Paris, The Second Time Around...
For Breton - you stole my heart, "sticky fingers..." I love you - always, forever!
P'Niche Personal: Aren't I the luckiest Parisian blogger that ever was? I've been fortunate enough to share Paris with my brilliant niece, Breton, for a second time. Like her brother Joseph's post from last summer, Breton was kind enough to offer some thoughts on her Paris experiences - the second time around...
We'll free flow through some questions, thoughts, and tidbits in this casual discussion with the hopes that some of the insights shared can be helpful to those of you who are lucky enough to travel to Paris "encore une fois..."
P'Niche: Ok, on y va (let's go)! Start out with some thoughts on how you planned differently for this second trip...
Breton: First off, when packing, I definitely lightened up this trip. I remembered from the last time that I did not wear all the outfits and options that were included in my luggage, so made adjustments.
I left much more room for more shopping this time!
I also added more planning time for this trip than my first Parisian adventure.
Having visited Ireland earlier this spring, I knew I wanted to format a plan to see many of the items that we didn't have time for on my first Paris trip.
I started scouting Instagram and certain Paris based vlogs for ideas. Knowing that I was going to be capturing a lot of content for Parisian Niche, looking for fun ideas, cool angles, and unique spots played a big role in laying out our agenda.
It was also great fun to use these travel plan times as breaks from my rigorous pre-law studies. Like Audrey Hepburn said, "Paris is always a good idea!" The planning was fun.
P'Niche: How did you feel landing this second time in Paris versus your first?
Breton: I was so excited to head back. I definitely feel like I had a better hold on the lay of the land and the métro system.
Getting around is so manageable in Paris and I always felt very safe as a young woman during my stay in town. Team Navigo pass!
P'Niche: Yay - I am glad you felt at ease! Any other first day notes?
Breton: Absolutely. We were originally thinking of booking a tour on that first day to help us stay awake, but the tour guide was already overbooked, which actually worked to our advantage.
We were able to make our way over to Père Lachaise Cemetery at our own leisure and just explore at our own speed. We didn't feel like we had to "be on" for anyone and just took the day at our own jet-lagged pace.
I also loved simply walking around - I definitely will carve in more time to just walk around on my next trip - "Not all who wander are lost!"
Our first night in town, we just took it slow and relaxed, as we knew we were attending the Versailles Masquerade Ball the next night (and it's all night!)
Like Joe, my favorite café for a light bite is Le Royal Opéra café. People might like to debate, but to me, this is hands down the best French Onion Soup in town.
I felt much bolder this year in practicing speaking and ordering in French. I figured you can be awkward in English or just try in French and wow - let me tell you - the change in service level, demeanor, etc. of the staff was definitely noticeable. They saw we were trying out of respect for their culture and we were treated like royals - just like the café name states!
P'Niche: Amazing! (and I agree about the soup - just the best. And their Croque Provençale - yum!). What other roses and thorns can you give us?
Breton: The Versailles Ball was an absolute rose!
The night was very different from what I had in mind - and even better! Getting to dress up and party with you, Joe, Cam, and your amazing friends was such a treat.
It was special to be able to work on the costumes with Ninny (my grandmother). (Hi Mom!) I will look back on those memories and smile for sure. And having the group dinner with those same friends to recount the tales a few days later was the icing on the (Let Them Eat) cake.
P'Niche: Which restaurant was that again?
Breton: Au Pied de Cochon. Let me tell you, this was the best food I had in Paris.
Something you might want to flag your readers is that this was a great place for groups to get together (and sometimes that can be hard to arrange in other spots in Paris).
In addition, the staff was great and the food was top notch. As someone who currently works in hospitality, I know what to look for in terms of quality, and this place had it. And the plates of little piggy meringues at the end of the meal were just too cute for words!
P'Niche: Before we move to other topics, any other great foodie spots?
Breton: For sure. I really enjoyed our meal at the famous La Coupole. Not only was the food amazing and the ambiance fantastic, knowing I was dining where F. Scott Fitzgerland and friends ate was a really cool experience.
Another great one was Le Procope. Even better than the food was walking around and seeing all of the historical items of note. I cannot believe they let Napoléon pay by leaving his hat behind!
P'Niche: Wow, we really did eat well this trip! What were some other highlights for you?
Breton: I had been to Montmartre before, but we went very early (7am) this trip. It made all the difference. We were able to practically have Sacre Coeur to ourselves. There was music playing during our entire visit in the basilica, and the time was absolutely magical and moving.
Then, having the streets and alleyways of Montmartre to ourselves was great. The only people we saw were the pompiers (firefighters) on their morning run. Having a café crème while watching Paris wake up was truly incredible.
P'Niche: Nice! What were some other roses during your trip?
Breton: You know, I really wanted to return to Le Louvre. It was great to see it once last year, but we did a scavenger hunt, and that was not the best way for me to experience all of the art and culture.
This time around, we engaged Claudine Hemingway. Her research and personality brought it all to life. She knew I liked World War 2 history, so made sure to tell us a lot about the wartime move of Winged Victory. Also, her stories of Psyche and Cupid as well as Raft of the Medusa made me appreciate art in a whole new way, when I might have just glanced at these pieces in passing before. She taught me a new way to view art.
I was able to take that new knowledge with me on other museum visits as well. Visiting the Galerie Dior was a chance to really put these new skills of seeing what was "behind the art" to good use.
It's not a museum I might have had on my list of things to do, but it was definitely worth it - the space was massive - well laid out and really informative. There were lots of iconic pieces to view in the great variety on display throughout.
Knowing that Dior's sister fought in The Resistance during World War 2 is fascinating as well. It made the displays of the fragrance named after her (Miss Dior) really come to life before my eyes. Definitely note, the gift shop is not attached to museum, it's down the street!
P'Niche: Great Intel, there! What other insider tips do you have?
Breton: If you have the chance (and ability), definitely climb to the top of any dome or monument you can. During our visit to the Panthéon, we climbed the dome and the panoramic city view was exceptional!
Next time I visit, I really want to climb the Arc de Triomphe to get the view from that vantage point. The same goes for when Notre Dame reopens in 2024.
That said, the Panthéon, even without the climb, was inspiring. The stunning and artistic dedication to French pride and nationalism is wonderful to behold.
P'Niche: Any other highlights?
Breton: Oh yes, just walking the streets and learning the history, like the Dove Street, seeing the bullet holes from World War 2 efforts, and even where notes of hope were air-dropped to continue the Resistance fight was amazing.
Another great highlight was meeting your French family (Bonjour, Marie-Pierre!) After hearing about them all my life, it was so nice to put faces to names and they were so gracious in opening their home and welcoming us for a lovely (really good, homecooked and authentic) dinner and conversation!
Seeing where our Revolutionary War's Treaty of Paris was signed was also great.
P'Niche: Ok - What was on your shopping list this trip?
Breton: Ooh - let me tell you - Monoprix is a Parisian's best friend. I loved shopping for clothes, cookies, tea, treats, and other various souvenirs here.
And in packing lighter Paris bound, I knew I had wiggle room in my bag to bring more items home.
One more thing I am glad I did slip into my bag on the way over was my Polaroid camera. Smart phone photos are great, but having instant (tangible) memories was such fun and I was glad to be able to find more film at some shops in Paris.
Definitely consider this camera addition to your packing capsule list!
P'Niche: Noted! What else can people expect in Paris?
Breton: Expect the unexpected! On one of my evening strolls around Le Louvre, we came upon some of the DJs performing for the Fête de la Musique, which was one of my favorite moments of the whole trip - and entirely unplanned. Dancing in the shadows of where the royals once lived, was just incredible.
It made me realize that on my next trip, I really need to set aside more time to just walk around to explore the city and get to know the nooks and crannies.
I cannot wait to come back.
P'Niche: Ok - one last question then - what do you have on your list for next time in addition to what you noted?
Breton: I think my first stop would be the Musée d'Orsay. I understand that they have an incredible Impressionist collection and it's fascinating that the building used to be a train station!
I'd like to see some of those smaller gem museums as well, in order to increase my knowledge of all types of art.
Outside of Paris, I'd really like the chance to explore the Normandy beaches.
P'Niche: Any final thoughts?
Breton: Book that trip!
As I said before, Paris is such a manageable city to navigate and I felt entirely safe and in my element. I'd even have no fears tackling the city solo.
Paris is amazing as there are so many layers to uncover. I still have a few of the "greatest hits" to discover and then wish to branch out more.
It gives me lots of dreamtime material while I complete my law degree.
Like Joseph said last time, See you soon, Paris, I can hardly wait...
So that's that, P'Nichers - a personal and inside scoop about Paris "encore une fois." One more personal note of my own gratitude for my niece's adventure. Breton took the vast majority of photos, clips, and videos from the Parisian Niche adventure at the Versailles Masquerade, all of which are on the P'Niche Facebook Page. Merci, Breton, so very much!
So, P'Nichers, with Breton's thoughts, when is your dream trip taking place? Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!