Paris & Reims, France • Bruges, Brussels

Exquisite 1 a :  marked by flawless craftsmanship or by beautiful, ingenious, delicate, or elaborate execution*

 This was Paris and it was nearly perfect. Reims was knowing, graceful, and Bruges, as sweet as their renowned chocolates.

The Basics  ¦  The Stories

The Annotated Itinerary

PARIS, Day One, Saturday, October 7, 2017

  • Check in at Hôtel Le Notre Dame Saint Michel
  • Our first sit at a French café, Le Départ Saint Michel
  • A walk through the legendary Shakespeare & Company bookstore. I left with Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Journey around the Latin Quarter (5th Arrondissement) and Saint-Germain-des-Prés (6th Arrondissement), where we caught some cool street art during the Nuit Blanche festival and marveled at the architecture
  • End the day with the lively vibe of Café le Petit Pont, where we marveled at Parisians and fellow tourists

PARIS, Day Two, Sunday, October 8, 2017

  • A stroll on the Seine
  • The Louvre, followed by a sweet treat at Laouz, then fabulous cocktails and the best radishes and dip I’ve ever had at the hip Le Fumoir (it was so atmospheric we went here twice)
  • Dinner at Le Comptoir (it was worth the wait in line)

PARIS/REIMS, Day Three, Monday, October 9, 2017

  • Easy SNCF train to Gare de Reims in the a.m.
  • Took a fifteen minute walk to G.H. Mumm for a bubbly tour of Maison Mumm
  • Then a twenty minute walk to Cathédrale Notre-Dame De Reims. Gorgeous. More impressive than Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris (in our humble opinions)
  • Lunch at Au Bureau, a spacious restaurant with perfect views of the cathedral. The food was pretty bar basic, but the atmosphere was lively and cozy
  • A quiet walk through the streets of Reims (note that many shops and restaurants are closed on Sundays and Mondays in France). We discovered Subé Fountain in the place Drouet-d’Erlon. (Which we wish we’d known about. This looked like the more happening bar and food scene.)
  • Train back to Paris for dinner at Le Brun in Les Halles. Lovely dinner, though wouldn’t put it in a top slot

PARIS, Day Four, Tuesday, October 10, 2017

  • Start with a perfect cup of coffee and breakfast at Le Village Ronsard
  • A walk through Luxembourg Gardens, then snacks and drinks at Le Rostand
  • The Notre-Dame Cathedral
  • The Arc de Triomphe at sunset and a glass of wine at L’Écluse François 1, just off Champs-Elysées. We also had the burrata with tomatoes: creamy, flavorful, killer.
  • An evening with the artful women of Le Crazy Horse de Paris. It was good sexy cabaret fun

BRUGES, Day Five, Wednesday, October 11, 2017 

  • Take train from Gare du Nord to Bruges. Buy your tickets in advance! Times do sell out. We wish we’d known this (though it wasn’t such a disaster. We were able to catch a later train.) First stop after checking into our incredibly sweet hotel, Hotel de Orangerie, lunch at ‘t Oud Kanthuys (which appears to be permanently closed, sadly).

BRUGES, Day Six, Thursday, October 12, 2017 

  • Coffee while strolling and waiting for things to open, then oh-my-god waffles at Lizzie’s Wafels. Chocolate and cherry toppings for me.
  • Many, many stairs up the Belfry in the town center. The 366
  • Frites museum. Would not recommend this for adults without children. I’ll leave it at that. Not sure what we were thinking except . . . mmm, french fries.

PARIS, Day Seven, Friday, October 13, 2017

  • Check in to our final hotel, Hotel L’Antoine, in Paris’s 11th Arrondissement and grab a cocktail at La Rotonde
  • Ate possibly our best dinner in Paris at Clown Bar in the neighborhood of Saturne. We did not have a reservation, but got lucky that one opened up while we were having a drink outside. (Perhaps a trick worth trying, but we did see most others get turned away, so definitely best to book a reservation in advance.)
  • Back to the 11th Arrondissement for some bar-hopping. Yes, this was kind of a boozy day. But it was Friday, and our traveling had caught up with us, and we were thirsty, and other excuses.

PARIS, Day Eight, Saturday, October 14, 2017

  • And opposite our lazy Thursday, a packed Friday, starting with a brisk morning walk to Marché Maubert to meet Cyril, our chef and teacher at La Cuisine. (Duck for dinner Friday and duck for lunch Saturday! When in Paris?) Our experience included outdoor market shopping for ingredients and a trip to La Parisienne bakery. Holy incredible award-winning baguettes
  • Epic meandering up the hill (about 45 minutes or more from La Cuisine) to Montmartre to see the Sacré Coeur basilica and partake in the annual Fête des Vendanges

PARIS, Day Nine, Sunday, October 15, 2017 (Last Day, but NON!)

  • The Catacombs. Yes, it was a little creepy, but beautiful. Not sure I’d make it a priority if you’re short on time
  • The Eiffel Tower (we did not go all the way up and were quite satisfied with that choice) and a delectable lunch at Les Cocottes, which we discovered in Paris by Mouth, an excellent resource for navigating Paris’s food scene
  • Our not-so-grand finale: a dinner boat cruise on the Seine with Bateaux Parisiens. It was a lovely boat with lovely staff, but it was a little too kitschy for our taste. Also the views were overall dark for a place known as the City of Lights, and a lot of what we did see were the garish lights of other tourist boats on the river—real mood busters

• In summary, were very happy with how we divided our time, though we would have gone to Reims on a day when all the shops and restaurants were open. In Paris, we wish we had visited at least one more museum. In general we wished we’d made reservations earlier for some of the restaurants. In most cases we were able to eat at the places we’d researched, but in some cases, we missed out because we did not reserve a table early enough. There were also a few things we couldn’t do because city workers were striking, like go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe or Notre-Dame Cathedral, but some things you obviously can’t plan for. •

Helpful Links:

http://us.france.fr/en/paris

*Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, s.v. “exquisite,” accessed December 21, 2017, http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com.