Anniversary in Paris

Soon after deciding to spend the summer in Europe, Chad and I agreed that it would be fun to celebrate our anniversary in Paris. Eight years ago we celebrated our 8th anniversary in Paris, so I thought this could be the start of a new tradition – every 8th anniversary in Paris (see you in 2026!). We even spent our honeymoon in the most Paris-like place we could afford at the time – New Orleans – so this tradition is very fitting.

Transit

Part of our thought-process was that Europe is full of budget airlines zooming from city to city. Thankfully, we did not book Ryanair, which has been plagued by strikes this summer. EasyJet was not that much more and flew into Charles de Gaulle airport, so I decided to give it a try. Since we’d still have our place in Budapest, we were able to save money by flying carry-on only.

Our experience was not the best (now having flown out of there twice, I can say definitively that the Budapest airport is not my favorite), but we got there not too long after our original arrival time. My review of EasyJet is below.

On arrival, we went down to the train station and bought our Navigo cards with one-week transit passes from the RATP information counter. I highly recommend doing this if you’ll be in Paris for at least 4 days and your dates line up with their weekly pass (which runs Monday-Sunday; we were there Wednesday-Sunday). Basically, this is the card the locals use. You just need to bring a passport size photo and they give you the card and you put it together yourself. You can load it with a week or a month (I think you can also choose to load it with individual rides). It is reusable for several years, so we’ll keep them and bring them back to reload on future trips. It was great and we used public transit a ton while we were there. The best part is that a one-week pass is hardly any more expensive than a roundtrip RER ticket from the airport into town, so essentially the pass makes all the rest of your transit free. Cards in hand, we scanned them to go to the train platform, got on the B train and 30 minutes later were in the heart of Paris.

Arrival – Montmartre

We decided on a hotel in the neighborhood of Montmartre, which had been our favorite 8 years ago (when we stayed in a much more “budget” hotel in the far south of the city near Port d’Orleans). We were hungry so we started with crepes from a hole-in-the-wall stand Chad had researched where the proprietor plays a game of chess with a friend as he makes the crepes. They were fabulous. We swung into a market on the way to the hotel to pick up wine (so cheap in France), got checked in and enjoyed some wine in our room as we settled in. My hotel review is below.

Happy to be in Paris

Once the sun was a little lower (it was blazing hot our whole stay), we headed out to rediscover Montmartre. It was as charming as remembered and we enjoyed Sacre Coeur again. We’d made dinner reservations ahead of time (one thing we’ve learned this summer in Europe is how often people make reservations) but had some time to kill. We experienced sticker-shock while seeking a pre-dinner cocktail after so much time in Budapest, but we finally found a cute little place called Grenouilles with 4-euro sangria where we could watch the crowd. Just look for the frog on the bicycle. We had a nice French dinner at Chez Plumeau; my restaurant review with some details of our experience is below. It was a great first night back in Paris.

Sacre Coeur

Full Day 1 – The Louvre and the Eiffel Tower

Eight years ago, we skipped the Louvre, preferring instead to explore Paris’s charming neighborhoods and visit a few churches (we did do one museum, the Invalides Army Museum, which was very good). This time, we made the Louvre a top priority so we could see what all the fuss is about. I preordered tickets for the earliest entry (9 a.m.) a week or so in advance direct from the Louvre website and printed them in Budapest (there was a print shop in our local mall). We set off from our hotel around 8 or so to find some crepes for breakfast and take the metro to Concorde so we could get in a morning walk through the Tuileries Garden before the museum. It was actually a little difficult finding crepes first thing in the morning. Many crepe places open at noon, preferring a lunchtime to late-night business. It may be more of an American thing to think of crepes as a breakfast food. But, walking down to Pigalle, we found a kabob shop opening up that also did crepes and we were the first customers of the day. Egg and cheese for me; banana and Nutella for Chad.

Line outside the Louvre

It was already hot as we walked through the Tuileries, so we were glad to be spending the morning indoors. We joined the line of people who already had tickets, which was already fairly lengthy, though it moved quickly once they started letting people in. The lines to buy tickets were quite long, so I highly recommend pre-purchase.

Once we got in, we headed straight for the Mona Lisa, knowing it would only get busier as the day went on. I don’t know how much either of us cares about Da Vinci or the Mona Lisa, but it seemed like the thing to do. Plus, I was feeling inspired by the recent Beyonce and Jay-Z video at the Louvre. After obligatory Mona Lisa photos, we enjoyed viewing the painting collection in that wing and then went for a coffee at a terrace cafe before hitting the other wing of that floor. There I discovered a fondness for the noisette (aka macchiato), an espresso with a little milk. After reviving ourselves with coffee, we viewed the decorative arts collection, which was my favorite part of the Louvre. Some of the rooms were decorated in the period style of when the Louvre served as a palace and the opulence was fun to see. We also really enjoyed a small exhibit about the Louvre’s history, which included several paintings of people at the Louvre. Meta.

We didn’t see nearly all of the Louvre but had our fill by early afternoon so took transit over to Bois de Boulogne Park to see if we could put together a picnic and nature walk. We succeeded, finding a neighborhood sandwich shop and then taking the long walk through the trails to the large lake. By the time we got there and had lunch we were hot and tired, so it was time for a rest. That night, we went to an excellent affordable dinner at a Japanese restaurant, Higuma, and then headed to the Rue Cler for ice cream, followed by viewing the Eiffel Tower from the Champ de Mars by twilight and the Pont de Bir-Hakim for the light show.

Day 2 – Anniversary Self-Guided Le Corbu Tour

For our anniversary, we designed our own self-guided tour to see some of Le Corbusier’s best known Paris buildings. Labeled photos are below. The highlight was the Maison de Brasil, a residence hall at the Cite de Internationale Universite de Paris, which allowed visitors to tour the first floor for a euro a piece. It was very representative of Le Corbu’s style and reminded us of the Corbu hotel we stayed at in Marseille eight years ago. Speaking of hotels from eight years ago, we actually started our day by visiting the hotel we stayed in before, which was in the neighborhood of our first Le Corbu site. It looked exactly the same, with the same crepe stand out in front. Of course, we’d already eaten crepes that morning, this time at a tourist trap place near Montmartre. But it was nice to see the place unchanged.

One of the passages

After our Le Corbu tour, we took ourselves on a tour of Paris’s passages couverts (covered passages), using an audio tour Chad had downloaded. The passages were sort of like shopping malls developed in the early 1800s and have an assortment of shops, restaurants, theatres, etc. for people to enjoy with the ability to go from building to building without exposure to the elements. The guide was very fun and informative. It was a nice way to spend our anniversary. We picked up champagne from a local shop in Montmartre on our way back to our room for a rest (and appreciated the ingenious was of providing cold wines without obvious refrigeration: any bottle with a pink stripe placed at the bottom was available cold from the little refrigerator behind the counter – when she sold us ours, she just replaced it with a bottle from the shelf).

After a break, I’d made reservations at a well-reviewed seafood restaurant, Le Cagouille. It was an experience – daily menu on a chalkboard only in French, fresh simply-prepared foods, but quite good and a special experience for our anniversary meal.

Day 3 – French favorites: Amelie and Pasteur

For our last day in Paris we really just wanted to explore more neighborhoods so we focused on two of our favorite Parisiennes – Louis Pasteur and Amelie. We started with breakfast at the Cafe Dieux Moulins, which looked very much like in the movie, then tracked down Pasteur’s Paris laboratory near the Pantheon (which is at the top of our must-do list on our next trip to Paris). Then we visited the Canal Saint Martin, where Amelie liked to skip stones, and we enjoyed the sweet neighborhood there. We took a longer afternoon break (touristing is hard work!) and then later headed to our last-night-in-Paris French dinner at Le Mistral in the Belleville neighborhood. We enjoyed the views from the Parc de Belleville and our dinner was everything you’d want for a last evening in Paris.

It was a wonderful anniversary trip. Hot, hot, hot, much like our wedding 16 years ago, but we had a fantastic time and made wonderful new memories of Paris. Our next trip to Paris, we’ve decided, will be in the spring or the fall, but I feel confident that August 3, 2026, will also see us in Paris.

Reviews

EasyJet – Definitely a step down from regular airlines but great prices
This airline is definitely budget – the prices were great but they get the worst treatment at the airports, which gets passed on to the passengers. Staff members aren’t as professional as at other airlines and neither of our flights was on time. Based on the price though, I’d use them again. Here is a detailed account of our experience:

We flew from Budapest to Paris and back and chose easyJet based on the cost and the fact that unlike RyanAir, they fly into CDG, our preferred Paris airport. The gates at Budapest airport aren’t posted until about 30-40 minutes before the flight. In this case, as soon as the flight was posted it was listed as boarding, so we began walking toward the gate. When I next looked to double-check the gate number, it was listed as “last call” so we rushed to the gate, which was basically in a barn. People were still queuing and while they had begun scanning boarding passes at the front of the line, it was nowhere near actually boarding the flight. After that line for 30 minutes or more, they opened the doors to an outside line, and then after waiting there about 15 minutes, we finally boarded the flights. No one checked ids. No one enforced easyJet’s 1 cabin bag rule. The flight itself was ok, but with the long boarding process and waiting for permission to depart from air traffic control, it ended up being about an hour late. We deplaned outside and had to take a bus a short way to another gate to go upstairs and into the terminal, which was strange and a bit chaotic (they really packed the bus tight).

For our flight home, CDG was easy to navigate as always and we settled in at the appointed gate to wait for boarding. Just before boarding, the gate was changed and so everyone had to walk down to a different gate. Though at least we weren’t in a barn, the boarding process was still a bit garbled (though it was nice having a person on the jetway advising whether to board back or front). The flight back was about a half hour late.

Hotel de Flore – Wonderful hotel in Montmartre
Great hotel in the Montmartre area of Paris, very close to the #12 metro line and easy walk to the heart of Montmartre or down to Place de Clichy. Room was very clean and a great size for Paris. The bed was comfortable. Staff was very friendly and helpful and spoke English well. The air conditioning in the room worked extremely well (which is good because it was August). The only slight negative is that the optional breakfast seemed really expensive. But we just skipped it and went down to a cafe or found crepes instead. In fact, the Cafe Deux Moulins from Amelie is very close by and we went there one morning. There are a couple little mini-marts and a good wine shop close by too. The front desk staff was kind enough to lend us a corkscrew and a couple of glasses during our stay. Highly recommend!

Chez Plumeau – Great meal in Montmartre
We had a wonderful meal here our first night in Paris. I reserved a table a few days in advance through The Fork. There were tables available but we were surprised when we got the bill and we’d been given a nice discount (maybe 10 or 15%) due to our reservation, so I count the reservation as a smart move. The waiters were friendly and the food was delicious. Even without the discount, it seemed affordable for a primary tourist area of Paris. It is a little off the main path of Montmartre, so the courtyard was quiet (aside from the other diners – When we first arrived the man at the table next to us was a bit obnoxious talking loudly about his investments and stuff. I call that type a “brot,” shorthand for “British bro.” They seem to be everywhere in Central and Western Europe in the summer. Luckily he and his friend left right after our meal was served.). Overall, it was a really great meal in Paris.

Le Mistral – A terrific authentic French meal at a great price
We made a reservation through The Fork in the afternoon for a Saturday night. They had a table waiting for us in the cute courtyard when we arrived. We had to go through the front bar to find the restaurant part but were kindly directed back. The menu was only in French but we figured it out (boeuf, canard, poulet). Service was a typical pace for France (so slow for Americans like us) but friendly and the food was excellent and the prices were very low compared to more touristy places. The best part of the meal was the aligot – mashed potatoes with gooey cheese (no low-cal meals in Paris!). We’d definitely eat here again when we return to Paris. Tip: if you have a little time to spend before dinner, the Parc de Belleville nearby is very nice and has a great view of the city at the top.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.