In April, Angela and I visited Paris for the second time in six months. After the frigid cold of December, it was a true delight to experience the city and its people in the springtime.
Some people might ask “why visit Paris again so soon after you’d just been there?” That’s a valid question that I think deserves an answer. While Angela and I loved our experience in December with thinned crowds, clear skies, and cheap prices, we wanted to go back while the gardens were alive and the city streets were humming with people. April was a perfect time for that! Children are still in school and I was able to find a solid deal on the flight to Paris. Furthermore, hotels were far from peak prices. We’d get to see the city we loved so much in a whole different light. Besides, there was still so much to do!
Getting to Paris
For this trip, I set up a Google Flights alert for round-trip business class flights originating on the west coast heading to Paris. The nice thing about Google Flights is that you can set up multiple departure cities for alerts, so I selected Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Salt Lake City (LAS, LAX, SFO, SEA, and SLC) as departure cities and Paris (CDG) as the destination. Eventually, fares dropped to around $2,000 per person from a normal price of more than $3,400 per person on the SEA – CDG route. I was able to book an Air France flight on the way out and a Delta One flight on the return. I booked Southwest flights to position us on the LAS – SEA route using our companion pass (so we only pay for one ticket and both Angela and I get to fly).
Unfortunately, Air France was experiencing labor unrest around the dates of our departure. There was a chance that a strike would lead our flight to be canceled and a travel waiver was granted. Luckily, I was able to switch us to a Delta flight on the outbound – we’d just have to wait a little longer to try Air France (which we eventually did on our return from Mauritius).
Seattle to Paris
Our first business class (Delta One) flight with Delta was a true delight. The seats were extremely comfortable and the service was exceptional. We flew on a 777-200 on both the outbound and the return with the seats in a herringbone configuration – I found this particular configuration extremely comfortable. We both got a fair amount of sleep on this flight so we arrived in Paris well-rested. The flight attendants were kind and attentive and fueled my addiction to sparkling water with lime.
Renaissance Republique – A great hotel in a happening neighborhood
On this trip, I decided we would stay in a less tourist laden neighborhood and booked us a room at the Renaissance Republique with breakfast included for the first part of our stay. The location of this hotel is great! It really felt like we were in the middle of a neighborhood rather than separated into our own enclave of foreigners. In fact, there was a large rally held for Basque independence about a block away from the hotel during one of our nights there. It was great to feel like we were part of the city. The hotel itself was a happening spot, with people queued up for dinner on many of the nights.
We stayed in an Artist Studio Suite, which had more than enough room for rest and work. The on-site breakfast was exceptional, with an amazing assortment of baked goods produced in-house in addition to tasty omelettes and other egg dishes. We like having a hearty breakfast when we travel as we tend to only eat breakfast and dinner on most days and the one provided at this hotel definitely fit the bill.
Check-in was quick and they stored our bags after we changed to head out for the day. The staff spoke excellent English (always a plus given that I tend to butcher foreign languages) and always seemed eager to help us with whatever we needed, including dinner reservations.
I highly recommend the Renaissance Republique if you’re looking for an affordable, but pleasant, stay in a hotel in Paris. Try to get a room with window seats like we did:
The gardens were green and we walked forever
We ventured out into the city shortly after we stowed our luggage. Our first destination was the Jardin des Tuileries. We previously visited the garden in the winter and it was pleasant. However, the grounds in the spring were an entirely different level of beauty. Luckily, I was able to capture two beauties in one picture:
The greenery made an excellent backdrop to the statuary within the park:
After an enjoyable walk through the garden, we stopped at Angelina Paris for breakfast. The drinking chocolate at Angelina is one of my favorite things in the entire world and I can’t imagine going to Paris without having it!
With our hunger sated, we started off on a long day of walking. We were lucky enough to see many of the sites that we didn’t have time for on our last trip. We first passed the Palais Garnier which we’d be lucky enough to attend a ballet at later in the week:
We saw the beautiful Église de la Sainte-Trinité de Paris on our walk and Angela snapped this picture of it alongside blooming flowers:
We meandered past the vivid Moulin Rouge and snapped a few shots down Paris’s unique streets:
Finally, we arrived at our first major destination for this trip, Sacré-Cœur. After climbing quite a few stairs, we were able to snap some shots of the misty city before turning around and admiring the beauty of the architecture before us:
The interior of the cathedral is visually stunning. Unfortunately, visitors are discouraged from taking pictures so we were only able to snap a couple:
After touring the cathedral we took the long way back to our hotel and got a great night’s sleep in preparation for a busy second day.
The great church tour and we scale a tall building
Our second day in Paris was a continuation of our first, with a determined stroll through great French architecture. First, though, a brief photo shoot along one of the many bridges over the Seine.
Our first major stop was Notre-Dame de Paris, a stunning example of French Gothic architecture and one of the true icons of Paris. As with most great works of human ingenuity, reading about and looking at pictures of it is one thing, but being there to appreciate it in person is another entirely. I would rate this building as a must-see for any visitor to the French capital city. A look at the main entrance reveals the grandeur – it is absolutely stunning:
The detailed stonework on the sides of the building is incredible, in my opinion. I appreciate the artisans who produced it:
The interior was equally beautiful with the vaulted ceilings seeming to stretch forever and the stained glass windows revealing an intricate artistry that is hard to contemplate:
Back to the exterior, we were treated to features of the cathedral from different directions that we hadn’t been able to previously appreciate:
Before we left, Angela paused for a quick selfie with the one and only JPII:
Next, it was off to Sainte Chapelle. This particular church is located inside the Ministry of Justice grounds, making it an interesting place to visit. While the exterior is beautiful here, the interior really steals the show:
I highly recommend a visit to Sainte Chapelle if you can manage it. The colors inside are so vibrant and the stained glass so detailed that I think missing it would be a mistake.
We next headed to the Panthéon, a building with a varied and interesting history. It started as a church, transitioned to a secular structure, and then flip flopped twice again. It is now a permanent mausoleum for famous French persons, including Voltaire and Marie Skłodowska-Curie. It also played host to one of the most important demonstrations in modern physics, the hanging of a large Foucault pendulum to demonstrate the rotation of the earth.
The edifice is imposing and grand and, as you approach, it is obvious how important the building is:
The interior is expansive and beautiful. The ceilings alone are a cause for celebration and the subject of many photos, I’m sure:
There are clear reminders that it was originally a church:
The secular part really wowed us, though. The range and quality of the artwork, including the pieces in the mausoleum, was exceptional:
Outside, the Eiffel Tower was beautiful in the distance:
We walked some more and saw a replica of the Statue of Liberty in a small park:
Finally, continuing our journey to the top of tall buildings, we went to the Montparnasse Tower to take in the views from the observation deck. We were greeted with a beautiful day and amazing vistas as far as the eye could see:
We took a short stroll through a beautiful park on the way back to the hotel to rest after a busy two days in Paris:
Ringing bells and our first European ballet
After a day of work, it was back on to the streets of Paris for another stop at Notre-Dame de Paris. We were unable to secure tickets to the top on our first visit so we returned to get a good look at the famous bells and gargoyles:
After our trip to the top of the cathedral, it was off to Opéra Bastille for a matinee ballet performance of Romeo & Juliet. We had previously attended a ballet in New York City during a trip in February and were somewhat underwhelmed. However, we wanted to experience another couple of performances to really know whether we liked ballet or not. This performance was the first of two in Paris and helped us understand what we like and don’t like about ballet.
This particular show was a more modern take on the art form and was much more lively than the traditional ballet we had previously seen. I really enjoyed the movement and frantic action. That being said, this show ingrained in me the belief that ballet just isn’t our thing. We were going to give it one more shot later in the week, but that would likely be it for ballet for us.
After the ballet we wandered around Paris before and after another wonderful dinner. One of my favorite things about the city is that history seems all around you at every corner and you never know when you’re going to happen across an interesting piece of architecture:
Switching hotels for the view, the food level of a department store, and one of the best meals ever
I previously mentioned that we’d be attending another ballet later in the week. It would be at a different venue, the Palais Garnier. As such, and to give us a bit broader experience on this trip, I decided to move us from the Renaissance to the W Paris, Opera located directly across the street from the opera house. We were upgraded to a huge suite with an amazing view of the Palais Garnier from our room and it was easy to walk outside and take some snaps from street level:
Also located nearby was a department store with a whole building devoted to food and foodstuffs. We spent quite a bit of time there walking around, looking at and smelling the spices, and buying chocolates for ourselves and others.
The lobby lounge at our hotel was a nice spot to enjoy some espresso and Pierre Herme macarons:
We also had one of the best meals of our lives on this day at a small restaurant named Chez Monsieur. We sampled charcuterie, escargot, veal stew, lamb, and amazing desserts. Without a doubt, it was some of the finest food we’ve ever eaten and the price was definitely right – it cost about the same as a single person’s dinner at a nice place on the strip. If you know me, you know how much I value my food. I can say, without any hesitation, that if you find yourself in Paris that you should take a trip to this restaurant.
A beautiful spring day in Paris
Our last full day was absolutely gorgeous. The weather was perfect, the sky was clear, and we took a ton of photos as we strolled around the parks and gardens of Paris with little plan on where we were going and where we’d end up:
After a long day of strolling, it was off to the ballet again. This time we were treated to the up and comers from the Parisian ballet company. It was a treat seeing so many young performers, but this visit really solidified the fact that we are not big fans of ballet as an art form and would much rather spend our time with others.
The real star of the show was the venue. The Palais Garnier is opulent in a way that is hard to describe in words, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking:
A good night’s rest and a successful journey home
We had an early morning the night after our second ballet. We woke up, ate breakfast, caught a taxi to CDG, and retraced our flight path in reverse. Our CDG – SEA flight was amazing from a service standpoint with the Delta flight attendants surpassing my expectations in almost every way.
My glass was refilled every time it got close to reaching empty. I was provided with warmed cookies and milk from the purser without even asking. It was a great flight and really raised the bar as to what I expect in a business class cabin.
Southwest got us home to Las Vegas safely and gave us some time to contemplate how lucky we are. As soon as we left Paris, I was already thinking of returning – it is truly one of the world’s great cities and I’m glad we were able to spend some time there together in the spring. We can’t wait to go back!