Paris For All Senses

Explore Paris through its sights, sounds, scents and textures. Tips and reviews of unique experiences, tours, activities and vegetarian-friendly eateries.

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Eiffel Tower at night

Let me just get this out of the way: I love Paris! No matter how many times I visit Paris, the city continues to enthral me with its fabulous architecture, culture, glamour, luxury and gastronomy. Through different seasons, stages of life and experiences, Paris can be vibrant, stark, resilient, vulnerable, romantic, risqué, rich, or any number of dimensions, but she is always remarkable. With each trip, I saw a different Paris. With each trip, a different dream came true. While I love the touristy and glitzy sides of Paris, the “hidden” Paris – which I began to discover on my most recent trip – is my favourite.

…This trip was special as it was a spontaneously planned rare getaway from the kids. The husband and l were determined to make the most of it while building in some R&R time. For the sake of fairness, each of us picked activities we wanted to experience, which is how we ended up discovering Paris under the lens, through the nose and by the mouth.

Along the way, we learnt a few things:

Lesson #1: Zooming “in” is as important as zooming “out”.

For his pick, the husband chose a 3hr Randy Harris photo tour of the city. While I initially had some reservations, we got lucky with a beautiful day. We saw the same sights in a new light. We noticed the play of light on the Louvre…how art installations in the Jardin des Tuileries transform the space from pretty to pretty surreal. We also discovered Montmartre – the Paris seen in movies…complete with cobblestoned streets, quaint cafes/restaurants and random musicians in lively squares.

Although we wished our guide (an American ex-pat living in Paris) were a professional instead of amateur photographer, the tour was a great way to: enjoy the rich fall colours, view iconic sights from unique perspectives, learn to use our new camera and capture some flattering snapshots.

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couple photo at the Louvre
A moment at the incredible, iconic and unbelievable Louvre

Most importantly, the tour made us realize that while we remember to “zoom in” on ourselves (or the subject) when we take pictures, we often forget to “zoom out” and notice the surrounding sights, sounds, scents and textures. Adjusting our zoom, is the key to taking the “perfect picture”…looking at which, lets us not only remember the place/event, but also relive the moment.

Lesson #2: The simplest experiences may be the most magical.

No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Although it is simply a tower to a lot of Parisians, it is the icon of Paris for the rest of the world. While the view from the top is fabulous, what is truly incredible is watching it light up. Post our photo tour, we hauled ourselves across town for a mandatory photo session with this icon from Champ de Mars as well as Place de Trocadéro.

After successfully photographing ourselves with the Eiffel Tower from every possible angle, we waited…Nutella crepe in hand of course…at Place de Trocadéro for it to light up. Even though I’d seen it before, the sight of thousands of lights suddenly twinkling in the evening sky was just as sensational and magical as the first time I saw it.

Lesson #3: Solo travel need not be solitary travel; strangers that share food become friends.

Cheese in St. Germain Market Paris
Say Cheese!

As the husband was busy with a conference, I signed myself up for a dream experience – a food tour of Paris. Organized group tours can be a great way to meet like-minded people.  I joined a group of six ladies – that I had never seen or met before – for the “Taste of Saint-Germain” tour from “Paris by Mouth“. I chose this option as: 1) It was a top-rated food tour on TripAdvisor and 2) it included a couple of my wish-list toppers: Poilâne and Pierre Hermé.

Our guide – Sara – was fantastic and was coincidentally a part-owner of two of the bars we visited on our first day in Paris. The tour was everything I’d expected and more. A fabulous gastronomical adventure that involved tasting pastries and picking up miche (type of bread) from Poilâne, devouring macaroons and croissants from Pierre Hermé, selecting fresh cheeses from the local market and collecting chocolates from Patrick Roger.

Wine bottles in Paris

We then walked over to a wonderful little wine shop, where a wooden table was set up in an intimate stone-walled room for us, to eat the cheese paired with miche and delicious wines. We capped off the meal with our amazing chocolates and a stop-over at a little place specialising in fresh choux pastries.

Pierre Herme Paris
Picture perfect display at Pierre Herme

The highlight of my Paris trip, the visions, scents and tastes that I came across during this tour were enough to drive me into food-induced coma. I could have – and did – learn about most of these establishments on my own. However, I would never have uncovered the fascinating stories, noticed the little details (bread chandelier, anyone??!), tasted some crazy flavours (lime and basil chocolate? Ispahan croissant?), discovered the different wines and cheeses or had an absolutely wonderful time with complete strangers. Sometimes, just connecting with like-minded people transforms the solo travel experience.

Lesson #4: Integrate meals into the itinerary to achieve repeated gastronomical ecstasy.

le mary celeste paris bar
Unwind with some fabulous wine and cocktails at Le Mary Celeste

Travel itineraries often tend to include activities and logistics, with little emphasis on meals (usually the terribly bland, tasteless and touristy kind). So, we end up picking random restaurants. Spontaneity may be fun, but for vegetarians like us, it can be rather problematic and expensive. Having had one too many unsavoury experiences and because good food is central to my mental/emotional well-being, I spend considerable time researching restaurants before our trips. Reservations are made ahead of time for wish-list toppers and options built-in for some spontaneity.

Ladurée pastries and coffee
Fabulous raspberry tart and hazelnut coffee at beautiful Ladurée

As a result, besides the food tour and chocolate extravaganza, the husband and I managed to cram a good number of culinary delights in this trip: yummy sandwiches from Cosi (reputed to be one of the city’s best, with lines out the door), sublime macaroons from Pierre Hermé, city’s best hot chocolate at Angelina, fragrant and flavourful Kusmi Tea, delicious coffee, croissants and raspberry tart at exquisite Ladurée (not to be missed), amazing savoury crepes at Breizh café, lovely drinks at Candelaria (on the list of world’s best bars; hidden behind a tiny taqueria) and Le Mary Celeste, fabulous baguettes from Le Grenier á Pain (winner of Best Baguette 2015) with truffle pecorino cheese from the fromagerie nearby, people watching with coffee and pastries at Les Deux Magots (a Parisian institution), incredibly “cheesy” romantic fondue dinner at Pain, Vin, Fromage, tasty street side Maoz falafel and gourmet food shopping at Le Grand Épicerie.

paris cafe les deux magots
Pierre Hermé Ispahan macaroon, coffee and people watching at café Les Deux Magots

Yet, we were not on some gourmet tour (aside from the 3hr one that I took) – we’d simply included meals into our itinerary. For example, since we wanted to explore the Marais, we had pre-dinner drinks at Candelaria, followed by dinner at Briezh Café and post-dinner drinks at Le Mary Celeste.

As the husband will testify, the strategy is not foolproof. Nevertheless, for this trip, it was absolutely perfect. The kind of perfect that, when I close my eyes, not only makes me smile, but my mouth water.

Lesson #5: Chocolate is the solution. Always.

image

I strongly believe that everyone should have some “me time”. I chose to spend mine surrounded by a girl’s second best friend: chocolate. So, I treated myself to Le Salon du Chocolat, which is an annual event in France that coincided with our visit there.

From intricate chocolate sculptures and tastings of the finest and wackiest bars, to exquisite wine pairings, unusual accompaniments, live demonstrations and delicious pastries, this event was every chocoholic’s dream come true. As a lover of fine/artisanal dark chocolate, I felt like all my chocolate fantasies suddenly came alive under one roof and at the same time – Cluizel, Le Roux, Chaudun, Chapon…you name it.

It was crowded, mind-boggling and insane. I didn’t know where to look, what to smell, what to taste…what to do. For once, I simply enjoyed being totally lost.


The real lesson…

Sometimes, to truly discover a place, we have to lose ourselves in its sights, scents, sounds, tastes and textures. Find your happiness – be it music, dance, art, photography, food or any other interest – and let it pave your path to uncovering your Paris or for that matter, any destination you choose. Maybe, we need to connect with ourselves and be open to connecting with other people to truly connect with a place.

Author: Mansi Kamdar

Experiential travel enthusiast and blogger. I love vegetarian food, fine wine, fine chocolates and Chunky Chips Ahoy. I am not racist, but I refuse to call "white chocolate" chocolate. My dream is to eat at each of the World's 50 best restaurants. It certainly helps that the husband loves to travel and dreams of watching a cricket match in every stadium in the world. We are currently on track to achieve our goals, but indulge in more "wholesome" holidaying as we are now accompanied by two adorable little imps.

45 thoughts on “Paris For All Senses”

  1. After reading this, I can’t wait to pack me bags and hop on a plane to Paris. That sounds like a wonderful trip and a superb collection of experiences.

    Like

  2. Its such as you read my thoughts! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the ebook in it or something.

    I feel that you simply can do with some % to force
    the message home a bit, however instead of that, that is wonderful blog.
    An excellent read. I will definitely be back.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Mansi,
    Well done! This is wonderful. I have sent this on to several friends who will be traveling to Paris this summer.
    So proud of you doing this. It is excellent.
    Mrs. Balaban

    Like

  4. Brilliantly written – captures the spirit and flavours of Paris beautifully ….. Besides of course making our mouth water, and wanting to embark upon a trip just like yours!

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  5. Mansi, u are too good and I have experienced 1st hand the itenary u planned for me. I’m a true fan…..

    I already want to plan my next trip and would need your guidance. Love the pics posted and everything along with it.

    Great going keep up the good work, visit places and guide us.

    To all of u who are reading….. U need to take tips from Mansi she can make your holiday really memorable…..

    Best,
    Parvinder

    Like

  6. Howdy! This article could not be written far better!
    Dealing with this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept discussing this. I will forward this post to him.
    Fairly certain he’s likely to have got a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. OHH MY GOSH!!!! You hit me heart and stomach with this post. I have never enjoyed reading a blog post more than just now. You are a beautiful writer and I loved everything about this post. My husband and I went to Paris this past summer and loved every second of it. Since it was our first visit we were always rushing and next time we visit I want to enjoy it the way you did. We did manage to go to Pierre Herme and omg are those not the best macarons ever!??! (I wrote a piece about Pierre Herme on my website if you would like to read it). I wish I could have gone to that chocolate exhibit. It looked amazing and something I would have loved too. Again, great post. You now have gained one more follower 🙂

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    1. Thank you for your sweet words! Pierre Hermé is an unmatched pastry wizard. I’m going to have to go back to Paris just so I can indulge in more of his creations! As for the chocolate exhibit, it is an annual event, so maybe you can plan for next year. I simply loved the experience.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Since I love good food, I thoroughly enjoyed the tour. At first I wondered if it wasn’t too much for bread, cheese, wine and dessert, but it was worth every penny and more. Highly recommended!

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  8. Sounds like an absolutely wonderful break (from the kids ;-)) When mine are a bit bigger I’ll have to try to do the same thing! Those pastries and the chocolates look sublime. I’m impressed that you managed to find so much veggie friendly food in Paris. The last time I went (a while ago, admittedly) I had terrible trouble and survived on bread and chips!

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  9. Looks like you had quiet a trip and your tips (lessons) are really useful. We are headed to Paris next spring. Will be great if you can tell us how many days to spent for the city tour and a rough itinerary

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    1. Oh how lovely! I’d be happy to help, but first, let me know your interests so I can suggest accordingly. For example, are you a history buff? Or looking to explore the nightlife? Are you a foodie, etc.

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  10. Couldn’t agree more with you…often times we truly don’t discover a place until we allow ourselves to become “lost” in that place. Food is always a big part of travel for me too so I definitely try to always incorporate that into my itinerary.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh Paris, why does it need to be so far away, I will get there soon. I liked your thought out lessons, very constructive and true. Especially the last one about getting lost with in the city and discovering it for yourself.

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  12. Love this post – I lived in Paris for a year, ten years ago now and you’ve taken me back there with your descriptions! I too love the Eiffel Tower at night even though the Parisians think it’s trashy and ugly! And the food….😋

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Food is such an important part of my travels that I can’t imagine an itinerary that has bland and touristy food stops. Great tip on the food tour. I like that the tour guide was also a restaurateur which means she had a good pulse on the foodie scene. Also, I’ve never thought of a photography tour when traveling, but that would be a great way to experience the location and all its various lights.

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  14. Looks like you had a great trip. I thoroughly enjoyed the hidden part of Paris. I believe all places have a hidden side – one that the locals know but do not value and one that the tourists seldom know. And its only when you visit more often do you realize this. Loved your lessons a lot. They are fun to read

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  15. This was a great read! I personally havent been to Paris yet but its in the plan for my Eurotrip in early 2017. I have read so many posts about Paris and most agree its one of the greatest cities on the world. Many have even said the “touristy” things are incredibly fun. I can’t wait to go myself!!

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  16. I have to say I was pretty dissapointed when I visited Paris. I just felt the city lacked a certain energy I was looking for. Maybe I was just not in the right frame of mind at the time and need to give Paris another go.

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  17. I love taking this type of different tours of the places I visit. The photo tours sounds very exciting and I, as an amateur photographer, would love to do something similar. I would definitely go for the food tour too, France is known for it’s amazing cuisine and there’s no better way of discovering all the local dishes than with a local guide.

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  18. Paris is surely a a treat for all senses. It is not news to anyone but you have put some extra details to make it even more irresistible. Especially I can see the chocolate part drivng some people crazy.

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  19. Love Paris ❤ it is one of the first cities I've visited after 18…so I have great memories of that!! Great post, I particoularly appreciate the food part, my parents have a bakery, so I can make some comparison with italian pastry-making…everything was really delicious (the chocolate was TOP) and fromwhat I can read, you enjoyed your break from the kids 🙂

    Stefano

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  20. I love the way you write this article, makes me miss Paris so much! I totally agree that sometimes, we always zoom in on ourselves that we forgot the bigger picture. I am curious to know more about that 3 hour photography tour. It sounds interesting and awesome. May I know how much you get that?

    Like

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