It’s hard to believe that it’s taken me five months to finally sit down and write about our time in Paris. I had such mixed feeling about our visit there that it took this long to fully form my opinions and shape the suggestions I have to make your trip all it can be. Since I’m more a nature-seeker than a city-sicker, I wasn’t exactly sure how much I’d enjoy the tiny alleyways and packed cafes.
TL:DR: Paris is well worth your time, but be selective which tourist hot-spots you actually visit to ensure they cater to your interests and passions.
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After a long journey from the French alps up the east side to Burgundy and then on to Paris, we were so ready to relax once we arrived. After a slight hassle returning our car, we easily decoded the train system and made our way towards the city center. We stayed within walking distance from the Louvre which was an excellent choice. The city truly earned its nickname as La Ville-Lumière, the City of Lights, with all the narrow streets and cobblestone walkways illuminated by the glowing streetlamps. (FYI, Paris is also called the City of Lights due to its advances in education and ideologies). After a long day, we checked into our adorable boutique hotel and went out in search of food. In typical European fashion, dinner is served late and meals are centered around good wine and good company. After enjoying hearty soups and sandwiches from a restaurant around the corner, we headed back to our hotel to prepare for a full day of Paris sightseeing.
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Looking to get the most bang of our buck, we opted to see all of Paris’ top sites in 8 hours with a full day tour. Dan has actually been on this tour before and promised that not only was it worth experiencing, but he was willing to do it a second time with me! We started off early in the morning near The Lourve and headed out from there. Although a tour group is not always my ideal way to explore a new city, the fact that we skipped nearly all of the mile-long Get the lowest prices on Skip the Line Tours in Paris“>entrance lines made this splurge more than worth it. Plus, not being the most enthusiastic museum goer, it was nice to be lead through a museum to see the top sites with efficient explanations, and then quickly move on to the next thing. Beginning with The Lourve, the notable glass pyramid was packed even at the crack of dawn. Luckily we skipped the line, and made our way to Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. Swarms of people surrounded each exhibit but I was able to sneak up far enough to grab a quick shot on my iphone and slink back to a bench near an equally impressive piece of art that apparently was of little interest to anyone else. Somethings I’ll never understand.
Seine River Boat Cruise
After the museum, we climbed aboard a boat to sail along the Seine River. With some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower, I spent most of the journey on the back landing of the boat to snap some photos until my seasickness took over and I found myself self a seat inside. We stopped at the base of the Eiffel Tower and, yet again to our tour group, we were able to skip the monstrous line and head right in after security checks.
*I will note that these large tourist-y sites also attract the pickpocketers Paris is famous for. Be wary of young girls with clipboards and those asking if you speak English. I often had to forgo my manners to avoid interacting and simply shook my head no. Pickpocketers will often use the clipboard to shove in front of you over your belongings, and then stealthily go through your stuff. This is just a short PSA to make sure your bags not only zip (they can be easily unzipped), but are close to your body. Even further, I kept my important items on me in zipped coat pockets and just used my purse for sunscreen, water and snacks #truelife.
After reaching the base of the Eiffel Tower, we briefly stopped to admire it in all its glory before we rushed to the next line, the elevator to the first floor. Although stairs are available, our guide led us up the elevator to seat us for lunch at 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant. One of the highlights of the tour, we enjoyed lunch, wine and a bread basket (all included with our tour) with spectacular views overlooking the city. We were given some free time to explore afterwards and we enjoyed our meal at a relatively quick pace in order to make the climb up to the second floor. Although to can pay to ride another elevator to head upwards, we wanted to avoid the lines and opted to take the thousands of stairs to the next level. I definitely broke a sweat, but the Parisian skyline is not to missed! The third floor was a little too extra for us so we made our way back down the tower and enjoyed a snack while we waited for the tour to reconvene. We made a quick stop at a small fair near the river and observed tents full of sugary sweets and dizzying rides until our boat arrived.
Our next and final stop was was Notre Dame. We were unable to skip this line, but luckily it moved at a swift pace. Upon entering we observed the famous gargoyles and gremlins with a 45 minute tour led by our guide. The structure was glorious and it was neat to see the actual place of a site scene so many times on film. With tired feet and enlightened minds, we went in search for another meal to round out the day’s events.
Given that “Overachiever” is my middle name. We had one last stop for the day, catch the Eiffel Tower’s twinkling lights. Although this is sure to change, the Eiffel Tower’s lights currently twinkle at the top of every hour from sunset to 1am for five minutes. After asking around for the best spot to view this moment, we settled on the Trocadero Metro station. For one, it was free, and secondly, we had mastered the train system and wanted to put it to good use. We clearly weren’t the only ones who had this idea and it was lovely to be surrounded by others eager to see the structure’s glow. We ‘ooh’d’ and aah’d’ for exactly five minutes then packed up our things and headed back to our hotel.
The next morning we got up as early as our wine hangovers would allow to head out to Versailles. We had mapped the train route out ahead of time and were on target to get to the palace before it opened. However, closed metro stops and unanticipated railway work got us off track (#punnotintended) and caused for a more hectic morning than we had anticipated. Luckily, some friendly locals guided us towards another station and we finally made it onto the Paris RER train that took us the 16 miles outside of the city. We easily followed the crowds up to Versaille’s gates…where we would spend the next couple hours standing. Although perhaps the most beautiful building I’ve even seen, absolutely no architecture is worth a two hour wait in line (to me). With little shade from the heavy summer sun, we were already drained by the time we finally entered the foyer. We skipped the audio tour and decided to just wander through the halls to whatever rooms caught our fancy. Although the awe-inspiring decorating and glorious gardens were worth the trek out, we were so exhausted from waiting in line that we didn’t absorb as much as we had hoped. Without the audio guide, there was little information provided so we ended up making up our own stories of the gruesome battles and murders we were sure occurred. After spending far too much money on mozzarella sticks and getting lost between the neatly trimmed aisles of trees, we headed back to Paris. Although I’m so, so glad we went to Versailles to say I say it’s gilded columns, this was marked as overrated in our book.
With still the afternoon left, we went off in search of a hip neighborhood to explore (and some gelato to be consumed). We landed on Montmartre and climbed the narrow, steep alleyways up to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. With views overlooking the city, we parked ourselves on the steps to soak it all in. With nowhere to be, we spent a good hour people watching and debaitng our plans for dinner. We leisurely made our way back towards our hotel in search of a final Parisian meal to conclude our trip. With little luck, we accidentally stumbled on perhaps the most delicious restaurant of our entire French expedition. After abandoning our hopes of escargot and bouillabaisse, we ended up in front of a Pho restaurants with a line out the door. When in Paris, eh? We put our name down and were seated with in ten minutes. Exhausted, sleep deprived and overwhelmed by all we had seen, we were committed to relaxing and enjoying a meal with no end point in sight. Overflowing bowls of pho arrived and there wasn’t a minute that went by that we didn’t discuss its level of delicious. In fact, we often talk about going back to Paris simply for the Pho. Whatever it takes, huh? Although I’m not entirely positive, I believe this is the place that stole our noodle-lovin’ hearts: Pho Banh Cuon 14 at Pho 14 Opera, 17 Rue Molière, 75001 Paris, France. We concluded our night sharing the bottle of wine we had picked up from Burgundy and packing our things for the flight home. You better believe I took some croissants to-go.
*It’s worth noting that in August, the Parisians leave for a month long vacation, which we certainly witness in the especially touristy locals of Etretat, Annecy and Monet’s gardens. Thus, it’s undeniably true we weren’t able to witness a *true Parisian experience*. Yet, that’s all the reason we need to visit again! Well that, and I don’t think I could go on without another week filled with creamy gelato and delicate neck scarves.
Do you dream of Paris? Or do you think it’s another overrated destination? Let me hear your thoughts!