By Francesca Escarraga
“People are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”
This is my best friend, Alex. We’ve known each other since we were 8 years old. If there is anything that personifies BFF Goals, you can definitely place your bets on us. To say that we’re inseparable would be an understatement; from being next-door neighbors, to attending the same school from elementary to university, to having countless sleepovers, to surviving adolescence, to figuring out adulthood, to being the sister we both never had, and to conquering our dreams of going on epic adventures around the world together.
When we were younger, we had a yearly tradition of making lists containing our New Year’s Resolutions for each other and out of all the things we wished for, the one that we ultimately wanted to happen was, “To go on a Euro Trip by 25.”
Who would’ve thought 10 years later, our childhood dream would come true. Last March 2017, everything we ever worked hard for turned into reality. You may have physically missed out on our adventure, but I'll take you on a trip down memory lane. Off we go!
If I were given a chance to move to Europe, Rome would definitely be number one on the list. From its cobbled streets, to its breathtaking ancient ruins, influential art and culture, authentic Italian cuisine, and heart-warming locals, there surely is nothing quite like being in a place where history books come to life.
We started off our trip by paying a visit to the heart of the Roman Catholic church, commonly known as Vatican City. In here, you can also find the Vatican Museums, St. Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Apostolic Palace, and Castel Sant'Angelo. The moment we arrived in St. Peter's Square, we had to pinch ourselves to make sure that we weren't just dreaming. It was surreal to say the least. What used to be something we only saw on TV and read in every book was standing right in front us. We were definitely, as people would call it, #blessed.
The Vatican Museums consist of a wide array of artifacts, relics, paintings, sculptures, and significant masterpieces made by prominent artists centuries ago. If I were to discuss every museum or room in detail, it would probably take me as long as a roundtrip flight from Asia to Europe in order to finish — it's that massive. But there are significant works of art that you must immerse yourself in namely, the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, Borgia Apartment, and the Chapel of Beato Angelico, which you will all encounter as you move along.
Basically, the last stop of the Vatican Museums tour is the Sistine Chapel, a sacred place that contains Michelangelo's frescoes, which tell the story of how God created Earth and Mankind, The Story of Noah and the Great Flood, The Downfall of Man, and The Last Judgement. Upon entering the Chapel, it felt as if we caught a glimpse of heaven. We were overwhelmed with gratitude, joy, and peace as we said our prayers and as we gazed at the spectacular frescoes enveloping the sanctuary. The Sistine Chapel alone was a sight to behold and it was the perfect finale to a 2-hour spiritual walking tour.
FYI - If you want to go inside St. Peter's Basilica, you must be there as early as 7-8 am, if possible. Since it has no entrance fee, the waiting time could be around 3-5 hours. Unfortunately, we learned it the hard way and missed out on the opportunity to see the crypt of the Popes as well as other historical artifacts. Although, at least we have a reason to go back!
ALTARE DELLA PATRIA
Also known as the "Altar of the Fatherland," which was built for the first king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II. It is one of the most eye-catching monuments located in Piazza Venezia for its massive exterior made of Italy's finest marble. The next thing you'll notice is the tomb of the unknown soldier heavily guarded by two other comrades. As you go up further, you'll find the Museum of the Risorgimento, wherein weapons, flags, and artifacts used in the Unification of Italy are displayed. Initially, all we wanted was to take a snap of the facade, but as we got closer to the gates, the officer announced that it was free entrance for that day. However, in my opinion, this place is worth your time and money.
COLOSSEO, ROMAN FORUM, AND PALATINE HILL
The Colosseo is the largest amphitheatre built in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian. Mainly used for gladiator fights, executions, animal hunts, and mock sea battles to entertain an estimate of 70,000 spectators. I can't even begin to describe how extraordinary the experience was; we were almost on the verge of tears for being a little too ecstatic as we entered the amphitheatre. The remnants of the past echoed through the ancient walls so vividly as if we travelled back in time. It was such an intimate, enriching, and informative tour that no amount of conventional learning could suffice (and I have probably touched and brushed every wall and fragment excessively with my bare hands).
A few steps away from the Colosseo, you'll find the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. As you can see, what's left of the ancient Roman civilization are remains of what used to be where the Roman Empire's political, economic, justice, and commercial buildings once stood. Most of it were built during the reign of Julius Caesar (and his remains were buried in The Temple of Caesar) and his successor Augustus.
On the other hand, Palatine Hill used to be the home of prominent Roman emperors. It was also believed to be the place where the founding fathers of Rome and the Roman Kingdom, Romulus and Remus, were discovered by the she wolf.
Seriously, this is probably the only time I would say that books have (slightly) no bearing. Nothing comes close to understanding history than firsthand experiences. We approximately spent around 3 hours just basking in the presence of greatness. But in all honesty, experience is the best teacher and the world is the best classroom.
The Pantheon is one of the most influential architectures built for the gods of pagan Rome. We explored this place for at least 30 minutes on our own but you also have the option to rent audio guides for a comprehensive understanding of its history.
FONTANA DI TREVI
The moment we gazed upon this marvelous fountain, we knew exactly that "this is what dreams are made of." To all 90s kids out there, you know what I mean. I may not be vocally gifted as Lizzie McGuire, but this experience definitely made my heart sing when I took a minute to appreciate its beauty. The vibe was cool, the place was filled with laughter, and the sound of the flowing water was soothing and relaxing. The view is also best enjoyed with a serving of authentic gelato from Venchi.
Of course, a trip to the Trevi Fountain wouldn't be complete without tossing coins over your left shoulder. Whether you believe in magic or not, it's worth a try. Who knows what tremendous luck a simple toss of a coin could bring to your life, right?
SPANISH STEPS AND PIAZZA NAVONA
If you happen to have a best friend who is an avid fan of Audrey Hepburn, you'll definitely catch yourself standing in front of the Spanish Steps. Aside from it being popularized by Roman Holiday, this place is known for exemplifying what constitutes a perfect design of Roman Baroque architecture.
Most people just sit on the steps to get a bird's eye view of Piazza di Spagna, enjoy the company of their friends, or to watch painters, magicians, and street dancers perform. As you go to the upper part of the Piazza, you'll see Trinità dei Monti, a Roman Catholic Church built during the Renaissance period.
Piazza Navona is one of the largest and liveliest plazas in Rome. In here you'll find the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi situated in the middle of the plaza, which was also featured in Dan Brown's thriller, Angels & Demons. Behind the fountain, you'll see Sant'Agnese, a 17th-century Baroque church built for Pope Innocent X and his family.
This is a good place to cap off the day since there are numerous restaurants in the area where you could enjoy authentic Italian food and simply appreciate the pastel skies.
Firenze is one of the most captivating cities we've ever laid eyes on; it was absolutely love at first sight the moment we saw its picturesque Tuscan skyline. Not to mention, the whole city was established as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is also known to be the birthplace of the Renaissance, which is made evident through its terracotta and mustard-hued architecture, mesmerizing art, and bold fashion culture.
This vibrant city is brimming with festive restaurants, quirky boutiques, and the finest leather goods in the world. Firenze will ignite a flame in your heart that shines brighter than the Tuscan sun.
First order of business in Firenze: you must go to Piazzale Michelangelo to catch the most beautiful sunset in the world and to get a majestic panoramic view of the city. It only takes a 15-min bus ride from the city proper to get there and you have to ensure that your picnic basket is fully equipped with a bottle of wine, variety of cold cuts and cheese to elevate the whole experience. Definitely the best way to spend your first day in Firenze!
PONTE VECCHIO & PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA
Ponte Vecchio is the oldest 3-arched bridge over the Arno river. Aside from appreciating the wonderful view, you could also spend your time browsing through the love locks, vintage shops, or simply have an aperitivo along the riverside. This place is so calming and relaxing that we were literally just staring at the still water and taking in the beauty of nature for a good hour.
Piazza della Signoria is a huge square where you'll find Loggia dei Lanzi, the replica of Michelangelo's David, Uffizi Gallery, and the Gucci museum. This is also one of the busiest commercial areas where you could purchase authentic leather goods, souvenirs, and Italian fashion clothing.
You may specifically check out Fontana del Porcellino, a marketplace where you could literally find thousands of high-quality leather bags and wallets. Piece of advice, practice your bargaining skills so you could maximize your pocket money; vendors could go as low as €10 for an item that's worth €25-30.
It's also a 5-min walk away from Ponte Vecchio, so after hoarding and maxing out your wallets, you could relax and enjoy the scenic view of the bridge (or contemplate on your terrible shopping decisions).
CATTEDRALE DI SANTA MARIA DEL FIORE
Simply known as Duomo di Firenze; it is impossible to overlook this remarkable masterpiece by Arnolfo di Cambio and Filippo Brunelleschi, which stands tall in the heart of the city.
It is also the central and largest church in Firenze, which consists of the Cathedral, Dome, Baptistry, Bell Tower, and Museum. Although, exploring the ground level of the Cathedral is free of charge, you still have to purchase a ticket (which is a must) worth €15 on-site if you want to get access to other areas.
The minute I saw its facade, I immediately thought that I was looking at a postcard. Picture-perfect masterpiece!
The church itself is breathtaking; but the whole experience wouldn't be complete if you don't experience climbing 463 steps to the Dome. If you think that panoramic views of Florence couldn't get any better, wait until you reach the top of the Dome to get a 360° view of the city.
The journey to the top is equally enjoyable as you would come across Giorgio Vasari's frescoes of The Last Judgement, subtly doing a great job to distract you from the fact that you're actually 114 m high above the ground. Though, even the faint of heart will make an exception to face their fears just to get a glimpse of the picturesque view waiting at the top. Allow me to let the pictures speak for themselves.
Pisa is another city in Italy where you could find The Leaning Tower. It is an hour away by train from Firenze, however, you still need to take a 30-min bus ride from the station to get to the place where the tower is located. Once you get off, you'll immediately see an arch leading to the church and tower.
If you want to explore the church, you need to get a ticket from the information center located in front of it, which is free of charge. Although, if you want to climb The Leaning Tower, you have to shell out €18 to get access and I strongly suggest you book a reservation online to secure a spot. We actually didn't climb the tower (yes, we'll probably regret it forever) but marveling at it from afar was substantially enough. Besides, we were able to get the perfect pushing-the-tower selfie!
Aside from the main attractions, you could get refreshments from restaurants and food trucks around the area. You can't go wrong with Prosciutto sandwiches only for €5!
Galleria dell'Accademia is one of the best museums in Italy you must definitely include in your itinerary. It showcases famous sculptures such as Prisoners, St. Matthew, and David, all created by renowned Renaissance artist, Michelangelo. We almost missed the opportunity to see his works of art all because we didn't purchase the tickets in advance, but luckily the art gods were one with us and we were able to drop by the museum before our flight. A lot of tourists and international students flock to this museum so, purchase the tickets here if you want to secure your spot.
I remember sitting in my art class looking at pictures and listening to my professor enthusiastically describing how enormous and mesmerizing Michelangelo's David was in person. After seeing it in the flesh, I instantly couldn't stop obsessing over how gifted and talented Michelangelo was as an artist. From painting the Sistine Chapel to sculpting David, he basically defined what greatness is all about.
Mercato Centrale Firenze
Attention foodies: everything you need in life is in this building. This food haven is located between via dell'Ariento, via Sant'Antonino, via Panicale and Piazza del Mercato Centrale. In here, you'll find artisanal shops selling bread and confectionary, fresh seafood, authentic Italian pizza, fresh pasta, fried exotic food, wide selection of the world's finest wines, fruits and vegetables, every kind of cold cuts, cheeses, desserts, sandwiches, and other locally grown produce.
We met up with my cousin, Carla, who is pursuing her passion for fashion in Firenze. We were able to explore the city like a local, from eating the best Florentine steak, fresh seafood, and gelato to drinking the most refreshing cocktails and experiencing the night life; all thanks to her impressive knowledge of the city and ability to speak the local language. The first place she brought us to was Mercato Centrale (similar to a fancy food court), and I swear, the moment we entered the building, I knew that I was going to leave the place with a food baby — and I was right.
Mercato Centrale starter pack: Stone oven Prosciutto Pizza from La Pizzeria, Truffle Burrata and Prosciutto from I Formaggi, Fennel and Sausage Pasta from La Pasta Fresca, finest wines from L'Enoteca, Negroni, Aperol Spritz, and Watermelon Cocktail from La Caffetteria e il Bar, fried rabbit, chicken tenders, and croquettes from Il Fritto e Le Polpette, and Lampredotto (stomach of cow) sandwich from Il Lampredotto.
Everything you need to try is listed above, trust me, it's the best. Italian. food. ever. Alex and I loved it so much that we went back the next day and ordered the same items. Yes, we were hungry but mainly because it was beyond exquisite and I am not even exaggerating. Not to mention, the price range of their food is around €7-€20 only. Your palate will genuinely love you!
Fishing Lab puts a modern twist to seafood and traditional Italian cooking. Located along Via Del Proconsolo, which is a 5-min walk from Duomo di Firenze. We went here around 1 pm and luckily we came just in time or else we would've been stuck in a 2-hour queueing line. The minute you enter, you'll easily get a certain vibe that you'll absolutely have a good time because of its cheerful, modern, and laid-back atmosphere.
The quality of the food was superb and extremely fresh as if it has just been pulled out of the ocean just for you. You have the option to choose whatever you like to put in your basket as if you're literally fishing for your own meal. We ordered the fried squid with cheese and chips, basket of fried calamari and tiny fish, seafood risotto, and of course, paired with a glass of Rosé and red wine, all for €26!
Hands down the best Bistecca alla Fiorentina in town. This quaint trattoria is located in Piazza Piattellina, which is a 10-min walk from Duomo di Firenze. We almost missed our chance to eat at this restaurant because we didn't make a reservation, but we were lucky that the owners allowed us to dine before the guests arrived.
You cannot leave Firenze without trying I'Brindellone's pride and glory. Forget about the sides, all you need is a serving of their delectable medium rare steak. It is quite heavy, so you have to limit the sides in case you want to order but definitely load up on their home-made red wine. We spent around €80 for everything and we felt like we got more than what we paid for because of the excellent food and service. I shall return!
La Ménagère, Gesto, Icy Dot Wine, & Gelateria La Carraia
Venice is the best place to unwind from the madness of back-to-back travelling and sightseeing. It doesn't get any better and more relaxing than looking at the clear blue skies, sitting on the dock listening to the sound of nature, and enjoying a glass of refreshing Aperol Spritz while watching the sunset over the Grand Canal.
Not to mention, the mediterranean colored architecture complemented the vibrant and lively atmosphere. You may have seen every replica of the Grand Canal from different parts of the world but nothing comes close to the real thing.
ST. MARK'S BASILICA, DOGE'S PALACE, BRIDGE OF SIGHS, & RIALTO BRIDGE
We stayed in Venice for 2 whole days and I think it's more than enough to get a relatively satisfying experience. Our good friend, Erick, who lives in Bologna joined us for the weekend. To get a picture of the city, Venice is divided into 6 sestieri or districts namely Cannaregio, Castello, Dorsoduro, San Marco, San Polo, and Santa Croce. San Marco is known as the heart of Venice, so mostly everything you must see in this city is located in this district.
Start your day by enjoying an alfresco brunch along the Grand Canal and cap it off by watching the sunset from the Rialto Bridge. Of course, your trip to Venice wouldn't be complete without riding the Gondola; we found €80 a bit pricey for 3 people but luckily, we were able to find another group of friends who were willing to share the ride. Win-win!
Once we've crossed out the tourist spots, we let our feet lead the way. It took us to the side of Venice we never knew existed; from quirky alleys to hole-in-the-wall bars to vintage carnival fun shops. We enjoyed walking and exploring a little too much that we ended up in Cannaregio, which is approximately a 30-min walk from San Marco. Though, I'm glad we did because we ended up discovering a hip bar called Frulala located in Calle de L'oca (must try, you won't regret it!) and we met the funniest (and cutest) bartender, Giacomo!
For some reason, a lot of shops close around 8-9 pm so the alleys could get pretty dark and quiet. Thus, we decided to hoard cold cuts, cheese, and wine from the nearest grocery and simply had a movie marathon at our hotel then called it a night. Relaxation at its finest!
To anyone who swears that magic doesn't exist in this world hasn't been to Paris. Its enchanting beauty illuminates the entire skyline from dusk 'til dawn, the cheerful people on the pavement beam a warm smile of welcome, its street lights perfectly glisten on the boulevard and waterway, the aroma of freshly baked croissant from the corner store café awakens your senses in the break of day, and above all, its effortless ability to make you believe that genuine happiness is found in the simplest of things.
The City of Lights got us under its spell for as long as we can remember and seeing it with our own eyes was absolutely a dream come true. This city has given us extraordinary memories and experiences that will forever hold a special place in our hearts. It's true what they say, Paris is always a good idea.
TOUR EIFFEL & CHAMP DE MARS
Let's be real, the first thing you do when you get to Paris is to get a glimpse of the Iron Lady, Tour Eiffel, which is one of the tallest buildings in the world built by Gustave Eiffel. Our immense fascination with this city was further heightened the moment we saw the Eiffel Tower in all its glory — it was magical in every sense. It is located in Champ de Mars, a wide green space where people could enjoy a nice picnic, celebrate with friends, or simply have an intimate moment with nature.
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements or administrative districts; 7th arr. is where you'll find most of the famous landmarks and is considered as the most affluent neighborhood. If you want to wake up to a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower, this is where you want to invest every penny in your pocket.
We got a chance to live like a local for a week in this neighborhood. Our hotel was situated along Rue Saint-Dominique, a street full of hip and trendy cafés, Michelin-starred restaurants, and a stone's throw away from the lovely, Tour Eiffel and Champ de Mars.
There are probably a hundred different angles or viewing spots where you could see the Eiffel Tower up close. But sometimes, taking a step back to see the bigger picture gives you a better view of this marvelous architecture like you've never seen before. The Trocadéro offers a bird's eye view of the Eiffel Tower, Seine river, and Champ de Mars.
You've probably Googled photos of Paris a million times and you'll notice that most photos are taken from this angle because of its magnificent view. Since a lot of people swarm to this place, the biggest obstacle you have to face is taking the perfect shot without photo bombers. It took us 2 hours to get the best selfie, profile picture worthy shot, and of course, to simply appreciate the scenic view. You could avoid the crowd if you come here at 6 am. Be a hustler, do it for the gram!
CHAMPS-ÉLYSÉES & ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Champs-Élysées is a long avenue located in the 8th arr., which stretches from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. It is famous for luxury shopping, fancy cafés and restaurants, cinemas and theatres, or used as a venue for celebrating national events or major occasions. Thousands of tourists and locals flock to this area to enjoy an afternoon stroll or to indulge on designer bags and clothing.
But if you're looking for a quiet place to relax and have a wonderful afternoon tea, you may go to one of the best patisseries in the city, Ladurée, to have a taste of their delectable macarons only for €12. I have eaten their macarons in other countries before but nothing beats having it where it first opened its doors. Certainly the best place to satisfy your sweet tooth!
The best way to burn off the calories is to walk towards the end of the avenue, where you'll find the Arc de Triomphe. The names of the generals and soldiers who fought for France during the Napoleonic Wars were engraved on the inside and top of the arch. At the ground level, you'll see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier representing all the French soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. Then, prepare yourself to climb 284 steps to reach the top of the arch to enjoy a 360° view of the city. If you have a Paris Pass, you'll have free access to this viewpoint.
MUSÉE DU LOUVRE
The Louvre is one of the largest museums in the world that contains a comprehensive archive collection of original relics, painting, sculptures, and artifacts from different periods of history.
However, it is more commonly known for safekeeping Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece, The Mona Lisa. This painting sparked a controversy when it was stolen by an Italian handyman in 1911, which was further sensationalized by conspiracy theorists and Dan Brown's novel, Da Vinci Code. The painting is located in its own private room, Salle des Etats. Seeing the Mona Lisa in person was another dream-like moment and the more you look into it, the more unimaginable it becomes.
Furthermore, we came across another iconic sculpture called The Winged Victory of Samothrace, which was interestingly the inspiration behind the name of your favorite sportswear brand, Nike.
Outside the Louvre, you'll see Jardin des Tuileries, a beautiful garden which became a public place after the French Revolution where people celebrated, relaxed, and enjoyed the company of their loved ones.
You'll get free access and a fast pass ticket to the Louvre using your Paris Pass.
JARDIN DU PALAIS ROYAL
We stumbled upon this majestic garden after exploring the Louvre. In here you'll find a lot of university students studying, hanging out with their friends, or having a picnic. The garden is known for its signature striped black-and-white columns sculpted by Daniel Buren, a French artist known for his thought-provoking public artworks.
CHÂTEAU DE VERSAILLES
Château de Versailles is one of the greatest achievements in the history of France, which was transformed from a humble hunting lodge to a royal palace by King Louis XIV during his reign. Later on, he decided to build a court and the government in 1682, which was further expanded by his successors until the French Revolution.
This palace has 5 centuries worth of history that tremendously shaped the France we know today. It contains over 2,000 rooms but the most famous room is known as The Hall of Mirrors, which symbolizes France's political, economic, and artistic accomplishments. In here, you'll also find the original bedchambers of King Louis and Marie Antoinette as well as other artifacts from the 17th century.
If you peek through the windows of the palace, you'll see the best and most extravagant garden in the world. Its perfectly lawned luscious green swirls and trees definitely scream backyard goals. The property is extremely huge, so renting a golf cart or joining the tram tour is essential if you want to see every garden.
You'll get an in-depth understanding of the history and the different estates with the help of the interactive audio and video guide.
Although if you're not feeling adventurous, you could simply sit on the benches or stairs to relax and enjoy a mini picnic. You also have the option to grab a bite to eat at one of the best delicatessens in Paris, Angelina, which is located on the first floor of the palace.
Angelina is known for their rich hot chocolate drink and Mont-Blanc dessert since 1903. We ordered all the best sellers; hot chocolate drinks, macarons, lemon cakes, Millefeuille a la vanille Bourbon, and cold-cut sandwiches all for €30.
The fastest and cheapest way to get to Versailles from Paris is by train and the closest train station to the palace is Versailles Château Rive Gauche. It's approximately 30 mins. away from the city and you probably have to allot half a day to get a thorough understanding of the place. You'll get free access to the palace and gardens using your Paris Pass.
You definitely need to include this incredible place in your itinerary or else you'll miss out on a once in a lifetime experience.
Musée d'Orsay is another museum in Paris that has the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works of art by famous painters such as Monet, Renoir, Degas, Manet, and Van Gogh. Another interesting fact is that the current location of this museum was a former railway station in the 1900s.
This museum houses thousands of gigantic and famous paintings such as Van Gogh's Starry Night Over the Rhone, Bedroom in Arles, and Van Gogh Self-Portrait. If you're an art enthusiast like us, you'll absolutely have a swell time browsing through different collections. If you have a Paris Pass, you'll have free access to this museum but if not, you could purchase the ticket on-site only for €12.
NOTRE DAME DE PARIS
Notre Dame is a medieval Catholic Cathedral known for its impressive French Gothic architecture and its angelic-sounding bells, which was built in the 1600s. We immediately felt shivers down our spine the moment we entered the church and heard the heavenly symphony from the bell tower echo through the church walls. Its intricate stone carvings, colorful stained glass windows, and 8000-piped organ were perfectly glorious; exactly the way it was portrayed in Victor Hugo's film, the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
With your Paris Pass you'll get free access to the tower where you'll see a panoramic view of the city, the famous Gargoyles and Chimera as well as the Emmanuel bell up close. However, before you reap the rewards, you must climb 387 steps to get to the top. Trust me, it's worth it!
By the way, there's a quaint café on the right side of Notre-Dame called Créperie Du Cloître, and they make delicious hazelnut crépes and cold-cut sandwiches. Excuse my lousy food photo, I was awfully starving from the climb.
Montmartre is a hill-topped district located in the 18th arr. where you'll find the Sacré-Cœur, Moulin Rouge, Sinking House, and classic vintage shops. This quirky town is far from your typical impression of a Parisian neighborhood; from contemporary graffitis to hipster cafés to scandalous sex shops — you name it. Forget about Google Maps, enjoy getting lost and finding hidden gems that you'll quickly go head over heels for.
After exploring the neighborhood, fill your empty stomachs with authentic French food from Le Refuge. This alfresco bistro is located in front of the Lamarck-Caulaincourt station. First order of business: you MUST order their herb butter Escargot. Seriously, there are no words to describe how insanely delectable it is. I have no idea how they elevated simple ingredients such as garlic, butter, and parsley to a level that is out of this world. You should also order their creamy salmon pasta and 4-cheese sandwich paired with Rosé and white wine.
OTHER PLACES TO SEE
Le Relais de l'Entrecôte
Le Relais de l'Entrecôte is an elegant bistro opened by Paul Gineste de Saurs in 1959; known for its tenderloin steak, golden thin-cut fries, walnut salad, and herb butter sauce. It was recommended by my mom who emphasized that I cannot leave Paris without trying this one-of-a-kind steak. We went to the Montparnasse branch located in the oldest artists' neighborhood around 6:45 pm (it opens at 7 pm). Luckily, we went there on time before the line started to get long.
The moment we sat down, our server immediately asked, "How would you like your steak?" Alex and I looked at each other wondering why she didn't give us the menu. Then, we found out that they were known for having a single course menu. We got more curious and excited, so we hurriedly said, "Medium rare and a bottle of red wine please!"
For appetizers, they served the walnut salad with honey mustard dressing and 4 pieces of crispy baguette. When the entrée arrived, the aroma of the herb butter sauce instantly filled the air. The first bite was heavenly, the melt-in-your-mouth medium rare steak was cooked to perfection.
We were trying to savor every bite as slowly as possible because we didn't want the experience to end. But then, after we were about to eat the last piece, our server came and placed another serving of steak and fries!!! We were in total disbelief; trying our best to hold our laughter until the server walked away. It was certainly heaven sent. It's not everyday you get a second serving of steak and fries in a fine dining restaurant, right? Apparently, it's what they're also known for.
It also happened to be Alex's birthday, so we absolutely had a good time celebrating it in this amazing restaurant. Hands down the best steak in Paris.
P.S. Sorry, I had too much to say about this restaurant. The experience was just extraordinary. I repeat, do not leave Paris without trying Le Relais de l'Entrecôte. I rest my case.
Address: 101, Bld Du Montparnasse 75006 Paris, France
Metro: Vavin (line 4) Station
Au Petit Sud Ouest
Another delicacy you can't miss while in Paris is the classic Foie Gras. We had the privilege of eating at this restaurant before it closed its doors a month after our visit. Their rich and buttery Foie Gras was to die for. First, we ordered their Foie Gras prepared 3 ways: fresh, half-cooked, and pan-fried. For the entrée, we ordered the whole duck breast served with salad and fried thin potatoes.
I don't know what we were thinking when we ordered all of these. We were almost on the verge of having a food coma but we didn't want to regret not trying their best-sellers. I do not recommend you do the same, most especially to those who are suffering from high blood pressure and cholesterol — but #yolo.
Hotel Thoumieux Brasserie
To cap off our amazing Euro trip, we decided to have a fancy schmancy dinner at 2-starred Michelin restaurant, Hotel Thoumieux Brasserie, by Chef Sylvestre Wahid. We were treated like VIPs the minute we arrived, as we were escorted to our table, up until the moment we left. The ambience of the restaurant was elegant, warm, and lively; the servers were extremely welcoming and attentive; above all, the food was beyond perfection.
For our appetizers, we had a basket of freshly baked sourdough and baguette with a side of Pâté De Foie Gras, sea salt, and herb butter. Also, we ordered the assorted platter specially selected by the Chef, which includes tuna and salmon tartare, sea bass ceviche, light and crispy fish, salsa, avocados, and salad topped with a variety of flavorful dressings. For our entrée, we had a perfectly seared medium rare steak with crispy baked potatoes, mushrooms, and edamame paired with a bottle of classic French red wine.
The overall experience of eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris was phenomenal. I've always wondered why this city was dubbed as the capital of culinary excellence and I found the answer in this Parisian brasserie. C'est divin!
Address: 79 Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris, France
Metro: La Tour-Maubourg Station
You've reached the end of the long-haul journey. But for us, the memories will forever linger and remain alive in our hearts. None of the material luxuries in the world will ever compensate for the extraordinary and valuable experiences we had during our adventure.
We don't have the luxury of time to live a life that revolves around superficial things; spend your limited time wisely by living in the moment, focusing on yourself and your goals, learning a new skill, honing your talents, embarking on exciting adventures around the world, and creating priceless memories with your family and friends.
Make your journey meaningful and worthwhile by investing in experiences in your 20s; you'll get a deeper understanding of your passions, purpose, priorities, the world that exist beyond the boundaries, the people in your life worth keeping, and ultimately, finding what makes you genuinely happy.
You're only young once, live your youth to the fullest!