Overall, we were not impressed with Paris. This is for a lot of reasons, and none of them are anybody’s fault. It was a beautiful city, and the people aren’t necessarily friendly, but they are nice enough. There definitely was a language barrier, but it’s not difficult to break down. Many servers at restaurants are willing to speak english to you, but they aren’t always happy about it. There were many parts of our trip we enjoyed, so let’s talk about that first.
Monday and Tuesday:
Before my mom took ill, (I’ll explain later) we went on a tour of Montmartre, on a private tour with an absolutely lovely guide named Helene. She was very knowledgable about even the smallest details in the neighborhood, and we really loved her tour. Montmartre, which Parisians refer to as “The Village,” is the highest neighborhood in Paris. The weather was pretty miserable, but bearable. Carrying around umbrellas and wearing windbreakers made it better, but the real bummer was the view. Montmartre, on a normal, sunny day in Paris, provides beautiful views of the city. We missed out on much of the view because of the fog and rain, which really did stink. Montmartre is still a lovely part of the city, and was probably my favorite neighborhood we saw! We really enjoyed the history of the city and the Sacre Cœur.
Halfway through our tour, my mom started to feel bad. We later learned that what we ate on our flight made me sick. My mom spent the rest of Monday evening and all of Tuesday feeling awful, because she had one of the worst bouts of food poisoning I have ever seen. Thankfully, I got sick on the plane, and ended up avoiding food poisoning for the most part. We ate at Laduree on Tuesday, which we really liked. My mom didn’t really get to enjoy anything but toast, but my meal was fabulous and so was my green tea. The macaroons we got there were disappointing, bordering gross. The texture was all wrong and the flavors were a little off. Mom didn’t try them because she was sick, but for me, I’ve had a better macaroon at home. Also, I ate snails, which tasted just like herbs and butter ~YUM~.
We took a tour of the center of the city. We booked another private tour with a cityfreetour guide named Chris that we really enjoyed. Chris, like Helene, was really knowledgable about the city’s architecture and history. He made sure to tell us about stuff that locals found unimportant, and took us to a lot of really cool off-the-beaten path places. We spent five hours with Chris, and saw the outside of the Louvre, the royal garden, Notre Dame, Marais and some other random areas.
Below are pics of the inside of a Greek church that is rarely open to the public, Chris was so excited we could get inside, it was stunning and very quaint. One of my favorite buildings by far.
I really felt this tour gave us a good feel for the city. The neighborhoods we walked through were very different than Montmartre, so I’m really glad we saw both sides. After our tour, we ate at a very famous and very popular place called La Relais de l’Entrecôte. They only serve one menu, steak and frites with a green mystery sauce that is spoken about very highly. My mother and I found the sauce to be good, but the overall meal was bland and really just okay. The steak was really underwhelming, maybe because we hail from Texas, but I think many people would have found it the same way. Our creme brûlée though, really was delicious. This was one of the first meals my mother kept down, and we were so happy she was back on track! I was quite worried she wouldn’t be able to make it to our wine tour the next day, but she is a trooper.
We took a wine tour! This was by far my favorite day. Maybe because we left Paris? The countryside was much more kind to us, despite the still rainy and quite dreary weather. We loved our tour guide, JB (Jean-Bernard), who had a great sense of humor and a lot of wine know-how. Our first stop was a cheese shop and farm, where they make goat milk cheese. My favorite stop on the tour, probably because I spent so much time taking selfies with goats. I mean, can you really blame me though? GOAT SELFIES.
On this tour, we learned that the French consider the soil more important than the grape varietals. The three types of soil: clay, flint, and gravel are considered more important than the grapes themselves. The wines are not categorized by the type of grape as they are in America, but by the regions they are grown in. The regions we visited were the Liore Valley and the east part of Burgundy, around areas called Sancerre and Coteaux de Giennois. In these regions, they make Pouilly-Fumé, Pouilly-Loire Valley, and some other kinds of wine that I can’t remember, probably because I drank way too much wine. It was mostly white wine, which really isn’t my thing, but I still really enjoyed the tour. I wouldn’t say I agree with all the French ideals when it comes to wine, but I did really like learning from JB’s perspective. JB is a native who grew up around the regions we traveled in, and he had a lot of inherent knowledge, and knows all the vineyard owners and the cheese maker we visited very well. I think his life-long familiarity with the region made him the ultimate Liore-Valley/Burgundy expert.
All-in-all, we visited a total of one cheese maker, where we tasted cheese and took selfies with the goats, two different vineyards, one in the Pouilly-Fumé region and another in Sancerre, a small and a little bit kitschy wine museum, where we watched a very odd 4D film and played with a vine-shearing machine, stopped for lunch and had more frites (french fries, of which we were entirely fed up with at this point,) and got to tour some really pretty parts of the french countryside. I had a lot of fun on this tour with my mom and a salt lake native named David, who JB for some reason referred to as Greg. Either way, I had a great time reviewing the wines on snapchat, rating them out of 5 wine glasses. No wine was deemed worthy of a five, but it was all good in the end, and my mom and I were so glad we went on the tour.
What else was cool was that at the last vineyard we visited, the winemaker signed the two bottles we bought for us! We loved that she felt so proud of her product and wanted to share her process and her wine with us. She was so much fun! I would highly recommend this to anyone who goes to France, and I really do wish we would have spent more time outside of Paris.
The Louvre and the D’Orsay closed, due to the potential that the Siene river would crest. Being from Texas, land of springtime floods, we thought this was a laughable end to our very mediocre vacation to France. On Friday we saw the Eiffel Tower and went to the Arc de Triomph, but couldn’t go up to it due to a presidential ceremony. Of course. That’s pretty much all we did. I’ve put a picture of what the Siene’s water level was, maybe Texans will be able to back me up on this one?
As the Eurostar was maybe the best decision we made the whole trip. Since just about every other transportation company was striking, including the employees at Charles de Gaulle airport and the National Railway, we consider ourselves lucky to have even gotten to London. Spoiler alert: We had a much better time there.
Honestly, I was thinking about splitting this post up because it’s so long, but it’s been hard to write. We had a pretty miserable time in Paris for a myriad of unavoidable reasons, and none of them were France’s fault, but I have really wanted to move on and start focusing on my London study abroad and courses here. Between the bad weather, transportation strikes, and the food poisoning my mother was stricken with, I’m just happy to get it off my mind! I am so glad I was with my mom, we always have fun together no matter what the circumstances, and Paris was no exception. Either way, I am grateful for the time my mom and I spent together, even though it wasn’t what we expected. I don’t want to discourage people from visiting Paris just because of my bad experience, and I hope all future travelers don’t get stuck in the same situations we did. Hopefully one day, when I am much less salty, I will want to go back to Paris and visit all the museums and Versailles.
Thanks for the memories and the crazy stories, Paris, it’s definitely one for the books!