Ah, Paris… You could spend an entire lifetime there and not see everything, experience everything or eat everything that you want. You have 72 hours. The pressure! What to see?! What to do?! How do I get the perfect balance of traditional sightseeing as well as some local culture?!
Here is how I spent my 72 hours in Paris!
My husband, Eric and I took the train from London into Paris. The train from London into Paris is roughly 2 and a half hours. Once we arrived, we took a cab to our hotel and dropped our things off. Now, like a crazy planner, I booked two tours in one day. We first had to make our way to the Paris Catacombs. This tour is not for the faint of heart, weak kneed or claustrophobic. We had a fabulous Irish guide that took us down beneath the streets of Paris to the catacombs below. This spooky but very intriguing tour took us through the history of the burial processes of the medieval Parisians. It was hands down my favorite tour we took on our entire trip. Book this one in advance and early, tickets sell out quickly and if you do not pre-purchase a tour, you will stand in line for many hours. If this is on your must do list, BOOK IT! After our fascinating tour of the Parisian Catacombs, we high tailed it (it was really close, believe me) to the Eiffel Tower where I booked a tour up to the top.
There are many ways to see the tower. You can view it from below (free), book a dinner/lunch at one of the restaurants at the midlevel portion of the tower, or go all the way to the top to the viewing deck.If you book a restaurant reservation, that does not gain you access to the top of the tower. After our jaunt around the tower, we decided to head back to our hotel in the Opera district. Before we had left the US, we did purchase two things with a tour company specifically for Paris (besides our guided tours of the Catacombs and the Eiffel Tower). We purchased a visite pass (which is the subway system in Paris) and a museum pass. The subway pass is a tiny little ticket (THAT YOU MUST NOT LOSE). The map is very easy to figure out and the system is clearly marked to let you know at which stop each attraction (the Louvre, or the Eiffel Tower ) is located.
So, confession, shock and horror, I have been to Paris several times and I have not seen the Mona Lisa. I have been to Louvre and to the shops under the museum itself. But, I had little interest in crowding around the postage stamp size portrait of the mysterious Mona Lisa. That being said, I love the impressionists and the Musee D’Orsay was right up my alley. The museum itself is a old train station turned into an incredible home to infamous works of art. After enjoying many masterpieces, we made our way over to Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is absolutely breath taking. The famed rose stain glass window is forever etched in my heart as one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It is living art. We decided not to climb to the bell tower, but to take a walk south of Notre Dame to see what we could see. We walked south of the Cathedral and stumbled upon the Latin Quarter. The Latin Quarter is an adorable area with little book stores, farmers markets, comic shops, and other treasures to behold. If you have time, take a stroll. You will not regret it. We eventually made our way back to the Marriott Opera hotel. This evening we decided to take in a fancy French dinner. Our friend had recommended >>>>>>>>>>>>. Eric ordered this incredible filet mignon with this demi-glace sauce over the top and everything comes with pomme frites (french fries). This sauce that was over his steak was so good, I could have bathed in it. I was almost feeling shame by nearly licking his plate… (almost). I thought I was going to be clever and just pick something from the menu. I did just that. I ordered Schnitzel A La Holstein. I had no idea what that meant. I knew schnitzel was veal, but I was intrigued by meeting “a ‘la holstein.”
The veal came breaded to perfection and on the side came a little plate of hard boiled egg, sardines, capers, lemon and parsley. Hmmm… what do I do with this? I didn’t want to make a stupid, uncultured “American” mistake and just dump the ingredients on the veal and ruin this beautiful display of meat. I eventually had to swallow my pride and ask the kind waitress what I was supposed to do with it. She smiled sweetly and just dumped the entire plate of goodies onto the meat and rubbed it in for me. It still remains to be one of the most memorable dinners of my life.
This morning, we are going to tackle Versailles on our own. We board the subway going to the quaint town. As we are pulling away, a Parisian accordion player begins to play on the subway and we pull out of the station. In the background, I can see the Eiffel tower and it could not have been any more perfect. It is one of my absolute favorite memories of Paris. We arrive in Versailles and I am going to warn you, dear friends. Do not do what we did. We figured we would arrive into Versailles and just figure it out. I really wish in hindsight that we would have booked a tour. We would have seen everything we wanted to see within 4 hours and would have been back to Paris to enjoy a bit more of the city. We instead wandered around the gardens for far too long and stood in a very long line to get into the palace. The tickets to Versailles are included into the Paris Museum pass but it does not give you a “fast pass” into the palace. You still have to wait to get inside like every one else. Tour groups have a secret door that they get to use. After spending so much time in the gardens, we sped through the palace, which is a shame because it is so incredible and opulent that I felt like we did not really get to appreciate it. C’est la vie, as the French say. After Versailles, we made our way back to Paris and continued to trek through the city. We made it to Musee L’Orangerie, which is home to Monet’s water lilies and to the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie is a former prison and believed to be where Marie Antionette spent her final days. From there, we made our way up to Sacre Coure. After walking literally all day, we opted to take the funicular up to the top. We walked around the basilica and enjoyed a wonderful Italian dinner. We made our way down from Sacre Coure and I bought a pair of adorable earrings from a handmade jewelry shop. I insisted we could not leave Paris without seeing the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. We made our way over just as the light show was starting. Perfection.
We bid our adieu’s to Paris and boarded our train to Belgium. I think back fondly of the treasures I discovered within Paris and I think excitedly about my next trip to discover more.