My sister recently moved to Paris to be an au pair, so I decided to make a trip to see her during my week vacation in Amsterdam. I flew into Charles de Gaulle Airport from Amsterdam. Getting to my hostel was super easy (HostelWorld provides you with directions from the airport to your hostel).
It took about 45-minutes to get to the hostel. When I got to the train station, I told one of the employees that I needed to get to Gare du Nord. Luckily, they recommended I take one of the faster trains that made less stops. I would definitely recommend buying your ticket from an employee, rather than the ticket machine. This will save you time and stress (you don’t have to worry about the angry people judging you for spending 15 minutes trying to figure out how to navigate the ticket machine, ultimately resulting in you needing to ask an employee for help anyways). So skip this, and go straight to a real-live person.
Anyways, I took the RER B toward Saint Remy les Chevreuses. After about 20/30 minutes, I got off at Gare du Nord (Paris Nord).
Then I walked to the metro and took line 5 toward Bobigny-Pablo-Picasso. I rode the metro until Laumiere station, and then I was only about a 5-10 minute walk to St Christopher’s Inn Canal. The public transportation in Paris is really easy to navigate (even as a DC native I would say Paris is much more intuitive).
As I have said before, I definitely recommend downloading offline maps for any city you visit. You can do this in GoogleMaps or use HERE WeGo. This provides you with peace of mind in case you get lost and do not have access to WiFi (although, even if you forget to do this, in most cities, it is easy to find WiFi).
Once I got to the hostel, Nicole (my sister) was already there. As per usual, I arrived out of breath and sweating from carrying all of my stuff (and some of Nicole’s things that she had me bring over…okay let’s be honest, more of Nicole’s things than my things). Nicole saw me first and ran up to me, and was just as excited to see me as I was to see her < 3. This was the first AdventuresWithAlexa that I was sharing with another person (and so glad it was with my favorite little sister). Once we were all checked in, we both showered and lounged around a bit before our Free Walking Tour (of course I signed us up for one of these). I booked our tour through SANDEMANs NEW Paris with Zach (I found out in Amsterdam that you collect stamps with each SANDEMANs NEW Europe tour in each city, where you can earn rewards like discounts on some of the paid tours). We met our group by the fountain on Place St Michel. Just like other SANDEMANs tours, it was easy to find – you just look for the people in red SANDEMANs NEW Europe shirts. Zach walked us through the city, and shared his vast knowledge of the history of the different buildings, landmarks, neighborhoods and more.
I will say that Nicole and I were not as into this tour as other free walking tours I have been on, but I think this was less of a reflection of Zach, and more about Nicole and I being more interested in catching up and taking pictures at each location (this is where I discovered how amazing portrait mode is on Nicole’s iPhone 8 Plus…I may or may not have bought myself a new phone when I got back home from my trip).
After our tour with Zach, Nicole and I were cold and hungry (we definitely did not dress in warm enough clothes). I am sure that many of you would agree that two sisters being cold, a little tired, and heading quickly towards hangry (for those of not familiar with the term it is hungry + angry) is a deadly combination. We were past the point of making an informed decision about where to eat, and ended up picking some random restaurant. While I do not remember the restaurant that we went to, I remember exactly what we ate. We split croque madame (a ham and cheese sandwich with an egg on top), a cheese & meat platter and wine (I also ordered my beloved Aperol Spritz).
Croque madame or croque monsieur (ham and cheese sandwich without the egg) are definitely a must try while in France. Once we finished eating, we took the metro back to our hostel.
Both of us were pretty tired, so we decided to relax before heading to Gare Jazz to listen to some live music (recommended by our tour guide Zach). This place was so cool! You walk up a long driveway that has tables, chairs, stringy lights, and a food truck. There were a ton of locals outside enjoying a cigarette while talking with friends. When you get inside, there is a small bar by the door, followed by some plastic chairs to sit in while you watch the band. The employees are super strict about being quiet and respectful to the performers (which I loved). Nicole and I hung out, enjoyed some drinks, and talked to some locals (Nicole did most of the talking, and really got to practice her French). Another bonus for this place is that there seemed to be an endless supply of attractive people- so for those of you who are single and ready to mingle, this is the place for you! After we finished our drinks, we made our way back to our hostel.
St Christopher’s Inn Canal hostel had a pretty cool bar with a ton of activities. People from all over the world were drinking, playing games, watching football, and talking. Nicole and I hung out downstairs and had a couple more drinks before heading to bed (and took some more pictures because why not?).
As much as Nicole and I hate waking up early, I convinced Nicole that the best time to get pictures (without having to fight other tourists) was early in the morning. While we were less than enthusiastic about this at 7:00AM, we were both glad we did! We started at the Louvre Museum, where we took all of the touristy pictures with the Louvre Pyramid.
We decided that we would walk from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe (about a 45 minute walk). This was honestly such a beautiful walk- you pass through three gardens (Carrousel Garden, Tuileries Garden, Le Jardin du Carrousel), then walk straight on Champs-Élysées avenue until you reach the Arc de Triomphe. Nicole and I are HUGE Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again fans, so we listened to the soundtrack while we walked through the garden from the movie (the scene where Harry asks Donna to move her purse to her other shoulder so he could hold her hand ❤). The walk took us longer than 45 minutes because we stopped for some shopping along Champs-Élysées avenue. The best purchase of the day was definitely my new black bag from Longchamp (only $95 versus $145 in the states).
After we finished shopping it was about 12:00PM, and there were tourists as far as the eye could see. When we got to the Arc de Triomphe, we waited for our turn to snap a photo, and followed the lead of tourists before us by stepping into the street to get the “perfect shot.”
This time of day was super busy with people and cars, so if you want a shot with the Arc de Triomphe, I suggest getting there as soon as the sun is up, so that you are free to take as many photos ask you want.
At this point, Nicole and I were starting to get hungry, and decided it was time to find the perfect spot for a picnic. On our way to the store to get food and wine, we passed through the most beautiful outdoor market.
One of the joys of walking around without a plan, and getting lost in the city is that you stumble upon beautiful markets like these!
Eventually we made it to a small grocery store, where we bought some cheese, crackers, tomatoes, cookies, and wine for our picnic. There is a small grassy area, next to a carousel, that overlooks the Eiffel Tower (on the other side of the Seine) that was the perfect spot for our picnic.
This was my favorite part of my trip to Paris. It was so relaxing to sit with Nicole: No stress, music from the carousel, wine…can you imagine a better way to spend your afternoon? After hanging out for a couple of hours, and taking pictures around the Eiffel Tower, Nicole and I were ready for a nap before our last night together in Paris.
After our nap, Nicole and I grabbed some drinks at the hostel bar, then headed back to the Eiffel Tower to watch the lights twinkle, while drinking some champagne. It turns out we sat next to some other Americans and got to enjoy some music and signing with our champagne. One thing to note is that you will definitely want to bring your own champagne. Nicole and I brought one bottle that we bought from the store, then haggled with the men selling champagne near the Eiffel Tower. While we only paid 6€ for the bottle, we definitely got what we paid for (yuck).
I think it is safe to say that Nicole and I took our fair share of touristy pictures (especially with the Eiffel Tower). But hey, when in [Paris], right?
We spent our last night in Paris, then the next morning, Nicole showed me around Sartrouville (the town where she lives) before hugging me goodbye and seeing me off at the airport.
All in all, it was an amazing trip, and I would say that AdventuresWithAlexa is definitely up for another EuroTrip with Nicole 🙂