Since I was little, visiting Paris has been a dream of mine. As in anytime I got money for anything – chores, birthdays, etc – I would put at least some in my “I’m going to Paris” fund. My goal was to go when I was 18, but that didn’t happen (instead when I graduated high school, I went to Disneyland). However, when I graduated college it did happen! And that would begin my official love affair with Paris. (In my favorite cities list Paris tends to vie with Rome for the number two position, with London in the top spot.) So when it came time to think about a vacation and Jessica suggested Paris, I said count me in.
We planned this trip many months ago and got as far as booking plane tickets and a hotel room. Until about the week before when it became a mad dash to try to plan what to do and see (especially since it was Jessica’s first time to Paris). Over the years I have drifted away from being a super detailed itinerary creator and planning out every minute of each day to creating a loose list of what to see and do. In either case, making the itinerary a few days before you leave is not something I would recommend!
Finally we were all packed and ready to go. The flight over was uneventful. The 5 hour layover at Heathrow was definitely not the highlight of the trip. (But it did make me realize it has been a long time since I’ve been to London!) And then we were underway on the last leg of our journey. I was asleep for most of the short flight but woke up in time to see the lights of the Eiffel Tower beckoning as we landed.
It was fairly late at this point so instead of messing with public transport we opted for a taxi. There was a lot of traffic but we made it to the hotel, checked in, and collapsed.
The hotel we stayed at is in a great location – near the Eiffel Tower and near Rue Cler (Rick’s favorite street in Paris). This was the third time I’ve stayed at this hotel. Rooms are small, but its Europe. So where to go for breakfast? We chose a cafe on Rue Cler and had pain au chocolat (my fave!), hard-boiled egg (which was on the runny side), and cafe au lait. Well I had cafe au lait, Jessica had hot chocolate.
We walked over to Napoleon’s Tomb and bought our Museum Pass. We looked around Napoleon’s Tomb and the Army Museum before heading over to the Rodin Museum which was under construction, but the sculpture garden was still open. After walking around looking at the sculptures, it was time for lunch so we had lunch in the little cafe in the garden.
From the Rodin Museum, we walked over to the Orangerie Museum, which is known for Monet’s water lilies. I just love looking at these paintings. It makes me feel so peaceful.
It was late night at the Louvre, so we headed there next. I love late night at the museum (and yes I love the Sesame Street episode where Big Bird gets locked in the museum and yes I did enjoy both Night at the Museum movies). Being the Louvre though, did not mean it was any less crowded. We hit the high points (Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and of course the Mona Lisa). Right across from the Mona Lisa (which is smaller than you would expect) is a ginormous painting by Veronese of The Marriage at Cana.
By the time we finished with the Louvre, it was late and we were hungry. We headed home on the metro and walked down Rue Cler, eating at Tribeca, an Italian restaurant. We started with a goat cheese salad, which was delicious, followed by pizza and finished up with tiramisu.
One of the best investments when traveling to Paris is the Museum Pass. You can choose between 2, 4, and 6 day passes. The pass gets you into a number of museums and other sights (including the Louvre, Versailles, and the Orsay) and even better it will let you skip lines at some of the sights! But it does take some planning. You need to take into account what is open or closed on any given day and when to start your pass. Our original plan for today was scrapped when I realized the last day of our pass would be Monday when a lot of things are closed. So instead of Notre Dame & vicinity (which would be open on Monday) we decided to head to the Orsay.
With our new plan in place, we headed to Rue Cler for breakfast, choosing Cafe du Marche. The set breakfast for this place was a croissant, omelet, orange juice, and cafe au lait (or hot chocolate). Yum!
We walked down to the Orsay via Pont Alexandre III, which became Jessica’s favorite pont in Paris. We got to the Orsay and were able to skip the big line and enter through the Museum Pass line which meant we could just walk in. First thing I noticed at the Orsay was the sign saying no photos allowed. I don’t remember this from last time. Although it does make life easier. Instead of thinking about what pictures to take, you can just walk through and admire the art. I love the Impressionist exhibit!
We took the metro over to the Cluny Museum, known for the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. In the handout describing the tapestries, the unicorn was explained as a creature with the face of a horse, the body of a goat and the horn of a narwhal, which cracked me up.
We stopped at a creperie for lunch – I had ham, cheese and pineapple and we split an apple caramel crepe for dessert. Yum!!
I have never taken a boat trip down the Seine, so when we finished with lunch, we headed over to take a river cruise. There is so much along the river so you can really see a lot! Overheard on the river cruise? “What time is it, in like America?” Now, I understand what she meant (what time is it back home?) and believe me I’ve said some silly things when I’ve been tired and even when I haven’t but this just cracked me up and became our go-to phrase during the trip.
We had some time before our Eiffel Tower reservation so we decided to walk to the place du Trocadero for some great views. On the way we passed by a Free Tibet rally which was just winding down. The street was blocked off and there was a significant police presence. My thinking is someone important was visiting, requiring the police presence.
The view from place du Trocadero was amazing! We tried several times to get someone to take a picture of us, but none were turning out. I’ll give you we are somewhat particular about our pictures, but you’d think of the several people we asked one would have turned out.
It was nearing our reservation time so we headed down to get in line. Having a reservation to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower is supposed to save you significant time. This was not the case for us. We were in line for over an hour after our reservation time (if you read the fine print we shouldn’t have to wait more than 30 minutes – seriously they need to take some lessons from Disney about line management). All in all we spent over 3 hours at the Eiffel Tower, most of it waiting in lines for the elevator. Boo. But the view was amazing – seeing the city all lit up, you realize why Paris is the City of Lights. And seeing it all lit up and the sparkle lights at the top of the hour was beautiful.
At this point it was almost midnight and we were cold and hungry so we headed back towards the hotel and found a somewhat sketch looking kebab place and decided since it was open we should stop. The pizza was decent and more importantly it was open! 🙂
At least our late night wasn’t compounded by springing ahead for daylight savings! We decided to have breakfast at the hotel since it was convenient and we still got croissants!
Our first stop of the day was at the Arc de Triomphe where we climbed up 283 steps for a view that was obstructed by fog and clouds.
Next we boarded a train bound for Versailles. I love visiting Versailles. The gardens weren’t all decked out and the fountains weren’t on as it was still early March but it was still magnificent. Plus, you have the inside splendor and opulence. Once we completed the inside tour we walked outside in the gardens and had crepes for lunch at one of the cafes in the gardens. We ventured out to the Petite Trianon (but never made it to the Grand Trianon) and to the Queen’s Hamlet. I told Jessica we could take the tourist tram back up to the main palace if we wanted to once we were done. The tram ride was crazy!! We were at the back so we felt every little bump and it kept weaving back and forth.
We caught the train back to Paris, had dinner at Tribeca, and went back to the hotel. We had hoped for an early night, and while it wasn’t early, it wasn’t late.
We really liked the convenience of breakfast at the hotel so we opted for it once again. This was our last day with the Museum Pass. First stop was Notre Dame and the steps up to the top. While I have visited Notre Dame numerous times, I have never climbed the stairs! The very top was closed but we were still able to climb up the gallery of the gargoyles. I love the gargoyles so this was really exciting for me. So exciting for me that I forgot to take a feet picture at the top. Darn! My only option was to climb back up to the top (which really wasn’t an option) so I had to settle for a different feet picture from this trip.
After walking through the inside of Notre Dame, we started following Rick’s Historic Paris Walk, including the detour to Ile St. Louis for a delicious eclair! Yum! We continued the walk, stopping to see St. Severin (which reminds me of Severus Snape) before heading to Sainte Chapelle. It was sunny today which made the stained glass in Sainte Chapelle that much more glorious! Our next stop was going to be the Conciergerie, but it was closed to take down a special exhibit. Well, okay. What to do now? We walked up to Pont Neuf (which you might remember from my List of Favorite Ponts is #2) to figure out what to do next. Since it was our last day with the Museum Pass we decided to head to the Pantheon, which houses Foucault’s pendulum as well as a crypt where numerous notables are buried (including Marie Curie and Alexandre Dumas).
So we didn’t have a proper lunch (instead we had eclairs!) which meant it was time for dinner. We went to Phillipe’s (in between the Eiffel Tower and our hotel). Jana and I discovered this place the last time we were here. (And when we pretend we have a teleporter we like to say let’s meet at Phillipe’s for dinner.) It is a tiny restaurant with maybe 6 tables. We had escargot, lasagna (the special for the night), and tiramisu for dessert. Delicious!
Since we had seen the Arc de Triomphe during the day, I convinced Jessica she would want to see it at night as well. No stairs this time! We just gazed upon it all lit up.
How did it get to be our last day already? We thought about going to a cafe for breakfast but decided the hotel was just much more convenient (and not that different from a cafe).
We did the Eiffel Tower at night, so of course we had to do the Eiffel Tower by day! 🙂 No elevator this time, we just took pictures. Perhaps with a prop….and there might have been jumping involved.
We walked back towards our hotel, doing some shopping along the way before heading to Sacre Coeur and Montmartre. We stopped at a restaurant for Croque Monsieurs and a banana chocolate crepe for dessert.
We climbed up the stairs to Sacre Coeur where it seems like there is always a party. We went inside the beautiful church and then followed Rick’s Montmartre walk which had lots and lots of ups and downs and stairs. It took us past one of Picasso’s studios, a former residence of Van Gogh’s and Moulin Rouge, among other places of interest.
We headed back to Rue Cler for dinner. As we were heading back around 6 PM the metros were super crowded! We made it to Rue Cler and decided to eat at Cafe du Marche (rather than Tribeca). And then it was back to the hotel to pack. Boo.
Not much to say about today – lots of traveling. And finally we were back in Seattle. Au revoir Paris, until next time!
P.S. You might be wondering how my new camera bag did? Well, it worked but it isn’t a long-term solution for long trips. It isn’t quite big enough and it doesn’t quite close enough for me to feel secure. So the search continues! Speaking of pictures, I have a TON which I’m still sorting through. So I only posted a few while I try to go through them all…