Paris Travel Diary

selfie in front of Notre Dame

In April we were lucky enough to spend almost two weeks in Paris thanks to a great airfare deal I found online; it was my second time in the city of lights, my husband's first. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous (what if people were rude? what if it didn't live up to expectations? what if Lawrence hated it?). But this holiday turned out to be one of the most magical vacations we'd ever taken—exactly the right mix of activities, leisure time, and amazing food. What a way to recharge and rediscover our zest for life!

We landed at Charles de Gaulle after flying all night and stopping over briefly in Iceland, only to discover upon landing that Lawrence's checked suitcase was delayed. Being held up at the airport submitting a baggage claim, and then looking for a SIM card vendor and waiting for an Uber, wasn't exactly our idea of fun. But once our ride arrived and we started heading into the city things picked up. Our Uber driver was super friendly and spoke zero English, so I tried my best to use my rusty high school French, asking him questions about his favourite things to do, restaurants to go to, and what the difference was between a bistro and a brasserie.

He was so nice assuring me that my French was fine that it gave me a huge confidence boost. I decided then and there I was just going to try to speak French as much as possible during our trip. If someone was rude to me because I got something wrong, I was going to view it as their problem and not mine. Over the next two weeks, the more I tried, the more words and verb conjugations I remembered. And the more I spoke with locals and attuned my ear to the sound of the language, the better my accent became. This turned out to be the best decision of the trip as it opened us up to so many experiences and interactions with locals we otherwise wouldn't have had. Everyone we encountered was exceptionally lovely and nobody was rude. Lawrence swears we got better treatment and had a better holiday overall because I knew French.

Paris buildings

We stayed at an Airbnb in the Bastille district, a private room and bathroom in a huge converted loft that looked like something out of Architectural Digest. Our host Pierre was friendly and so accommodating during our stay. We spent our first Parisian evening settling in, napping, stopping by Monoprix for clothes and toiletries for Lawrence, and having dinner at an old-school French restaurant.

Passage de l'Homme in Bastille district, Paris
Bastille district at night
view by the Seine

Our first full day in Paris was as perfect as can be. We woke up to a gorgeous sunny spring day and the sound of church bells ringing in the distance. Google told us it would be a half hour's walk from our Airbnb to Notre Dame, but our route had plenty of pleasurable detours starting with cutting through the Sunday morning Bastille farmers' market. Lawrence was fascinated with the windows of bakeries and rotisseries, the signage, the buildings. We kept veering off course every time we saw something interesting or glimpsed the Seine. At last we reached the area where Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité converged with some of the oldest and most picturesque bridges of the city. Brunch at a sidewalk table with a view of the Seine, the strains of music from buskers, plenty of Parisian doesn't get any better than that.

brunch at Cafe St. Regis in Paris

As beloved a landmark as Notre Dame is, I remember being more impressed with the cathedral's exterior than the interior on my first visit, so I suggested to Lawrence that we skip the long line of tourists waiting to go inside and visit Sainte-Chapelle instead. Sainte-Chapelle is just a stone's throw away from Notre Dame and is famous for its medieval stained glass windows. It was a stunning sight, especially with the afternoon sun pouring in.

Visiting Sainte Chapelle
medieval stained glass windows at Sainte Chapelle

Our Sainte-Chapelle tickets also included admission to the Conciergerie, which was used as a prison during the French Revolution. We took a break from sightseeing after that to get an ice cream and hang out at Place des Vosges. That evening we had dinner (best duck of my life!) and went salsa dancing in Montmartre.

Place des Vosges
Venus de Milo
Dining room in Napoleon's apartment
Statue courtyard atrium in the Louvre
Louvre exterior
Statue courtyard inside Louvre

After a full day of sightseeing and walking and late-night dancing (while still getting over jet lag!), going to the Louvre first thing in the morning at 10:30am was kind of rough. The Louvre is huge though so it's best to go as early as possible, and even then you won't see everything. The place is art appreciation turned attrition—it wears you down one painting at a time, one statue at a time, one gallery at a time. I was so high on art as we went from one gallery to another that I didn't want to have lunch until 2pm. Poor Lawrence kept sitting down on benches to wait for me and was literally dozing off when we stopped for food.

staircase at Louvre
staircase at Louvre
Les Invalides courtyard
Inside the church at Les Invalides
Vauban memorial at Les Invalides

When we went to Les Invalides the next day, we were both feeling worse for wear and kept having to take breaks just to sit, we were so tired. Lawrence is a military history nerd; the arms and armour, Napoleon's tomb, and the room full of military dioramas were all highlights. He was especially chuffed to see the Vauban memorial (Vauban was a famous military strategist who was known for designing giant star-shaped forts like Quebec City). We perked up once we left the museum and were in the open air and strolled past the Grand and Petit Palais, Pont Alexandre III, the Place de la Concorde and the Tuileries.

Church of the Golden Dome at Les Invalides
taking photos at Les Invalides
Versailles exterior

The next day we were up at the crack of dawn to make our 9am reservation to get into Versailles! This time around Lawrence and I stopped for lunch as soon as we finished our tour of the main building and even splurged on Angelina hot chocolate. Then we took the little train around to see the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette's village. It was too cold and drizzly to be wandering out on the grounds for long though, so we left early and took the train back into the city.

Versailles Hall of Mirrors
Staircase at Versailles
Versailles grounds
Marie Antoinette's village at Versailles
entrance to Place des Vosges

I'd front-loaded our trip so that the first couple of days were the busiest. Thursday (our fifth full day of vacation) was the first day we actually slept in. With no set agenda, what did we do? A late lunch of baguette sandwiches at our favourite bakery close by, shopping in Le Marais, and another visit to Place des Vosges. Lawrence bought a little watercolour painting from an artist in the square and I bought a pair of earrings from a local jeweller.

snapping a photo in Le Marais
Musee d'Orsay building interior

While the Louvre proved overwhelming, the Musée d'Orsay was just the right amount of art. We loved the scale of the galleries and how well curated the exhibits were, with a lot of historical context about 19th century art movements. Lawrence couldn't get over how beautiful the building was.

Looking at Renoir painting at Musee d'Orsay
Standing in front of big clock at Musee d'Orsay, Paris
strolling the streets of Paris
umbrellas in Village Royal
palm trees by the Seine
pink ranunculus
Dior building

The next few days were a leisurely blur. What I liked best about this trip was that it wasn't just schlepping from one tourist attraction to another. We had a lot of down time built into our schedules to stop at sidewalk cafes, wander aimlessly through little streets and parks, and look into shop windows. We ate ice cream while watching boats go down the Seine. We sunbathed on the flagstones just outside the Pompidou. We bought roast chicken and strawberries at the farmer's market for a low-key Sunday lunch.

Notre Dame
view by the Seine
buildings by the Seine
lunch at Airbnb in Paris
underside of a Parisian bridge

Our major splurge of the trip was a romantic gourmet dinner cruise on the Seine. We had seats at the front of the boat, where wraparound glass windows and a glass ceiling gave us 360-degree views. I loved gliding under the bridges—it gives you a completely different perspective on the city!

Toasting at the beginning of our dinner cruise on the Seine
sunset over the Seine
Eiffel tower


  1. You guys look so cute! Glad you guys had a good time in Paris. Your Airbnb sounds so dreamy too!

    1. Aw thanks! It was definitely a vacation for the ages.


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