What a whirlwind these past couple of weeks have been! Mostly because I was in Europe last month!
Man. I haven’t been to Europe since my sophomore year of college. Which was like…more years ago than I care to admit.
But so much has changed since then! And I know that those changes served me well during my most recent trip to Europe.
The most notable change was that I wasn’t totally, 100% afraid of food.
It feels so weird to admit it now, but when I was in Europe my sophomore year of college, I was in the midst of a nasty eating disorder. In Italy. Arguably the food capital of the world.
Thankfully, a lot has changed since then, so to say that I enjoyed every single second of this European adventure is an understatement.
If I wanted to try it, I bought it. Heck, I might have bought two. I ate it, celebrated it, savored it. I didn’t dwell in the calories, fat, or sugar. I understood that it was a vacation, a time to indulge, and a time to experience two great European cultures through my stomach.
It was one of the best traveling adventures I’ve ever had, and I cannot wait to tell you all about it!
I spent 8ish days in France and England with my two friends, Abby and Kath, and while I was ultimately there for a conference, I made sure to fit in some side travel time.
Our first stop: Paris, France! If you’re interested, you can use the following links to hop around this post (it’s gonna be a big one):
Ready to get super hungry and promptly book flights to these places? Let’s do it.
Eating Our Way Through Paris
How I got there
While I certainly didn’t take the most direct route to Paris, I had a really great time navigating by myself.
I ended up flying into London (it was cheaper than flying to Paris), taking the Tube to King’s Cross Station, then jumping on the Channel Tunnel to make my way to Paris. I mostly just wanted to see what the Channel Tunnel (aka. the Chunnel) was like–it’s a train that goes underneath the English Channel!
Tbh, it was fine. It was just a train that went into a tunnel in England and came out on the other side in France. I probably wouldn’t do it again–flying would have been a bit quicker. But I’m glad to say that I checked it off my list!
Where we stayed
We actually stayed just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Louvre, and I think it was an awesome location. We were relatively close to Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Châtelet – Les Halles metro station.
We snagged a super cute Airbnb that we all loved–the host was a peach, and everything was comfy and safe for three twenty-something girls in a foreign land.
I would highly recommend this location if it’s your first time in Paris. It’s just so…central to so many of the classic touristy places, but it’s also in a primo location for navigating through the less popular areas.
How we got around
My favorite way to explore a city is to walk. I’m a total wet noodle when it comes to navigating anywhere (let alone in a foreign city), but I like getting lost and just…stumbling upon things. Most of that isn’t by design because I get lost very easily. But it’s still a strategy.
So we walked a lot. Like, a lot a lot.
We also took the metro a bit, which was…an experience. I might just be a dummy, but man. The Paris metro is tough. There are so many entrances for a single station, and we definitely chose the wrong one many times. I also ended up buying the wrong metro ticket to take me to the airport, so I was fined €35.
It was…interesting for sure! And we kind of figured it out by the end of my 36ish hours in Paris. But phew. It was tough.
What we saw
In a little over 36 hours, we saw a lot. Highlights were:
- The Eiffel Tower: We made our way to the Eiffel Tower area after dinner, just before 8:00pm. This was great because the sun was just setting and because the Eiffel Tower ends up lighting up for about five minutes on the hour! We honestly couldn’t have planned it better if we tried.
- The Louvre: We didn’t end up going into the Louvre, but we did see the pyramids. They were fine. Really cool to see something in-person that I’ve seen so many pictures of before, but there were a lot of partitions between where we could stand and the actual pyramids. The grounds around the Louvre were beautiful though.
- Notre Dame: And it was looking good for being under construction! It was beautiful when we could see it–there was a lot blocked off due to the construction. But we ended up standing on a bridge and getting a prime vantage point.
I think the only “big” thing we didn’t see was the Arc de Triomphe, which I was fine with. For having less than two days in Paris, I’d say we did a pretty good job.
Where we ate
The reason you’re all here, yes?
First and foremost: It’s tough to eat vegan in Paris without some intense planning. I’m not saying it’s not doable. It is. It’s just a bit more difficult than other places I’ve been–Parisians love their dairy!
If you’re vegan and you don’t mind going out of your way to make sure everything you’re eating is vegan, I highly suggest checking out this YouTube video from Lauren Toyota. She gives some great recommendations, and even though we didn’t end up getting to any of these places, I wanted to. I definitely trust her recommendations!
All that being said, I decided to go vegetarian in Paris. So much of the Parisian culinary scene is dairy-based, and I wanted to experience it.
And boy, did I ever.
3 Carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006 Paris, France
Dinner our first night in Paris was…unique! In the best way possible. We were equal parts exhausted and thrilled we were in Paris! So we wanted to have a casual dinner where we could really experience Paris.
Enter: L’avant Comptoir! First of all, this place is tiny. We stood at a counter, but the restaurant as a whole wasn’t much bigger than a hallway. We went fairly early for dinner (6ish), but I know it was filling up when we left.
Second, the menu…is on the ceiling. On little cards with a photo of each food and its price. It’s a tapas-style restaurant, so you’re ordering multiple things, looking up at the ceiling to figure out what you want when you’re ready to order more food.
It’s silly, but kind of totally fun. Definitely one of the most unique restaurants I’ve ever been to!
The wine was great–we each got a glass of rosé–and we really enjoyed the food. We split a really great caprese-esque salad, a green bean salad, and other odds and ends. But the highlight was the bread and butter.
I’m a bread fan. We know this. This bread was banging. It had some sort of crust that was so tasty, and they had a giant plate of homemade butter on the counter that everyone just took a knife to whenever they needed it.
It was just a super unique experience, and even though they didn’t have a ton of vegetarian options, I’d highly suggest checking it out.
Le Sarah Bernhardt
2 Place du Châtelet, 75004 Paris, France
On our way to our cooking class (more on that in a bit), we decided to get some breakfast. Obviously. Because we were in freaking Paris.
We didn’t really have a place in mind, so we just happened upon a cute cafe that was near the class–Le Sarah Bernhardt.
They had a really great deal: a “French Breakfast” special that included your pastry of choice, a hot beverage, and an orange juice. All for €7.
I got a fantastic pain au chocolat and an americano. The orange juice was furry (aka. pulpy), so I skipped most of that and just focused on the chocolate croissant. It was so good, and the first of many carbs that were to be had that day.
La Cuisine Paris
80 Quai de l’Hôtel de ville, 75004 Paris, France
This is going to make us sound way fancier than we actually are, but Kath ended up winning two seats in a French cooking class for the time we were there! What are the chances, right?
So we all chipped in for a third ticket and had one of the best experiences of the whole trip.
It was a crepe-making class, which was really exciting, considering:
- I know that it’s a bit of a process to actually make crepes
- I’d never had a crepe before
The instructor was so nice–he was actually from Texas, but he had been living in Paris with his wife for many years–and the class was super intimate and hands-on.
We made two different crepes: a buckwheat crepe stuffed with a mushroom béchamel, and then a wheat crepe stuffed and topped with salted caramel.
It was so much fun, you guys. I mean, I cook a lot. As I’m sure you know. But I learned so much from this class. From the ideal way to cup your hand when you’re cutting things to knife-sharpening to the fact that mirepoix is actually a technique rather than a set of ingredients to the differences between Parisian baguettes. It was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken.
And I mean the food. It was heaven. I’m a crepe fan, guys!
Everything was incredible, and if I ever get back to Paris, I’d 100% go back for another class.
Du Pain Des Idees
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
Probably the place we were most excited to hit in all of Paris! Du Pain Des Idees is a famous boulangerie in Paris, and they have loads of different breads and pastries behind their counters.
Between the three of us, we ordered six different pastries. Whoops.
Some were incredible; the almond croissant was one of the best things I had all trip, and the pistachio chocolate escargot (it’s a croissant, just round! Not snails) was delicious. Some of the others were…meh.
I think it’s still worth the trip; they definitely have unique pastries and the bakery smells…so yum!
L’as du Fallafel
32-34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris, France
So. Falafel is huge in Paris. I had no idea. Nor had I had a legit falafel before.
Since we had breakfast, crepes from our class, and pastries already, we weren’t super hungry. But our bellies were fueled by our “When in Paris…” mentality, so we decided to scope out some falafel.
L’as du Fallafel is probably the most famous falafel restaurant on this street. And there are many.
But we ended up not waiting more than 5 minutes for our vegetarian falafel pita situation, and we split it between the three of us.
It was pretty good! The sauces were great, the falafel were flavorful, and the veggies were yummy. It’s street food, but it’s an experience I’m glad we had!
Le Garde Robe
41 Rue de l’Arbre Sec, 75001 Paris, France
After going back to the Airbnb and relaxing a bit (over some wine, obviously), we decided we wanted one more meal in Paris. So to dinner we went!
Le Garde Robe is a small wine bar with snacks, cheeses, and bread. Our kind of place.
We probably got…three bowls of bread? It was ridiculous. Along with a cheese board, a vegetarian bowl*, and wine.
Again, I wasn’t blown away by this place, but it was good. Plus, everyone who worked there was so nice, and the wine (which is mostly natural) was delicious.
*I learned that the French definition of “vegetarian” doesn’t quite equate to the US definition of the word. “Meat” typically means red meat in France, but stuff like chicken, fish, pork isn’t considered meat. So when you say, “I’m vegetarian,” they sometimes think you’re just avoiding red meat. In fact, the vegetarian bowl came with some sort of sardine mixture.
All this to say: be sure to specify you don’t eat any kind of meat, chicken, pork, etc.
Would I go back?
Oh man. On one hand, I’m like, “If I ever have the chance to go back to Paris, I’d be a dummy to pass it up.”
But on the other, I think I’m good. At least for a while.
Don’t get me wrong. I had an amazing time exploring Paris. Especially with friends! That said, I hit most of the “major” touristy things during my time in Paris, and I don’t really have a huge desire to go back at the moment.
I definitely have a better appreciation for the French culture (and food!) after the trip, and I’d love to experience France outside of the capital city. Really get a feel for what life in France is like.
But Paris? I’m glad I went, we had a great time, but there are a few other places on my list that I’d rather hit before heading back.
Interested to hear your thoughts though! Have you been to Paris? To France in general? What were your thoughts? Favorite places to eat? I gotta know!
ps. Stay tuned for my next two European recap posts…coming soon!
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