It was difficult to leave our lush B&B in Provence, but we had a train to catch. In Avignon, we turned our little Fiat in at the TGV station and prepared for our high-speed train ride direct to Paris!
The TGV train averages a speed of 186 mph per hour, and although it is around 430 driving miles from Avignon to Paris, we were there in a little over two hours. The train ride was direct and we had first-class seats which were big and comfortable and in a quieter compartment. There was a café car where we purchased sandwiches for lunch, which we enjoyed with a half-bottle of red wine we brought with us and the last of our macarons. The ride was seriously smooth.
In what felt like no time, we were on the streets of Paris. Bonjour Paris!
We were on foot and, initially, we were a bit disoriented, and it took us a while to find our hotel. In the end, we made it to Hotel de Londres Eiffel. After so much research, one thing I was prepared for was the size of hotel rooms in Paris. We had left the wide open countryside and I knew our new room would be small in comparison. It may have been tiny, but on the 6th floor, we had a fantastic open-window view of the Eiffel Tower.
The busy, fast-paced streets of Paris were a shock to the system, when only a few hours prior we had been meandering the open fields of Provence. I wasn’t expecting such a dramatic temperature shift either. Paris felt bitterly cold with biting winds compared to the warm sunshine we’d had in the south. In those first hours, we were adjusting to the hustle and bustle, but it wasn’t long before I fell in love with The City of Light.
I realized that, Paris, although still filled with tourists, is unlike other bustling cities I’ve been to. The attitude is much less rushed. Parisians will sit with a coffee or a glass of wine and cigarettes and chat for hours. Even in the cold, people will relax at outdoor tables, any time of day, enjoying a boisson (drink) and usually the luxury of electric heaters nearby keeping patrons warm.
Our Parisian tour was a whirlwind three days. Each morning, we ventured out into the chilly morning air in search of a new boulangerie or cafe for breakfast. We feasted on warm croissants and crusty breads with butter, fueling for the day ahead. We walked everywhere, never once taking public transport.
Like Provence, we didn’t have much of an itinerary for Paris, but those few days seemed to unfold for us effortlessly. Alastair, having been to Paris before, had a good idea of the sites we should see.
We took an evening river boat tour, floating down the Seine, and saw Paris lit up at night as our boat passed under the many different bridges. We spent hours touring the massive maze-like Louvre, with its seemingly endless hallways of art galleries and saw the Mona Lisa. We visited Notre Dame and watched some pretty impressive street performers. And, we strolled the gardens in Luxembourg Park.
We even locked an imaginary lock on the love-lock bridge and threw our imaginary key into the Seine below sealing our love forever :)
It was challenging to find a lot of vegetarian options in Paris, and I often ended up eating things like pommes frites (french fries), cheeses, and bread and butter, but those things are so good in France that I was still happy.
Besides, there was always wine, and always dessert!
One night, Alastair found a vegan restaurant in the fashionable district of Le Marais. The area has a lot of art galleries, trendy restaurants and cobblestone alleys. I would have liked to really explore Le Marais, had we had more time in Paris. The vegan restaurant was very small, but that dinner may have been the best meal I had in France.
We rented bicycles, and rode all around the city on one of the days. It was so much fun! It happened to be extremely cold that morning and I hadn’t packed a coat, so I literally layered on four sweaters and two scarves to keep warm for the first part of the day.
I looked ridiculous.
At first, navigating the streets of Paris on a bicycle was a bit frightening, but the city seems made for cyclists and it was certainly a lot faster than walking! I quickly felt like I dominated the road with my gigantic cruiser bike with a basket in front, and I actually giggled to myself while pedaling down Avenue Champs-Elysees, which must be the busiest street in Paris.
I did NOT, however, attempt to go around the Arc de Triomphe, staying safely on the edge while Alastair made the mad dash.
Traffic around the Arc de Triomph is pure insanity, with cars flying in from every direction! Alastair launched his bicycle into the chaos of speeding cars and received cheers from onlookers when he made it to the center.
My heart was in my throat just watching him!
It was exciting to tour the city by bicycle. We stopped to visit Sacré-Cœur, the basilica at the top of Paris.
There was an annual outdoor food, wine and cultural festival going on. Lucky us!
Sampling wines in the afternoon is always a good idea :) There were so many people, but it was a convivial atmosphere and we tasted a couple of wines and ate yummy cheese-laden foods.
Riding the bicycles at night was even more fun than during the day. It had been a Sunday, so the streets were a bit quieter and it felt like we owned the whole city.
On our last evening, instead of going up the overly-busy and expensive Eiffel Tower, Alastair and I decided to go up to the observation deck of Montparnasse Tower to get a better view of the city at night. We smuggled Champagne and potato crisps up to the rooftop with us, which we enjoyed while watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle from afar.
Our days and nights were full but never felt rushed. Paris is a beautiful city with so much to see, but what’s special about it is that it holds so much charm and, even with the crowds of tourists, Alastair and I were easily absorbed into its romance.
Paris and Provence are night and day, but I loved them both. It was magnificent to experience the countryside and The City of Light all in one visit, especially with my new husband :)
We had so much fun from beginning to end, but even if only for the fact that it was our honeymoon, it did end up being the most special vacation EVER!