FLASH VISIT: Paris and Amsterdam

I’ll be honest. I was never pressed to visit Paris. Aside from a few of the classic photos every visitor takes, I haven’t heard too many great things about the city. However, I’m a travel blogger. A few times, I thought to myself, “How you gonna be a grave blogger and you ain’t even seen the Eiffel Tower?” The last time I had this thought, a flight deal came across my Twitter. 

Round trip from New York to Paris for $350.
— One of the flight deal sites

It was a sign, so...I booked the ticket. After booking, it was a quick decision for me to add another city to the itinerary, since it’s pretty affordable to travel to other European countries and cities. So, I decided to make it do-what-it-do and book a train trip to Amsterdam for a couple days. This way, if I didn’t like Paris, the entire trip wouldn’t be a bust. 

Anyway, enough about the lead-in. Let's get into the meat of the trip!

Day 1

My flight landed early in the morning, and I hopped on Le Bus Direct shuttle (17€) which took me directly to Le Méridien Etoile.  I got there super early, but shout out to them for letting me check-in, and on top of that, upgrading my room since I have have status with SPG. Oh, and shout out to the fact that I booked this hotel using my Chase Sapphire Ultimate Rewards points! I'm telling y'all, getchu a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve card!

Okay now...don't judge me, but I may or may not have spent my whole day gawking at and walking around the Eiffel Tower.  Dammit, it was my first time in Paris, and I was obsessed with this thing I've only seen in movies since I was a lad! So, I hopped in an Uber from the hotel, and arrived at the tower, and just walked around for an hour or so. I was trying to find the best place to take a picture of it. Then, I got sick of walking around so I just sat on a bench and did my Googles...

Where’s the best place to take a photo of the Eiffel Tower?
— My lazy Google search

I got my answer! Though, it was the middle of the day and I knew it'd be packed with tourists, I headed over to the Palais du Trocadéro. Not only did I get my answer...I got my shot!

The money shot across the bridge from the Eiffel Tower

I skipped lunch because that morning I stuffed my face with chocolate croissants and coffee, so I returned to my hotel to rest for a bit and charge my phone. After that, I headed where??? BACK to the Eiffel Tower! I know...I'm wasting my time in Paris. But listen...OBSESSED! I wanted to see it at night. Also, here's a tip: From sunset until about 1 or 2 AM, the tower sparkles every hour on the hour for five minutes! 

For dinner, I went to Le Relais de l'Entrecôte. Here's the thing about this place. It's really good, and it's popular (there will most likely be a line outside when you arrive...wait it out) for locals as well as visitors. They don't have a menu. They serve what they are known for...steak and frites. You hear me? Steak.And.Frites. If you don't eat steak and/or frites, you gotta go somewhere else. They have a special sauce that they place on their steak, and they serve it to you table-side. While you're eating the first portion of your steak, they are keeping the rest of your steak and fries warm on a table right beside yours, heated with candles.

Le Relais de l'Entrecôte - a popular steak & frites restaurant in Paris, France

Steak and frites is the only thing Le Relais de l'Entrecôte serves, along with bread and a side salad

Day 2

I woke up at the crack of dawn to go...back to the Eiffel Tower. But wait wait wait! Hear me out! I just wanted to get a panoramic view of the neighborhood before all the tourists woke up...and it was well worth it.

The best time to see the Eiffel Tower in all of its glory would be early in the morning, before the grounds are filled with tourists

The best time to see the Eiffel Tower in all of its glory would be early in the morning, before the grounds are filled with tourists


I just stayed there for a few minutes and then headed over to the Louvre. I didn't go in the museum, because I'm not really the museum type, but I was extremely happy that apparently, I beat the rest of the tourists there, as well! I pretty much had the courtyard to myself. I had space, and opportunity...so I took advantage with all the photos my heart desired.

Get to the courtyard at the Louvre before the rest of the tourists arrive.

The Savoury Stack from Holybelly did not disappoint

After sitting in the courtyard and relaxing for a bit, I decided to check out a breakfast place that came highly recommended. Full disclosure, I'm typically not a fan of breakfasts outside of the United States, but I was told this place was comparable to many of the brunch spots I frequent when home. It did not disappoint. Holybelly is definitely what I consider comfort food! The atmosphere is modern and industrial, and of course there was a little wait because it's that good! I don't mind waiting for good food! There were a few dishes I wanted to try, but I opted for the Savoury Stack, which was pancakes with fried eggs (they come over easy, but you can request them to be fried hard), bacon, house-made Bourbon butter & maple syrup. 

I mentioned to my server that I had some time to burn before meeting a friend, so he suggested that I head over to the Notre Dame area and visit the Sainte-Chapelle. I did just that! It's a beautiful place. It cost 10€ to get in, and once you are in the chapel, you can stay as long as you want.  The stained glass windows are amazing. What's not amazing was the number of people in there snapping photos. Luckily I'm pretty good and being able to capture photos like no one else is there...


The stained glass windows at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.


After that, I met up with a friend of a friend. Our mutual friend back in the States noticed that we were both solo-tripping in Paris, so she suggested we meet and hang out together. Ala, from Toronto was an awesome addition to my trip! We walked to the Latin Quarters and had lunch at a kabob place and did a little souvenir shopping. Then we found somewhere to have coffee, people-watch, and talk about what we've done on our trips so far. We walked back over to the Saint-Chapelle to snap a photo in front of the gates since it's such a picturesque spot.

When Brooklyn and Toronto meet randomly in Paris and become instant friends. 

It's always great to see familiar faces when abroad.

We separated for a bit so she could head back to her hotel. I, then met up with a college friend who happened to be in Paris for the weekend visiting from Copenhagen. We met back at the Palais du Trocadéro, and then hopped on a train to head to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which is one of the world's most famous boulevards. We walked up the avenue to the Arc de Triomphe and caught the sunset before heading to the center of the city for dinner at a place called Little Italy.


Arc de Triomphe as the sun was about to set. You have the option of climbing to the top of it and seeing an awesome view of Paris.


After resting for a bit and charging our phones, we all (my friend from Toronto, and college friend from Copenhagen, and a new friend who actually lives in Paris) got together and went out for drinks and dancing. We tried this one spot on the water called  Monsieur Mouche (dope outside spot on the top deck of a boat, with an awesome view of...*grins*...the Eiffel Tower) but they closed early that evening, so we moved on to a popular place called Yeeels. We danced the and had a great time! There was a video of me attempting French after that, but I won't be sharing that #onhere.

Day 3

I jumped on my train early in the morning, and was headed to Amsterdam! I was riding first class, so my 3-hour ride included a comfortable seat, meal service and train workers who were accessible at all times. When I arrived in Amsterdam, I hopped on the tram which took me to the Generator for the night. I know...I rode to Amsterdam in First Class, just to check into a hostel. I'm unfigureoutable...but when I choose to stay in hostels, Generator is always the brand I go with, if one is available in the city I'm traveling to.

Amsterdam has small canals running throughout the entire city.

The many bridges of Amsterdam provide charm to the city.

Anyway, after checking in, I headed right to the Rijksmuseum so that I could get a photo with the "I amsterdam" sign...bad idea. Total mayhem! Since I didn't make real plans for Amsterdam, I just did as my friend, Darnell, of PasstortRequired suggested, which was walk around and enjoy the scenery, shops and food. I walked around the museum district for a while, and people-watched as many boats rode past me. Folks were drinking and having an awesome time sailing through the canals.

I, then went to Easy Times Coffeeshop. Okay, moving on.

Dinner was at Antonio's. Actually, I had lunch there the next day too. After walking around a bit more, I picked up the best churro dessert I've ever had, from a place called Dolce & Gelato! It was covered in Nutella, white chocolate and whipped cream! That, plus the coffeeshop, put me to bed for the night. I initially planned to take a nap, so I could go to the Red Light District that evening, but...my nap lasted for 9 hours. Needless to say, I felt really rested the next morning. I'll go back to Amsterdam soon, and experience the Red Light District...with friends.

Day 4

Since I got so much rest, I was able to wake up at 7AM, and head back for another attempt at the "I amsterdam" sign. Eureka! There were a handful of people there taking photos, and everyone was pretty patient with letting each person get their individual photos. So, pro-tip: GO IN THE MORNING!

I went to Cafe Saloon for coffee and breakfast. I was going to order an egg breakfast, but when I sat down at my table, I could see that they had fresh apple pie. I thought to myself, "People in Amsterdam speak Dutch...I have the chance to eat apple pie...in a Dutch country! Get it?? GET IT?!!? 


Having apple pie in a Dutch-speaking country was sort of a big deal to me.


Then, I spent the rest of the day walking around and exploring more of the city. IAlsoWentBackToEasyTimesCoffeeShopOkayBye before heading to the train station, so I could head back to Paris! I was reenergized and excited about returning to Paris for my final night!

After a comfortable 3-hour ride back to Paris, I checked in to the Generator, and met my new friend, Ala, at the pier, to go on a night cruise/tour on the Paris Seine. This was the perfect way to spend my last night in the "City of Love." The cruise was with Bateaux Mouches, and it lasted a little over an hour. It only cost 13€.


Cruising on the Paris Seine with Bateaux Mouches.


In Summary

I'm extremely happy that I didn't let some the negative reviews I read about people's trips to Paris deter me from traveling there and seeing it for myself. I enjoyed myself, and my only regret is that I didn't plan the trip to be longer.

Pro-tips for Paris and Amsterdam

Public Transportation

Both cities have pretty reliable public transportation systems. For Paris, I used Uber a lot, but if I were there longer, I would have started taking the Metro a lot more. I was getting comfortable with it toward the last half of my trip. For Amsterdam, I took the trams everywhere. They are super convenient, and you can buy an unlimited 24-hour card for 7.50€. It's well-worth it. I also like the trams because they are above ground, and I can see where I'm going. They do have underground trains as well. Many people get around Amsterdam with bikes, and its really safe because of the bike lanes they have. I may rent one next time.

Seeing landmarks and "tourist" sites

Smart man

Get there early! It may be painful to wake up at the crack of dawn, but you will thank yourself later when you get to see the dope sites with very little people there in your way. Then, after you see what you want to see, you have the rest of the day to take it easy. You can even take a nap to catch up on that sleep you missed whilst waking up early. Also, people are less annoying in the morning. I can't tell you how annoying and frantic tourists can be in the afternoon when they are fully awake and fed. Going in the morning typically means people have low energy, and they'll keep it cool, LOL.


Booking Thalys train between cities

If you plan well enough in advance, you can get some pretty good deals with Thalys. My First Class ticket to Amsterdam (includes food and comfortable seats) was $59. That was actually cheaper than my Second Class ticket back to Paris, which was $72.

First Class cabin on Thalys train. Includes meals, wifi, power outlets as well.

One of the meals served to First class Thalys customers.

What did you enjoy most about Paris and Amsterdam? What should I do next time I go?