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Paris is Always a Good Idea: Paris Part 1

Updated: Nov 2, 2020

Unfortunately, Audrey Hepburn never actually said that. It was actually Julia Ormond in the Sabrina remake. It makes the quote slightly less glamorous, but nonetheless true. Well at least until this pesky pandemic. I always suspected I'd love Paris but I didn't attempt it until I could reasonably afford to do Paris properly. Spoiler alert: no one can ever really afford to do Paris properly. We went in fall 2019 because we won a week in a fabulously located apartment in the Latin Quarter with round trip airfare at a fundraising event for The Baltimore Station. It's an amazing organization that helps veterans recover from addiction and we've supported them for a few years. We won the trip in a "Best of Live" raffle, and were not actually present that night. When the texts started coming in from friends that we had won, we couldn't believe it. We loved it so much we were determined to buy the trip again in the live auction this year. Then came the Covid-19 and the event got cancelled. A few months later they decided to sell raffle tickets. Fortune smiled on us, and a lot of raffle tickets; we won again! But there's a catch, the owners are selling the apartment in 2022 and the trip has to happen by December 2021. I have new skin in the vaccine game. In all seriousness though, if you know me you know literally everyone in my home is high risk and if we ever want to hug my sister again we were already showing skin like we were Bella Hadid.

As much as I'd love to see the gardens at Giverny and Versailles in the spring, I highly doubt France will be letting us back in by then. Summer is completely out of the question, as air conditioning isn't really a thing in Paris and my husband will complain non-stop. So the goal is to go the first week in October, because that's usually when Paris Fashion Week is happening. We were one week too late last year and it was heartbreaking. I actually had one tour guide look at my outfit and tell me I was a week late. He got the world's greatest Trip Advisor review. I have spent a lot of time trying to plan my perfect second trip to Paris and I am going to share with you all my grand plans in a multi-part blog series. Don't worry I'm not going to make anyone read everything I have to say about Paris in one sitting.

I really love to plan things, anything, but especially vacations. A week ago, while pondering what to do with my newly found pandemic joblessness/managing my high risk child's schooling, I said to Pat maybe I could be a travel agent. He laughed and said NO! "Can you imagine being on the other end of the conversations and late night calls you make to our travel agent?" Oh...yeah, no. Side note, her name is Christina Lepre, and she's a rockstar. While she specializes in Disney, it's not her only destination and I love to throw new things at her. Like me, she revels in complicated details. I am not sure I actually like going to Disney as much as I like making 8 tab spreadsheets and complaining about getting up at 6 AM, 180 days out to score my perfect dining reservations. So instead of charging for my services, I am just going to write about my planning process on the internet for free.

Planning travel in 2020 is like parenting in 2020. Sure you could read a book or ask your mother but they're both probably out of date. It certainly won't hurt, and some things are probably still true, but a lot has changed. You mother probably knows as much about Duolingo as she does about Owlet O2 monitors. So that leaves you with friends and the internet. Both, you should probably take with a grain of salt. Crowd-sourcing is a really cool feature of the modern world but if you ask the internet what to do with a child who has an upset stomach you're going to hear everything from "take them to the hospital they have cancer" to "this is why you shouldn't vaccinate." Somewhere in between you'll probably get a few "give them ginger ale" or "here's a link to the BRAT diet." Travel recommendations are similar. Just like your parenting style, the internet doesn't know how you like to travel either.

Which begs the question: do you know how you like to travel? I know how I like to travel: without Scarlett. Oh I mean, quality time with my spouse is important so we prefer to leave our 9 year old with her grandparents and enjoy the most romantic city in the world as a married couple. Hahahahaha, yeah that stuff is true, but also traveling with my kid isn't that fun. She really doesn't like new things and she's really particular and that makes her a poor traveling companion for us. We love Disney, not so much because it's the happiest place on earth, but because we can drink our rum dole whips while she identifies every type of duck in the bird paddock on the Maharajah Jungle Trek in the Animal Kingdom. I know you're thinking "isn't there a bird paddock with ducks to identify at the Maryland Zoo?" Yes there is, but there isn't a margarita stand right outside of it. Who cares about Mickey when she can learn to say hello in 11 different languages in the World Showcase while I drink vodka slushies?

Pat and I really enjoy being slightly more adventurous. For example, we want to try both the orange and lemon vodka slushy. Ok ok, enough knocking on Disney. We do like to try new things, taste new food, see new sights, but when we find things we like, like vodka slushies, we want to do those things over and over again. The apartment we stay in, is located on a street with markets, fancy food and wine shops, up and coming restaurants, but we basically end every night in the same cafe. They've got a dozen Belgian beers for Pat, a robust Bordeaux list for me and this cheese pizza that's 5 different kinds of fancy cheeses on french bread. Sometimes someone will have something else that looks interesting, like Campari with an orange slice and a spoon, that we'll order and Pat will try not to look American as he gags on it. But when we really like something, we know it and we indulge in it. I guess Scarlett comes by it honestly. Side story, on our third night we asked the bartender where we could get coffee in the morning. He said here, and I said no I mean at like 7 am. He says here, we open at 7 am. But you close at 3am, I say. Right, we close at 3 for a few hours and open again at 7 am for breakfast. I love the French.

So besides that oh so extra cheese pizza, what did we love enough to do again? First and foremost, Champagne. We splurged for the private tour guide through Trip Advisor, who actually booked through Viator, who gave Best of France Tours a fraction of what we paid. We'll be hiring Frederick again and paying them directly. I will also not argue with him again about where I think we should go and let the expert be the expert. Frederick isn't the one who told me I was late for Paris Fashion Week, he was the one who told me to put down my phone and look at the beautiful scenery. We are also going to book a day trip to Bruges with Best of France. This could either be a wonderful idea or a terrible idea. I will no longer drink wine that costs less than $40 or champagne from outside of Epernay. Will we lose the ability to drink beer not brewed by trappist monks? Surely we won't give up our hazy New England IPAs...surely.

Second, we will be catching up with Clement from Secret Food Tours. Not only did he tell me I was a week late to Paris, but complimented my ability to walk on the cobblestone streets of Montmartre in heels. Then he said something snarky about how Americans show up wearing their sneakers and backpacks like they're about to go hiking through the woods that don't exist in the middle of Paris. Pat secretly thanks me for not letting him dress like that. We know we like to do food walking tours, we once did a killer chocolate walking tour in London that I'd sell my soul to do every single day. Clement meets us in front of the metro on a rainy day and tells us he has some degree in how food affects the brain and I think he is crazy and that's not a real degree. But I couldn't have been more wrong and he's the most brilliant man I have ever met. He successfully got me to eat Roquefort cheese and sweet wine. We may do both Le Marais and Saint Germain, we loved this experience so much.

I'll leave you with that and hopefully wanting more. In the next post I will discuss the things we missed out on last time that we're going to take another stab at when we return. Eventually we'll discuss all those crowdsourced suggestions from the internet that I've whittled down to things I actually want to try. In the meantime, I want to apologize to my mother who knows more than I am willing to give her credit for on the internet. About both Paris and babies. If you have any specific questions or recommendations please let me know.

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