Travel to France and visit Paris, Aix-En-Provence, and the South of France with us! Lots of good food, fun drinks, and special activities.
Ahhhh, France. What an absolutely gorgeous country with tons, and I mean tons, of things to do. Tom and I have done quite a bit of traveling, whether that was on our own or together, we’ve covered a large majority of the globe. Over the past few years we have ventured from domestic trips to international trips and it has been such a blessing to be able to see the world together. After taking an 11 day trip last year to Italy and hitting so many different spots in that gorgeous country, we knew France was next up! We both have been to Paris before: me, when studying abroad, and Tom, when doing a large Euro trip post college. Since it was like 8 years ago and we stayed in relatively cheap lodging (hostels – ha!) we decided we wanted to go back and do it right. We also had plans to go to the South of France and explore the beautiful French Riviera, so we packed our bags and headed to the land of croissants and baguettes.
I had so many requests on Instagram to share where we stayed, what we did, and just overall HOW we planned it, so I’m diving in. Now note, we planned this entire trip ourselves with the help of recommendations from friends and family, but we never used a travel agent or any outside help for planning purposes. We really love to plan our own vacations because although it may take a lot more time and effort to make sure everything makes sense and we are staying in the best places/doing the best things, we feel like you can really customize your trip to make it exactly how you want.
Recommendations for traveling abroad
There are a few key things I like to think about when planning out vacations in new cities:
- Ask everyone you know for recs. I asked family, friends, Instagram, etc for their best recommendations for each city. I compiled a big list and then went on and individually researched each recommendation.
- Research where to stay – try to find places that are NOT touristy, places where locals stay, near areas with good food, and are popular among people your age. A quick google search should help you find this, or once again – ask your network!
- Use AirBnB to save money. Hotels were nearly double the price and with AirBnB you can be EXTREMELY picky and find the best location, tons of space in an apartment, and read thousands of honest reviews. We save so much money by using AirBnB and always have stayed in places that are incredible. That being said, we did stay in some hotels this time because we used credit card points (hello perks of getting the Chase Sapphire card!)
- Plan major activities for each city. Do not plan to just ‘walk around + explore’. This is boring and never works, so I highly recommend booking at least 1 activity per day. These can include historical tours, walking tours, food tours, classes, etc. Plan for 1-2 a day.
- Plan at least 2 hours of rest every day. No one wants to be overtired and you need to recharge. Don’t plan back to back to back.
- Plan meals ahead of time. Food is one of the MAJOR reasons why we travel, and we are huge foodies so take this with a grain of salt. There are so many touristy restaurants in many of these major cities, trying to usher you in, usually around tourist attractions. Please stay away from them. Do your research!!! Study bloggers who live in the area of the city you are going, use websites like Bon Appetit and Conde Naste. Make reservations ahead of time.
- Once all of the above is done, plan logistics. I put Tom in charge of all logistics, so he had to plan all planes, trains, and automobiles and booked everything ahead of time with flexibility when we needed it.
And that’s basically how we plan every trip. Key takeaways: Research, AirBnB, book ahead.
Paris Day One
We took a redeye from Newark Airport into Paris Charles de Gaulle and arrived at 12pm Paris time. Both of us managed to sleep a little bit, but not much, and that is pretty typical of us. We basically try to push through as much as possible and do as much as we can before crashing for a little nap in the afternoon, and that is exactly what we did!
We checked into Hotel Scribe which is where we stayed and I highly recommend both the hotel and the area, it was fabulous! I knew Paris is HUGE and that we would be walking all over the place so I wanted a central location for that reason. It’s in the 2nd Arrondissement and it was perfect. The hotel was a little boujee and little fancier than we normally would book, but we actually used credit card points for this one since we racked so many up on our honeymoon!
We put our stuff away, freshened up and headed out to grab some food! We walked about a mile over to Las Du Fallafel which came highly recommended to me by many people as a place not to be missed for lunch! We ordered the pita special (their most famous) and it was insanely good…one of the best fallafel and pita sandwiches I’ve ever had. Do not miss this!
A quick walk around La Marais (this is a super fun area for young people and just so cool), we decided to head back and take our brief nap before heading to dinner.
Our hotel helped us make a reservation at LouLou, which was another rec I had gotten, so we headed there for dinner. I had reached out to our hotel three weeks before we were there and they helped us secure several reservations! It was a such a great part of actually having a hotel over just booking an AirBnB.
LouLou was phenomenal for dinner, we sat outside and we got to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle for the first time! We both got a pasta dish that they were known for, lots of wine, and a few apps. After dinner, we went out to look for a crepe but instead decided to go home to the local grocery store and pick up some French cookies, chocolates, and sweets and it is always something so fun that we love to do! Highly recommend trying all of the chocolates and cookies from another country while you are there!
Paris Day Two
The next morning, I headed out on a run to explore a new city in my absolutely favorite way. I ran along the Seine and headed down to the Eiffel Tower and it was one of the coolest runs I did in a while.
We had an exciting and full day planned. Our friend Michael was in town in between a personal vacation and a work trip, so he tagged along on our adventures and it made it so much fun!
First things first, a food tour. Tom and I love to take food tours whenever we are in different countries so that we get a lay of the land and a taste of different cultures. I suggest doing a waking food tour on your first or second day there, this way you get to see different neighborhoods and experience the best of the best foods. I highly recommend the tour that we took, I’ll link it here, but it took us through La Marais and we hit some of the best boulangeries, meat and cheese shops, chocolate shops… we had 9 stops total and ate everything from croissants, fresh sourdough, coffee, socca (in the red market has the best socca!!) chocolates, macaroons, pierogis, meat, cheese, french onion soup, desserts, and lastly wine. It was such a fun few hours and we left stuffed!
Michael, Tom and I decided to keep the party going by heading to a local cafe and ordering a few bottles of rose to enjoy, because…when in Paris. But in all seriousness, there are thousands of cafes and they are all packed at all hours of the day, so it was a blast!
We parted ways in the late afternoon, took a quick nap, showered up, and then met back up to walk to dinner. We walked over a mile to Relais de l’Entrecote which is a restaurant that only serves one thing for dinner: Steak Frites! I had heard so many things about this restaurant and although worried it might be too touristy, it really wasn’t and it was actually SO good. It’s all you can eat frites along with some delicious steak and a delicious sauce for dipping. They keep coming around with more frites (fries), plus they give you a salad, bread, and then you get dessert. It was so much fun and it was SO good, we were all impressed and would recommend. Plus for the three of us and two full bottles of wine plus dessert, the bill was $150.
After dinner, we had plans to go to a Cabaret show so we headed over there. We went to Crazy Horse Paris and it was so much fun. Definitely for the 21+ crowd because there is a lot of nudity, but it was so tasteful and fun. We bought tickets through Viator and were given a half bottle of champagne per person. The show and atmosphere is awesome, we all loved it.
After the show, we probably should have gone home but we decided to keep the party going by sitting out at a cafe near the Eiffel Tower and having another bottle of wine or two…whoops. Haha. At about 12:54 am, Michael remembered that we were fairly close to the Eiffel Tower and the last sparkle is extra long and extra special (It sparkles on the hour starting at dusk), so we sprinted over to the lawn to see it sparkle for the last time! Magic.
Paris Day Three
We woke up a little bit hurting the next day, so we slept in till about 9am. We had a ticket for the Arc de Triomphe so we headed over there. We chose not to do many site seeing things because like I said, we both have been to Paris before and did all the typical Parisian site seeing things. However, we wanted to do some so we went to the Arc and it was beautiful! Buying tickets ahead helped us avoid the lines. We also got SERIOUSLY gorgeous weather – about 75F-80F each day with plentiful sunshine!
After the Arc we decided to walk down to Saint Germaine, which was another area we considered staying in. It’s super cute and trendy, and is popular for young people. Our late breakfast was at the famous Cafe Flore, which I know is a super trendy Instagram spot, but Ina Garten (who has a home in France!) and many french locals love it just as much as people on Instagram. Our food was delicious and it was such a wonderful hour or so sitting outside, sipping cappuccinos, eating croissants, and then croque monsiuer. Highly recommend!
After that, we decided to walk around, explore this new area, and just enjoy the beautiful weather. We ended up in Luxembourg Garden and oh my goodness, it is the biggest and most beautiful park ever. SO many different trails and people playing tennis and pickleball. We had so much fun just sitting, relaxing and people watching.
Thanks to the recommendation of many of you, we headed to Le Bon Marche, to pick up supplies for our picnic dinner outside the Eiffel Tower that night. Le Bon Marche is like Eataly, that was exactly what it reminded me of but it seemed even nicer. They had so many different areas with French food, grocers, boulangeries, wineries, and lots and lots of fresh delicious food. We picked up a whole entire spread for dinner: chips, wine, a fresh baguette, little fresh salads like tabouleh and sundried tomatoes, salted butter, cheese, crackers, and fresh shaved meats. Plus some chocolates for dessert.
We picked all of this up and then walked a mile back to our hotel, put our feet up for a little, and then headed out to the tower! We walked again – like I said, we walked A LOT!! I wore my favorite white sneakers anytime we had to walk and they saved me. Each day we were hitting anywhere between 25k-35k steps, it was absolutely absurd!! Of course you can take the metro, but we love walking 🙂
With our picnic blanket spread out (two XL towels from our hotel), our rose poured, and our food spread out, we had the most incredible night under neath the Eiffel Tower, sitting on the lawn and eating all the delicious food we bought earlier. It was a dream and I will forever tell everyone that they need to do this. It also helped that we had beautiful weather!
We headed home after that and went to bed!
Paris Day Four
Paris day four started out with a croissant making class – we took this class and found it on AirBnB. It was so much fun, and we got to leave with 6 croissants each, three chocolate and three regular, and we literally ate 2 in one sitting because what else do you do when you have fresh croissants sitting right in front of you? It was a great class and we both learned so much, but I think we will stick to buying our croissants – it’s a lot of work!
Although it may seem crazy, we really wanted to try this famous Boulangerie because they are supposed to have some of the best baked goods in the world, so we had to go. It was our last day and we really needed to try them! We went to Du Pain et des Idees, which is known for having the best croissant in Paris, and we got their famous escargot pistache and a croissant. Both were absolutely fabulous and I cannot recommend them enough!!! I’ll never have such a delicious baked good again.
We walked back to our hotel, dropped off our croissants, and headed out shopping. I had big big plans to get a designer bag or two while I was there. And thanks to the VAT tax refund and the fact that the Euro and Dollar were almost equal, made getting a bag in Europe almost 30% cheaper than getting a bag in the US. I went home with a YSL bag and a Gucci bag, whoooops!
That night, we got drinks at Le Meurice which was very fancy and very nice, the drinks were incredible and it gave speakeasy vibes. Then we went to dinner at Chez Janou which is staple French restaurant and is SOOOO good. Its not really touristy, but its highly recommended by a lot of people. You must get their mussels and their chocolate pudding, those are the two things they are known for!
After dinner, we took a Seine river cruise and it was so special to see the Eiffel Tower at night by boat. The ‘tour’ we signed up for allowed us to use our tickets whenever we wanted at any time, and we bought ones with a small bottle of champagne so we each had something to sip while on the cruise. It was magic. We headed to bed after that and called it a day.
Aix-En-Provence Day One
The next day we woke up and headed to the train station to head to Aix-en-Provence. We took the SNCF train from point to point and it was great and so quick! Took us about 3 hours to get there and I slept most of the time. Once we got to Aix we ubered to our destination, Hotel Pigonnet. Hotel Pigonnet was such a special treat, but because we had paid for most of our accommodations with points, we stayed at a beautiful Chateau in Aix and it was so special. We were only going to be there for 24 hours so we put our bags down, and went to explore the city center right away! Knowing that we would explore the grounds later.
The city center is less than a mile from the hotel so of course, we walked. It is such a cute small little city and reminded us a lot of Galway, Ireland. There are so many cute shops, little boutiques, lots of cafes, squares where people hang. We were hungry so we went to Crepes A Gogo (thanks y’all for the rec) and got a ham & cheese crepe and a nutella crepe….yum…they were so good and stuffed us! They packed them full.
We walked around Aix and did some shopping, popping in and out of little shops and enjoying all of the little squares and the atmosphere of the people. We headed back to our beautiful hotel to enjoy all that it had to offer and we started by spending a few hours at the outdoor pool and it was so beautiful out. We noticed that almost everyone who was there was American..so we had fun chatting with people around us. I read my book a little and then swam a little..it was beautiful.
The grounds at Le Pigonnet were seriously stunning…gardens, fountains, and lots of beautiful areas to sit and relax in. We showered up and then headed back downstairs to the patio bar to grab some drinks before dinner, all which was on the property and was absolutely phenomenal. Even if you aren’t staying at the hotel you can dine there, and it was just delicious, 4 courses of excellent food and wine. Plus, you are sitting out in a beautiful garden with candles lit and a lively atmosphere. It was a wonderful night!
Our next day started with a beautiful buffet at our hotel, this was probably our best breakfast in France, fresh crepes, fresh fruit and eggs, toasts and breads and baked goods from all over, plus lots of yogurt and granola and it was ideal! The hotel was a 10/10 and we loved it!
We packed up our stuff and headed to the bus station to take the bus to Nice, our final destination. It took us about 2 hours to get there and was rather easy to take a direct bus from point to point. Once we arrived in Nice, we checked into our hotel, and headed out to explore the city!
I didn’t love our hotel to be totally honest, so I’m not going to recommend it here. But I think if I were to do Nice again, I would definitely rent an AirBnB. There didn’t seem to be that many nice hotels and when I went to check if we could switch hotels, there just weren’t any that seemed better? I had remembered AirBnB being amazing, but we wanted to use points. Anyway, it worked and was a place to stay, but I didn’t love it.
On our first day, we walked around Nice and explored the city. It is truly a beautiful place being on the French Riviera. The water is crystal clear blue, the people are happy, and the city is warm. Again, we had stunning weather so that probably helped!
First stop, get Socca. Everyone had told us that we have to try socca when in the French Riviera so we went to two different places to get it. Socca is a chickpea crepe and is seasoned with salt and spices, it can be rather bland but most of these places put a really delicious seasoning on it. We first had it on our food tour and LOVED it, but honestly the places in Nice weren’t as good as the one in Paris. Anyway, I’m blanking on the name of the first place but the second place was much better and that was the one I was recommended all the time – Chez Theresa. A fun snack and a must try!
We walked around Nice and explored the beautiful pathways and got a lay of the land. We headed back to our hotel to get changed and head to happy hour. Nice has tons of beach clubs and they are places you can hang during the day, enjoy the beach and eat and drink to your hearts delight. You can also dine there at night, which I don’t know if I would recommend, but we went to Le Galet for happy hour and sat on the deck with an Aperol Spritz. Magic.
Dinner this night was so much fun. The number one dinner recommendation I got for Nice was Le Plongeoir, which is a restaurant that literally sits out on the water on an old cliff diving board. It is seriously the most beautiful restaurant and spot to eat dinner. We made our reservation two month out from our actual night of dining, so I recommend doing it ahead of time, but I did see that they also take walk-ins however you just have to wait a little. The views were amazing, Tom and I kept pinching ourselves and were like ‘is this real?!’ and the best part was that the food was also REALLY good. Sometimes places that are known for their views don’t always have the best food, but this was a true winner. I really recommend going here if you want a night to remember!
After dinner, we walked back to town center and it was absolutely popping. There was live music everywhere, so we sat down at a local cafe, grabbed a few more drinks, and enjoyed the local music and culture. Then on our way home we both had a sweet tooth so we grabbed some gelato and then headed to bed. It was an amazing night in Nice!
Nice Day Two
The next day was all about exploring local towns. Being in the French Rivieria, it is super easy to get around to local towns. You can take the train anywhere – Monaco, Cannes, Menton – really anywhere on the coastline, which makes it fun to visit because you can see so many places.
Our plan was to head to Menton and Eze, two of the places I wanted to visit the most on the coast. Menton was up first and it was about a 45 minute ride from Nice. Like I said, we took the train and it was so easy to navigate, although I hear horror stories in the middle of summer, just make sure you do your research and have a plan ahead of time. We bought our tickets right at the station but the lines were long, so we split up to see which line would go fastest.
Menton is the last town before you hit Italy, so there is a huge Italian influence all throughout the city. It was truly one of the coolest and most beautiful cities I have ever been in. The beach, the beautiful colored houses, the Italian culture, and all of the cute little cobblestone streets had us breathless. We stopped to get coffees and walked all around the town. The whole town can be seen in under two hours, which was so nice. We stopped to grab pizza from a local spot and then we grabbed lemonade because Menton is actually known for their lemons! I was so happy that we got to go here and see the whole city, I’ll remember it’s beauty for ever.
We took the train from Menton to Eze next. Most people decide to take a bus or a taxi up to the top of Eze (where the town is) and you can actually take a bus directly to the top, but I wanted us to do the hike since I have heard many ~interesting~ things about it. Ok. It was SO HARD. Like we were hiking over 1,000 feet almost straight up in the air, it was the steepest and most challenging hike I have ever done, and I would consider Tom and I in pretty good shape. We were pouring sweat and really didn’t expect it to be so hard… it took us 60 minutes to get to the top and we were toast once we got up there. I would definitely do it again, however I wouldn’t wear a dress next time, lol. I was in sneakers though so thank goodness for that!
Once we got up to Eze town, its all hills again. Just be prepared and wear the right shoes! The town itself is absolutely stunning, though. Its an old medieval town and has the most beautiful castle like atmosphere, with shops and boutiques built into the sides of the cliff/castles. It’s like something from a story book and I couldn’t even believe it was real! It was so beautiful!! We meandered a little bit and then we went to Chataeu Eza to sit on their patio and have a drink. We were so high up and it made for the perfect spot to grab something refreshing (aka a cocktail lol). Looking out onto the bright blue ocean was something I will never forget! It was pure beauty. We sat there for an hour just enjoying being in a totally different spot in the world with each other!
Of course, we decided to take the bus home to give our legs a break. We were exhausted when we got back, so put our feet up for an hour before it was time for dinner!
From the recommendation of people on Instagram, we went to La Cucina, an Italian restaurant, for dinner, and when I tell you that this was the best meal I have ever eaten, I am NOT kidding. It is an extremely small, highly regarded, no reservation restaurant on the streets of Nice. It’s far away from anything touristy and is an absolutely amazing restaurant. They only have 12 tables, and all of the tables are outside. The kitchen is tiny but they grow all their own herbs and use fresh, local produce and meats. Plus they make their own limoncello and Sex on the beach shots (we learned this when they come out with it after dinner!)
It opens at 6pm, but I didn’t want to eat that early so we headed over there after drinks at a local spot at about 8pm. We got there and were about the 5th party in line, which meant about one hour or so of wait time. I had heard that it was worth it to wait, so we did. Tom ran and grabbed a bottle of rose for us to split while we waited in line. It was so fun and we were so excited to get some food! Once we got seated, we got a plethora of delicious food. They had a lamb shank special which was the best thing EVER. It was sweet and glazy and salty and the meat literally just FELL off the bone, it was incredible. We also got some delicious appetizers and some truffle pasta to share and it was incredible. We kept saying WOW. WOW. WOW. and of course we got dessert too…and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the waiter. He was phenomenal and he handled all 12 tables himself, didn’t mess up a single thing, and was so pleasant. We loved him so much! I cannot recommend La Cucina more. It was the best restaurant of our entire trip!!!
Nice Day Three
On our last day in Nice, we decided to make it a beach club day, but we went to Saint Jean Cap Ferrat, which is a very fancy place in the French Riviera where a lot of celebrities have houses! It is just one of those places that is absolutely breathtaking and you really can’t believe where you are. The waters are crystal clear, there are cliffs everywhere, and its super private. We took an uber to the beach club Plage Paloma, which is about 30 minutes away. You need a reservation for the beach chairs, which we actually didn’t know, but they had a cancellation so we were very lucky and got to spend our entire day with our butts planted on one of the nicest beaches in the world, sipping aperol spritz, eating delicious food, and switching on and off between swimming and reading.
This was one of my favorite days of the trip. It was the perfect way to wrap things up…this beach club was so relaxing and beautiful, the service was incredible, we had beautiful weather and spent 7 hours just hanging out on the beach. It was perfect. The ideal French Riviera day.
We took a bus back home and this was the only night I didn’t have dinner plans for us…so we decided to walk around a little bit until we both couldn’t stop thinking about La Cucina. So guess where we ended up for the second night in a row? La Cucina, of course! Another night of another amazing meal and we were both so happy with our decision. The waiter loved seeing us again and we loved seeing him! It was another perfect day in the South of France.
Sadly, this was our last night and we wrapped up our trip! We flew home out of the Nice airport early the next morning.
The whole trip was perfect and we wouldn’t change a single thing! We felt like it was the perfect amount of time spent in each city and that we really got to see all that Paris and the South of France offered. I’m so happy we decided to go with France this trip, and we are already brainstorming where we want to go next! If you have any suggestions, please let us know and leave them in the comments! And if you have any questions about this trip or about our logistics, feel free to leave them in the comments so I can answer to the best of my ability!
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