I could have spent another two days in Zurich, easily. There was so much more to see (and so much more fondue to dunk crusty bread in). And truth be told, even though we’d been in Europe for more than two weeks, I still wasn’t ready for our time to end. But a whirlwind trip that took us from Spain, across the Mediterranean and then to Switzerland had to end with a long weekend as fabulous as the time that preceded it, and for us, that only meant one thing:
Before our first visit, Paris was always on my travel bucket list, but never really at the top. It was a destination I always figured I’d get to at some point, whenever I got around to it. But that first visit last year was coated in some kind of magic dust where everything we touched was amazing and wonderful and I just wanted to bottle up how the experience of being there made me feel and keep it with me forever.
((And we’re not even touching Monoprix, which I’m still convinced is the greatest store on the planet and, you guys, it’s literally just a French hybrid of Target and H&M and it’s still the greatest thing ever))
So even though our adventures in Barcelona, onboard the Carnival Vista and now Switzerland were in the books, there was still a weekend ahead of us of shopping on the Champs-Élysées, munching on macarons from Ladurée, gawking at the Eiffel Tower and buying out the skincare section at Monoprix.
We woke up to a gorgeous, sunny morning in Zurich and took our time in getting up and ready for the day. Our train wouldn’t leave until the afternoon and our hotel was a short walk from the Zurich HB train station.
While Mom finished up her packing and tied up some loose ends at the hotel, Stephanie and I decided to take a walk down the Drahtschmidlisteg to get some fresh air. We sat along the river for awhile, just enjoying the quiet Thursday morning.
Eventually, the need for caffeine set in and we headed back to the hotel to grab Mom and our luggage, check out of the hotel and make our way over to Zurich HB. Even though the walk was short, dragging our luggage across the river was kind of killer with two and a half weeks worth of souvenirs weighing down our luggage and part of me was kicking myself for buying all of that pasta in Italy (but only a little part). By the time we reached the train station, we were sore and in desperate need of some coffee.
Thankfully, Zurich HB had plenty of cafes for us to choose from, so it wasn’t long before parked our luggage and had a round of cappuccinos and pastries in front of us.
We still had a few hours to kill before our train ride and if we were more comfortable with the system, we probably would have waited another hour before heading to the train station, but since we’d only rode the high speed rail once before (and never from Zurich), we wanted to be there early enough to not have to rush through things later. But free time has never been a problem for us and we kept busy exploring the shops in and around the train station and visiting some of the markets in the pedway to grab the makings of a killer picnic for our train ride.
Last year, when we took the high speed rail from Barcelona to Paris, it was a quasi ordeal when it to boarding the train. We weren’t sure what we were doing and there’s no real instructions given when you check in so we were scrambling to get through security and find our car. In Zurich, there was no security to pass through and once our gate was listed, we were free to make our way over to the boarding area.
We booked our tickets a few weeks before we left, opting not to upgrade to first class this time but still choosing seats on the upper level. When our train arrived and began boarding, we stowed our luggage on the lower level (a tip we learned the year before) and made our way upstairs to find our seats.
The train was similar to the one we rode the first time, comfortable enough for the five hour ride to Paris. Our car was empty when we boarded in Zurich, but slowly filled up as we made our stops. We had our phones and iPads loaded up with movies to pass the time, but ended up looking out the window for most of the ride. We’d pass through little villages and then stretches of green farmland and rolling hillsides and it was such a welcome change of pace from the city life we know at home.
I knew we were getting close to Paris when the wide open green space made way to tunnels tagged with colorful graffiti. We pulled into Gare de Lyon just past 6:30 pm, right on time. We passed through Gare de Lyon the year before, so we found our way out to the taxi stand quickly and were ushered into a waiting taxi van. Gare de Lyon is located in the 12th arrondissement (not far from Bastille), so we had a bit of a ride to our hotel near the Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement. Our driver spoke English and carried on a conversation with Stephanie while I was glued to my window. Our ride took us past Notre Dame, the Assemblee National and across the Seine, and as we were driving across the river, I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. We’d only been in Paris for minutes and the excitement of just being there was buzzing through me at a fever pitch.
We checked into our hotel (the Bradford Élysées) and just like everything else we’d experienced in Paris, I thought it was the greatest thing ever. We booked a triple room, which gave us a big bed and a rollaway bed, and felt plenty spacious for the three of us for the weekend. A plate of macarons were waiting for us in the room as a welcome gift and our room had a mini bar of soft drinks and juices that were included in the room rate and would be refreshed daily. The hotel was a short walk to the Champs-Élysées, which gave us easy access to just about any part of the city we’d want to visit and we really couldn’t have been more pleased with our stay.
My favorite part of the hotel, though, was the antique lift. A little small and a little slow, but a whole lot of charm.
There was also a dining room off of the lobby where breakfast would be set out in the mornings and an array of snacks were set out in the afternoon and evenings.
Though we were tired from a full day of travel, one of our regrets from our previous visit had been not going out our first evening in town, and we were too close to the Champs-Élysées to not take a little walk to the Arc de Triomphe.
Much like the Mediterranean, the sun doesn’t set until the evening hours in Paris in the late springtime, but it was approaching dusk by the time we left the Arc de Triomphe and strolled our way back up Champs-Élysées.
But before we settled in for the night, we had one very important stop to make:
My obsession with Monoprix is bad, you guys. I couldn’t even wait a day.
I picked up a salad from their grab and go to bring back to the hotel for dinner (ridiculously delicious, by the way). After a long shower to get the train ick off of me, I settled in with my salad and looked at our train options to visit Brussels for a day. Belgium is only a short train ride from Paris, and while we really wanted to spend a day eating Belgian waffles and taking pictures of the Manneken Pis, after a few hours in Paris, we couldn’t find it within ourselves to take a day away from it.
Brussels would have to wait until next time.