Audrey Hepburn was right. Paris is always a good idea. Every time I go, it's a different trip and I discover new corners of the city (read: bakeries).
Even though there were five of us, we somehow managed to see all the big sights (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, etc.) in the span of about 48 hours. I think we logged over 30 miles running like crazy people all over the city. A little overboard? Maybe, but I'm honestly not the biggest fan of the metro. The smells, the crowds and those doors that slam shut, regardless of whether someone is in the way. Not that I'm speaking from personal experience or anything... Packed as the itinerary was, we still made time for a Saturday morning bakery crawl. #Priorities.
Whether you're seeing it for the first time or not, here's how to pack everything into a weekend:
Day 1: Notre Dame + Louvre (look at it) + Musée d'Orsay
Morning bakery run: Eric Kayser. With a growing number of storefronts in France (I think I counted at least five in Paris as we made our way around the city) and now throughout the world, Maison Kayser seems to be taking over. We visited the original location on Rue Monge and ordered a round of pain au chocolat aux amandes.
Best photo opp: Cathédrale Notre Dame. Instead of waiting in line at the Eiffel Tower, try the Arc de Triomphe or better yet Notre Dame. The best views of Paris have the Eiffel Tower in them, plus the gargoyles are pretty tough to beat. Bonus: it's free to go up for students in Europe under age 25 (the guy let me go even though I'm 26 now, shh).
Mid-morning coffee: Shakespeare & Co. This English language bookstore in the heart of Paris was founded in 1951 by George Whitman. Step inside and peruse the shelves or buy a souvenir canvas bag for 6 euros. The neighboring coffee shop is cozy if a bit pricey.
Favorite museum: Musée d'Orsay. Skip the Louvre. That's right, I said it. I'm not saying you can't admire it from the outside, maybe snap a few pics in front of the pyramid. All I'm saying is that the line to get in often daunting, and once you're inside, the sheer magnitude of artwork is just overwhelming. And the Mona Lisa is, well, a bit underwhelming. Instead, head across the river to the Musée d'Orsay for one of the most impressive collections of impressionism in the world.
Afternoon Pick-Me-Up: Chocolate Mousse Bar at Chocolat Chapon. At this chocolatier, you will find no fewer than five different kinds of chocolate mousse. Just don't ask the guy for two different kinds like I did. Pick your favorite and they will serve it to you in a cone. I strongly recommend sharing - this stuff is rich (and that means a lot coming from me)!
Crêpes for Dinner: Breizh Café. With a long list of sweet and savory creations inspired by the crêpe capital of Brittany, plus an impressive variety of sparkling ciders from the same region, this place is the real deal. And the people that work there are super friendly - hands down the best service we experienced in Paris. Honorable mention goes to Au P'tit Grec on the lively Rue Mouffetard. Since this place was literally a block away from the apartment where we were staying, we ordered our fair share of Nutella crêpes here. They were good but not mind-blowing. I'd say their savory ones looked better - loaded with toppings, they would make a cheap (but filling) lunch or dinner. If you go at night, be prepared to wait in line because this process is a one-man show.
Day 2: Bakery Tour de France + Luxembourg Gardens + Montmartre
Morning Sweet: Blé Sucré.
We kicked off our second day with a stop at this sweet little spot near the Bastille. Famous for their Madeleines, those little buttery cakes, this place offers a tempting array of pastries, including a killer lemon tart.
With one bakery under our belts, we headed to the next, Du Pain et Des Idées, only to find out it's closed on Saturdays and Sundays (what?) Having heard good things, I'm determined to go back and see if it lives up to the hype.
"Lazy" morning: Stroll the Luxembourg Gardens. Or grab a green chair and lounge in the sun - it's what all the locals do. Plus, the people-watching here is excellent!
Coffee Break: Merci. Ever since a friend told me about this concept store at 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, I always make a point to stop by when I'm in town. It's the coolest space that includes an Anthropologie-like store and neighboring coffee shop with wall-to-wall books for sale. It seems they've expanded and added another little café to the mix. Definitely worth a visit!
Afternoon Snack: Macarons from Pierre Hermé. For the final stop on our bakery marathon tour, we decided to go with the iconic French cookie. At 18 euros for a box of seven, or 2.10 a pop, these macarons are a better value and less cookie-cutter than the ones you'll find at Ladurée. The chocolate ones taste like a brownie and a macaron at the same time, in the best way possible. Store them in the fridge to make them last longer.
Photo opp: Sunset at Sacré Cœur. Climb the steps up to the cathedral and take in a gorgeous view of the city. Just watch your bags since this spot is always extra crowded. Then wander around the quaint streets of Montmartre and feel like you're in a scene straight out of Amélie.
Grand Finale: Watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle. If it's summer, bring a picnic and spread out on the Champ de Mars. Cliché but necessary.
Et c'est tout! I hope you found something new to try the next time you're in Paris.