“Paris is not a city, it’s a world.” ~ King Francois I
Our trip to Paris, France, in late September and early October 2014 was a short 8-day trip—3 days in Paris and 3-days in London. We flew through Delta and Air France, both quite comfortable airlines. Since we are both tall people we upgraded to business for more leg room. The seats were comfortable, and the flight, even though long, was quite pleasant. The food was as good as it gets on an airplane, and the crew was polite. We arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport at 2:00 p.m. where there was a shuttle waiting for us. The weather was in the high 50s and low 60s. Just perfect for walking extended hours anywhere from 8 to 12 per day.
We chose the Tim Hotel Boulevard Berthier in the 17th district near the Porte de Clichy Metro station. There was a lot of construction going on nearby, therefore the location left me unimpressed. However, the metro was just 300 feet from the hotel which compensated for the heavy construction nearby. The hotel staff was polite and very helpful. Our room was small but comfortable and clean. We don’t need a large space since we wake up at the crack of dawn and stay out until late spending no time in the hotel other than to bathe and sleep. By the time we arrive back to the hotel, we’re so tired we can’t even tell if the beds were comfortable or not.
Upon settling in, we headed out towards the Arc de Triomphe. It was about a 30-minute walk from the hotel, though it seemed longer. It was probably because of exhaustion from the long flight. The Google Map app on our phones was very helpful getting us around. We had paid a $30 service fee to our provider for international use, which helped a lot. We had learned from our previous trip to notify our cellphone provider about our international travels and see what options were available instead of ranking up a $700 bill per phone.
The walk was fun, educational, and invigorating. Paris has this old charm feel and look with its 19th century cityscape. The architecture is admirable. We strolled around some neighborhoods as well, just taking in their culture. I loved seeing their little mom and pop shops selling everything from flowers to foods in every nook and corner. Even though these neighborhoods were very close to the tourist area, it felt peaceful and traffic was light.
Well, the light traffic ended once we hit the spot where the Arc de Triomphe stands at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. There is no way to cross from any corner directly to the Arc. The traffic is chaotic and there are no lanes. It’s kind of a crazy roundabout. The Arc de Triomphe monument is enormous. You can imagine how big it is when during the World War I victory parade, a pilot flew his biplane right through the center of the Arc. To get to the monument, there is an underground tunnel accessible in a few areas only. It is a sight worth seeing. We purchased tickets through the Paris Pass but didn’t climb to the top of the monument. The elevator was out of service and I was way too tired to take the stairs.
We continued towards the Eiffel Tower through Via Av. Des Champs-Elysées. We didn’t have tickets to the summit. When I logged on to buy the ticket within a month before the trip, it was fully reserved until the next year! Still, we enjoyed this gigantic metal structure and its history. We also enjoyed a rickshaw tour around the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and vicinity. It was a bit scary riding between buses, vehicles and trucks, but the driver was cautious and got us to our destination without a scratch.
We strolled around Port de Suffren, stopping at local shops. Port de Suffren runs along the Seine river with many local shops and restaurants with views of the river. It’s a place where not only tourists spend time but also young adults and families. We took an hour-long river cruise with on board audio commentary through the Seine river. It was a serene sail as we learned the history and admired the Parisian structures and bridges.
The Louvre Museum was a day long adventure, and we could only visit half of this amazing structure. Did you know that The Louvre was once the home of several royal families? Also, just like the Eiffel Tower, Parisians were appalled by the ugly sight of the pyramid at the Louvre’s entrance. To them it was an eyesore. There is an entrance fee to visit The Louvre, but the Paris Pass had it included. The Louvre is an immense museum with beautiful works of art, especially for art lovers. We can look at them but aren’t a fan. I admit I was a little disappointed at the dust accumulated on the works of art and throughout the museum. You’d think that such a famous world-known museum would meticulously maintain their valuables. That was not the case.
We wanted to see the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo daVinci so we continued roaming around the museum until we got to the right place. I was expecting an enormous portrait of the Mona Lisa. Boy, was I wrong. Its dimensions are 2′ 6″ x 1′ 9″- not big at all. But it sure had a sizeable crowd taking photos of the painting. Believe it or not, there were signs everywhere at The Louvre showing “No Photos Allowed,” and employees sitting next to these signs and the artwork, but tourists would just take the photos as if nothing. Heck, I saw people taking photos of the employees sitting under the signs stating no photography! Unlike the Murano Glass Factory in Italy, no one came to harass or stalk a tourist for taking pictures.
Another beautiful sight in Paris was the Notre Dame Cathedral. Unfortunately, we did not get to go inside. The line went around the entire building and we did not have that much time available in Paris. Also, there was no lift and according to a guide tour nearby, there are about 380 steps up and no resting places. Not a good idea for those who are not physically fit like me.
The Paris Pass we purchased included the Big Bus Hop On-Hop Off tour, the river cruise, The Louvre entrance, Palace of Versailles, Osprey Museum, unlimited local metro bus and train, and many other museums, discounts at certain stores and restaurants and much more. We purchased the Paris Pass online before we even got to Paris. It’s worth it if you’re going to be in Paris for over 3 days; otherwise don’t bother. There was a lot included that we could not see.
The hotel had a great breakfast buffet, so it was unnecessary for us to eat breakfast elsewhere. We always try to take advantage of the breakfast offered at the hotel. We ate lunch at Café di Roma. It was not my husband’s ideal place to eat when in Paris. Then again, it is difficult deciding where to eat when you’re traveling with another couple, but it sure beats eating at Subway! The food was edible and filling—but nothing to brag about.
We had dinner at Beaurepaire Café Restaurant just a few feet away from Notre Dame Cathedral. I had a delicious plate of lamb chops and potatoes and my husband had steak; of course, we could not miss the wine of the house. The service was not the best, but I can’t complain. The cost was a bit on the expensive side (about 80€ for 2).
One of our lunches was across the street from Galeria Lafayette, Restaurant Mavrommatis, Mediterranean cuisine. It was a plaza that had various small food kiosks. I wish I had taken a photo of the plaza, kiosk or the food. I guess we were starving. I do recall that the food was good and so was the wine.
We also had a quick-lunch at The Carrousel Du Louvre Mall. They have a food court with a variety of foods. And of course, we could not leave Paris without the delicious macaroons which we found at The Carrousel Du Louvre Mall.
We shopped at many local mom and pop shops and purchased a few souvenirs from street vendors as well. We also shopped a bit at the Galeria Lafayette. It is a beautiful mall with a gigantic glass dome in the center and a lot of history. They offer guided tours of the mall for those interested. Another shopping location was at The Carrousel Du Louvre, which is an underground mall. We visited this mall at the end of our tour through The Louvre Museum. There is also direct access to the Palais Royal Musée du Louvre metro station.
Just like that, it was time to pack and head to our next destination, which was London. It left me with the itching for an extensive Paris exploration. Three days is nowhere near enough to enjoy such an exuberant city. There was so much left to explore. No doubt we will return.
What’s your story on Paris? Care to share?