Trip Report – Paris
For a few weeks in September, my husband and I scooted away to Europe for my first and his second trip to explore a part of the world we’ve never seen before. The first leg of the trip was five days spent in London (Click here for my full trip report of London). The second leg of our trip was in Paris. We took the TGV from London to Paris and arrived in just 2 1/2 hours. It was my first experience on a train and I was nervous about getting motion sick. Most of the train ride looked a lot like this from my husband’s perspective:
To be perfectly honest, this was the point in the trip when I started wanting to come home. Desperately. Don’t get me wrong – I know how incredibly obnoxious it sounds to be in Paris and saying that all I wanted to do was come home, but I did. The first afternoon there was lovely, but our time in Paris was full of up and down moments – conflicted between not feeling super comfortable with the language and just wanting to be back in my creature comforts.
That out of the way, here’s a very brief rundown of how we spent our (very exhausting) days. The first afternoon, we went out and wandered to the Eiffel Tower. We stayed within just a few blocks of there and so it was nice to see that first thing. We spent some time just taking it in and met a few other Americans while we exchanged photo ops.
We wandered the area, grabbed some crepes (!) and waited until our scheduled time to go up into the tower. It was Tyler’s birthday, so it was really lovely to spend a few special moments together in a place he’d been so excited to experience for so long. I won’t lie – I was a little crabby standing in line to get to the tippy top, but the view worked out to be incredible and it was worth the hour waiting. The rest of the evening was spent recovering and getting ready for our next full day.
The next morning, we visited Notre Dame and were meant to take a walking tour, but after hitting up the first few sites – we weren’t impressed with what was on the list of things to see so ended up wandering instead. We visited St. Chapelle – which was incredible. The stained glass was out of this world and I was in awe how anyone could think up how to put something like that together. The colors were just amazing. We also came upon a bridge where it’s tradition to place locks on the side of the bridge and throw the key into the river. It’s supposed to be a romantic gesture to “lock your love” and throw away the key. I wanted to do it, but didn’t have a lock on hand (obviously). We checked out a bunch of the locks, but noticed most had been from the previous year. It made me feel better to know that they probably cut most of them off every year and people keep placing new ones on.
We hit up a few other monuments and either went in briefly to check them out or took photos from the outside. Later that evening, we did a cruise on the Seine River, which ended up being one of my favorite things we did in Paris. We listened to the audio tour on these weird phone type things, but it was charming and historical all at once. Sadly, the photos didn’t turn out all that well since we were moving the entire time.
Day three started with a visit to the Arc de Triomphe. Did you know you walk all the way to the top? I had never thought about it until we were there, but holy smokes – they make you work for that view! Tyler was amazed that there was a stopping point about 2/3′s of the way up – he talked about it the entire time we were there. “Wow, you can actually walk around in here! That’s amazing!” Of course the architecture was amazing, as was the view (once I finally caught my breath!).
Next we walked down the Champs Elysees and I was determined to find the Laduree there to “sample” some more macarons. We got two for now and two for later, even though it was 10:00 am. Tyler got the citron and cafe and I got vanilla and salted caramel. They were all spectacular and I felt so fancy for the five minutes I was eating them.
When we finally made it to the end of the road, it was time to visit the Louvre. I don’t know if it was just me or this is common when you visit Europe for the first (second, or even third) time – but I was tired after about an hour and a half of being awake! All the walking and no time for recovering before having to see more things – we were both spent, but saw some of the highlights in the Louvre we knew we’d never have an opportunity to see again. Like the Mona Lisa – and the crowd around the Mona Lisa.
The next day, on our way up to the Musee D’Orsay, Tyler led me to Julia Child’s home at 81 Roo de Loo. I was thrilled, as you can tell by the picture. What a strange thing to be inspired by on a trip with so much history, but I blabbed about it on our walk for a full 15 minutes after seeing the door she used to enter.
Next we went to the Rodin Museum and checked out Napolean’s Tomb. We finished the day early and picked up dinner at the market near our hotel and ate in our room. It was strangely satisfying to relax and eat in our hotel room. It had become a luxury to pretend like we could eat while not out on the street or surrounded by a bunch of others. It was almost like we were home and able to eat with one another alone, only hearing our conversation (mostly which involved a lot of oohs and ahhs about how good the food was).
The next full day we spent at Versailles. We took a tour by some stuffy man and while it wasn’t awful, it wasn’t the best tour we went on. We had a great time wandering, although the place was HUGE. We made it out to the gardens for lunch and walked to another building that was probably a mile away. Of course then it decided to rain. So we walked back to the palace in the rain and did the audio tour of the interior rooms that weren’t covered by the tour we took in the morning. The crowds inside were insane, which meant seeing things and appreciating them for longer than a few seconds was out of the question. We shlepped back to the train station, soaking wet, and took the train back to the hotel. The day overall was fun, but we were a little disappointed how the weather turned out.
Our last day in Paris, we made our way up to Montmarte, which ended up being one the most enjoyable areas we spent time at while in Paris. We loved the artsy feeling and it seemed like people were just generally enjoying themselves there. It didn’t hurt that one of our first stops was a chocolate shop to pick up souvenirs to bring home. We visited Sacre Coeur, watched a mime, and hit up a few places on a walking tour – like where Picasso and Van Gogh lived. Interesting history, but not a lot to see. We also took a photo opp at Moulin Rouge, but didn’t see a show there.
We ended the trip with a second trip up the Eiffel Tower. We figured we’re only going to be here once, we might as well make it wonderful while we’re here. We stayed up in the tower until it was almost sunset, then took the stairs down before the first set of sparkly lights lit up. It was a great way to wrap up the trip and take in the city one last time.
Overall, we had a great time and saw some really amazing things in Paris. We were surprised by how “real” the city was as opposed to how movies and shows portray it as a remarkable and beautiful city. We were stopped by people wanting money or trying to scam us multiple times a day. And it isn’t as clean or lovely as we (I’m generalizing to all American women here) are lead to believe. Yes, it’s beautiful with a ton of history and I won’t say that it’s not great. But I will say that for all the great things there are in the city, there are a lot of not so great things. Which I guess is true of all cities. I was just more surprised here than any other city I’ve ever visited.
Next week, I’ll share about our trip highlights in Provence!
Have you ever been to Paris? What was your favorite (or not so favorite) things about the “city of lights”?