Undiscovered Paris: A Self-Guided Tour of Paris’ Hidden Gems

We truly believe that Paris is best explored by wandering. Or as the French call it, flâner. And while we could spent a lifetime strolling around Paris, we thought we would save you some time and compiled a list of the top hidden spots in Paris!

Le Palais Royal

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Despite its proximity to the Louvre, this spot gets passed up by many tourists. This garden oasis is a reprieve from the bustle just outside its walls in the heart of Paris. And its black and white columns make for a fun Instagram shot! People watch in the gardens or from atop a column and soak in some sunshine.

Courtyard of the National Archives

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While the National Archives are a tourist destination, the gardens are worth exploring in themselves. For the quietest time, visit on a Tuesday when the archives are closed, but the grounds are still open. Walk through the main gates and to the right for more gardens and impressive building exterior views.

Passages of Paris

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We came across several of these covered arcades, which are easy to walk right by without noticing. These arcades often have shops and restaurants housed on the interior. The Galerie Vero-Dodat is one of 25 remaining passageways built in the 19th century. The passage’s black and white diamond-shaped marble paving give it a beautiful effect, and the parts of the ceiling that are not glass are decorated with beautiful engravings. We found this arcade to be especially enchanting in the evening. And the Christian Louboutin store housed here is perfect for window shopping. After stopping by Galerie Vero-Dodat, catch happy hour in one of the small bars nearby.

Les Arènes de Lutèce

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Did you know that Paris has a Roman Colosseum of its very own? Long forgotten, this remnant from the Gallo-Roman era resurfaced in the 1800s during construction in the area. Situated in the Latin Quarter, this amphitheater could once seat 15,000 spectators for gladiator fights. The Arènes de Lutèce is a fun stop for history buffs, and a walk around the perimeter past beautiful gardens is enjoyable for all.

Neighborhood courtyard parks

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Paris has some incredible parks tucked into its neighborhoods that only locals know about. Square Georges Cain is a little park situated in the trendy Marais district, and provides an oasis of greenery to people who have been lucky enough to stumble upon it. This park is also popular among neighborhood regulars who would like to keep it a secret. Square Georges Cain has two pieces of artwork: ‘L’Aurore’, a bronze statue of a nude woman in the middle of a rose bed by the 17th-century sculptor Laurent Magnier, and ‘Le Rossignol Electrique’ by Eric Samakh (1990), a small electronic bird that starts singing whenever the wind blows.

 

Église St. Gervais & Rue des Barres

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Rue des Barres is a stone’s throw from Île de la Cité but will transport you to a quaint village setting. Chairs line the cobblestone street in the warmer months and are ideal for people watching. Tucked into this street is Église St. Gervais. This church is overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Notre Dame de Paris, but is equally beautiful. The church was built between 1494 and 1657 and its facade was the first example of French baroque style in Paris.

 

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Best Indoor Activities to Do in Washington, D.C.

Don’t let a bit of rain ruin your fun in Washington, D.C.! These indoor, rainy day activities are the perfect way to spend a weekend in the Capital City.

 

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Museum exhibits

Some of our favorite Smithsonian museums include the Air and Space and American History Museums. If you have seen it all, or just want a break from the ever-popular Smithsonians, explore the Phillips Collection in DuPont. Opened in 1921, the Phillips Collection is the America’s first museum of modern art located in a converted Georgian Revival style home. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir (pictured here) is among the museum’s personal collection.

 

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U.S. Botanic Garden

Rain or shine, winter or summer, the U.S. Botanic Garden is sure to be green and warm any time of year. This living plant museum was established by the U.S. Congress in 1820 and is one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Wander among blooming orchids, cacti of all shapes and sizes, dramatic air plants, and gigantic trees.

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Bookshop browsing

There is nothing better than snuggling up with a good book while the rain pours outside. Browse in these unique and quintessentially D.C. spots: Capitol Hill Books, Second Story Books, and Kramerbooks.

 

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Library of Congress

Speaking of books… Did you know there are more than 162 million items stored here, making the Library of Congress the largest library collection in the world? Notable exhibits include a re-created version of Jefferson’s library, the first document printed with the name “America” (also known as America’s “birth certificate”), and Lincoln’s pocket items at the time of his assassination.

 

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Coffee shops with a unique atmosphere

Heads up that many D.C. coffee shops have selective hours on Sundays. Our favorites are Baked & Wired in Georgetown (both the cupcakes and coffee are excellent), Emissary in DuPont (great brunch and happy hour every day 4-7pm too), and Sidamo Coffee & Tea on H Street (they roast their beans on-site and perform Ethiopian coffee ceremonies on weekends).

Alpine, Texas: “The Last Frontier”

Explore the town of Alpine, located between Marfa and Marathon. Get a sense of place at Stylle Read’s wall mural Big Brewster outside of the Kiowa Gallery. This mural portrays notable town figures including visionaries such as Everett Townsend who spearheaded the creation of Big Bend National Park, successful rancher Herbert Kokernot who established the Alpine Cowboys baseball club in 1946, and local celebs such as Dan Blocker who became better known as Hoss Cartwright on the“Bonanza” TV series also appear in the mural. Keep an eye out for more murals scattered throughout Alpine.

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Catch a semi-pro Alpine Cowboys baseball game at historic Kokernot Field during the season that runs from May through August. With inexpensive tickets, a boisterous local crowd, the Davis Mountains as the field’s backdrop and brews from nearby Big Bend Brewing Co., you’re guaranteed to have a good time. Fun fact: the 06 symbol found throughout the park tie in to the Kokernot family’s cattle branding from back in the day. Not in town during baseball season? You can still visit the field’s exterior intricate ironwork.

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The Museum of the Big Bend at Sul Ross University is worth a visit. The Big Bend Legacy exhibit gives visitors deep insight into the natural and human histories of the region. Other temporary rotating exhibits include Terry Cockerham’s “Big Bend and the Terlingua Project” and “Early Education and the Annual Summer Normal in Alpine.” Admission to all exhibits is free!

Nearby things to do:

McDonald Observatory

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The Gage Hotel

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Marfa

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Davis Mountains

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Vacation Vagabonds Guide: NYC in 48 Hours

New York City – A dazzling skyline, compact boroughs, streets packed with interesting shops, and unique people. In all its multifaceted angles, there are a thousand ways to “do” a trip to NYC. We decided to tackle the City in 48 hours and experience as much of it as we could in one short weekend. And boy did we pack in a lot! We took an urban wandering approach to experiencing NYC in the fall and let the structure of the city guide our daily journeys à pied.

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Evening: Nightlife. We arrived into the city in the evening and headed directly to dinner in the Upper East Side at Candle 79 for an unbelievable fine-dining experience and vegan, organic plates. Stephanie was especially excited to dine here because loves the chef’s cookbook! Afterwards, our good friend currently living in New York joined up to show us a night out on the town. We were ambitious and traversed half of the city from East Village to Chinatown to Brooklyn.

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Morning: Weekend brunching is part of the NYC lifestyle. We highly recommend a casual brunch at Jack’s Wife Freda in West Village. This charming yet understated American-Mediterranean bistro is super popular with locals and tourists alike. We ordered their Eggs Benny, Madame Freda, and cappuccinos with cute “coffee art” to go with.

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Afternoon: Wander West Village past local outdoor markets, small neighborhood parks, and high end boutiques.  Charming brick winding streets lined with old brick buildings give the area a lovely laid back feel. Seasonal veggies and homemade goodies were displayed in stalls at an outdoor neighborhood market. We also hopped into a few shops to browse their fall/winter collections, including Intermix, Maje, and Sandro (some of Stephanie’s favorites).

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Afternoon: Explore Chelsea Market. This indoor urban space includes a diverse food market and local arts scene. It’s also one of New York’s hot spots for unique antiques, collectibles, and vintage clothing. Chelsea Market was a fun pit stop and great entry point to access the High Line.

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Afternoon: Walk the High Line. The High Line is an elevated freight line turned walkway that runs from Ganesvoort St. up the West Side. The walkway offers pedestrians an urban oasis and a different perspective of the city. Expect crowds in the afternoon, especially on a sunny day, and great people watching. You can hop on/off the High Line at several access points, but we walked the path in its entirety.

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Afternoon: Times Square and shopping. If you didn’t take a picture in Times Square, did you even really go to New York? This tourist packed mecca is one for the books, and while we don’t love most overcrowded tourist attractions, we felt like this was still a NYC bucket list must. The Square is full of New York’s famed hustle and bustle energy, and the massive flashing billboards are also dazzling by night.

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Afternoon: In NYC, you’ll walk. A lot. What was meant to be a rather short cab ride from Times Square back to our place turned into an adventure in itself. As hard as we tried one late afternoon, we couldn’t hail a taxi (they were all full!) and decided to take the city blocks by foot. We walked all the way back from Times Square to the Upper East Side and on the way passed interesting architecture and notable New York landmarks including the New York Public Library, Bryant Park, and designer shops on Park Ave.

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Evening:  Sip a cocktail at an upscale rooftop bar. The Press Lounge came highly acclaimed by local friends. To get there, take the elevator up to the 16th floor at the Ink48 Hotel. You’ll be rewarded by panoramic views of the city and the Hudson River. We sipped on cocktails poolside and caught the sun setting over the city and stayed for a beautiful full moon rise.

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Evening: Dine in Hell’s Kitchen. With a lot of restaurant variety in the area, it can be hard to choose where to stop. We popped into a Thai restaurant called Obao, which had amazing and affordable plates plus a hip club-like ambiance. Take a stroll around Hell’s Kitchen past late night restaurants and bars up to Times Square to experience the neon-lit block by night. On the way out of of the tourist-packed Square, we discovered a reverse happy hour at Bar Catalina (675 9th Ave A) and stayed for bubbly rose and impromptu dancing with the bar staff. Go for great happy hour/reverse happy hour options and a fun cozy vibe!

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Morning: Local coffee spot. Strolled around Upper East Side to Birch Coffee, a local coffee chain, to get our morning dose of caffeine. Not only is Birch Coffee delicious, but the company also purchases coffee beans from sustainable farms around the world with the aim of “making the coffee industry a fair and sustainable one.” Oh, and the pastries! You know we had to try the gourmet Texas-sized donuts. We split a dulce de leche donut and our taste buds got sent to heaven.

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Afternoon: Pop into the Plaza Hotel & stroll Central Park. The Plaza Hotel dominates the square at the lower end of Central Park. Inside the revolving glass doors, you’ll be rewarded with giant chandeliers and the definition of New York luxury. From there, walk into the park past ponds, bridges, and benches. You may also discover some tucke treasures like the Alice in Wonderland statue and the Belvedere Castle. On your way out of the Park, walk down the grand avenues on the West and East peripheries with adorned facades that will definitely inspire major home design envy.

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Evening: On the road again. Hail a taxi or ride sharing service directly from your phone to catch a ride back to airport. While Uber and Lyft are good ride sharing options, many New Yorkers use Gett and Via. Vacation Vagabond tip: First time Gett users will get $20 off their first ride by entering the code GTTEGOT. First time Via users will get $10 off their first ride with referral code stephanie6j7b. Until next time, New York!

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