Ah Paris. What a great city. Our five days in Paris were amazing and filled from sunrise to sunrise with culture, history, architecture, and walking – all kinds of walking.
Our first day in Paris, we spent wandering the streets surrounding our apartment rental, which led us to the Sacred Heart Basilica atop the hill at Montmartre, with beautiful vistas of the city and the Basilica was quite impressive in its own right. And, in what we learned to be in true Parisian fashion, the lawns around the church and all the way up the hillside gardens were filled with Parisians soaking up the sun and drinking wine or beer in direct contradiction of the “stay off” signs – Parisians seem to give little regard to warning signs be it on grass, at crosswalks or on cigarette packs.
The next morning we went to Musée d’Orsay, which, for all intents and purposes, is a shrine to impressionist and post-impressionist art, which included a great selection from my favourite artist Monet. It was basically a four-hour, jaw-dropping stroll through an Art History textbook. Not to mention the impressive gallery itself, which was a grand, old train station that really completed the whole atmosphere. If you love art, you must see Musée d’Orsay, if you hate art you have to see Musée d’Orsay. Basically, if you refuse to go to the Musée d’Orsay, I probably hate you. From the d’Orsay we ate our packed-lunch next to the Seine and then followed the river to the base of the Eiffel Tower, where we lounged about in the shadow (if it was sunny) of the steel colossus. After photos and admiration we readjusted our walking shoes and made our way to the Arc de Triomphe, which was partly boxed off at the top and undergoing restorations. We also arrived just in time to get booted out from underneath the Arc for, what seemed to be, a daily, or relatively regular, military ceremony, although no real explanation was given. After snapping some photos and “oh-ing” and “ah-ing” at the Arc de Triomphe we ambled down the grand Parisian boulevard of Champs-Élysées, which did not seem all that long on the map, but after a full-day of walking, did take us a good while to reach the end of it and the metro station back to the apartment.
Following a brief two-night interlude to Normandy in the west and Verdun in the East, we were back In Paris at 8AM, and kicked off our second stretch in Paris with a day at the Louvre. I am not sure what I can say about the Louvre. What can one say about a former palace turned into an art gallery that houses some of the most important creations of human hands and minds that span most of human history, and takes days to explore it all? HOLY MACARONI! is probably the best I can do. If you love art, you must see the Louvre. If you hate art, you must see the Louvre.
After being ushered out of the Louvre at the 945PM closing time, we enjoyed, another, short walk along the Seine to reach our reserved Seine River Cruise, where we fully experienced the “City of Lights”. Paris is absolutely beautiful at night: all the monuments, buildings, and bridges were lit up in all their glory and offered us a completely different perspective of this rad city.
Next up was the Palace of Versailles, which we had assumed 930AM would have been an early-enough start given it was early April and a Thursday, but after an hour ride on the Paris RER interurban train line, we were greeted with by a mass of tourists at the Palace’s gates. Luckily we had booked our tickets online the night before and came with the plan of viewing the expansive gardens prior to the palace itself, which worked out quite well. You can read about our day at Versailles here.
Our last day in Paris, was also Valentina’s birthday, and as this was an extra special day we went out and enjoyed a nice Parisian breakfast complete with chocolate-fudge covered bread pudding, a waffle, and a granola, fresh berries and yoghurt parfait, paired with a giant cup of damn-fine Parisian coffee. After that sweet and hearty start to our day, we made our way to the Seine again to visit Notre Dame Cathedral and follow a free audio tour of “Historic Old Paris” that we had downloaded earlier. Notre Dame was quite the structure to behold, grand, gothic, and imposing it demands to be noticed – and that is just the outside. The inside, like any of these massive, European monuments to Christianity was awe inspiring. Complete with massive stained-glass windows, stone domes that are so tall and wide that they seemed to defy physics, and of course, the artistic mastery and craftsmanship that was in every detail was incredible.
From Notre Dame, which is considered Mile 0 of Paris, we followed our audio tour that weaved us through all the narrow streets of Old Paris, where we saw Paris’ oldest tree and skinniest house, past old palaces, the hallowed prison halls where Marie Antoinette spent her final days, the oldest clock in Paris, and a whole mishmash of interesting and quirky points of interest. We even bought a key lock, scribed our initials on it and, luckily, found a free piece of fence to chain it on the “Bridge of Love.” After our two-hour, self-guided tour was over, we stopped to enjoy another one of our delicious pre-packed, and as usual late, lunches that consisted of meat and cheese on a baguette. After our baguette, we once again meandered along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower hoping that the cloudy day would cooperate for a glimpse of a Parisian sunset from atop the Tower.
Everything worked out perfectly, we had opted to take the stairs to the second observations deck, so we had arrived just in time to enjoy the orange glow of the sinking sun over the horizon, which was probably one of the prettiest sunsets either of us have experienced. And once the sun set on Paris we made our ascent, via elevator this time, to the very top of the tower, where the views of the city and all of its character could be fully appreciated – it was gorgeous, and putting up with the cold wind was totally worth it for the views from the top of the world.
It was a perfect way to end our perfect stay in Paris. Au revoir, Paris.