The second stop on our recent trip to Europe was to Paris, a short two-hour ride from London on the high-speed train.
Paris is a magnificently beautiful city, and Nick and I were awed by the grandeur of the city’s many sights. That being said, Paris is also a major city and it was expensive, crowded, dirty and smokey – I liken Paris to a French-speaking New York City.
While I really enjoyed our time there, the honest truth is that I wanted to like Paris more than I did. To be fair, that may have been influenced by a few other factors, such as adjusting to the language barrier; cold, cloudy weather for most of the trip; and Nick being sick with a head cold throughout our stay in France. Paris is still a magical city, and I’d definitely make a return visit.
Since we had excursions planned for most of our days in Paris, we hit nearly all of city’s major sites in one day. No joke, I’m pretty sure we logged 10 miles walking around the city. Our first stop was to the grand Notre-Dame Cathedral…
…and a close-up of the amazing sculptures adorning the cathedral.
After stopping at the Memorial de la Deportation for the French victims of the Holocaust we crossed the Pont de l’Archeveche, aka the “Love Locks” bridge, which is filled with thousands of padlocks inscribed with lovers’ names and their special dates. The bridge is so overfilled with locks that people have started placing locks on other nearby bridges.
Twelve years ago Nick and I solidified our commitment to one another with a pinky-swear, so capturing a shot of our hooked fingers seemed more fitting than placing a lock marked with our names on the bridge. 🙂
From there we walked along St. Germain boulevard, the heart of Paris’ Latin quarter to the Hotel des Invalides, a former veterans hospital that has been converted into a military museum.
And its golden dome, where the tomb of Napoleon resides.
My travel guidebook recommended purchasing tickets to the Eiffel Tower near dusk so you could see Paris from high above and then stay until after dark to see the city’s twinkling lights; but we couldn’t miss the chance to see this majestic beauty during the daytime too.
From there we headed to Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe. Even more impressive than this massive arch is the traffic circle below – the lanes are unmarked and cars weave in and out at high speeds.
Next we strolled through the high-end shops along the famous Champs-Elysees boulevard until we came to Place de la Corcorde or Concorde Square, and the giant Luxor Obelisk in its center.
We then walked through the large Tuileries Gardens before finally arriving at the glass pyramid in the Louvre’s central courtyard. To beat the crowds, we visited the museum on an evening when it was open late and arrived after 6 p.m. – it didn’t take us long to get in but it did seem like lots of other people had the same idea.
The great Mona Lisa, and the large crowd wanting to get a closer look.
And a close-up.
Many of the museums great rooms are elaborately carved and decorated and almost as beautiful as the art it houses.
We spent several hours at the museum and only made it through a portion of one of the wings of the sprawling museum. We walked through a few of the large art galleries before visiting the Egyptian antiquities collection on our way toward the exit…
Finally, no visit to the Louvre would be complete without stopping to see the inverted pyramid.
The next day we headed to Roland Garros stadium for the second round tennis matches of the French Open. We had tickets to Court No. 1 and ended up watching the match between the 2011 women’s single champion Li Na from China and unranked American Bethanie Mattek-Sands (who won!).
Unfortunately, rain delayed the game on-and-off throughout the afternoon and so we spent most of our time huddled together under an umbrella trying to stay dry.
Later that evening we headed to Montmarte, Paris’s highest hilltop, to get a good view of the city and visit Sacre-Coeur Basilica …
Even on an overcast day it offered a great view of Paris’s skyline. (Sidenote: the crowd is watching a street performer who was expertly climbing and swinging around the light pole…all the while kicking a soccer ball!)
On our third full day in Paris we took the short train ride to Versailles. The main attraction is the lavishly decorated palace, or Chateau, the famous home of Marie-Antionette and many other royals. Even though we arrived when the gates first opened the Chateau was swarmed with tourists and it was frustrating at times to make our way through the palace’s many rooms.
Marie-Antionette’s bed chambers…
The magnificent Hall of Mirrors…
As amazing as the palace was to see, the estate’s gardens are even more spectacular with statues, fountains and several smaller palaces throughout the 2,000 acres of land.
My favorite area in the gardens was Marie-Antionette’s fake-peasant Hamlet, a charming village and farm she had built as a retreat and refuge from court…and a 40-minute walk from the palace!
Nick, how big are the Versailles gardens?…
We walked through the gardens for several hours before finally taking the train back to Paris. Later that night we made our way to the Eiffel Tower for our ascent to the top. As I mentioned above, my travel guidebook suggested purchasing tickets well in advance and I’m so glad we followed its advice. Our ticket was for 10 p.m. and we literally walked straight in and onto the elevator to the viewing platforms – even at that time of night there were several hundred people waiting in the ticket line. (Sidenote: in the cities we visited it never got dark until after 10:30 p.m., so I’m glad we booked our tickets for late at night.)
The tower sparkles with lights the first few minutes of every hour and we were lucky enough to catch it on video as we arrived at the tower:
And a picture from the viewing platform…
Finally, a view of the tower all lit up after we made our descent!
What an amazing end to our stay in Paris!
The following day we made our way to the train station to travel to Belgium. It was also our eighth wedding anniversary and the first warm, sunny day we had while in Paris, so we sat at an outside cafe and toasted to our marriage while we waited for our train to depart.
Au revoir Paris!