trip to be around $500 per person.
As suggested by every Parisian guide book, and our Parisian walking tour guide for that matter, the only way to really see the city is via boat.
There are quite a few different tours to choose from, but your best bet is to walk along the river and find one with a sale. It shouldn’t be more than 15 EU per person, and you should be able to bring your own food/drinks on board (which is what we did).
I don’t recall which tour we went on, but I think it was Bateaux Parisiens. Again, don’t overspend for a 1-hour boat ride, but do try to get a live commentator so it’s more enjoyable (those headset tours are garbage). We departed from the Vendettes du Pont Neuf location and could buy food and beer on the pier to bring onboard.
The one hour tour sails about half hour west to see the Eiffel Tower, then circles back around to the original destination. It’s suggested to go right before sunset (like we did) so you can get the best shots of all the sights from all angles.
It was such a beautiful experience, and even Stephen was willing to take photos with me.
As everyone else recommends, I too would suggest a river tour if visiting Paris.
For whatever reason, I cannot find out the name of this restaurant – it’s currently not available on Google earth and the one photo I have of the place is not bringing up any results. Just know that there are quite a few decently priced prix-fixe restaurants in the Latin Quarter. Check where Chez Kelly is and that street is filled with them ranging from 15 EU to more.
I got the cheaper prix fixe at 16 EU and ordered frog legs as my starter. Stephen even said how much tastier the meat was versus chicken – which I totally agree. As long as you can get past the presentation, anyone will be able to eat these.
Stephen got the slightly more expensive option at 22.50 EU so we could get a dozen escargot instead of 6. This was his second time having escargot (first time was Marseille in NYC), but we both agree these were much more tasty. Being served in a shell is more appealing to me because this way you can drink the escargot-herbed-butter-juice.
Stephen ordered the Chateaubriand, which is also his choice at every wedding he’s been at.
While the beef was beautifully medium rare, it was also a little more tough than what we’re used to.
I ordered the Confit de Canard, or duck confit. The meat was obviously falling off the bone, and the peppercorn sauce was to die for. French fries though? I probably would have opted for a different side given the choice.
Dessert which is my least favorite meal was a selection of sweet pies and cakes or a load of cheese. Clearly I chose the cheese. Perfect ending to our meal along with a lovely bottle of local red wine.
The service was outstanding, which is what we found to be common place in Paris. Not a single rude Parisian person.
I have to quickly add this. Stephen, a devout house-music-lover, always tries to find “shows” as they’re called whenever we travel. It just so happened that a particular well-known DJ was playing that exact night, so we gave it a shot. Yo Yo Paris is a beautiful club located right in the Palais de Tokyo, across the water from the Eiffel Tower.
We found Le Gribouille a few days prior while having a drink outside from Église Saint-Gervais in the plaza. That’s where we saw a couple order this massive cheese and meat platter that was out of this world. I imaged it would have been extremely expensive, until I saw their bill come and it was only 15 EU. I told Stephen we absolutely had to come back to order it ourselves.
As usual, our eyes were larger than our stomachs and we had to wrap up the left over cheese and meat and tote around the city in my purse.
We were meeting up with some American friends we met the night before, so back to the Latin Quarter area we went.
Our American friends chose a classically American restaurant for breakfast. This can evidently be seen with their placemats listing all of our American presidents. While this typically wouldn’t be my choice for somewhere to eat on vacation, the food still looked good from what I saw.
We took an Uber north to this adorable indoor/outdoor bar suggested to us. There’s no way you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of Paris upon entering. In fact, it feels more like California or some beachy location more than anything.
Not far from the beach bar is the Canal Saint-Martin that runs almost 3 miles long between the Seine and Canal de l’Ourcq. It’s known for it’s romantic tree-lined streets and picturesque walking bridges. Honestly it looks straight out of a fairy tale.
We stopped for a break with out new American friends and dangled our feet off the edge of the sidewalk like everyone else does in Paris. There was a nearby boulangerie where we grabbed a fresh baguette and paired it with my leftover cheese from Le Gribouille that I’ve been toting around all day.
Stephen and one of the new friends ran across the street to get a few bottles of red bubbly (amazing by the way!) and some to-go cups. That between the cheese/baguette situation going on, there really is nothing better than that. I could have spent hours here just hanging out.
Chartier is known for being a cheaper, but still “fine-dining”-esque Parisian establishment. It’s abnormal that the two can be considered one in the same, but it manages to work cohesively here. There is white table “cloth”, which is really paper for them to write your order down on, and a full on white-apron service staff continuously checking up on you. There will always be a table wait, but the time goes by quickly and you’ll be seated sooner than you think.
Stephen and I shared a lot of appetizers since they were quite cheap (5-10 EU each). The prices listed here were as of Sept 2019 in Euros. This was the Chicory with Roquefort cheese ($5.50).
Herring fillet with steamed potatoes ($3.80). The herring’s pickle was mild and offset the raw onions that accompanied it. Served cold with the potatoes; it was reminiscent of an Eastern European dish.
Duck foie gras terrine ($7.50). Pretty standard, but came with a piece of crusty bread that could never hold the amount of foie gras – which is a good ratio. The jelly though? Not for me.
Thin slices of pork snout ($3.80). Actually quite tasty and being thinly sliced you’d never know it was part of of the snout. More of a gelatinous salami really.
Prawns with mayonnaise ($3.90). For that many beautiful prawns, the price is hands down amazing. Fresh little crustaceans with a lovely homemade mayo – which is an actual GAME CHANGER. You can even see the color is not your typical Hellmann’s.
“Savy specialty tripe” ($10). I have no idea what this is because there is no description on the menu. We chose it because I wanted Stephen to try tripe for the first time. It was basically tripe wrapped up in a mild broth with vegetables. It was good but not the best first impression for him.
Calf’s head with gribiche sauce ($11.80). The meat was tender, albeit fatty which was expected, but the sauce was the winner. Gribiche, and this was my first time trying it fresh, is basically the same as mayonnaise but emulsified with hard boiled egg yolks with mustard and oil. A thicker more tangy version of mayo and I loved it.
The service from Chartier was impeccable and quick; nothing more. Slightly more than what was expected from the price, which was nice. We had a few glasses of wine with our meal and asked to box up our leftovers. Apparently they’re not big on doggy bags in Paris overall. Luckily I still had my almost-empty container of cheese from earlier and we dumped our leftovers in there.
We spent the rest of the night wandering around in the area, seeing the outside of the original Moulin Rouge, and then calling it a night.
Checking out of our AirBnB was bittersweet. This gorgeous bamboo walkway could almost be found in the middle of Thailand, not here in the middle of Marais, Paris. The tucked away location was one of our favorite AirBnBs because it still was so central within the city itself.
We both only brought a backpack each, so we didn’t mind checking out early and spending our last day walking around with our bags.
I’ve looked everywhere online for this restaurant but cannot find it. According to my geotag it should be around 89 Rue Saint-Antoine so that’s the best I can do. I remember it being either Portuguese or Brazilian, but definitely not a basic Parisian spot.
The rain started to downfall on our last day, which was a little disappointing because we wanted to do some last minute trinket shopping. To avoid the rain, we ran into this little restaurant to grab some lunch.
Since I can’t find the restaurant, I can’t find the menu. This was some type of tuna salad crostini. Quite tasty actually; had some interesting spices and wasn’t watered down with mayo like how it typically is in the US.
Some type of cheese croquettes. Think mozzarella sticks but round and stuffed with emmental or comte or a type of semi-firm cheese.
Cheese fries – the only disappointment of our trip. You think France would have good French Fries? I’m being sarcastic obviously. The pitiful cheese sauce here is what got us down. Still better than some of the crap we can get in New York so not fully complaining.
We ended up back at Fontaine Saint-Michel so catch the main train back to the airport. Here we were just 2 days ago and now the dreary fountain looks soaked with a soapy substance. Drastically different than a few days ago.
Here Stephen and I descended upon the seventh layer of hell trying to take the metro to the airport on the ONLY weekend of the year where they boycott climate change and close every-fucking-thing down. Not getting into it, but just know that now I google each country’s global warming schedule prior to travel because this shit could really ruin it.
The one takeaway Stephen and I agreed on the most was how warm and welcoming the Parisian people were. The “snobby” and “pompous” attributes were never found and we legit were looking for them. We were like, oh yes this will be the dude who proves that French people are snobby – and nope, dude would bend over backwards to help us. It was insane. We went back home to NYC and told everyone and no one could believe us (fitting for New Yorkers).
We would 100% want to come back to Paris, and see other parts of France as well, without any questions asked. Love France ❤