My mom and I are still buzzing from our Paris trip last week — it was her second time visiting since she lived there four decades ago, and the city was even lovelier than she’d remembered. Here’s a recap of where we stayed, ate and walked in case you’re planning a trip (or just wanderlusting, as one does), and of course please add your insights in the comments…
My mom arrived slightly later in the week, so for the first few days, my friend Claire and her eight-year-old daughter Elle were my travel companions. We rented a two-bedroom in the Marais, with wooden beams and big windows. Our place was splurgy, but you can also find pretty spots in the area for less than $175/night, including a lovely walk-up, a sunny flat and a cozy studio; or you can rent a private room in someone’s apartment — like this and this — which I’ve done multiple times before, including in San Francisco this past December and it has always worked out well. (Just make sure to check for positive reviews!)
The first day, we took a looooong beautiful walk alone the Seine. Paris is such a gorgeous city, it’s such a treat to just ramble and soak it up. We also went to the Tuileries, where Elle jumped on the cool in-ground trampolines (and I began spotting Rivedroite bags, haha).
At night, we had dinner with Claire’s good friend Cassi, who has lived in Paris for decades. She brought us to Le Square Trousseau, a neighborhood bistro right across from a small park. We sat down to radishes and butter on the table, then shared escargots and cheeseburgers with comté. We played tic tac toe on the brown paper tablecloth when the kids got restless, but everyone was thrilled when the chocolate mousse arrived — it was decadently rich yet somehow light?
The next day, we wandered around the Marais, which has great boutiques, including Papier Tigre, St. James, Ailleurs, Bonton, Rendez-Vous, and — one neighborhood over — Landline. The reliable crowdpleaser is Merci, a three-story boutique with clothes, home decor, beauty, and gifts. How cool are the fruit and vegetable candles? They also had hot dog candles and grapes soap (if you, like me, get weirdly delighted by food-shaped things).
We then strolled over to L’As Du Fallafel. Their signature sandwich — silky eggplant and crispy falafel with cucumber, cabbage, and tomato tucked into a warm pita, then doused with tahini — has a cult following; the line took 20 minutes but was worth it. That said, some CoJ readers and David Lebovitz insist that Maoz and Miznon are even better, but we didn’t have time to check, so maybe we should all go back and do a taste test. #falafelwars
The Marais is lively and fun and buzzy, and we had a great time.
After a couple days, my mom arrived!!! We moved to a three-bedroom apartment across the river, in the 6th. (Other pretty spots in the area: a charming studio, a sweet rooftop apartment, and a well-reviewed private room.) The family who lived there had children, so the apartment was filled with board games, toys, books and magazines, which is always a treat. The building also had a terrifyingly small elevator, which, needless to say, I did not take.
(Still, it was not as small as the elevator last time I went!!!)
My mom was shockingly not tired despite not being able to sleep on the overnight flight, so we headed to the Luxembourg Gardens, one of the most magical places in Paris. You can relax on green chairs around the fountain and listen to people chatting and birds chirping and feel the sun on your face.
Elle rented a boat to push around with a stick (if it floats farther into the fountain, you just wait for the wind to push it back), and I loved this photo of preteen boys next to very-much-an-eight-year-old!
We then walked over to the nearby Marin Montagut store, which enchanted us with baguette pens and illustrated tea towels. (How cute is the dude who owns it?)
That night, we treated ourselves to an old-school gourmet French dinner at Allard, complete with a mustardy cucumber salad, crusty bread and butter, frog legs, and duck with green olives. VERY delicious.
One bonus of traveling with a little girl is having someone who’s equally excited about lipsticks and reminds you to reapply!
The next day, my mom and I walked a few blocks to…
…the Musée Rodin, where we saw the famous Kiss and, of course, the Thinker. I loved what Rodin said about him: “What makes my Thinker think is that he thinks not only with his brain, with his knitted brow, his distended nostrils and compressed lips, but with every muscle of his arms, back, and legs, with his clenched fist and gripping toes.” The toes! Be careful, they may break your heart.
Since one wonderful part of vacations is the ability to do chill out and do absolutely nothing, we had a picnic dinner at home one evening and watched The Fugitive. (As Lindy West said — unironically — in her brilliant book Shit Actually, “Objectively, there’s only one good movie, and it’s The Fugitive.”)
But one restaurant we reserved way ahead of time: Mokonuts, a gem of a spot in the 11th, run by a couple with two daughters. They’re open only for lunch because they head home at 5 p.m. to be with their kids — “while this would be unusual in New York or Los Angeles, it’s radical in Paris,” says the NYTimes. The meal was seasonal, imaginative and absolutely delightful — the single best bite we had in Paris (we all agreed) was the labneh above, with olive oil, za’atar and lettuce, with soft bread.
On our last morning, my mom and I walked to the legendary cheese shop, Barthélemy. Run by Nicole Barthélemy — a cheesemonger from a long line of cheesemongers — the store smells gloriously stinky and features cheeses of all shapes, milks and sizes. You might as well spin in a circle and point; you can’t go wrong.
Our final night, we took a boat trip with Green River Cruises, which had been recommended by CoJ readers (thank you!). We brought cheese and bread and grapes, and they served cold white wine, and we embarked down the Seine past Notre Dame and Jardin des Plantes and the Eiffel Tower. What a way to end the trip. My mom was in heaven, and the evening — and whole week — felt like a gift.
Since I always love seeing what people bring home from vacations, here was my haul, haha. (Pasta blocks and a baby’s dress from Bonton, a child’s striped sweater from Petit Bateau, soap from Merci, a mug and baguette pens from Marin Montagut, chocolates from Alain Ducasse, and little toys from Landline.)
A few other Paris spots we love, but aren’t pictured: Chez Janou for SUCH a fun dinner spot (make a reservation over the phone or show up before they open at 7 p.m.); Benchy for very cool sandwiches; Dreamin Man for perfect coffee and a laid-back scene; Free Persephone for wonderful massages and manicure/pedicures; the Bourse de Commerce-Pinault Collection for artwork; and the iconic sights like the Louvre, Musée D’Orsay and Eiffel Tower.
Thank you so much for reading! I promise I will stop talking about Paris now lol. Please share your recs below, if you’d like…
P.S. 12 readers share their solo travel photos, and what’s your #1 travel tip?