August 31, 2017 – We got off the plane around 8:50 am and made a beeline to customs. Luckily, it wasn’t far from our gate and there was zero line so we were through within 10 minutes of stepping off the plane.
As we made our way to the metro, we kept seeing armed military everywhere. These guys were in full combat uniforms complete with an automatic rifle at the ready. A chilling reminder of what has been going on in Europe lately.
Our first metro was easy to navigate. We got on at the airport and went directly to the city center (Brussels Midi). We pre-bought our tickets to Paris, so as soon as we got to Midi, all we had to do was wait. Me, always thinking ahead, booked our train to Paris with plenty of cushion time just in case we got delayed for any reason. Well, everything had been going smoothly, so we had to wait 2 hours for our train. Oh well!
I experienced my first pay-to-potty (not really called that, but it’s what I called it). Luckily, we brought some random change that I had saved from my Europe trip 10 years ago so we had the €.50 we needed!
So we waited and waited…
The panhandlers in the Midi station were obnoxious. Not only did we have one come up to us almost every 15 min, but they got so close and put their hands right in our faces. This is where we learned to say no firmly before they even started talking.
It was finally time to board so we made our way to the platform. Luckily this was simple too.
Once we were on the train I started to relax a bit. I was so nervous about all of our transportation since neither of us has really navigated trains at all.
The train was a step up from the metro but it was hot in there! There was a little French kid sitting near us that was so loud the entire time. I thought it was fun listening to him because he spoke French at my level so I understood a fair amount of what he was saying, but Eric was getting so annoyed.
Once we got to Paris, it was time to navigate the metro to the apartment. We had to change trains once, and then walk for about 10 minutes from the final metro destination to the apartment. At first, figuring out exactly which metro line to get to for our destination was a little complicated, but once we understood how it worked we were much more confident for the rest of our Paris adventure.
Stepping out of the metro was so exciting. I know I had a big stupid smile on my face the entire time we were walking to the apartment. At one point we turned a corner and the Eiffel Tower popped up! It was so exciting!!
The Airbnb we stayed in was in the 7th arrondissement near the Eiffel Tower. Laura was our host and while we didn’t get to meet her in person, she was so helpful and quick to respond whenever we sent her a message. It was in the absolute best location and so perfect for 2 people for 3 days. Check it out here!
Our instructions were to first use a code to open the door to the building: easy. Next, we had to go to the courtyard and find the lockbox behind the bikes: took a little more effort, but we found it. Then, we had to go to the 2nd floor and find the door that faced the stairs to the left. This was difficult. Usually, in Europe, the 2nd floor is actually what Americans call the 3rd floor. So I wasn’t sure if she was telling us the European way or American way. There were no apartment numbers, just wooden doors. I made an assumption that she was telling us the European way. So we went to the 3rd floor and found the door facing the stairs on the left. Eric put the key in the door and it worked!!
When we got into the apartment, it was small, but I knew that from the pictures. It was basically the size of a hotel room so really it was perfect. We had a kitchen too which was so nice to have for groceries. But the best part about it was the view! We could see the Eiffel Tower from our window!
We quickly got our stuff situated then headed out to explore. We had seen this cute little bakery on our walk to the apartment so we decided to head there first to grab a snack. Eric got a butter and Brie sandwich and I got what was essentially a grilled cheese made with goat cheese. Except they put this amazing cheese all on the outside of the bread and goat cheese in the middle. I’m drooling just reminiscing about it.
After that, we had to go see the Eiffel Tower. Of course, it was a madhouse over there. Next, we walked to l’Arc de Triomphe. We took a few pictures from a distance, but I was dying to go to the top. Eric didn’t really want to, but I convinced him. Once we got up there, the view quickly made Eric understand why I wanted to go up. Simply breathtaking!
The roundabout around the Arc is something out of my own personal nightmare.
We were walking down the never-ending steps back to the bottom of the Arc when we heard someone speaking through a microphone. We had made it down just in time to watch the ceremony for the unknown soldier. It was such a cool thing to see. There is a torch at the bottom of the Arc which is a tribute to remember the sacrifice of an unknown French soldier who died during WWI. Each night at 6:30 pm, veterans relight the torch and lay red, blue, and white wreaths near the flame.
After the Arc, I thought we might as well take a walk down the Champs Elysees. There were so many people in this area, it was a little overwhelming. The only place I really wanted to go to was Laduree. The first time I went to Paris, I never got to try their macarons, but I wasn’t leaving without trying them this time! I had heard the line can get insanely long at all hours of the day so I was trying not to get my hopes up. We walked in and there were maybe 10 people in line, I was amazed and SO excited!
One thing I had learned from buying macarons at Sucré in New Orleans is to always ask for a bag instead of a gift box. They don’t advertise this because they charge you more for the box. So I told the guy to give me 6 of his favorite flavors in a bag (en sac) and we were on our merry way. I think we were in there for less than 10 min.
After our macaron extravaganza, we decided to head back over to our neighborhood to grab a few grocery items. There was a little organic grocery store called Bio C’Bon right across from our apartment (bio = organic). I was worried about the language barrier because no one in there spoke English. But we really didn’t need language in order to buy things. We just set our stuff on the counter, he rung us up, pointed to the amount on the register, and we paid. Easy!
We bought a bunch of big waters, some snacks, breakfast items, and wine of course (this time Bordeaux).
After the grocery, we went back to the apartment to rest a bit before dinner. We were both so tired… we hadn’t stopped since we left the train station in Brussels that morning! Also, we were running off 2 hours of sleep so that didn’t help either.
Around 8:00 pm, we made our way to a Crepe restaurant called Crepsecule. It was highly recommended on TripAdvisor and it was right around the corner from our Airbnb which was perfect because we both were running out of steam. I got a crepe with prosciutto, mozzarella, and pesto. Eric got one with prosciutto and some other stuff we can’t remember because we were so tired. It was all delicious!
I can’t believe how much we did on our travel day. But if you think that was a lot, just wait for day 3 (which you can read by clicking here)!