(Caitlin) Since living in NYC, Ryan and I made a pact to travel to Europe at least once a year. In the spring, we found plane tickets on sale and booked our flight. We decided with all the planes, trains, and subways we would be riding, we should only pack a small roller each. I took this as an extreme challenge - 8 days in Europe in a carry-on.
After planning our itinerary, I spent an hour in my closet mixing and matching different looks and finally landed on these 14 pieces from styleNmotion. Thank goodness Ryan let me use some of his roller for my pjs and workout clothes!
After a quick 6 hour flight, we were in Paris! We rented an AirBnB in The Marais and fell in love with the location. We were so close to all the sights but still felt like we were in a neighborhood with all the locals. There were windows that opened up onto the street with adorable flowers.
After unpacking, we headed to a cafe around the corner that came recommended. La Favorite was the perfect first restaurant in Paris and reminded us a lot of The Smith back home in New York City.
(Ryan) Still jet lagged, we wanted to make the most out of our first day, so we powered through and headed to Sainte Chapelle. I had a rather moving experience walking up the dark, spiral staircase and then seeing light bursting through the largest stained-glass windows I've ever seen.
On the same, small island as Sainte Chapelle is one of the largest attractions in Paris: the Notre Dame. Even though the line looked really long, we only waited about 15 minutes before we could walk around the inside of the cathedral. The architecture and history of the church is amazing.
Across the water from Notre Dame was a tiny pastry shop called Odette where we stopped for a quick bite and coffee. I'm not even sure how to describe these treats: they aren't macaroons, but they aren't donuts. It's something in between.
And its magical.
We then walked through the Luxembourg gardens which surround an old palace that now houses the French Senate. There were beautiful plants, fountains, and a view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
After a long day of walking around, we ran into a small restaurant called La Chaumière across the bridge form the Notre Dame. We had a great, cozy dinner outside and learned that you can have ravioli as an appetizer!
(Caitlin) After 10+ hours of sleep we were ready for day 2. We assumed that we could walk around our neighborhood and find a cozy breakfast spot.
Nothing was open and the streets were dead. We were shocked! Ryan found a place on Yelp that was perfect. We both got the "American" breakfast at Le Bucheron. This consisted of coffee, orange juice, a croissant, and eggs.
We continued walking along the River Sienne to the Louvre. What we didn't know is the first Sunday of each month, admission is free. Which explained the 3+ hour line to get in.
We decided to snap a few photos and keep on walking. We'll do the Louvre next time we're in Paris.
We strolled through the Jardin des Tuileries and Champs-Élysées to see the Arc de Triomphe. Then we took the Metro to the Palace of Versailles.
A friend gave us fantastic advice when visiting the palace - buy a guided tour to skip the HUGE line outside. It was only $10 and well worth the two hour tour.
After the private tour of the kings and queens rooms, we joined the crowds and wandered around the rest of the palace. I'm a sucker for palaces and really anything with a chandelier. The Hall of Mirrors took my breath away.
We loved visiting the Palace! Not only was it beautiful but we learned a lot of European history and how Paris came to be. We took the subway back and headed to another recommended restaurant for dinner, Comptoir Gourmet. Delicious meats and cheeses!
(Ryan) The next morning we decided to just get breakfast on the go again. Apparently I hadn’t learned my lesson that it’s pretty hard to just “wing” breakfast in a foreign country. We stumbled upon a beautiful, tiny creperie, but it didn’t open for another hour and we had places to be.
On the same block we found La Taverne de larbre sec and had another “American” style breakfast, this time with a baguette.
After breakfast we headed towards the “most Instagramable spot in Paris”, according to Caitlin. It was another palace with a beautiful inner garden. But what made this palace special was this black and white checkered courtyard with lots of uneven pillars. There were tons of other people there to take selfies and even some higher end photo shoots.
At least I got my Insta.
After I got my 'gram, we walked a few miles along the Sienne to the Eiffel Tower. There were huge lines, and security was really ramped up around the tower so it was hard to get close. However after walking back a ways, we were able to get a few good styleNmotion shots.
(Caitlin) After resting back in our room for a few hours, we headed to our favorite dinner in Paris, Au Bourguignon Du Marais. It was a full Parisian moment. We sat outside, side-by-side, looking out onto the streets (judging everyone).
Next on our itinerary was a night time river cruise. There were a lot of people and it rained most of the time, but it was worth it just to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle!
I love capturing Ryan Instagraming! He took the most incredible Hyperlapse of us moving around the Eiffel Tower.
(Ryan) On our last morning in town, we headed out for a Parisian food tour. We’ve been on a food tour kick recently because we find it's such a great way to get familiar with a neighborhood, its history, and obviously the cuisine. The same company that we’ve done a few tours with in San Francisco and New York City just opened a Paris tour.
I wanted coffee before we got started, but unfortunately picked a spot that had a credit card minimum. I bought two Pain au Chocolate (croissants with chocolate inside) to meet the minimum, and after meeting our guide of course we stopped at a bakery for croissants! It’s a good thing I could eat them all day.
After a history lesson about the part of town we were in, we set off down a very old alley way that has a street market full of smells and food. Our first stop was a French cheese shop with all sorts of unpasteurized cheeses from around France. The shop was very proud to carry cheese from basically every corner of France.
Our guide was very accommodating, making sure we only got food that we would eat. He asked if we ate meat, which Caitlin doesn’t, but I figured since we’re in Paris I should still try some, right? We grabbed some slices of what reminded me a little of salami (but way better).
We stopped at a fish vendor and bought a half-dozen oysters. Apparently in France they score oysters off of their size (4 being the smallest and 0 being the biggest). We bought some 3s which were the biggest oysters that I’ve ever eaten. I can’t even imagine what a 2 or 1 is like (apparently a 0 is like the size of a plate!).
We unpacked all of our goodies and ate in the middle of the alley way. I was absolutely stuffed when we were done. I thought the food tour was over…
But it was certainly not! As soon as we were done with our cheese, bread, meat, and oysters, we headed to a creperie for some very simple butter & sugar crepes. These were a mess, but were so good!
We strolled through streets and hills and heard more about Paris’s history. We saw schools, universities, and an old building that was converted into mausoleum during the revolution. It was awesome learning so much about Paris while eating local food.
As we neared the end of the tour, I started to pick up where we were. We were winding through some side streets just south of Notre Dame when a very familiar sign came into view. It was Odette’s! The pastry shop we visited on our first day.
Our guide apologized over and over but we welcomed round 2. They were just as good as the first time.
After hours of eating and walking we needed a break. We went back to our AirBnB to relax for a couple hours. We had planned on visiting Montmarte, another trendy neighborhood to the north, but were just feeling too tired.
That evening we picked up a couple baguettes from a bakery (there are so many of them!) and went to a nearby park. We unpacked our leftover cheese and meat on a park bench and took in the city.
(Caitlin) The next morning, we woke up early, took the metro to the train station, and took the two hour train to London. We were too early to check into our AirBnB, so we stopped for brunch along the way.
We still had time to kill, so we jumped on the Original Bus Tour. There were several different lines, dozens of stops, and we had all of our luggage with us.
It was a great way to see most of the tourist spots in one day. I was surprised to see Big Ben under construction.
We've done hop on hop off buses in several cities and loved them! London was not one of them. Too many stops and traffic made the tours very long.
We finally checked into our AirBnB (not impressed), dropped our luggage, and went to an Indian restaurant down the street. Durbar was incredible!!
(Ryan) The next day in London, we really lucked out with breakfast. We found a tiny breakfast place called Eggbreak just a few blocks away from our AirBnB. It was a little off the main road, which was great because there wasn't a wait.
We both had delicious meals with bottomless coffee. The water bottles even had different fruits in them. It was perfect for us.
Originally we planned on doing the bus tour for several days, but being stuck in traffic on the bus really wore us down. Instead, we decided we’d make the 3 mile trek through Hyde park, pass Buckingham Palace, all the way to the Palace of Westminster (Big Ben).
It was a long walk, but really enjoyable. Hyde park is beautiful. One of the ponds that we walked by was filled with humungous swans.
Buckingham Palace is always gorgeous. There weren’t as many people crowding around this time, so we were able to make our way closer to the gates and get a few good pics. A horse & carriage left the palace while we were standing outside. It’s so interesting to see their old traditions mixed with modern technology like cars and armored gates.
When we finally made it to Westminster, Caitlin eyed several iconic red telephone booths and had to get a photo!
We really wanted to take a spin on the London Eye this trip, but the stars just didn’t align and timing was off. Instead, we took a river cruise along the Thames with a great tour guide.
The river tour was only about a half-hour long, but it ended in the City of London (there are two “cities”!) where the Tower of London and the London Bridge are. We got off the boat and scrambled to find a place with afternoon tea, but couldn’t find any! Who would have thought that it would be hard to find a place for tea in London?
After a very busy day, we went back to our AirBnB and relaxed for an hour before both of us could hear our stomachs rumbling. We didn’t have many dinner plans, so we hopped online to get a few ideas. Just up Kensington Road we saw a bunch of good looking restaurants.
Once we got there, an Italian restaurant really caught our eye called Osteria Basilico. They only had seating available in the basement, but we took our chances. It was incredible. Caitlin had a truffle pasta that was out of this world. We were worried at first because we were the only people eating downstairs, but by the end of the night the place was jam-packed.
(Caitlin) The following day we booked a day trip outside London. We headed to the coach (bus) station and met up with our tour guide and group of about 50 people.
We had an hour bus ride (thank god for wifi!) to Windsor Castle where we explored the town, did an audio guide of the castle, and grabbed lunch.
We hopped back on the bus for about 45 minutes to the city of Bath. The city is known for it's old Roman Baths but has everything (including a Burger King).
The Roman Baths were incredible to see! The site/museum takes you through the history, building, and people through an audio guide and then you enter the actual baths.
After another hour and a half on the bus we came to our final stop, Stonehenge. I'm not going to lie, I was the least excited about this stop and it ended up being my favorite. Just crazy to think about these HUGE stones in the middle of nowhere from 5,000 years ago.
On our last day, we were exhausted and over people in general. So we went back to our favorite restaurant, Eggbreak, for brunch and went then straight back to the room to read and watch shows. We ventured out for afternoon tea at Candella, which was amazing!
We ended the trip eating takeout pizza in bed watching Orphan Black on Ryan's laptop.
Until next time!