Oh Paris, you were beautiful- but probably the most frustrating city we visited.
Paris is a MUCH more difficult city to navigate. Maybe it was just us, but we are very familiar with big cities, having lived in NY for a short time and visiting often, we know how to use subways and read maps, etc. London was super easy and then we arrived in Paris. It may have been the way the streets were marked, and the language barrier didn't help, but Paris was quite frustrating at times to get around.
My biggest annoyance was that the subway system, although quite huge, doesn't seem to connect easily between the different tourist sites. You have to transfer a few times to get where you want to go and its super annoying. For instance we were at the Eiffel Tower at night after our Seine river cruise and we wanted to get back to our hotel, which is right by the Louvre, you would think there would be a subway line connecting them but there isn't, it would have taken us probably close to an hour to take the subway with all the transfers and since it was late we took a cab, which was about 10 Euros with tip and no more than 10 minutes. So you see what I mean.
We walked ALOT, which is by far the best way to see the city.
Day 1: Paris
When we got to the Gare du Nord train station we needed to get on the subway and then transfer lines once. When we got to the station to transfer it was not clearly marked at all with the line we needed to transfer to, after walking around for 15 minutes we finally found it, but again, not clearly marked and lugging our suitcases around our first few minutes in Paris were frustrating. Once we got off the subway we found our hotel very easily. (did i mention that we were staring at the subway map for a good 10 minutes and NO ONE offered any help- just saying)
The Hotel Londres Saint Honore was fine. I would give it 2 stars in my book, it was clean and the great location right next to the Louvre, was a definite plus, but the bed was so hard and so small for two people, and all the furnishings and décor were quite old and outdated. If I was to go back to Paris, even on a budget I would probably find somewhere else to stay, but if I remember correctly it was the only place I could find near the attractions for the price- $105 Euro a night.
After checking in we headed down to St. Honore and bought Croque Monsieurs at the great bakery on the corner, we quickly learned that Paris, unlike London, is not a debit/credit card friendly city. Eating our sandwiches we walked over to the Place Vendome and then up to the Grand Opera house, which was so worth the entrance fee of something like 9 euros. Just Gorgeous. We actually snuck in to the theater part where the ballet were practicing and watched for a few minutes.
Outside of the Opera. This is the opera that the Phantom of the Opera was based on.
I have so many photos of the inside, but here is one. The entire inside is so ornate and beautiful.
The balcony was open so we went out and snapped a few shots.
The Ballet practicing.
Upon leaving the Opera house we went to Sacre-Coeur, we probably circled, on different streets and in different directions, the opera house 5 or 6 times before figuring out where to go. My biggest breakdown of the trip happened then. The streets in Paris go all different directions and nothing is grid like, so its quite confusing. I don't thinking walking in very large circles would have been a problem if I hadn't been pregnant and my feet felt like they were going to crack in two from the inside out. It had just been a frustrating day and i just fell apart a little. poor matty.
Finally we got to the metro and headed up to Sacre-Coeur, which was a gorgeous cathedral and the view from the stairs in front of the chapel is beautiful. After sitting for a bit we meandered around the monmartre and headed down to see the famous “Moulin Rouge” . I loved all the little shops and markets on the hillside streets of the monmarte, so cute.
We ate at Duex Moulins, the cafe that is featured in Amelie. Our first choice was Chez Toinette, but they didn't open until 7:30, and it was 6 and we were hungry. The food was really sub-par, I wouldn't recommend it unless you are just dieing to see the cafe from the movie. On the way back we grabbed a nutella crepe from a little stand outside a cafe and took the metro back to our hotel.
The view from Sacre-Coeur
I just loved all the bakeries, fromage shops, meat shops, etc!
Day 2: Paris
We knew we wanted to be at the Louvre as soon as it opened so we were out of the hotel at 8:30 am. We headed over to the museum and entered at the underground entrance by the Arc across the street from the pyramid. Instead of buying individual tickets to the different sites around Paris I had done the research and found it worth it, for what we wanted to see, to buy the Museums & Monuments pass. We spend about 3 hours in the Louvre, entering all 3 wings and once the museum fatigue started to kick in we headed out for lunch.
We grabbed another croque monsieur (I have to find out what type of cheese they put on those!) and headed over to Jardim de Tuleries, the garden that is right in front of the Louvre which gives you a strait view up to the Arc du Triomphe. It was a perfect moment to take a little break in the park. After we ate we decided to just walk up to the Arc du Triomphe. Its a long-ish walk, but it is a strait shot up the Champs-Elysee.
Mrs. Mona Lisa
I felt like i saw the below photo in every magazine/newspaper before we left. Yes there were more guards, but no we didn't feel unsafe.
On the walk I spotted Laudree, a bakery that my friend Layla had told me to stop at, they are known for their macarons and the reputation is deserved. They were so delicious. There was a line but it was well worth the way for these beautiful and scrumptious confections. The caramel, chocolate and vanilla were among our favorites. We also had our first Cannelle, a baked treat that I have been trying to make since I first had them in San Francisco in 2008. SO delicious.
The sweets inside Laudree...
After our little sweets stop we headed up to the Arc du Triomphe only to be dissapointed because as it turned out it was closed due to a workers strike for the day. We decided to come back the following day and head over to the Eiffel Tower.
Eiffel's Tower. It is grand. It is beautiful and the views from the top are spectacular.
Just make sure you buy the right ticket and don't have to walk to the 2nd level. It's not fun. 1020 stairs, enough said.
Here is a funny video Matt made at the 2nd level of the tower. He's just such a jokster. :)
Views from the top
After the Eiffel Tower we went over to the Seine and purchased our tickets for the Bateaux Parisiens river cruise. I had heard that the cruise was really pretty at night with all the buildings lit up so we aimed to go on either the 8:30 or 9:00 pm cruises. After we got the tickets we walked over to grab dinner at a Fodor's reccomendation, Cafe Constant. It was delicious and reasonable priced, we felt like we had a traditional french meal- I even ordered foie gras and learned that I don't like it. We arrived at Cafe Constant right as they opened, even a few minutes before, and thank goodness we did because by the time they started seating there was a line out the door and the entire restaurant was full.
After we ate we thought we had just enough time to run, and I mean run, back to the boat slip and jump on the 8:30 boat. Wrong. After running with a full stomach we arrived at 8:29 to see that the boat had already left. It was actually a good thing we needed to wait for the 9pm one because we were towards the first in line and got a good seat the side of the boat so we could see everything.
After the cruise we took a taxi back to the hotel because as I mentioned earlier, it would have taken forever to get there by subway.
Some shots from the night cruise
Day 3: Paris
We slept in a little too late and didn't get to Notre Dame quite as early as we wanted so we ended up waiting about an hour in the line to go up the towers of the cathedral. It was freezing and we did not have proper coats, but we made it through. Mostly due to the fact that a man with a Halloween mask was entertaining the waiting line by surprising passersby. It was a very entertaining and funny wait in line. The towers are very cool and the view is so beautiful, you can see the Eiffel Tower as well as the rest of the city. I think it was my favorite view of the city. It was also interesting at Notre-Dame because we were there on a Sunday and mass was going on, but they still let tourists walk in and around the chapel.
Our Entertainer for the wait in line. So hilarious.
Views from the top of Notre-Dame
Freezing after it all. This bridge was so cool, i guess their version of carving lovers names into a tree is to buy a padlock and write your name on it and then put it on the bridge. i still don't know the whole story, but i thought it was cool.
After Notre-Dame we headed just a few blocks to Saint-Chapelle where the stained glass is just breathtaking. Both cathedrals were included in our Museums pass and if they hadn't been I might have skipped Saint-Chappelle, but its gorgeous and if you like stained glass, a must. We had lunch at a random cafe on our walk up the Seine to the Museum D'Orsay.
I LOVED the D'Orsay. I think I loved it more than the Louvre, if only because I am a huge fan of 20th century painting and the impressionist period. So many works by Van Gogh, Gaugin, Monet, Manet, Degas... the list goes on. I loved it.
Another spot my friend Layla had told me to visit was Angelina's. After our museum visit we headed across the river & garden and bought a few sweet treats including their famous hot chocolate- or as my husband described it chocolate concentrate. It's a decadent drinking chocolate that is not to be missed by chocoholics.
We then took the subway up to the Arc du Triomphe once more only to be turned down again because they were closing for a ceremony and re-opening a few hours later. We dropped back down to the Champs-Elysee and did some shopping, bought some coats at H&M and sat and people watched until it was open again. It really was worth the wait as well because the view is just so beautiful, especially at night. We got some spectacular photos of the Eiffel Tower.
After our trip up the Arc we headed back to the area around our hotel to grab dinner. We went to L'Ardoise, a fodors recommendation, that looked and smelled spectacular, but were turned away because we didn't have reservations. :( So we ended up eating at an italian restaurant that I don't remember the name of.
Oh and if that wasn't enough photos for you check out our entire Paris photo album. Just click HERE for all 364 photos.