Paris is Always a Good Idea

Photo by Krystal for Flytographer

Ooh La La! In March 2018 my mom hit a major birthday milestone. We’d originally been looking at doing a river boat cruise in France, but ended up deciding on a first class trip to Paris. I cashed in a bunch of points and miles so this was a relatively inexpensive trip though it may not look it. We only paid for meals, activities, and the night in the Chateau!

American Airlines is my loyalty program, and this trip was both awesome and horrible with them. I dropped that it was my mom’s 75th birthday on our way through Miami on the way to Paris, and they upgraded us to the Flagship First lounge for the sit-down dinner experience. They really went above and beyond to show her the birthday love, and I was blown away at how nice and considerate they all were! On the way home we had a delay on the tarmac at CDG and American rebooked us on a later flight, then rebooked us back on our original flight when we made up the time. However, we lost our first class seats. My interaction with the gate agent in PHL was so awful I’m still shook by it four months later. I wish I would have filmed it, it would have been viral. American compensated us for the downgrade of the flight, but did nothing about the problem with the gate agent. So overall, even though they get 90% of my business, I neither like them nor do I want to fly with them anymore. Still trying to figure out my next move.


The loyalty program that I do consistently love is Marriott! We stayed at The Renaissance Vendôme  in the first arrondissement for the first part of the trip and loved it. Great location to the Louvre and restaurants, a cute boutiquey vibe and delish breakfast. The most important factor to me is that it was right around the corner from Ladurée and their amazing macarons! The hotel staff hooked my mom up for her birthday too – we got champs and Ladurée macarons!

We left on our trip on Tuesday and we arrived on Wednesday morning. Our original plan had been to hit up some museums on Wednesday and Versailles on Thursday, but iffy weather forecast for Thursday, and trying not to overtax my mom we decided to be more chill on our arrival day. We walked around the nearby Place Vendôme for some shopping, picked up some macarons and walked in the Jardin des Tuileries (spans between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde) along the Seine river. We swung by the Louvre and took some pictures outside the beautiful building but didn’t go in. We had dinner at the nearby and hotel recommended Absinthe, which was cute and fun. Because of the jetlag we ate way earlier than the Europeans do, so the restaurant seemed more full of Americans.

When stopping at a cafe, like we did on our first day there, my best advice is to walk one extra block away from whatever the tourist site is that you’re nearest to. You’re likely to find something more authentic. We stopped at a cafe near The Louvre on the Rue de Rivoli, and it was not memorable. 

Non-Touristy Parisian Cafe Life – Photo by Krystal for Flytographer

On Thursday we hit up my favorite museum of all time – Musée de L’Orangerie. It’s such a neat place with giant panels of Monet’s waterlillies. The design of the museum is great and the panels are so huge, it’s such an amazing experience. Definitely something that’s a quicker alternative to an all-day or multi-day experience like the Louvre. I have a poster of the panel below in my bedroom from my first trip to this museum.

The Water Lilies: The Two Willows by Claude Monet (from their web page)

Musée D’Orsay was up next for us. I hadn’t been before and was really moved by some pieces there – the self portrait by Van Gogh was so much more detailed and intricate than any computer screen photo can ever convey. I do have some advice that you should be sure to get a plan of the museum or download some some sort of blog post in advance. (The cell coverage was awful for me) It was a little overwhelming and hard to navigate. The cafe was gorgeous too, with really artful chairs (which is a super random thing to say, I know). I could totally imagine throwing a brilliant fete there!

Musée D’Orsay

For dinner, we went to a great restaurant – Chez Georges – which was one of Julia Childs’ favorites. She would eat lunch there once a week and I could see why! Quite traditional French with Dijon mustard that will clear your sinuses. If you don’t get the profiteroles, you are living your life wrong.


Friday morning we picked up a rental car with Avis (OMG, Avis sucks, don’t use them. I have to use them at work and they consistently let me down) and went to the train station to pick up my best friend Kristen. She lives in Amsterdam with her husband and daughter, so it was awesome she was able to join us! We obviously loved her company, but there was an added bonus that her European cell phone had better coverage than my roaming Sprint iPhone.

We drove west (Paris is harder to drive in than driving on the left in the UK, in my opinion!), stopped and had lunch in charming Caen, and checked in to the posh Chateau d’Audrieu for the night, followed by our real goal for the next morning – Mont Saint Michael. I wrote a separate blog post about it, click here to read it!

Be sure to check out my blog on Mont St Michael!

For the last part of the trip, we moved from the 1st to the 16th arrondissement for my second stay in The Renaissance Paris Le Parc Trocadero to be closer to Lady Eiffel. If you read my blog about my Around the World Glitch Trip, you know that we stayed there on points for our eleven-hour stopover and loved the breakfast and gin shenanigans. They were great again, totally hooking up the birthday girl again, however the breakfast was not as amazing as I had remembered it. I wonder what they changed. Returning the car to Avis was the worst. Don’t use them. We had dinner at one of the restaurants down the road and again repeated the glitch trip by going to the Trocadero for the iconic view of the Eiffel Tower light show.

On Sunday we made use of the Metro to hop around the city and do more eating and shopping. We walked by Moulin Rouge and had lunch at Pink Mama. When we arrived there was such a HUGE line outside the restaurant and we didn’t think we’d get in. They do a single seating for lunch, and you must be there quite in advance. Luckily, we got one of the last tables. There are many different floors with different gorgeous aesthetic that makes this spot so popular with the Instagram Influencers. We were there for the burratta and to switch it up to some yummy Italian food. The drinks are fabulous and served in different and proper glassware. (Orange Mecanique in a sugar bowl anyone?). I thought the top floor in all green with skylights was the best.

Pink Mama – The most Instagrammable and tastiest Italian spot in Paris!

I was on a quest for a fabulous Parisian handbag, but ended up not pulling the trigger. Going to Le Bon Marché was great – it was gorgeous and there was so much to see. I tried to superpose the Christmas decorations I always see pictures of in my mind.

Sunday evening we left Kristen to her own devices and went with my godbrother Charles to his home for tea. It was lovely and his boys were great. It was so nice to spend time with family, and also nice to see their chic Parisian flat and feel more local and less touristy. One of my favorite experiences of the trip, but one I can’t give tips on how to replicate. We met with Kristen for a late dinner at one of the restaurants at the roundabout for the Victor Hugo metro stop. Again, a little farther away from the tourists and quite nice.

Finally the BIG DAY arrived and my mom was seventy-five! For her birthday, I set up a photoshoot with Krystal from Flytographer and it was such a great experience, I want to do this on all of my vacations from now on! The pictures turned out really well and the experience was great to use – a super easy way to find a photographer in a city you are visiting. We got teasers right away and delivery was fast!

Photo by Krystal in Paris for Flytographer

After breakfast we walked across the Seine to the 7th arrondissement to search out some more off the beaten path gems. I was desperate to check out the Lavirotte Building (29 Avenue Rapp, 75007) and it was super gorgeous. But this ended up being a superfecta of a great stop with so many things within a stones throw of each other. So here’s what to do when visiting:

  • Check out the building and the other one around the corner at the end of  Square Rapp
  • Go across the street to Sancerre for a glass of… sancerre! This was my mom’s go to drink of the trip as she’s a white wine drinker. I’m always going to pick this or a South African Chenin Blanc over any other white.
  • Next door to the Lavirotte there is a rare book store. I got an amazing old book of the complete works of Shakespeare. The couple that owns the shop was so nice and we had such a pleasant time chatting with them for awhile about books and movies.
  • The Lavirotte and rare book store are flanked by a chocolate shop and a pastry shop. A great place for a pick me up or to grab gifts to take home!
  • A little farther away is Les Petites Domaines, which we walked a few blocks to. This was high on our list to visit because it’s a local woman-owned wine shop. We went in and got some amazing recommendations.
Lavirotte Building

Helpful tip: Did you know that when you get an address of a place in Paris – the last two digits of the zip code are the arrondissement? 

Our final visit of the day before dinner was a metro run to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. My mom was a volunteer librarian at my elementary school, and I’m such a book lover I really wanted to see it. You’ve probably seen pictures of the Richelieu reading room on some book porn Instagram – I knew this was a place we had to go see. It’s been recently remodeled, so it didn’t quite smell like the old books that I was expecting. Also, you have to be a member to go in – you can’t just go sit and hang out as a tourist. And the pictures were misleading:  while it was gorgeous, it wasn’t quite as GRAND as the camera angles and lenses made it look. I wouldn’t go as far to say it was disappointing on its own, but out of an overall great trip –  if I had to pick the most disappointing site we saw on this trip this would be it. If you’re nearby, check it out, but you don’t have to go wildly out of your way to see it.

French National Library – looks more impressive in photos

My mom and I are definite foodies. We like to splurge on the great restaurants of the world, so we knew for the night of her big day we’d do something special. Our top two restaurant experiences before we went on this trip were Joël Robuchon’s namesake restaurant at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and The French Laundry near Napa. Joël has an Atelier (aka workshop, though it was the fanciest workshop I’ve ever been in) in Paris, right next to the Arc de Triomphe, so we knew we’d have to check it out for the big day. I made reservations online and it was quite easy – though you should check your email for a few days before because if you don’t confirm your reservation it will be cancelled. We did the amazing full tasting menu and it was next level. The only thing that sucked about this is we should have been fasting for awhile before because there was SO MUCH FOOD and we were sick full by the end. This was another case of people going over the top for making my mom feel special on her birthday. The Parisians were so nice about it all the time – the stereotype about the French being rude is so outdated! But to have full disclosure, I spoke as much French as I could. Not always accurate or the best, but I did it with confidence and panache.

Photo by Krystal for Flytographer

Thanks to everyone for reading – always happy to help with questions!



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