Morning sightseeing & shopping. To airport at 2PM. Trick to flying Air France – self-serve electronic boarding pass – DIY!!
Left about ½ hr late. Arrived Paris 6:30 – no problems getting bags. Found a taxi and 75Euros later…!!!!!traffic was horrendous – should have only cost 55Euros but construction & a big event going on at the stadium tied up traffic. Took us 2 hours to get to our hotel which is downtown – Hotel de l’Avenir on rue Madame.
Met up with Doris & Karin of BPW Canada & went out for Chinese food – delicious!
Met for breakfast
Walked through Jardins de Luxembourg & walked from 9:30 to 3:30 – saw La Seine, Le Concorde, Basilique Notre Dame, Jardins des Tuilleries, ate lunch at a quaint bistro, taxi back to hotel, slept 2 hours, walked to Café Cassette for delish supper then Café Monsieur Richard for yummy dessert & tea then back to hotel for a nice chat. Lovely evening – weather is beautiful, no bugs, quiet neighbourhood.
Start off with croissant & baguette for b’fast at 8:30, walked to St. Germain des prés & take Batobus tour on La Seine. Saw Eiffel Tower (when I first caught a glimpse of it from a distance, I exclaimed “is that little pointy thing the Eiffel Tower?” And that’s what we called it throughout the whole trip!), Arc de Triomphe, ate a chocolate éclair on Champs Elysées. The crowds were so huge that we never went inside to view any of these landmarks. If, no WHEN, I go back, I will visit in either early spring or late fall when there aren’t thousands upon thousands in the lineups.
Dined at one of France’s best kept secrets – le resto “Au Bon St. Pourcain” on rue Servandoni . It only seats 26 people so when more arrive, they have this fake tree in a pot on rollers which they simply move up along the sidewalk as people arrive looking for a table outside. The street is very narrow cobblestone road so cars & people have to share it when the sidewalks are full of hungry patrons! Very charming.
We took a long bus ride to visit Sacré Coeur Church. It is on top of a high escarpment so it was quite the climb up a huge set of stairs to get there. I took photos but somehow lost them when I was transferring from my camera to my computer which was too bad. It was a beautiful church inside but the view is what struck me the most – it was a magnificent view of Paris. I’m so sorry I lost this photo as well in the transfer because it was truly breathtaking from that high vantage point.
This was also the day for the Gay pride parade – our whole section closed down all around our hotel. We got on a bus to head back but it stopped at one point and we all had to get off because it was not going any closer to the blockaded area. We found a taxi stand and about 40 minutes later we flagged down a taxi & climbed in. When the driver found out where we wanted to go, he said he didn’t want to take us because he’d never be able to get out of the area. By this time, everyone was tired, sore feet and could not possibly walk the rest of the way back because it was too far. I convinced him to take us to the outskirts of the blocked off area – turned out it wasn’t as bad as he had thought and we were let off about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. Needless to say we all collapsed in a heap!
Doris & Karin headed off the airport in the morning – we were sad to see them leave because they were great travelling companions and we had so much fun seeing Paris together.
Fran & I headed for the train to visit the Château de Versailles. Train left at 10:21 and we arrived at 11AM, HUGE crowds. We were used to waiting in line ups by this time and this was no exception. Finally got our tickets & walked over the palace – talk about breathtaking! The enormity of the palace is unbelievable. The sparkling brass gate at the entrance is a marvel in itself. The gardens are spectacular in their size, beauty and upkeep. The fountains, the lake, the statues – they were right when they said it takes several hours just to view the gardens. There are about 20 smaller gardens each set in a different maze pattern. We never did see all of the 1800 acres as it would have taken a full afternoon but we decided to see inside the palace which was an experience in itself.
Imagine going through a museum shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people. Squeezed in on every side, standing on tippy toes to see what you can see, pushing your way to the viewing area in each room to catch a glimpse of the most opulent, decadent furniture and paintings. The whole room is covered in artwork – floors, walls & ceilings – it becomes hard for your eye to take it all in. I couldn’t help but think of all the poor starving people who could have feasted a lifetime on the money that was spent in this palace.
And the palace is so huge I can’t imagine how Louis XIV ever saw most of the rooms (there are currently 700) or paintings for that matter (there are currently over 6100), or 1250 fireplaces. Hard to fathom the immensity of this place until you see it for yourself.
There was a delightful “Water Dance” show in one of the gardens where water spouted up in different patterns to the rhythm of classical music. It was beautiful to watch but hard to capture with a camera. So I recorded a bit of it on my cell phone. The spray from the water felt good on that hot day too!
That night, Fran & I went to dinner at Le Coupole, on the recommendation of the night clerk who said he takes his family there all the time. We were not disappointed – it was beautifully decorated and the food was delicious. We had a typical flirty waiter serving us and he worked us for all he could for a good tip – which we left him for his performance.
Typical scalding hot day in Paris which helped me understand why Parisiens escape the city in the summer. It was truly sweltering with no breeze. Fran & I decided to have a quiet day in Les Jardins Luxembourg, a one minute walk from our hotel. They have all these well maintained paths around grassy areas & gardens with chairs all along the way where people sit & read or sleep. I saw some people on the grass so I decided to lay down & tan. Within 10 minutes or so, a “lawn police” guy came over to tell me to get off the grass. I pointed out the other people and he said he was on his way to tell them the same thing. I found it hilarious that this guy spends his day walking on the grass telling people to get off the grass!!!
So made myself comfortable in the chair on the pathway & we had a lovely quiet day.
Our last day in Paris so we decided to take a bus to see Musee d’Orsay. However, once again the lineups were huge so we decided to walk back through the market we saw along the way. Good thing too because we got to experience the French market. Fran said that in Paris, people buy their fruits, fish, bread, veggies every day – it’s just part of their routine. So everything you see in the market is very fresh. There are also jewelry, clothing, art booths along the way and I bought a beautiful silk scarf for myself.
Alas the time had come to leave Paris – we had to arrange for a taxi yesterday because they are so scarce. However, that didn’t seem to matter because it came ½ hour late. Then there was considerable traffic then he dropped us off at the wrong terminal! We literally ran to the right terminal, huge line ups, had to go to duty-free exchange to collect on some souvenirs we bought and wait in another long lineup at security. We were late getting to our gate but fortunately, Air France did not let us down as they were running an hour late. This time we were glad they were!!!
Back on a double decker aircraft, comfortable seats, good food, we were tired but feeling like we certainly packed as much as we possibly could have into our 6 days in Paris. I started planning my return trip even before I left! I know what I want to see again, I know what I do differently and I know when I would go back.
You don’t just see Paris – you experience it. The sights, the grandeur and beauty of the architecture, the sounds, the aromas – you feel Paris. It’s vibrant, alive, relaxed – at least that was my experience. The only sounds I heard in the morning when I woke up was the cooing of the pigeons – it was that quiet.
But there is another side too. I have created a photo album called “This Is Paris, Too”. I did see signs of homelessness, street fighting, I almost got pickpocketed, and I saw cigarette butts everywhere as well as doggy doodoo – they don’t scoop the poop so you have to remember to look down every once in a while as you are looking up at the beautiful buildings. Every morning, water gushes up from the sewers & runs down the gutters cleaning up the roads. There are workers who sweep the sidewalks and there are trucks that drive up & down the roads with a long blue hose which is held by a worker walking beside the truck washing down the sidewalks. Oh well. I guess the butts & doodoo keep people employed.
What a journey filled with great memories and souvenirs. And I have over 1500 photos to prove it! But I promise not to bore you with them all – just a select few.
Thanks for reading & sharing my experience. If you have not been, I hope you can make it to Paris one day. You have to live it for yourself.