Monday, May 22, 2017

Paris is always a good idea

Oh my goodness. First time to Paris, and what a lovely trip we had. The weather was practically perfect. A cool, showery day after we arrived, and we got caught in a sudden downpour when we were out in the countryside one day, but it didn't last long and some trees helped keep us somewhat dry. Other than that, sunny and blue skies, including a couple of 80 degree days.

Here is a day-by-day account of this trip of a lifetime, mostly so I can look back on it when I want to. I think I'm also going to do a post for first-time visitors to Paris. Maybe it will be helpful to others? I did a lot of research before going and had pages filled in a notebook of tips and tricks to know. It really helped. I think if you just go, without a lot of thought or planning beforehand, you'll end up at all of the touristy spots and to me, that is not fun. Touristy spots are tourist traps, which means scams and pickpockets and all of those things I'd really like to avoid.

Trip Report:

Day 1 - we arrived around 2:00 pm. A rep from Insidr Paris met us at the airport to deliver the phone we'd be renting for our stay (a service I highly recommend). This phone allowed us to have a hotspot the entire time, provided restaurant recommendations and other tips from a community of Paris experts, and allowed us to easily use the Citymapper app so we could figure out how to get places using the metro, the bus, trains, or by walking. It was awesome. We didn't take a single taxi. When we went to Montmatre for the day, my husband heard a couple get out of a cab and the American man said, "How much was that?" And she said, "Fifty euros, which is like fifty seven dollars or so." For ONE ride!? Oh my gosh. We bought Navigo passes for less than that and they got us just about everywhere we wanted to go, with the exception of Giverny, which required a separate train ticket. After we checked into our hotel, it was a beautiful sunny day so we walked from our hotel to the Pantheon for a look around and a tour to the top. After that, dinner at a famous steakhouse - Le Relais de l'Entrecôte - yum!

Day 2 - In line at 9:00 for the doors opening at 10:00 to go up to the tower at Notre Dame. Wow, this was so amazing. Highly recommend doing this. So glad we got there early, the line was long by the time we got inside. After staying up top for an hour or so, we walked around inside the church for a while.

I bought a little painting from an elderly gentleman who was selling some of his art outside Notre Dame. It's now hanging in my office, a lovely reminder of our wonderful trip.

After that, we strolled over to Île Saint-Louis and walked around, and I had a scoop of the world-famous Berthillon ice cream (raspberry).

We visited the Eiffel Tower, though we didn't stay long because it's such a tourist trap and there are scammers everywhere. I knew we'd have a chance for more photos later on the trip, because I'd scheduled an evening cruise on the Seine.

After an early dinner in a bistro that we happened upon and was delightful, we went to the Musee d'Orsay, which is a museum in an old train station. I really loved this museum. When I saw Starry Night over the Rhone by Van Gogh, I got chills. It is SO beautiful in person. Like, you just can't even imagine. There's also some beautiful pieces by Monet, Renoir, and more.

Day 3 - A day trip to the French countryside to visit a chateau, Vaux le Vicomte. I was not interested in going to Versailles which I've heard is wall-to-wall people, so I researched others and decided on this one. We really enjoyed it. The man who had it built, Nicolas Fouquet, was the superintendent of finances for King Louis XIV. He hired architect Louis Le Vau and landscape architect Andre le Notre. Fouquet invited the King over one night, when it was all finished, hoping to impress him. Instead, the king became jealous and when someone led him to believe public funds had been misappropriated, the king believed it and had Fouquet arrested. The king then hired the architects who had designed Vaux le Vicomte to design what would become Versailles. So in a way, I suppose you could call this estate a little Versailles. There's a casual restaurant on site, so we ate lunch outside on the patio, before the clouds rolled in.

Day 4 - We met up with a group for a 4-hour bike tour. This was really fun. A little scary at times, because biking through Paris is not for wimps, but overall, it was good. We rode around the city, and stopped at attractions and heard fun stories about them. We visited a couple of places I wouldn't have known about. We also stopped in for hot chocolate at Paris' oldest restaurant, Le Precope. So much history in this restaurant - the guide pointed out all kinds of cool things.

That afternoon we went to the Musee L'Orangerie to see Monet's water lilies as well as some other pieces. Then we had pizza and beer while sitting outside in the St.-Germain area, watching all the people going by. It was so good. And I had cake. No surprise.

Day 5 - A day trip to the village of Auvers-sur-Oise. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. It's such a quaint little place with the cobblestone streets and charming cottages. This is where Vincent Van Gogh spent his last days before he died. In 70 days he painted close to 70 paintings, because his doctor told him it would be good for him to immerse himself in his work. We spent the entire day here, walking from one end of the town to the other. 

Day 6 - Another day trip, this time to Vernon, where we rented bikes and rode them to Giverny, to see Monet's home and gardens. The gardens are lovely, although I didn't like this trip as well as Auvers, mostly because the place was packed with people. The bike ride was fun though - along an easy path that keeps you away from traffic. And now I want a yellow dining room. 

Day 7 - We spent time at Luxembourg Garden, visited a Jean-Paul Hevin's chocolate shop to bring some chocolates home for my son who was pet-sitting, and went to the Opera House (Palais Garnier) and took a tour. Such a beautiful place. 

That evening, we took a dinner cruise on the Calife. I read lots of reviews and this was the one with the highest marks. People said it wasn't cheesy and the food was actually good. So we went for it. I have to say, we had a really lovely time. It had been 80 degrees that day, so it was neat to see how everyone flocks to the river banks with food and wine and has picnics all along the river. So fun! That is one thing I noticed again and again - Parisians know how to get out and have fun.

Day 8 - our last day! We headed to Montmartre and took a walking tour using the phone we had rented which had a bunch of walking tours programmed into it. We should have done more of this! It was great because it mostly kept us out of the tourist trap areas, and it is such a beautiful place to walk around. When our feet were tired of walking and our stomachs were grumbling, we hopped on a bus and made our way to a "must-do" on my list - to have a fallafel sandwich at the world-famous L'as du Fallafel in the Marais neighborhood. So good. After that, we visited the Memorial de la Shoah, the French holocaust museum for a little while. It's free, and they had a really interesting exhibit about comics and graphic novels that have been done about the holocaust. 

Merci beaucoup for reading!


  1. You saw the yellow dining room! Loved this blow by blow -- what a wonderful time you two had! You were so wise to read and plan ahead; details matter and you saved a lot of time and hassles that way. Hadn't heard of biking tours before. What fun!

    1. We had such a lovely time. I'm glad I spent the extra time reading up on places to visit and all of that - it really did make the trip extra special. Thanks for reading, Jama!

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