Last year, Joe and I decided somewhat last minute (as our trips tend to be!) that we wanted to go on a New Year adventure. Our original plan was to see the Northern Lights, but for some reason in our planning we kept stopping on Paris. Something about it seemed so…romantic! Take the normal glitz and wonder of the City of Lights, and add in a holiday that prides itself on fireworks and an excuse to excessively drink of champagne and we were SOLD! We had to see what Paris’ New Year’s Eve celebration was all about.
I have to admit, I had been to Paris a couple of times before and honestly was not sold. I know it sounds so “first world problem-y” of me, but it was just so busy and touristy. I knew in my heart of hearts that I really wanted to give Paris one more try. I mean, what could be bad about a place seemingly so glamorous? Well, I am soooo glad I did! There is something different about the city when you’re able to treat a trip there as an endless date! I mean, the city just oozes romance at every turn.
New Year’s Eve is always hectic, no matter where in the world you are. I feel like there is always the expectation to have some grand plans, and usually a scramble to get something planned out that always ends up more expensive than intended. We arrived in Paris the morning of December 31 and made our way to our incredible Airbnb to meet our host, Didi. She was so kind and even left us a bottle of red wine to ring in the New Year with! I spent a long time perusing Airbnb to find a place that was just right and let me tell you—This. Place. Was. Amazing. It had a typical chic Parisian vibe, but the best part was the insane view of the Louvre, just steps away! I swear, you would pay around $2,000/night if this were a hotel room with this kind of location. Needless to say, we didn’t pay near that amount. Airbnb for the win yet again!
We had just enough time to take a nap to erase our travel weariness, shower, change, and work out our elusive plans for the evening. We knew that we wanted to partake in the huge celebration to ring in the New Year on the Champs-Élysées, but that was about it. We scoured the area around the Champs-Élysées for a spot to chow down on some authentic French food. Well, we instead came across an English themed pub, Sir Winston. It was close to where we needed to be and we were able to make a reservation for dinner only an hour in advance. Win/win!
After dinner we ran to the nearest grocery store to grab some bottles of champagne to take onto the Champs-Élysées. Silly us, glass is not allowed in the secured area for watching the celebrations! After downing one of the bottles while sharing with new friends we met, we wandered over to the celebrations at about 11:30. I consider this perfect timing. There were droves of people who had been standing around for hours in the cold trying to get the perfect position near the Arc de Triomphe, where all of the fireworks take off. The area we found was farther back, but not so crowded and we could see the light and firework display perfectly well. I would not recommend going any earlier than 11:30.
The celebration was stunning and the best way to say “au revoir” to 2016 and look ahead to a brand new year.
Side note and a theme that we saw in every touristy area we visited while in Paris: security was at a maximum level. Wherever there are big groups, there are barricades, metal detectors, and purse searches. We felt very safe the whole time we were in the city. I suspect that security will be even tighter this year.
A late night mixed with jet lag and, admittedly, a bit too much bubbly resulted in a wake up call somewhere around noon for us! We took it easy wandering out to the Seine first thing, and stopped at Les Antiquaires for a lunch (breakfast?) snack of wine and cheese. One thing to know about Joe and I is we LOVE artisanal cheeses. Could probably eat them for every meal, so if for nothing else Paris already had our heart with its shared love of cheese!
We then made our way back over to the Champs-Élysées to see our celebration spot in the daylight. To our surprise, the street was still shut down and the most adorable Christmas market, Villages de Noel, lined the perimeter. Even better, there’s a New Year’s Day parade every year on January 1 from 10am to 6pm. This place really kept the Holiday spirit alive for us! While there, you have to try the vin chaud (hot, mulled wine). It is the perfect Holiday drink to keep you toasty out in the cold air!
Our sightseeing for the day took place in two locations. First, was the bridges of the Seine. Each bridge is a wonder of its own. They each have their own character and history. Pont des Arts may ring a bell as the “love locks bridge”. Lovers from all over the world used to be able to attach a lock to the bridge and throw away the key into the river, symbolizing a love to last forever. A few years ago, the city took down the existing locks as the weight (45 tons!) was causing structural instability to the bridge! Glass was put up instead, making it much more difficult to attach a lock. Now, I did say “difficult” not “impossible” 🙂 There are several lamp posts where people have creatively begun attaching locks to keep the tradition alive. We rebelled and definitely joined in on the fun! There are street vendors nearby who sell locks to attach.
Our other sightseeing location of the day was Notre Dame on the way to dinner. The cathedral is open every day of the year and is free to enter. I was a huge Disney fan growing up (still am!) so I couldn’t help but use my dorky Quasimodo voice from The Hunchback of Notre Dame to say “the belllllssss” a time or two while we were there!
We made it to our nearby dinner spot, L’ilot Vache on Ile Saint-Louis from there. Oh my goodness…the escargot here will be one of the best dishes you ever try. The atmosphere here is great making this restaurant an absolute MUST when visiting Paris!
The forecast called for rain on Day 3, so we opted for an indoor activity, touring around our next door neighbor The Louvre. This museum is truly so huge you could dedicate an entire day to it. We, of course, had to find the Mona Lisa and see what all of the fuss was about. She has her own room, is surrounded by bulletproof glass and hundreds of tourists taking selfies. The museum itself is beautiful and historic. Certainly worth an hour or two of your time.
For dinner that night, we visited Cafe Latin in the trendy and walkable Saint-Germain neighborhood. I ordered the Steak Frites I had been dreaming about since we arrived and loved every last bite of it!
After dinner we sauntered through the neighborhood to Prescription Cocktail Club for a night cap. Their expertly mixed cocktails are almost too pretty to drink. LOL just kidding, we would never waste alcohol!
As I’m sure you can tell from most of our pictures, we had some really cloudy weather for our first few days in Paris. Normally, you can see the Eiffel Tower from just about anywhere in the city, but we had gone three days and not even caught a glimpse of it! We finally decided to just bite the bullet and head in the direction of this famous landmark. Well, miraculously, the skies began to part just enough right as we arrived at the Eiffel Tower to catch a full view all the way up to the top. Our timing was impeccable!
Pro tip: to avoid the lines to get in and the lines to ride the elevators up to the first floor, make a reservation at Restaurant 58 Tour Eiffel in the tower, even if just for lunch. The prix fixe menu is somewhat pricey, but worth the time saved in line for the experience.
Good news, there’s another Christmas market right at the base of the Eiffel Tower! This was the perfect spot to sit and watch the tower light up once the sun went down. If you’ve never seen it, the Eiffel Tower at night is just about one of the most stunning, breathtaking sights you’ll ever see. Every hour on the hour, the lights spontaneously sparkle for five minutes. Every time the show starts, you’ll hear gasps of people in awe around you. Ok, maybe those gasps were from us each time, but it really was beautiful!
For that night’s activities, we headed to Moulin Rouge with the tickets I bought Joe for Christmas. Yes, you read that correctly. I bought Joe tickets to Moulin Rouge for Christmas. I knew it was a burlesque show, so definitely expected it to be racy, yes. But I think I expected a little more tassels and a little less boobs! We definitely both got a chuckle out of the full-time, full-frontal display! Regardless, the show was incredible. Dancing, singing, acrobatic tricks, swimming with snakes…all of it, awesome! I would definitely recommend going for the champagne package when purchasing tickets ahead of time. It costs only a few extra dollars and gives you a full bottle of champagne to drink during the show.
We had one more day in Paris until it was time to go home. I think we decided we hadn’t quite had our fill of champagne yet on this trip (yeah, right!), so we made a day trip to Reims in the heart of the Champagne Region of France. Our train left from the Garre de L’est train station in the middle of town. We purchased tickets there and it cost about €60 ($70) for us to ride First Class, round trip. The train ride takes about 45 minutes to reach the cute little town of Reims.
Once we arrived, we came to find that several of the most famous champagne cellars were closed for the entire month of January, so that left my favorite, Veuve Clicquot out of the question! Taittinger, however does stay open. We booked our tour for €30 ($35) each, which included a tour of the cellars complete with tons of history and a tasting at the end.
After the tour, we walked back to the center of town to make sure we had enough time to catch our train. If you want some champagne to take home, stop at Le Vintage. They have an incredible selection and the employees are very helpful.
Well, it’s safe to say that our time in Paris over New Year certainly changed my mind on the city. Fun fact: I literally bawled my eyes out crying for probably 24-hours straight the night before leaving/day of traveling home. Not even kidding. Getting to experience the glitz and glamour of The City of Love with the one you love during the Holidays is a feeling unlike many other. Joe and I have sworn to come back and experience the city during every season…so, I think I’m going to do some planning now on when we can visit next! Merci and Bonne Année (Happy New Year) Paris!
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