Paris to Athens D2: A Busy Day in Le Marais

Inspired by the idea that it’s the journey, not the destination, I’ve launched my first travel journal series on The Wanderbug. In 2013 I travelled from Paris to Athens, via Italy & Turkey, a trip of a lifetime that I took with my best friend.I feel lucky literally every single day that I got to take this trip and it inspires me to keep travelling, in pursuit of times just as good as these ones.  I’ll share the highlights, occasional chaos & many surprises that we experienced during our trip, as well as plenty of useful tips for travellers undertaking a similar adventure. You can read our full itinerary here.

{ Previous } Day 1: Lost in Paris

Paris To Athens Travel Journal |

I wish I could bottle the feeling I had on my first morning in Paris. It was my fourth visit to my favourite city, but I was just as excited as I was on my first. We had four days in Paris, and Chloe had never visited before, so we wanted to cover a lot of ground. It should come as no surprise then, that on our first full day in Paris we over-filled it.

We started with pastries for breakfast from Maison Privat on Boulevard Garibaldi. Chloe had croissants and I had a pain au chocolat, my favourite pastry. We were in fresh, buttery French pastry heaven for less than 2 euros each.

We ate al fresco, under the shade of the chestnut and poplar trees in Place Cambronne.

Boulangerie in Montmartre Paris Maison Privat

Breakfast in Place Cambronne, Paris

It’s impossible not to run into a little history in Paris. This humble neighbourhood garden was no exception. Place Cambronne honours the 18th century General Pierre Cambronne.

He’s remembered for his stoicism when facing inevitable defeat at Waterloo. In the face of sure death, he told his troops “The guard dies, but does not surrender.”

The lion statue? Made in 1892, it’s 123 years old and still sitting pretty. Well played, Monsieur Cambronne, you’ve carved out a piece of Paris all for yourself.

Square Cambronne Paris

At the Metro ticket counter, I had an opportunity to practice my rusty French.  Speaking a foreign language can be nerve-wracking, but my efforts were rewarded with patience and surprisingly, understanding!

Our first stop was for coffee in Ile-de-Cite at Les Deux Palais. 

The cafe is close to Sainte-Chapelle, the first sight on our agenda. The watery, American-style coffee was was not good, but we choked it down anyway. And so began our search for the nearest thing to a flat white. (Spoiler alert: We wouldn’t find one till Milan).

The outdoor seating was nice, but I don’t know why I never sit inside – it’s gorgeous. Halfway through my coffee I realised that I’d been to this cafe before. I’d visited with my family before we visited Sainte-Chapelle together. Last time, it was winter so the patio looked totally different.

The cafes here transform with the seasons. In winter, the outdoor seating is a cosy little glasshouse. In summer, they emerge from their glass cocoon  as breezy cafes with patios.

Les Deux Palais Cafe, Paris

Sainte-Chapelle has tight security, involving security guards and a metal detector.  While we shuffled through, the security guard asked if Chloe and I were sisters. We looked at each other. Was he joking?

We’ve been friends for twenty years, since the day we were born. We’d never been mistaken for sisters before, and couldn’t see a resemblance. Chloe has brown hair and brown eyes with olive skin and I am blonde haired and green eyed, with fair skin. If there was a resemblance, we were missing it.

Yet this was the first of a million times people asked us if we were sisters or twins on this trip.

Alone, they asked her if she was Spanish, and asked me if I was Swedish, but when we were together, the general consensus was that we were Eastern European. The answer is of course, none of the above, but it made for amusing conversations.

This made me wonder. What do Australians look like? It’s not hard to pick an Australian guy in Europe. He’s easy to spot in a crowd, as he towers over  European men. But what does an Australian girl look like?

Sainte Chapelle stained glass windows Paris Sainte Chapelle Upper Chapel Paris

We spent ten minutes just admiring the back of the Sainte-Chapelle. Such is Europe!  I’d visited Sainte Chapelle before, but Chloe had never been outside of Australia. I forgot how much the history and beauty of Europe floors you when you see it for the first time.

The first floor of Sainte-Chapelle is beautiful, but the upper chapel is the moneymaker. I scooted upstairs ahead of Chloe, so I could see her jaw drop when she entered the room. It has to be one of the most beautiful room in the world.

{ Read more } Sainte Chapelle: The Most Beautiful Place in Paris

Sainte Chapelle stained glass windows Paris

Afterwards, I bought some pretty poster prints at a newsstand for Mum & Dad. Prints are one of my favourite souvenirs from Paris because they have some personality, are light and easy to pack and aren’t super expensive, but make thoughtful gifts.

Paris Flower Markets

Flower Markets Paris

We swung past the flower markets and I bought some pretty rose and lavender soaps for my grandmothers and unsuccessfully tried to ask the guy behind the counter where the nearest ATM was.  By the time we were crossing the Seine, it was a really beautiful day.

Conciergerie Seine Paris

Our next stop was Notre Dame. Usually, I wouldn’t recommend hitting up two churches in one day, but they’re so close together it would be silly not to. Notre Dame was celebrating it’s 850th birthday! I had no idea it was so old!  There was a huge temporary structure outside it, including stadium seating facing the church.

Notre Dame 850th Birthday

Notre Dame Inside

Crowds at Notre Dame Paris

The queue to get inside was long, as usual, but worth it. Afterwards, I made a beeline for a crepe stand,  my first ham & cheese crepe of the trip. I’ve had a ham and cheese crepe obsession ever since I studied in Paris in 2012.

We ate our crepes in the garden behind Notre Dame, Square Jean XXIII. You might recognise from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. It is stunning in summer when the flowers are in full bloom and the lime, cherry and elm trees are a healthy green. We sat in the shade of a neat row of trees, all manicured in typical French fashion.

Gardens behind Notre Dame ParisSqaure Jean XXIII Garden behind Notre Dame

Sitting in the garden, we had a lovely view of the back of Notre Dame. It’s not quite as iconic as the facade, but you don’t have to battle the crowds to enjoy it. It looks like a completely different building and is just as interesting to look at.

Notre Dame Rear

The indulgent eating didn’t stop there (actually, it didn’t stop for five weeks). When we finished our crepes, we strolled to Ile Saint Louis.  Paris’ tiniest island is a little slice of tranquility in the middle of the big city. To my delight, we found that the famous Parisian sorbet store,

To my delight, we found that the famous Parisian sorbet store, Berthillon, was open! Like many French businesses, it is usually closed in August, for the summer holidays. I was so happy to finally make it to Berthillon, and even happier to find that it was worth the hype. I had raspberry sorbet, as per my inability to pass up anything raspberry-flavoured, and Chloe had mango.

We ate our sorbet sitting on the banks of the Seine, with views across to Notre Dame. We kicked off our shoes and dangled our feet over the edge of the banks, giving our post-flight swollen feet a break.

Berthillon sorbet enjoyed on the banks of the Seine in Paris

Berthillon Sorbet in ParisBerthillon sorbet Paris

The swelling had caused Chloe to develop some pretty nasty blisters. We decided it would be quicker and easier to buy comfy shoes nearby, rather than go back to the hotel and change into sneakers. Clearly, we were still suffering from Plane Brain.

I guess sneakers wouldn’t have gone with her cute summer outfits. We walked to BHV, a department store in the Marais. Her blisters were so bad that we swapped shoes on the walk there!

Repetto ballet flats at BHV department store paris Chloe didn’t find any shoes at BHV, but I did!

I completely forgot that the exchange rate was not as good as it was last time I was in Europe. As a result, I spent way more on a pair of leopard print loafers than I should have. They were expensive, but I’ve worn them a million times since – cost per wear, right?

Shoes bought in the Marais, Paris  Afterwards, we went to a pharmacy and Chloe bought top of the range band aids. All plastered up, we went for a bit more of a walk. I have never met a cool pharmacist before, but in Paris there is a first time for everything.

Hotel Sully, Paris By chance, we stumbled upon the grand entrance to Hotel de Sully, although we didn’t know what it was at the time. We walked through an archway into a large cobblestone courtyard, with strange half-lion-half-woman statues flanking the exit across the yard. Intrigued, we wandered through.

Hotel de Sully Paris
Once in the gardens, we walked through another exit back  onto the street and found ourselves facing Place des Vosges, the most beautiful square in Paris. I’d really wanted to find it, but had no idea we were so close!

Place des Vosges

We claimed a patch of grass and stretched out. The park was full of families and office workers sunbaking in their lunch break.  Place des Vosges is surrounded by galleries and boutiques, so it didn’t take us long to find a parfumerie. We both walked out of Parfumes et Senteurs du Pays Basque with a new perfume!

Place des Vosges, Paris Place des Vosges, Paris

The shop assistant claimed to be able to pick the perfect fragrance for each us. It took him a few tries to find one for Chloe and I tried nearly every perfume in the shop!  This is the third time I’ve left France with a new perfume, but I’ve got no intention of slowing down!

Place des Vosges Shopping, Paris

Perfume from Paris  We checked out a couple of the art galleries in the Marais, before stopping by the famous foodie street, Rue Mouffetard for a treat.

Rue Mouffetard Paris

It took us a long time to get to find Paris’ modern art gallery, the Pompidou. By the time we got there, we were exhausted from a long day of overstimulation and endless walking. We plonked down in the square outside the gallery, but couldn’t find the energy to go inside. I felt guilty, but we desperately needed to eat and catch up on sleep.

Pompidou, Paris

We went to the nearest restaurant, Le Cavalier Bleu, and ordered a raspberry julep. The cocktail was so strong it was undrinkable and the service was hostile, even by Paris’ standards. We finished our drinks and moved on to Chouchou, a restaurant around the corner where the service was friendlier and the food was nicer. I can’t remember dinner, but the tarte aux pommes I had for dessert was perfection!

Tarte aux pommes in Paris
After this, I don’t remember much. All I remember is that we were exhausted from fitting way too much into our day! The pace wasn’t rushed, even though it sounds that way when you put it all on paper. It wasn’t rushed, it was constant. What we actually needed, was a little siesta in the afternoon, but it took a couple of days for us to cotton on to this.

It was a huge day, but I’m also glad we were able to cover so much ground without feeling rushed. We got to see a mix of the classic must-sees for Chloe, and some new stuff for me. Not a bad first full day in Paris!

{ Next Post } Day Three: Icons & Underdogs.

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