The weather doesn't have to be sunny in Paris for this spectacular city to shine! We spent five late-February days there last week (windy, snowy, cold) and had a genuinely splendid time!
There are probably a million ways to enjoy one special day in Paris but if you have just one day to devote to the city, here is what we'd suggest...
1) Start your day with coffee and freshly baked croissants
Historically speaking, croissants were invented in Turkey or Austria... but who can deny that the French have absolutely perfected them? Start your day with a leisurely stroll to one of the boulangeries on every single block of Le Marais. So many options!
You can purchase fresh homemade croissants, pain au chocolat, gorgeous raisin rolls, tiny quiches... or warm baguettes straight out of the oven! Should you choose to dip a flaky, buttery treat in your mug of café au lait, who are we to say "Non"?
2) Take in breathtaking city views from the top of Sacré-Coeur
Now that you've fueled up on pastry deliciousness, challenge yourself with a brisk climb! Charge up the 270 steps up to the basilica of the Sacré-Coeur church which sits on top of Montmartre... you'll be richly rewarded by the view! Many people spend hours relaxing on these steps with their friends or lovers, whispering together and dreaming in a way that is perhaps only possible in Paris at sunset.
(Not up to climbing today? No worries, you can catch a funicular too!)
The views of Paris from this vantage point are unsurpassed as this is the highest point in the entire city. Seeing the street grid of this well-organized metropolis from the top of Montmartre will also give you a much better grasp on the 'lay of the land' as you begin your special day.
Don't forget to peek inside of the Sacré-Coeur church itself while visiting but do keep one hand on your wallet as this is a very popular area for travelers and pickpockets alike!
Finishing touches were put on the Sacré-Coeur basilica in 1914, just as World War I was beginning. The name means "Basilica of the Sacred Heart" and this lovely white building was consecrated in 1919 after the end of that awful war. At just over 100 years young, Montmartre's Sacré-Coeur and its vistas will inspire you!
3) Wander through the Musée D'Orsay for a few perfect hours
Now that you've breakfasted and gotten some exercise and inspiration, why not see what all the fuss is about? For only 12 euro (kids under 18 are free) you can spend an hour or an entire afternoon expanding your soul in this gorgeous museum on the banks of the River Seine.
Built in 1900 inside of a former railway station, this museum offers a quality of light and spaciousness in a way that other museums rarely manage to achieve. Featuring a very diverse collection of paintings and sculptures alongside an incredible group of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works, there is plenty to see and experience within its walls.
The Musée D'Orsay offers a top-of-the-line experience. The best of Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Manet, Degas, Van Gogh and Seurat can all be found here... along with countless other priceless pieces!
"I love this place Mom!" breathed Little Angel as she gazed at her favorite Renoir. "When I grow up I want to be an artist and have my paintings in a place just like this."
"This is my favorite museum in Paris," agreed Señor Aventura. "It's the perfect size and has so many fantastic paintings. I really like the way they are displayed, too."
4) Recharge with dinner and wine at Chez Denise
Reservations are recommended at this traditional, welcoming French restaurant in Les Halles. Once featured on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" show, the special brasserie La Tour Montlhéry- Chez Denise is authentic and worthwhile. With an ample chalkboard menu full of hearty food, sumptuous sauces and excellent wines, you will not be disappointed!
The men who run the restaurant may seem a little bit gruff at first but warm up quickly, especially if you try to speak even a little French. By the end of your meal it will be all smiles and laughter!
"Can we get Escargot?" begged Soccer Dude, and so we did... ordering snails, salad, beef with bacon, and three types of fabulous fish. Wine comes by the bottle or the carafe and freshly baked bread with butter is brought to the table in plentiful baskets.
I myself feasted on a "saumon braise sauce moutarde" that nearly made me weep because it was so good. That wasn't just luck though. All seven of us around the table devoured our meals and waxed rhapsodic about the flavors.
"My only wish is that I had two stomachs," I sighed with a wistful smile, wishing I had room to soak up just a little more of the mustard sauce with a crust of bread. The food was THAT good!
5) Complete your day with a decadent gelato flower at Amorino
Created by two Italian friends, Cristiano Sereni and Paolo Benassi, Amorino is not your every-day ice cream... although you can definitely eat it every day!
Careful to use only the highest quality ingredients in their original gelatos and sorbets, Amorino offers options for guests who prefer an organic and/or vegan lifestyle.
Eight year-old daughter Little Angel and I were both enthralled by the creation of the signature Amorino ice cream cone, which involves gently forming petals of gelato in the shape of a multi-colored flower with a special kind of scooping tool. I'll be honest, I ordered the 'Chantilly' whipped cream just because I wanted to see how it would look on top of my ice cream flower! (Didn't hurt that it was sooooo tasty too!)
As people who pride ourselves on being gelato 'experts' we were blown away not just by the look of this dessert but also by its quality, texture and taste. The Amorino caramel flavor is the best I've ever tried... even in Italy! What a great way to wrap up a perfect day.
Life is short. Get out there and choose your own adventure! :)
Did you like this post from the Years Of Adventure Travel Blog?
If so, feel free to share or re-post!