Paris was such a delight! I’ve been wanting to go to Paris for years and I was thrilled when I finally got the opportunity to go. There were a lot of things that got me excited about the city of lights. The food, the wine, the cafes, the pastries, the fashion, the museums, the Seine, the Eiffel Tower, the language, and of course the love and romance, just to name a few. I went there loaded with anticipation and I didn’t come home disappointed. We planned the trip for months and for those many months I researched and googled the city endlessly. I thought I got it all down but everything I had did not prepare me for what I experienced in that beautiful city. Paris definitely exceeded my expectation. It was more than I had imagined.
We had 9 days in our hands so we decided to break it up and visit another city nearby. We’ve considered a few places like London, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Barcelona. We opted for Barcelona because of our daughters and I have to say, Cheetah Girls 2 had a lot to do with that decision. We stayed in Paris the first 5 days then we flew to Barcelona and spent 2 days there then back to Paris for another day before flying back home.
We had a non-stop flight via American Airlines from New York to Paris. The flight was 7 hours long and we took an evening flight that gets into Paris early morning. The Charles de Gaulle airport is not that big so it was pretty easy to find your way around and most of those who work at the airport also speak English so that was helpful. There’s a currency exchange counter at the airport right outside the baggage claim area next to the detax window and the information counter. So no worries. If you need more information about the city they can help you. There are many ways to get to the city from the airport. You can either rent a car, take the bus or train, or take a taxi. There’s an RER station at the airport which I think would be the best way to take if you already know exactly where you’re going. In our case, we took a cab because we didn’t want to get lost on our first day plus we have our luggages and we didn’t want to drag them around looking for the apartment. We paid 60 euros from the airport to Les Halles which is in the 2nd arrondissement.
The apartment was very nice. It was small which we had expected but there was enough room for the four of us. It was clean and the location was perfect. It was at the very heart of Paris and walking distance to the Louvre, Hotel de Ville, and Pompidou. There were a few Metro stations in the area which came very handy. It was also a very short walk to Rue Montorgueil, which now became one of my favorite streets in Paris. We hung out almost everyday on that strip. I was drawn to its village like atmosphere. The cobblestone street is lined with bakeries, cafes, bistros and bars, food markets, and boutiques. There was even a pharmacy and a grocery store and a seemed so out of place Starbucks! I went crazy with the almond croissants in one of the pastry shops there. They were so good!
First in our itinerary was Versailles. We took the train and spent the whole day at Chateau de Versailles. The place is amazing! The palace is incredibly huge and the grounds are breathtaking. We went on a Sunday which happens to be the busiest day because the fountains were on. Weekends are usually the busiest so prepare to queue up for at least 2 hours for the palace and maybe 30 minutes for the gardens. Best thing to beat the queue though is to arrive early or get the all-access pass or the museum pass. You don’t have to queue up if you have the pass so it saved us a lot of time. Actually, you don’t have to queue up for the museums and other attractions too if you have the pass so it’s definitely worth getting. And if you have at least a week in Paris you should get the 4-day or the 7-day pass. The 2-day is not enough.
We went on the hop on hop off Batobus the day we visited the Eiffel Tower. Batobus is a glass-topped boat service that goes up and down the Seine River. It stops at the major attractions and you can ride it as many times as you want. It’s actually very convenient and if you get tired from all the walking, you can just ride around and watch the sights from the boat. Eiffel Tower was of course one of the highlights of our entire trip. You can’t possibly go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower and climb to the top. They say it’s the most visited landmark in the whole world and I can see why. We didn’t have much luck with the queueing situation on this one though. We didn’t reserve in advance so we had to queue up for like 2 hours and that was only the going up part. Going down is another story. There’s also a line for the elevators going down. It took us another 30 minutes or so but it was all good. What you see from the top makes it all worth it. You can see the whole of Paris and it was beautiful. It was a very clear day so we could see everything. The view was breathtaking and of course a kiss from the top of the Eiffel was priceless. We watched the sunset from the boat and went back later that night to to watch the Eiffel Tower light up. The tower sparkles like a thousand diamonds after 8 o’clock pm. It was stunning and nothing really compares. It’s something that everyone should see.
On our 5th day, we went to Musee d’Orsay and had the best time. I love the Louvre for its grandeur and all but Orsay wins it for me. It houses the best collection of my favorite Impressionists like Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Degas, Gauguin, and many more. Renoir’s “Dance at Le Moulin de Galette” and Van Gogh’s “The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise”, his most expensive painting to date and the very popular “Bedroom in Arles” are in Orsay. Also Degas’ “Small Ballerina Aged 14” sculpture and a huge collection of Monet’s work including “The Rue Montorgueil in Paris” which I just added in my list of favorites. I can’t recommend this museum highly enough. It really truly is a must see. Definitely another highlight of my trip. Too bad they don’t allow you to take photos inside. I did manage to snap a photo of the main hall though. After Orsay, we took a little walk to the Passerelle Leopold-Senghor footbridge on the Seine river and got carried away in the love lock craze. Lovers have been clamping padlocks on the wire fence of the bridge for years as a sign of their undying love and we couldn’t help but join in with our very own yellow neon love lock. It was fun and romantic but the funny thing was, we forgot to throw the keys in the river which was what you were supposed to do. So we figured we’ll just find another river to throw it into. Haha!
After soaking up the romantic ambience of the Seine river, we took the train to Champs Elysees and did a little shopping. Louis Vuitton’s flagship store in Champs Elysees is huge. And those LV handbags are so hard to resist. They’re a little bit cheaper compared to the U.S. because they are made in France. You also get a detaxe or VAT refund for your purchases which you get at the airport when you leave the country. So, when you buy something make sure to ask for a detaxe form and fill them out. You bring the form and your purchases at the detaxe counter at the airport the day of your departure and they will give you your refund.
Sacre Coeur in Montmarte is another must-see. It’s a basilica that sits on top of a hill in Montmarte which is the highest point in the city. It overlooks the whole entire city of Paris. We loved Montmarte. It’s now one of my favorite places in Paris. There are plenty of shops along the street leading up to the top of the hill where the basilica is and it’s a great place to shop for souvenirs. Shopping is affordable there. It can get pretty crowded though but it has a lot of character. The narrow cobbled streets, the cafes, the art galleries and street artists were very Parisian. We ended up staying there so late at night. To me, it was probably my most memorable night. We just sat at this one cafe, had dinner, drank wine and talked for hours. Montmarte was the inspiration for Renoir’s “Dance at Le Moulin de Galette”.
Overall, it was a great trip. I really can’t find anything bad to say except that the soda was so expensive. A small bottle of diet coke costs 7.50 euros. So be careful in ordering your drinks at restaurants. The cafes are awesome but you won’t find the same size coffee you get in America. They serve their coffee in little tiny espresso cups. I loved just sitting at a cafe and people-watch. There’s a cafe everywhere you turn and every single one of them is set-up facing the street. For a tourist like me, that was already an attraction in itself. I also love that the French men are so fashionable and everyone wears a scarf! Their train system is very easy to figure out. We were already working it like locals on our second day. Sunday is a very special day for the French. Most stores are close on Sundays so not a good day to plan your shopping. I learned this the hard way. I planned to do my shopping on our last day which was a Sunday so imagine my disappointment. It was all good though. I love Paris and I would definitely go back!
- Paris – Paris, France (travelpod.com)