After my dad passed, I needed a mental health break. Nothing cheers me up more than traveling. And Paris is one of my favorite cities. We had been planning on going, too, before my dad passed away.
So away I went with Jenny to visit Paris, France for a week in late September. This was my second visit. I first visited Paris in 2017, almost exactly five years prior in same month of September 2017. It seems to be one of the best months to visit – the weather is mild, other tourists are not overwhelming like in summer time.
We splurged (using Chase Sapphire points) and got business class seats from Houston > CDG on Air France. Air France offers one of the best international business class flying experiences – it’s exceptional, just as I remembered. Air France is perfect in every regard – service, presentation, food, seating. We loved it.
We stayed at the Hotel Joyce by the brand Astotel, which is three (3) star mid-range hotel in 9th arrondissement area. It was fine for the price point of a couple Benjamins per night.
Some highlights of the trip I remember:
Napoleon’s Tomb: I was impressed – and simultaneously perplexed – by the entire thing. First, it’s massive. It’s got to the be one of the largest modern “tombs” for anyone in the world. It’s entirely built out of marble and stone – all custom made. The actual casket is like the size of a semi-truck trailer, all red marble. It sits in this rotunda inside a giant building of more marble, surrounded by a couple other related family members and military people. I asked myself like “I thought Napoleon Bonaparte was unliked by France, hence the exile?” Well, they must have changed their minds because this is bonkers. It must have cost a fortune to build back in the 1800s.
The Pantheon: On the same epic scale is The Pantheon, which is on the Left Bank. It’s also a giant marble museum monument of French history, this one has hundreds of tombs of people like Jean-Jacque Rousseau, Voltaire and Victor Hugo. I’m sorta weirded out by “tombs” in general so I only took a quick peak and left the bottom floor. The top floor has cool stuff like a Foucalt pendulum and statues and paintings depicting French history. It’s in impressive building.
Eiffel Tower: We booked a group tour, got a little history and went up. I was expecting a mad house tourist trap and to be disappointed with the experience. I have to admit, the Eiffel Tower has charm to it. The tour was great and the views from the top (at night) were amazing. It was totally worth it.
Galeries Lafayette Le Gourmet: Across the street from the Galeries Lafayette shopping store, is the food court. I had passed by this on a prior trip and didn’t think of it just looking through the windows. This time, I finally went inside. It’s so vast and there’s so much to do. There are dozens of epicurean food places to eat in every cuisine worldwide. The wine store on the top level is one of the most impressive wine shops I’ve ever seen – they have fine vintages from every major French producer. The grocery store on the bottom level has many unique French food items, a great place to pick up some things to take back home. It’s a fantastic place to visit.
Le Comptoir Boutary: We stumbled upon this place near our hotel. It’s a small gourmet dining restaurant. We had no idea what to expect and didn’t have reservations. It was incredible. The service, food and presentations were amazing.
Le Creme de Paris: Amazing hand made fresh crepes. I got the classic ham, cheese, carrots with lettuce. It was a feast.
Pont Alexandre III: The most famous and “beautiful” bridge in the world. At night, you feel like you’re in the center of all of Paris here. The night views of the Eiffel Tower and Seine river below are spectacular, with all the city lights glistening on the water.
Hermès: Jenny wanted to visit the flagship Hermès store. It’s large and multi-level. We had fun looking at all the expensive things we couldn’t afford. We did buy some cologne, perfume and a nice bracelet.
My Hemingway adventure was a hit-and-miss. Though I visited most of the places he made famous in Paris previously, I’ve always wanted to visit Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Hotel. We tried – and it looked great – but it so small and so busy with a long wait. We gave up after 45 mins and left. We then went to Harry’s Bar, which I loved last time. Unlike last time, however, it was also super busy, too. We did grab a table downstairs which worked out ok.
Near the Pantheon, I did get a picture of myself sitting on the famous Saint-Etienne-du-Mont church steps from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, where the main character Gil (Owen Wilson) waits for the night car to transport him back in time.
Our original trip plans included a high speed train ride down to Bordeaux, but we couldn’t spare the time. To end the trip, we headed down to Versailles. Using Hilton points, we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace for two nights. The hotel was five stars and has a great spa and lovely grounds. The morning breakfast was great. We got placed in a room in the newer wing and had an unfortunate incident with down pillow allergy, but whatever. You roll with it. Versailles was fun to see again – but due to rain, we were unable to explore the outdoor gardens.
On the way back, using credit card points, we flew coach class in American Airlines via Philadelphia to Austin. This is my second time in American international coach class. In general, I don’t like flying American Airlines in coach class internationally – the service is sub-par and the uncomfortable seats are terrible. But what can you do? Roll with it.