It’s been a few weeks since our trip to France and as we’ve been cooking on all 4 cylinders since, what with the One Room Challenge and all of our holiday content, not to mention some upcoming big projects (stay tuned!), but I’ve now hunkered down to share our itinerary because if you ever get to the chance to plan a trip to France I’d highly recommend so many things that we did. They took my breath away. I mean, look at my face here! That’s the look of pure joy (and it’s all staged because we’re pulled off to the side of the road 😉 ) Because we were there for a wedding, it took us to a part of the country that I’ve always wanted to go to but hadn’t prioritized yet. It was a life-long dream really.
Instead of creating a comprehensive Paris guide, I’m just noting a few bucket list items that may or may not be the Eiffel Tower. You can find those in all tour books. These are worth it, but not mentioned as often. Here we go!
I’m going to separate it into sites, lodging, and food, and a few shops
Honestly, we were just trying to keep under budget for most of this trip so we didn’t book fancy AirBNBs. We had family members with us so we were mostly going for economy and space, but even then we had a really great experience with our hosts and experience. Typically, I prefer staying in hotels because of the ease of management (not cleaning!), but I see so many benefits to staying in home rentals, like way more space, that you just don’t get when real estate is at a premium. I worked at a large hotel corporation after college, I know they’re trying to get the most bang for their buck!
From the airport we rented our car with AutoEurope (best prices! Honestly, book through them in advance and you’ll save a bundle) and headed to Mont Saint-Michel, in the region of Brittany, which is a few hour drive. The drive is gorgeous as the highways are lined with trees and beautiful greenery (not like the billboard infested highways of the Western US). I also appreciated the signs indicating major site-seeing destinations for each major monument.
- We stayed about 20 minutes south of Mont Saint-Michel at an AirBNB in Bazouges-la-Pérouse, which turned out to be a real Bed and Breakfast. I didn’t quite catch that detail in the description, so in true BNB style, it was a large house with rooms for the guests and a shared bathroom. Would I have deliberately chosen this scenario? Nope. But the host, Claudette, was so lovely, that we appreciated the foreign experience more. She didn’t speak English but between Paul’s French immersion from elementary school and my college French, we were pretty proud of ourselves. Plus, she created a wonderful breakfast the next morning with items she had made (rhubarb spread…mmmm!) and baked goods from the boulangerie next door. Here’s the link to book.
- We then traveled down to the Loire Valley and stayed in a town called Huisseau-sur-Cosson, about 20 minutes from the small town where the wedding would take place. It’s a gite, which is a holiday home for renting out, where the home of the owners is also situated on the property. The home is super lovely and we appreciate the large amount of space for Paul and me along with his family. Here’s the link to book. This is it below:
- We spent the next few nights in Poissy, just outside of Paris, for the second part of the wedding celebrations. We stayed in an apartment that was clean and spacious for our needs though parking was a bit funny. It was pretty basic but a good price. We did love the little downtown of Poissy. It felt like a small town, but then again, there were 4 boulangeries within walking distance, so you tell me what “small town” means. Here’s where we stayed.
- For the last part of our trip it was just me and Paul and we stayed in Paris at the C.O.Q. Hotel. Like most hotels in Paris, our room and public spaces were quite small, but the interior design was just right. They took great care into making it fresh, hip, yet classic with spot-on details. I especially loved that they stuck to their theme and kept chickens in the back. Ha! Perhaps my favorite part of our stay at the C.O.Q. was the daily breakfast that was included in our stay. I LOVED it! And it actually did look this picture perfect every day. Europeans just do breakfast so much better than Americans. Everything was fresh and delicious. And healthy! (Except for my seconds of pain au chocolat 😉 but…when in Paris…pregnant!)
And the breakfast tables were arranged so that you could sit anywhere in the restaurant area. So lovely! Our room was super itty bitty. Ha! In fact, the bathroom was so small we had to open the main door in order to close the shower door. It took a bit of finagling with a pregnant belly, but we were cleansed and all worked out.
Mont Saint Michel
Bucket list worthy. I had been wanting to go ever since we were forced to watch Mindwalk freshman year. It’s always looked so other worldly and you know what? It felt that way too. You can see it as you approach the small town and it’s really a vision. It’s a large destination for visitors and really well prepared for them too. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much there was to see on the actual mountain. There are shops and restaurants, all touristy of course, but it made the walk up more interesting. And let me tell you, it’s not just a little quaint walk up, you’ll be huffing and puffing if you are 7 months pregnant.
We ate at a creperie in town that evening, but it was ho hum so no recommendation provided.
We were trying to figure out what stop we should make between Mont Saint-Michel and Paris and decided on Rouen. I’m so glad for the spontaneous choice. It’s the largest city in Normandy and felt super walkable and had the addition of more medieval timber architecture mixed in with the more classical architecture. Plus, the cathedral is probably one of the most insane ones you’ll find in France. Besides the Familia Sagrada, I’d say I’ve been most impressed with the detailing of Rouen’s.
I’ve already written about Chateau Chaumont at length in its own blog post here. Just put it on your bucket list. It’s located near in the Loire Valley at Chaumont-sur-Loire. You must.
In case we had time, these were the chateaux on my list:
- Chateau de Chenonceau
- Chateau d’Azay
- Chateau de Fougeres-sur-Bievre
- Chataeu de Villandry (incredible gardens)
- Chataeu de Chambord. We made a quick stop here on our way from the valley back to Paris. We only had time to walk around the exterior, but it was worth it. It’s monstrous and extraordinary. I hear it’s one of the most impressive so if you have limited time and are into extravagance, here’s a good bet.
- Chateau de Cheverny
- Chateau d’Amboise–Leonardo da vinci wasburied here
- Chateau Royal de Blois–we spent the afternoon after the wedding exploring the town of Blois, which is so so beautiful. We loved walking around and there were a lot of gems. But I think we liked the stair cases the most.
Villa Savoye in Poissy
Le Corbusier’s residential masterpiece. If you’re a lover of minimalism or just architectural history, this was really an experience. I wish they would pay more attention to the actual interiors because it felt like it needed some TLC along with more staging. It’s in Poissy, where we just so happened to be staying, so it was an easy trip for us. I don’t know if I’d go out of my way to see it if you’re in the area for a short amount of time. It’s more of thing to do if you’re 1) really into it 2) been to Paris a number of times.
I know Versailles is on most people’s radar already, but we were showing Paris to family members who hadn’t been before and Versailles really is out of this world extraordinary. PLUS! I hadn’t ever been to the gardens before (shocking!) and I have to say that I was blown away. There’s so much to discover and they bring in current artists and landscape architects to add in installations, some better than others.
You could easily spend a full day here and I was rather bummed out we only gave the whole tour a half day. With the long lines of the entrance and then throughout the interiors, it takes awhile. Plus, it comes with an audio tour. I always love me an audio tour. Just one request–more seating! I found myself having to sit down. One fun note. We took a break drinking hot chocolate at Angelina’s (a legendary Paris fixture) and it enhanced the experience so much. Plus, I really needed to sit down 😉
Christian Dior exhibition
This one is a little more timely. This retrospective on Christian Dior at Les Arts Decoratifs, right next to the Louvre, is phenomenal. It’s so well done, I’d recommend booking a trip to Paris just to go see it. But hurry, it only goes until January 7th, 2018! If you can’t go, I’d recommend the catalog (on sale now!)
Musee de L’orangerie
If you’re looking for an alternative to the most visited museums in Paris, Musee de l’Orangerie is a great stop. I mean, all museums are crowded in Paris, but this one is great for modern art, but also lovers of Monet. I’m a die hard Monet lover and this is the place to go for his oversized lilies. They’re kind of like Rothko in that they envelope you. Plus, they had a great Dada exhibition going on at the same time. It’s small enough where you can see it all and not feel overwhelmed.
Restaurants in Paris
We stuck to an all-French cuisine and never tired of it one bit. Don’t be fooled by the picture. This was taken in Rouen and has nothing to do with the Paris restaurants. It’s just cute.
I ate here last year when I visited and loved it and then again this time and didn’t love it. Maybe it was an off night? It’s super popular and the price is right. There are a few locations around the city.
My friend, Anne, a Paris travel expert of Pret a Voyager, took me here and I loved it. The decor felt modern yet Parisian.
Paul is a big David Leibovitz fan and found this from his list. The clientele was older and not touristy. It was good, but I wouldn’t say life changing.
This one we got as a recommendation from another customer in one of the baby shops we visited. She says she recommends it to all her guests. It was near Le Saint Regis near Notre Dame, but on the cute side streets. They are certainly used to tourists, but the food was so so delicious that I’d totally recommend it. I got the burger and it was AMAZING and Paul got the duckling with polenta and baked figs. It came with a starter of butternut squash soup and foie gras. We loved it so so much. I’d recommend this one the most.
As I mentioned in last week’s post, we spent the majority of our time in Paris on a baby shop hunt so we limited our tourist time to the retail experience.
If you have anything to add, I’d love to know about it! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram! I’m super active on Instagram, especially when I’m actually in a place so you can see what I’m doing. Follow along on @HouseLarsBuilt