Paris In A Day For The Unseasoned Traveler

by farrah on April 15, 2015 · 1 comment

I do not consider myself an expert traveler. Sure, I have been to a few more places in Europe than the average American, but I’ve talked to and read those who make a living from traveling, and a ‘seasoned’ one I am not. That’s cool though- we’re all good at something and life isn’t one big competition. The important thing is to learn from the mistakes (and wins!) of others who have experienced whatever it is you’re doing, before you. Thus today- I’m here post-solo-day in Paris to share how I did it.

parisWhat a view from atop Notre Dame!


So start with a plan. For me, it’s always about the logistics which sometimes people scoff at: HOW am I getting to point A? Where will I grab a coffee/use the bathroom before? Basic stuff, but honestly thinking about these details beforehand (as in, the day before) makes the whole trip more enjoyable. I had a tour of Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame that started by 10am, so I knew exactly where I needed to be.

cafe in paris

I decided to skip the metro in the morning since I HAD to be at our tour’s meeting point by a certain time. I didn’t take the metro prior on our weekend, and had no room for error. I promised myself this would be my only cab-splurge of the day, and it worked out well. I arrived at my meeting point early enough to relax, find a cafe, have a nice coffee and enjoy the sun pour over the city.

Take a tour

Paris CollageSnippits of the tour: Avi, clock tower, stairs in ND, gates at courthouse, flower market.

When I was contacted a while ago by City Wonders asking if I was interested in a Paris tour- I thought… maybe. Well, the timing worked out perfectly on this trip since I was going to be in the city all day on Monday by myself. This tour is a bit much for little kids (my boys would have been bored) and I think the stairs in Notre Dame would have been a bit much for my 4s. Either way, I had a great time with the group of 12 (myself included), Avi our very knowledgable and friendly tour guide, and the city in all of its’ spring splendor for the Notre Dame & Ile de la Cité Tour with Towers.bridge paris

Avi shared quite a bit of information on the history of Paris with us (well, as much as was possible in our two hours or so) and walked us around some of the famous buildings and bridges near Ile de Cite. I am ashamed to admit I had very little prior knowledge of this area- and what Avi had to tell us was quite interesting.

I can honestly say that City Wonders is a friendly, easy-going yet professional, informative tour organization and I recommend them if you’re going to be in Paris. One of the best things about my tour is that with your tour ticket you ‘skip the line‘ to climb the towers- which saved us probably a good 2-3 hour wait. The long line that stretched around the corner is something I’d normally avoid, but since we had a pass- I did it. I noticed that several of their tours offer such a perk- which is alone a reason I’d go with them instead of on my own. If you’re going to Paris I’d check out the other ones they offer since there’s something for everyone.

Spontaneously lunch


After the tour, I wandered around and thought I’d find a place to eat. I knew there were a bunch of tourist-trap cafes right near the cathedral and really wanted to find something a little different. I decided to walk along the back side of the block opposite Notre Dame, and along the Seine. Before hitting the main street once again, I spied a small cafe tucked in between some buildings. The signage looked cheerful enough, and I ended up having the best lunch of my time in Paris the whole trip.

I couldn’t find their website, but I did locate this video on Vimeo of it.

There’s a small wine shop attached, and I loved the quaint size (like 10 tables or so), friendly service, easy to discern chalkboard menus in French and English, and reasonable prices. I had a starter+entree+wine for €16. And the homemade salad dressing was delicious! I translated this review underneath the video for you which includes the name and contact info:

The oldest pub in the island of the City …
Wine for 7 centuries Reserve Quasimodo offers a splendid setting, with a veranda with breathtaking views of the City Hall.
This little place hidden away on the island of the city is for sure a halt, the wines are excellent and very good value. The open kitchen to the dining gives a warm and friendly atmosphere and allows odors to come up to your nostrils.
With its decoration in the former, makes beams and chalk walls Reserve Quasimodo is no unnecessary frills or so, everything is authentic, the dishes, assemblies dishes, part, service .
The sublime cuisine chef excelling in his art, cuisine is a culinary successes and varied products he proposes satisfy every palate.
And we have not yet talked about wines … The selection is amazing, there’s something for every taste, fruity or flowery, tannic or light, sweet or dry, … regions and grape varieties that are offered you leave a very wide range of choices.
As a wine cellar worthy of the name, La Reserve Quasimodo, the bottle of wine is not worth double or triple that you buy at the cellar … but only 6 € more, that’s what called the corkage!
As you select what you want to eat in the basement of the restaurant, the chef will advise you perfectly.
The small problem; you need to book … the restaurant is often full!
Tel: 01 46 34 6 767.

Go for it

paris map

This being my fourth time in Paris (but none of them have been solo or very in-depth) I had seen the ‘big’ sights. I walked by some trinket shops and realized that I had to do something different with my day. Of all my trips here, I had yet to see Montmartre or Sacré-Cœur. It was about 2:30pm, and I didn’t have to be at my train station until 7 (my train left at 7:22). I had the time and if I got mixed up on the metro I could figure it out. I was going to get there dammit.

MontmartreA car, really?, view from Sacré-Cœur, Sacré-Cœur itself.

So I went back to the Cite 4 stop since that was our meeting point in for the morning tour and I was familiar with it. I went straight to the info desk and the very nice people there gave me a map and circled where I was and what stop I needed. She said it was very easy- just stay on that line (no transfers) and exit at Chateau Rouges where I could then walk up to Montmartre. Sounded easy, and it really was! But man, those stairs. More stairs. Ugh.

Keep yourself charged

Once I got my bearings in Montmartre, I stopped into a cafe and plugged in my phone. I had tried really hard to keep the airplane mode on- but I couldn’t have the phone die since my train tickets were those electronic quirky things. I would have preferred to sit outside, but alas, no plug. It proved to be a good choice though as I was able to navigate my way to the main train station Gare du Nord for my return trip to the NL. Imagine my surprise when I realized that going to Montmartre was a terrific choice since the train station was only two quick stops from Chateau Rouge where I got off.

Call it a day

Thalys first class Paris to AmsterdamNot a bad way to ride: complimentary drinks, dinner, and excellent service. 

And that was that. I made it back to the main station with plenty of time to spare. My husband had gotten me a first-class ticket on Thalys to ride back to Rotterdam in style (worth every penny since the train was full) and I reflected upon what I had accomplished. I’ve always been intimidated by Paris- the size, the language- even the people. But something about this trip made it a little more magical. Maybe it was the fact that it’s spring and the 75 sunny degrees blanketed the entire place in happiness. I don’t know- and it really doesn’t matter. It’s no marathon, but I did it!

Thoughts on going solo in Paris:

  • See the big things if you haven’t: Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, etc.
  • Montmartre itself was a bit disappointing (the touristy-cheesiness of it all), but Sacré-Cœur was lovely and the view of the city stunning!
  • Buy things like metro tickets ahead of time so you’re not fumbling around when you’re in a hurry.
  • It’s fun to enjoy the vino, but don’t allow yourself to get dehydrated or tipsy if you’re alone. Even if it’s daytime.


  • You can read more Trip Advisor reviews of City Wonders here.
  • If you’re looking for an apartment, ours was found here on Airbnb and slept 5 adults/3 kids and had 3 bathrooms. Awesome location near Champs-Élysées. Watch out though! No a/c!

Disclosure: I was invited to go on the City Wonders tour free of charge, however no other compensation was received and all words/thoughts/opinions are my own.

All photos taken by me.

PS- My husband did great in the marathon! He and the uncles all ran great times (my husband’s around 4.5 hours).







{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Heather April 15, 2015 at 10:21 am

What an excellent adventure! Well done.


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