We planned a last minute trip to Strasbourg, France via Paris. It was so last minute that everything we booked was pretty well unrefundable. We looked at going thru either Frankfurt or Vienna but settled for Paris because we have talked about going to Paris for years but haven’t quite gotten there . Perfect opportunity… there settled, we booked thru Paris, after booking our hotel and flight, next was the train to Strasbourg, getting our accommodations. All set…… so I thought.
About a week before we were about to leave, I got an email from Rail Europe, stating that there was a strike in France and my train would be affected. I was a bit worried but highly optimistic that all would be fine … well it wasn’t. When I checked into our hotel in Paris I talked to the concierge about the email I got. He basically told me to cancel my plans and stay in Paris. He said 90% of the trains were not running out of Paris. I was able to cancel my hotel in Strasbourg and then applied for a refund for my train ticket, as expected my train was cancelled. I promptly got an email saying that the first half of my train ticket would be refunded, the second half of the ticket was also refunded about a week after we returned home. I was really bummed that I couldn’t go to Strasbourg as this was the main reason for my trip. But a few extra days in Paris wasn’t the end of the world.
We set out exploring the city. We stayed at the Westin Vendome, across the street was a Christmas market, La Magie de Noel which was in a new location this year (instead of on the world famous Champs-Élysées) taking place in the world-famous Tuileries Gardens by the Louvre museum. There were rides, food vendors, arts and crafts for sale, a skating rink , champagne tent, even Santa made an appearance, with his elves.
We had tickets for the Louvre Museum for Friday morning at 10 am, we had these pre-booked from home. It was raining and quite cold out, we lined up and made our way in. The security was tight and took a bit of time to get in. We got the head sets for a self guided tour. We spent about 4 hours in the museum walking around and taking in the beautiful art pieces. We saw the famous Mona Lisa – the line to get close to this portrait was crazy … last time I was there the picture hung on a small wall, now it was in the centre of the room with so many people taking selfies etc.. very strange – I guess since the movie Da Vinci Code it had to be moved, with more security around it.
Our next stop was High Tea at the Ritz – I booked this from home as well. The Ritz is such a beautiful hotel with a stunning garden. There were a few shops inside that we looked through as we were a bit early for the 3 pm seating. We didn’t eat lunch, which was a mistake because when booking I didn’t realize that we would be having French High Tea – which consists of only pastries …. yes you heard correctly pastries for lunch and lots of them, along with tea and champagne. Wow that’s a lunch I don’t normally have.
We took the hop on hop off bus tour around the city, getting off and exploring different areas was great. We got off at the Eiffel Tour, since it was a Saturday, it was crazy packed, we walked around the area, had lunch at Le Croq Restaurant, sat on the patio. All the heaters were on so it was nice and cozy, the food was amazing and the service was great. We jumped back on the bus and got off at the end. We walked over to Galerie Lafayette and Au Printemps – the windows were magically done, so many people-both these department stores compete for the best window displays each year, drawing crowds from all over. We went up to the roof top at Galerie Lafayette, what an amazing view of the city and there was a skating rink up there, music playing, in summer this is a cafe. That night we went for dinner to Fouquet’s – first opened in 1899, the restaurant is famous for its red awnings on the Champs-Elysées, which spreads over 2 terraces. For decades Fouquets has been the place where people would meet especially those from the Cinema industry, and hosts the annual gala dinner after the César ceremony (which is the French equivalent of the Oscars). The food was amazing and the ambiance was spectacular, pictures of movie stars line the walls – all signed. This is the restaurants 120 year anniversary. We walked along the Champs-Elysées and made our way back to the hotel. The next day was pouring rain, we took the bus tour for day 2 , it was actually raining so hard that we didn’t get off to see Sacré-Coeur Basillica. This was one of the places we really wanted to see but didn’t. We got off and went to a cute pastry shop for a coffee and snack. As the weather cleared up we ended up walking back to our area, and stopping at Saint – Germain l’Auxerrois church.
We did the night tour as well, not sure why we thought this might be a good idea, they gave us blankets but still it was so chilly, I’m still not sure why we did this and wouldn’t do it in December again.
We had dinner at Le Mondail – its very casual, nothing crazy special but the food was good and we were cold and hungry so it was perfect. After dinner we walked back towards the hotel and stopped into Frogpub for a drink and watch the football game – if we knew this pub existed we should have eaten there – food looked amazing.
The next morning we got up early and walked toward the Eiffel Tower, we had tickets for 11 am. It rained on and off, so when it started to rain we found a place to have breakfast. The timing was perfect, it poured while we ate and when we were done, the rain stopped. Getting inside the gates of the Eiffel Tower , it was like a small parkette, a pond, with lots of ducks, and people sitting on the grass and enjoying the morning. It was a very windy morning, we had ticket to go to the 3rd level, when we first got there, the elevator was closed and they weren’t letting people go because of the high winds. We stayed on the 2nd level for a while, took in the amazing views of the city and by then the 3rd level was open. We took the elevator up, it seemed to take forever .. and I’m not usually scared of heights I was a bit sacred in that glass elevator. Getting out to the elevator we were greeted by a nasty wind… crazy.. one person couldn’t turn the corner as the force of the wind was pushing him backwards. We did a quick loop around looking at the views, then we got back in the elevator and made our way down – the ride was much faster going down than up ….
We walked back towards the he Champs-Elysées, we had lunch at a pastry shop – coffee and cake – yum I could really get used to this… Back at the hotel we stopped in at the champagne bar they had set up, such a cozy room all done up in wintery decor. That night we walked along the Champs-Elysées, since it was our last night, I took the tripod out and took some pictures. We had dinner at Le Drugstore. It was a really great restaurant not at all what I expected. We had the set dinner menu paired with Veuve Clicquot champagne. Each course came with a different pairing of champagne, the sweetest was with dessert at the end of our meal.
What to wear in December in Paris may you ask – I did check the weather ahead of time and it said anywhere from 8 C to -1 C … with rain … I packed umbrellas , a winter wool coat, a vest to wear under my coat if it got too cold, sweaters, turtlenecks and my blundstone boots ( I did pack fashion boots but only wore them once) , mittens, hat and scarf. I could have brought my warm winter coat for sure, as the wind was colder than I thought at times especially in the evenings.
Have you visited Paris, what was your favourite spot to visit?