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Real talk: skip the palace, do the garden and hamlet instead. Bring a picnic and relax by the canal. My experience inside the palace was akin, I imagine, to sheep being shepherded to market. Long lines, cramped, filled with screaming toddlers (one punched me in the back, no joke!), and not much else. The walls are lovely and the apartments of the ladies’ in waiting are cool, but the main portion of the palace doesn’t provide a lot of context for how pre-revolutionary royalty lived. The furniture, the personality, is all stripped away to make room for more people. If you’re dying to go, go on an off day very early. That will at least give you the space to take the interiors in, and enjoy the grandiosity of it all (especially that hall of mirrors).
Now that you’ve been warned, the good stuff! The grounds surrounding the palace are gorgeous and enormous. Like, you can’t walk all of it in a day. The canal provides a beautiful view of Versailles up on the hilltop and is the perfect spot for a picnic. Marie Antoinette’s hamlet is just such an historical oddity, it must be seen to be believed. Entranced by the writings of Rousseau, Marie Anotionette decided she needed to get closer to nature and enjoy a simpler life. So as a gift the King built the Queen her own peasant village. In this pastoral retreat, her ladies in waiting and she would dress up like milk maids and basically pretend to be agrarian workers. It’s like trying to emulate the migrant workers’ experience by going apple picking. The generous view is that the hamlet provided the Queen with an escape from the formal court life at the palace and the opportunity to relax in a more casual atmosphere with her friends. Perceived by the public as horrendously condescending and out of touch, the Queen’s refuge was a lightening rod during the revolution. It was renovated recently, and honestly, was so charming and beautiful, I felt immediately at ease there. The rolling hills and vineyards surrounding the hamlet provide a pastoral backdrop for overripe gardens and the subtle din of the water-wheel. It feels slightly magical and set apart from time. It’s definitely worth the visit.
Jardin Tuileries +33 1 44 50 43 00
By far my favorite museum in Paris. This teeny museum overlooks the Jardin des Tuileries and houses two series of Monet water lily paintings, known as Nymphéas. The gallery was built in an oval shape, to accommodate the panoramic view that Monet intended. Just sit and stare into blue. The museum, being on the small side, is quiet and uncrowded, so taking in the paintings in solace is actually possible.
1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur +33 1 40 49 48 14
Do you love paintings from the 19th and early 20th century? What about art nouveau furniture and decorative arts? You’re in luck then! The d’Orsay has some of my favorite exhibits, like a gorgeous art nouveau room made of carved wood, an insane scope of impressionist paintings, and a miniature of the Opera House. It’s larger and more popular than the l’Orangerie but nowhere near as crazy as the Louvre. I’d look over at those lines and just shudder.
52 Rue de Saintonge (3rd) +33 1 42 74 41 28
You would never expect to get Mexican food in Paris, but here we were, eating rajas tacos and munching on pecan paletas. The food is fantastic, which is to be expected with the chef being from DF, but the cocktails were my favorite in Paris. The La Guepe Verte was the group’s favorite: a refreshing mix of jalapeño infused tequila with cucumber, cilantro, agave, and lime.
Experimental Cocktail Club
37 Rue Saint-Sauveur (2nd) +33 1 45 08 88 09
Killer cocktails in a speakeasy bar in the Marais. I’m kind of over speakeasies in general, but the drink list here is delicious, and if you come on the earlier side, you can avoid the crowd.
142 Rue Montmartre (2nd) +33 1 40 13 12 33
David Lynch’s club in Paris is a gilded wonder. It’s members only, but come by at 11:30 and tell the bouncers “you just want to go in for a drink” and they’ll probably let you in. They play awesome music (kanye, azalea banks, funk/soul) and the drinks are expensive but delicious. But my favorite thing about this place is the dance floor people watching. So many characters, so many dance moves, it’s just a good good time.
3 Carrefour de l’Odéon +33 1 44 27 07 97
We ate dinner at the very busy, very busy, and just okay L’Comptoir du Relais, and kept seeing happy people walking past us with hot waffles. Some were dripping with butter, others were smothered in whipped cream, and then a crepe would go past us, just to mix it up. It was too much to bear, so we skipped dessert and went waffle hunting instead. What we found was a charming little wine bar with waffles and more. You can get a snack of salami and wine, some piping hot croquettes, and then finish the meal with some warm waffles smothered in nutella. It’s standing room only, a bit hectic, but really fun.
1 Rue Armaille (17th) +33 1 47 63 88 29
This was our neighborhood wine bar and main hook up for fresh vegetables. After week two, I was somewhere between a sailor with impending scurvy and a medieval king with a case of gout. Basically, I needed something other than cheese in my system. Serving up delicious Bordeaux wines with a fresh crudite platter, this little wine shop was a great place to have a light meal on a rainy day. Here are the two best quotes from our adorable waiter: “You will have a brainstorming And I will come back!” and “I could not tell you we’re from California because you do not speak out of your noses.” Non-nasaly California girl BTW!