“Paris is not a city, it’s a world.” ~ King Francois I
Our trip to Paris, France took place in late September and early October 2014. It 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. We upgraded to business for more leg room (we are both tall). The seats were comfortable, and the flight, even though long, was quite pleasant. The food was as good as it gets being from an airplane and the crew was polite. Thankfully, there were no major incidents on the plane. We arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport at 2:00 p.m. where we had a shuttle waiting for us. The weather was terrific – high 50’s and low 60’s – but it felt good. Especially when we would be walking anywhere from 8 to 12 hours per day.
We chose the Tim Hotel Boulevard Berthier located in the 17th district near the Porte de Clichy Metro station. There was a lot of construction going on nearby, so I wasn’t impressed with the location. However, the metro was just 300 feet from the hotel. The hotel staff was polite and accommodating. Our room was small but comfortable and clean, as well as the bathroom. We didn’t need much space since we tend to wake up at the crack of dawn and stay out ‘til late. When we arrived back at the hotel we were so tired, we can’t even tell if the beds were comfortable or not.
Upon settling in, we immediately headed out towards the Arc de Triomphe. It was about a 30-minute walk from the hotel though it seemed longer – probably because we stopped in so many places for snapshots. Or we were tired from the flight. We used the Google Map app on our phones to get around. We had arranged to pay a $30 service fee to our provider for international use which helped a lot. We had learned from our previous trip to notify our cell phone 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 stimulating. Paris has this old charm feel and looks 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 anywhere 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.
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 monument. 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 after the World War I victory parade a pilot flew his biplane right through the center of the Arc. Getting to the monument is an excursion within itself. There is an underground tunnel accessible in a few areas where you can reach the arc. It is a sight worth seeing. We had 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 decided to purchase the ticket within a month before the trip, it was already reserved until the next year! Our trip was in late September. 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 our Parisian bike 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 onboard audio commentary through the Seine river. It was a smooth sail as we learned the history and admired the Parisian structures and bridges.
The Louvre Museum was a day-long adventure, and we were only able to visit half of this amazing place. 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 since we purchased the Paris Pass, it was already included. The Louvre is an immense museum with beautiful works of art – especially for those who love art. We can look at them but aren’t so much into it. 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 be meticulously maintained. That was not the case though. We did want to see the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, so we continued roaming around the museum until we got to the right place. I was expecting a big 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 big crowd taking photos of the painting.
Believe it or not, there were signs everywhere at The Louvre indicating “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 guided 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 more than 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 did eat lunch at Café di Roma. It was not my husband’s ideal place to eat when in Paris, then again, it is not easy deciding where to eat when you’re traveling with another couple, but it sure does beat eating at Subway! The food was edible and filling – 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, the wine of the house could not be missed. 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 square, booth or the food. I guess we were starving. I do recall that the food was good, and the wine too.
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 at the Galeria Lafayette. It is a beautiful mall with a huge 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.
Paris is a wonderful place to visit. It should be on everyone’s bucket list. I enjoyed it very much and anticipate returning. What do you think about Paris? If you’ve been there, what places do you recommend? If you haven’t been there, is it a place you’d visit?
Next stop London!