This was not a typical tourist’s week in Paris, France. I have had the pleasure of visiting the “City of Lights” 4 times before this trip, so I have already experienced many of the icons of Paris. My main motivation for spending time in Paris was to continue immersing myself in the french language, visit with my cousins, and take in a few sites of particular interest to me.
I chose to rent a little studio on the edge of the city so that I could have some quiet time, make some of my own meals, and get some work done. I started my week off with a nice long walk to the Arc de Triomphe. As I was walking home was when the Notre Dame Cathedral caught on fire. I turned on the French news and watched in utter shock as the steeple fell only a few miles from where I was sitting. It was incredibly surreal.
The next day felt very somber throughout Paris. It could’ve been the gloomy weather, but it felt to me like the reality of what had occurred the night before created a palpable gloom throughout.
On day 3 I set out to meet my cousins for lunch! I don’t get to see them very often so it was a real treat that they were available to meet me while I was in town. After lunch, my cousin Nathalie joined me in re-visiting the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris (open everday except Saturday, free admission). I had visited before in 2006 with my dad, but really felt called to return to see the names of my family on the wall. I was able to find the names of my grandmother, my great-grandmother, my great-uncle, great-aunt, and cousin. All deported from France during the Holocaust. Even if you don’t have any personal connection with the Holocaust, I highly recommend this memorial. It is a truly powerful experience.
The one place I really wanted to visit in Paris was another memorial for the Holocaust, the Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation (open everday except Mondays, free admission). I set out on Day 4 to visit but my hopes weren’t high. This memorial is located on the tip of the Île de la Cité, right behind Notre Dame. The bridges to access the entire area were closed due to the fire. I went back 3 or 4 times during my stay to see if I could access it. It wasn’t until my last day, a Monday, that the bridges were finally open. And of course, the memorial was closed that day (Lots of sites are closed on Mondays in Europe). C’est la vie. I will just have to return to Paris!
So instead, I visited the Musée de la Légion d’Honneur and the little museum that they have (open Wed-Sun afternoons, free admission). I was able to see many of the different military decorations from around the world and from many different eras. After this, I decided to relax with my book beneath the Tour Eiffel in the Parc du Champ de Mars.
Another place, not in Paris, that was high on my list to visit was the Mont Saint Michel. I decided after much hemming and hawing that the easiest way for me to visit would be to take a guided tour from Paris. Not my favorite way to travel or experience a place, but sometimes convenience and ease are just more important.
I booked a tour with France Tourisme and set out for the 14 hour day to the Normandy region of France. While the bus ride was far longer than my actual time at the Mont Saint Michel, it was well worth the trip to be able to see this iconic and striking place. The tour guides were very friendly, the bus was air conditioned, and it was far simpler than trying to take the train and make all my own arrangements.
The audio tour of the Abbey was fascinating and a really great way to understand the history of this monument that dates back to the middle ages. The town is very charming (and touristy) and typical of the Normandy region. I didn’t enjoy an omelette at the famous La Mère Poulard because there wasn’t enough time (reservations are highly recommended!). I look forward to being able to return and wade through the sand and mud surrounding the Mont!
Upon returning to Paris, I joined what felt like the entire city at the Trocadero Gardens to watch the Tour Eiffel sparkle and shine. Something about seeing the Tour Eiffel light up the sky always makes my heart melt.
On day 6 I meandered through the left bank of Paris and spent the afternoon at the Musée Curie (open Wed-Sat afternoons, free admission). As a woman who studied and excelled in the sciences, Madame Curie was a great inspiration to me. This museum was small, easily done in 1-2 hours, but I found it to be incredibly fascinating. The museum is in the building where Madame Curie had her 3rd and final laboratory and where her daughter and son-in-law continued the Curie work.
It’s mind boggling to think that there were 5 nobel prizes awarded to the Curie family! I often wonder if my grandmother was also deeply inspired by Marie Curie. My grandmother earned her degree as a chemical engineer at the age of 20 in France around 1925. Is it just me or is it hard not to see the parallels?
Day 7 turned out to be Easter Sunday so it seemed like a fitting day to head out of town and visit the Mémorial de la Shoah in Drancy, just outside of Paris (open Sun-Thurs, free admission, accessible by Paris public transport). Drancy served as a transit camp for French Jews that were being deported during the Holocaust. Most of the people left Drancy for Auschwitz by cattle car, never to return.
This was a very emotional experience for me. I felt like I was standing on the ground where my grandmother last stood before she perished. If you’ve ever experienced a feeling where someone was with you in spirit, that is what I felt when I visited.
The memorial has a small exhibit that explains through videos and photographs what life was like at Drancy during the war and how it functioned in the grand scheme of the “Final Solution”. The buildings that they were housed in still stand and you are able to get a very clear picture in your head of what it must have been like.
My final day in Paris was Easter Monday, a jour férié, meaning that many things were closed. I took it as an opportunity to have a light and easy day before the 2 days of travel ahead of me. I strolled through the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, laid in the grass and read my book, and enjoyed people watching the Parisians. This is a beautiful large green space in the 19th arrondisement. It is lush with waterfalls, greenery and flowers, and is quite hilly – a perfect escape from the city!
Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a few real food recommendations! Below are a few places I found in Paris that helped make my travels a little more nourishing.
Also, if you enjoy this post, please check out some of my other City Guides for Healthy Travels!
French Allergen-Friendly Vocab:
- Sans = Without (sans gluten = without gluten)
- Avec = With (avec fromage = with cheese)
- Gluten = Gluten
- Blé = Wheat
- Soja = Soy
- Produits Laitiers = Dairy Products
- Oeufs = Eggs
- Fruits à Coque, Noisettes, Noix = Nuts
- Cacahuète, Arachide = Peanut
- Maïs = Corn
Naturalia is an organic grocery store chain that offers many allergen-friendly products. Gluten-free, dairy-free, and natural rememdies can all be found here! The selection of fresh produce isn’t huge, but they have a great variety of packaged foods to help stock your real food pantry.
Nestled in a quiet street, a few steps away from Notre Dame, this restaurant offers a great selection of gluten-free, plant-based food! While a number of their main dishes do have soy, I was able to find plenty of food to fill up on without any soy. They also have free wifi and super-friendly service.
For a slightly more upscale experience, the Gentle Gourmet is a plant-based restaurant and pâtisserie. This was the perfect mix of french cuisine with a modern and health-nut twist. And let me just say, the desserts here are divine! I really enjoyed the creativity that I saw on the menu, although it made it very hard to choose! The only challenge was that it wasn’t necessarily gluten-free.
The most affordable location on the list! Végét’Halles is like the name implies, full of vegetables! The menu has a gluten-free icon making it easy to find both a gluten-free and dairy-free meal. Not always an easy feat in France! Make sure to leave room for dessert, the crème au chocolat noisette is marvelous!
Now I didn’t actually eat here because I literally couldn’t have put more food in my mouth when I came across this place. That being said, I did step inside to check it out. Oh the smells! If you are looking for a gluten-free and/or dairy-free gaufres (aka waffle), this is where I would go! After consulting their menu, I saw that everything was labeled for gluten and dairy. Plus they have both sweet and savory options and sorbet! Next time!
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Disclaimer: The information in this post is not intended as medical advice, or to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional. Marcelle encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research, and in partnership with your doctor, licensed dietitian, or nutritionist. The information provided in this post and the entire contents of www.marcellephene.com are based upon the opinions of Marcelle Phene and are for general educational purposes, and have not been reviewed nor approved by the FDA. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices.