Hemlock ❤️s Adventure: Paris
Everything to do, from where to saty, explore and relax in Paris, France
Sydney Stephens, Adventurer
Why we went:
The news cycle? Relentless. Your meeting schedule? Packed. The shows you watch? Losing their appeal. May I suggest a trip to Paris?
My European vacation was the result of a growing jealousy as my Instagram feed populated with everyone else’s wanderlust and a healthy serving of ennui about my surroundings. I had a paycheck burning a hole in my pocket and a desire to see The 1975 live in concert and I booked this trip with a few glasses of Sauv Blanc coursing through my system. Regrets? None.
Where to stay:
Personally, I like living like a local when I travel. Or at least local-adjacent. I stayed in Belleville in the 19th arrondissement, right next to the Botzaris subway stop. My Airbnb came with a ceiling so low that you might bump your head when you get out of bed, a friendly courtyard cat, and (of course) no air conditioning—I loved it with all my sweaty heart. This neighborhood is definitely residential and you’ll see families on their nightly strolls and people walking alongside their well-trained and unleashed dogs (America could never). However, it still has the trappings you need for a fun night out. Intimate cafes, incredible food, quaint town squares, and bustling streets with familiar favorites are all within walking distance, so you never feel bored or claustrophobic.
Where to eat:
The outdoor cafe game in Paris is unrivaled. Walk around the city center and you’re constantly greeted by adorable spots with bright woven wicker chairs and—my favorite beverage—Lunch Wine™. So, while you can’t go wrong with any of these smaller spots in the heart of Paris, I can personally vouch for these Belleville restaurants. Every morning, I’d walk to Boulanger & Patisserie to get an espresso and a chocolate croissant. If I was looking for a sit-down breakfast (or lunch), a restaurant called L’Estampe was reliably great with a good mix of menu items. For dinner, I have two favorites: a neighborhood spot called L’Escargot Bar and a (Michelin-starred?) restaurant called Soces. L’Escargot Bar felt friendly and dive-y but served up the richest, butteriest selection of pulled pork, seared tuna, and mashed potatoes I’ve ever seen. Soces also had a warm and welcoming ambience but served up the major quality and medium-to-small portion size of an incredibly posh place. My friend and I feasted on an oyster and margarita shooter amuse bouche, an ahi tuna tostada, and arguably the best steak and potatoes I’ve ever had in my life. By the end of the meal I was threatening to roll myself out of the restaurant. Additionally, I’m not sure if it’s because I live in New York or because Europe is just the best but this meal felt very reasonably priced despite my friend and I dining like King Louis XIV.
What to do:
There’s no shortage of things to do in Paris and if you’re planning a trip I’m sure you’ve received tons of recommendations from friends, family, and acquaintances. Here is my best attempt at a list of quick, non-pretentious tips:
- Download CityMapper! This app is my holy grail for navigating NY subways but it also works like a dream for the (much more intuitive) Parisian subway system.
- Head to the city center on one of your first days. This was my mistake. Although I loved Belleville and living like a local, I didn’t dedicate a full day to the city center until 3+ days into my weeklong vacation which caused a disconnect. Head down there first thing and see the major sights that make you go “oh right, like that one movie about Paris, cool.”
- Versailles is incredible and accessible by train. Eat and hydrate before you go, get ready to walk, and get ready to sweat. I don’t know how Marie Antoinette kept her cool in that place but I guess there weren’t 5,000+ tourists in it with her.
- Bring a book! Even if you’re not a big reader, you’ll never feel more relaxed or Parisian than when you’re sipping on an espresso and flipping through a novel in an idyllic park.
- Parisians aren’t that mean. I didn’t encounter a single meanie on my trip to Paris, however, I also don’t speak a lick of French. I would put forth my best effort at a sentence in French, they would respond in English, and we got along just fine. I’m sure if you’re trying to learn French and converse with people this would be annoying but I kept my ‘I’m new here, please help’ smile plastered on the entire time.
- Museums, museums, museums. Go to Musee d’Orsay and the Rodin museum for sure. If you’re like me and felt The Louvre would be overstimulating, just walk around the campus with the glass pyramid.
- Lastly, the Eiffel Tower is worth the hype. Cancel me, fine! It’s so massive and majestic and the first time I saw it I was truly shocked by the size and scale. Bring a picnic blanket and go for the light show at night. Don’t bring wine or beer because you can easily buy it from one of the vendors in the park. I had an amazing time sipping red wine by the Eiffel Tower and I had enough cell service to call everyone I know.
Not to be annoying, but the highlights of this trip were truly the in-between moments. Our local park was incredible. Every glass of wine along the Seine felt transformative. Each ornate monument felt austere and awe-inspiring. If you luck out with great weather in Paris, I would spend as little time as possible inside and instead hang out at any cafe, park, or street corner that makes you want to sing La Vie En Rose.
It’s a massive privilege to be able to jetset to Paris and the city didn’t disappoint. If you’re planning a Parisian trip, be prepared to be inundated with recommendations and advice and be ready to forge your own path when the mood strikes. You may not have the same travel priorities as me—I think that’s even better. Act on a whim, live the fantasy, and do whatever will make your Paris trip one of a kind.