This was a trip with some extreme highs and lows. We had booked this trip months ago, had our hotels planned and all our train tickets. As the day approached, there were no Covid-19 refunds for travel yet, information was spotty and it seemed as if younger people were not in much danger so we just planned to continue our trip as we planned and on our return, plan a doctors visit and be mindful of who we interact with. We had our hand sanitizer and wet wipes at the ready and headed out.
Our first day in Paris was the usual shuffle… go through customs, airport shuttle to Roissypole and then the RER to Guard du Nord train station. All of Paris is beautiful, but around Guard du Nord its a little sketchy… a little dirtier… and little less touristy. With all our luggage in tow, I found a less busy sidewalk corner to try to call an Uber. When I looked up from my phone, I realized was slowly being surrounded by a couple groups of shady men. Being nervous about theft… we moved along and hailed the first taxi we could.
Our hotel Le Tsuba was near the Arc du Triomph… a short walk to Champs Elysees. Within a few store fronts was a cute bakery and a very inexpensive grocery store. The hotel room was very pretty and clean with complementary water, shower robes and slippers and tons of closet space. The lobby was a luxurious modern Japanese theme and the restaurant bar was very elegant. Our first stop was the Champs Elysees Luis Vuitton!
I had my eye on a particular bag for a while but couldn’t justify the price to myself. A lot of people like shopping in Paris for the lower prices on luxury goods and Paris tax return. You still pay a tax coming back through US customs, but altogether you save a few hundred dollars. I figured this way, if I didn’t want the bag anymore, I could re-sell it in the US for close to what I paid. So, we walked to the Champs Elysees through the moderately busy avenue and waited in a short line at the store. Now, the shopping experience was pleasant here… but obviously everyone wants to shop at the Champs Elysees and it’s busy. After a while of running around the store, an attendant came and informed me that the bag I wanted was not in stock anywhere in France and they were not getting any more while we were here. I left a little sad, but knew that they get new shipments every day and I could just try again.
So being the foodies we are, we decided to check out the Plaza Athenee on Avenue Montaigne. To my surprise, this street was also full of luxury shopping with no wait. The service was so welcoming! I walked into a Chanel and the ladies there happily showed me different bags and recommended different sizes. There was also another Louis Vuitton with the best attendant I could ask for! Although they also did not have the bag I wanted, I found a smaller handbag that I liked and she took my phone number promising to let me know if the one I wanted came back into stock. We were treated to champagne as she processed our VAT paperwork. This was an incredibly fun shopping experience, even my husband was giving his opinion on the bags while sipping champagne! Not to mention, the end of the avenue has the most stunning architecture perfect for picture taking!
With my massive orange shopping bag in tow, we walked by the Plaza Athenee. This hotel was stunning with its intricate iron balconies and window flower beds full of red blossoms! The restaurant was also very pretty with large crystal chandeliers and modern mirrored seats. Spoiler: we didn’t eat here, but one day we will!
I am 5ft2 with a height complex and am notorious for ruining vacations by wearing high heels that kill me after two or three hours. This trip I brought sneakers! So we kept walking a ways to our first night’s dinner reservation at the famous original Angelina’s in Vendome. I had seen it all over Instagram and was so excited that it really was as cute as I had imagined. Nick and I both ordered a truffle ravioli! It was delicious but very heavy with cream and cheese and carbs! I probably needed a vegetable or meat to balance it out! For dessert, we each got Angelina’s famous hot chocolate, a pistachio macaroon and the signature dessert, a Mont Blanc. So… to be fair, my favorite hot chocolate is from Jacque Torres… which is practically a melted dark chocolate bar with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. Angelina’s hot chocolate did not compare to Jacque… but I guess it was alright. The macaroon was great… but that Mont Blanc?! What?! We dug into the chestnut cream that tasted like fondant, followed by plain whippped cream… and on the bottom was a hard cookie that tasted like powdered sugar. We were both scratching our heads because this is a famous pastry shop and their signature pastry tasted so bland and sweet and instantly gave us stomachaches!
We eagerly left to wash down the sugar with some alcohol! Next, door to Angelina’s is probably the most beautiful restaurant in the world at the hotel Le Meurice. Peeking through the windows, we confirmed it was just as gorgeous as the internet led us to believe and we confirmed our reservation for the next day. Some of the Paris Michelin Star restaurants will cancel your reservation if you do not confirm your reservation.
We have Park Hyatt points through our credit card so we walked over to check out the Park Hyatt in Vendome. This hotel was so neat… it felt like a futuristic luxury fallout shelter… and had odd art of rough stone human sculptures holding chandeliers or sconces on the walls. In the immediate area was also the Ritz Carlton and its two bars. We ordered a cocktail at the Ritz Bar and shared it between us. The bartender graciously gave us each our own glass and poured generously. We were also treated to a tower of chips, olives and nuts. The bartender put on quite a performance mixing drinks and the couple next to us had a cocktail that was completely set on fire. I asked if they had any celebrities and they said they aren’t allowed to talk about it! Across the hall is also the Bar Hemingway, home of the original Bloody Mary.
Our second day in Paris started by catching the metro to Montmartre and the Sacre Ceour. I’m not sure if we got there very early or were starting to experience corona virus decrease in travel/tourism… but we were mostly alone taking pictures of the massive church, gardens and carousel.
We walked around the borough which is supposedly popular with the locals. We did not find a coffee shop that particularly drew us in so instead we set the GPS and started to walk towards the closest Paul (an incredible chain cafe/bakery).
As we leisurely enjoyed our walk, I got a text from Robyn letting me know the bag I wanted had just come into the store that morning! We took a metro straight back to the store only to find out that someone beat me to it and it was on hold until noon. We decided to get a coffee in the area and wait and see if the buyer shows up. At noontime, I got a text saying “the bag is yours!”. We went back, were treated to coffee and champagne while I finally got the bag I wanted so badly. Robyn was awesome and recommended places to eat and see. I asked her if they ever get any celebrities and apparently Bella Hadid was in just a few days ago. As more customers came in dressed very fancy and expensive, I could see them pointing and asking about MY bag! Robyn, would politely tell them it was already sold 😉
We toured the area on foot eventually visiting the very Instagrammable Rue de l’Universite. The appeal of this spot is two intricately decorated apartments frame a beautiful unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower. We took a few pictures before heading back to the hotel to change for our dinner reservation at the 2 Star Michelin Retsaurant, Le Meurice! I had my fancy dress and heels in a bag and we walked about 35 minutes to the restaurant before I snuck off into an alley to put my heels on!
Le Meurice: 2 Star Michelin Restaurant
We checked in with the host and waited in the lobby until our table was ready. Once we were shown to our table we got to take in the room with its chandeliers, elaborate gold filigree decor, huge paintings of Parisian scenes over the marble fireplace. It was gorgeous! The meal came out like a parade! First champagne, a tempura kale tasting and a mini caviar beet tart… a French baguette with salt, pepper and chili butter flavors…. raw sea urchin (maybe not my favorite thing)… whelks!… and a beautiful display of steamed… vegetation? with two small tastings of vegetables and peas. This was very good, I was just not sure if we were supposed to eat the other steamed greenery… which I think you were not but another table tried to anyway. They also served us small cheese bread crackers that looked great but my husband ate one and dropped the other! We both then tried to eat the decorative potato shells almost breaking our teeth before the server ran over to stop us! And that was just the tastings! Our first real course came out… the waiter poured a small bit of white wine for us to approve of. It was incredible! I heard other tables complain or ask for a different wine at various points… I personally loved every wine presented to me! Our first course was sea scallops from Normandy drenched in a sauce that I could drink in a mug as soup! Second course was a fish dish, the main was chicken… and then we got an aperitif that looked like a chemistry experiment with a burner and hourglass shaped device. I think you are supposed to drink a small bit and move on to the next course… we had two servings because it was good! Next, we got a tasting of hazelnut lemon ice cream… and by a tasting I mean… just a spoonful and I personally could have a pint of it. Lastly, came the dessert which was a coconut forest pepper. This was fascinating! It was served in a coconut shell, with coconut chunks but its flavor bounced between sweet and bitter in the most incredible way. Having had a glass of wine with each course, I was tipsy but could remember the manager who was serving us saying “no sugar”. I don’t know how because this delicious desert was sweet! We were next given coffee and think caramel sesame crackers and a box of chocolates to take home. We liked the crackers so much, they gave us a box to take home as well! As we left, the manager graciously came and took a photo with us as we thanked him for the best meal of my life to date! We walked home with the perfect buzz, feeling very satisfied. This meal was expensive even with the deal we got using The Fork app… however we left feeling like we should have paid more for how much wine, incredible food, entertainment, atmosphere and such friendly professional service!
The Day I Got ROBBED!!!!!
Day 3… how that tables turn! We had just come off of the most luxurious day of my life… getting the designer bag I wanted (please note, now I have 2 expensive bags in my hotel room)… seeing Sacre Ceour and the Eiffel Tower with hardly any other tourists… and eating at the most beautiful restaurant in Paris. So we woke up to go to Opera Garnier via metro and Nick had the idea that I should carry my own credit card just in case his got stolen off his travel belt somehow. I didn’t trust taking a purse so I put the card in my phone case thinking that my phone is never out of my sight. We got our metro tickets and I vividly remember a gross rat-like man… very skinny with a greasy dark ponytail just lurking near us. After we got our metro tickets, I waited a little until I thought he passed us. Going through the turnstile after Nick, a man walks towards me… getting in between me and Nick… looking like he is going the wrong way. I was annoyed and looked behind me and noticed the ponytail man had snuck right behind me to get into the metro for free! I gave him a disgusted look as both men shuffled away. I reached for my phone… ITS GONE! I honestly didn’t even believe I was robbed at first and we hurried back to the hotel to make sure I didn’t forget it. Huge mistake! I spent the next hour cancelling my credit card and shutting down my phone paying 25 cents per minute long distance on my husbands phone. It was awful! In that hour and a half, this thief removed my phone cover, found my card and spent $250 on train tickets, grocery stores and restaurants. Obviously, they found the card quickly and shared the number amongst their friends. The credit card company fortunately didn’t approve the large purchases such as FOOTLOCKER! Props to Chase… they refunded me all the fraudulent purchases… but now I was phoneless and robbed! Fortunately, Chase also allowed me to return the first Louis Vuitton bag I purchased considering I only budgeted for one!
Side note: I returned the first bag to the Champs Elysees Louis Vuitton, the one that said the bag I wanted wasn’t in France and they were not getting another shipment and not to bother coming back another day…. yeah the bag was front and center this time. I’m sure they sell items daily at this location so it’s less important to keep clients, but what the heck. I think it hurts their numbers to return the bag to a different store so I guess we are even. Lesson learned: shop on Avenue Montgaine.
We managed to salvage the day though. Finally feeling secure that my card and phone couldn’t be used anymore… we traveled by foot through Paris along the Seine. We enjoyed seeing Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, and the Louvre even though most were closed for Corona virus. We walked so many miles because I refused to get on a metro again however we got a little lost! We ended up in the Guard du Lyon area but couldn’t find the train station. We thought city hall was the train station as armed guards corrected us! When we finally found Guard du Lyon, we admired the giant clock tower and then checked out the famed Le Train Bleu Restaurant. It was pretty with its Versailles-like golden filigree and paintings. It was so tempting to reserve here and we considered it right up until we took the train back. First of all, it was complicated to figure out where to go… and second of all, it felt sketchy… maybe because I was just robbed… but we decided stay local.
La Scene Theleme: 1 Star Michelin restaurant
For dinner this time, we ate at a one star Michelin restaurant La Scene Theleme. This was a very lovely intimate experience. It was right next to our hotel… the restaurant was small and modern with abstract art hangings casting intricate shadows on the walls. The food was outstanding including a tuna tartare, cheese tasting, pork main course and a desert so unique I have a hard time describing it… a tangerine mouse/custard with a frothy sweet layer on top? It was delicious and beautiful!
So next day was Amsterdam! We woke up bright and early… the hotel kindly held most of our luggage and so we only traveled with a backpack of clothes and my massive Louis Vuitton bag that we didn’t trust to leave behind. Being anti-metro… we took a taxi to Guard du Nord… fun fact, if you take a taxi while holding a Louis Vuitton shopping bag… you tend to get overcharged. The train station was a little rough. Big groups of police, dogs and even military walked around. I was a little confused that they were not patrolling… just talking and joking together in big groups. I don’t know their mission and I am sure there is more to the story… but the pick-pocketing and theft in Paris is so outrageous even on our last trip that it blows my mind that France is (at least to a tourist’s eye) not making a big effort to control it! Most restaurants and shopping have workers who speak fluent English… the train not as much. We almost boarded a train to Brussels! An attendance corrected us and sent us on our way. Part 2 to follow!
Here’s more pics:
That’s all 🙂