Day 1: We arrived at the Gare de Lyon in Paris. Thankfully we’d been able to catch a decent amount of z’s on our overnight train ride so we were ready to hit the town. We met our airbnb hosts, dropped off our bags, and headed straight to the local street market our airbnb host in Florence told us about. There we bought a fresh rotisserie chicken, potatoes, and fruit. We ate our lunch at a few small parks (we had to keep changing venues because wasps were following us!). Then we wandered around the city and took in the sights!
We walked along the Seine, stopped in at Shakespeare and Company to browse the books, did a few laps around Notre Dame, admired the colorful Love Lock bridge, and visited the Musee de Cluny (which exhibits medieval art, treasures, and tapestries), and grabbed crepes for dinner as the sun went down.
| the neighborhood market, Marche d’Aligre |
| wandering the city streets and along the Seine |
| hanging out at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore |
| the lovely Notre-Dame Cathedral |
| the Love Lock bridge – sweethearts attach a lock and toss the key into the water to symbolize their love |
| outside the Musee de Cluny |
| a glimpse of the Musee de Cluny’s collection: old treasures, the ceiling of the chapel, intricate tapestries |
| bon appétit |
| crepes – very thin pancakes that are dressed up with sweet or savory toppings|
Day 2: We took a break from Paris and did a day trip to Versailles.
Day 3: We woke up, packed a lunch, and headed back to Notre Dame – this time to see inside! It was, as you might imagine, a gothic drool fest. Window after stunning window. Marvelous architecture. Neat gargoyles and grotesques. I totally get why people want to visit this cathedral. But then Mom took me to some place that was really mind-blowing…. Sainte-Chapelle.
It’s a breathtaking chapel; one of the finest to be built in France. It was built by Louis IX in the 1240s to house relics from the Holy Land, most notably the Crown of Thorns and a fragment of the True Cross. Most of the relics have been rehoused elsewhere or were lost in the revolution. Sainte-Chapelle also features an exceptional collection of stained-glass windows – 6,458 square feet of it to be exact. If you visit, make sure the sun is out that day because the light pours in and you feel like you’re inside a magical jewel box.
After soaking up Sainte-Chapelle, we continued our trek across the city. We passed a large throng of protesters, checked out the immense city hall, ran across a hidden medieval house, paid a somber yet moving visit to the Shoah memorial/museum, took a short break to people-watch (with a sorbet in hand), and popped into the Musee de l’Orangerie (an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings) to see Monet’s water lilies.
The sun was going to set soon so we quickly made our way down to the world-famous Eiffel Tower. The iron lattice structure is quite a sight! We had booked an evening boat tour so we were lucky enough to get to see the tower during the day and at night, when it was all lit up and glittery. The cruise was fun and it was nice to just relax, float along the Seine, and see the shining city by nightfall.
| Notre-Dame |
| inside the cathedral |
| the beautiful windows of Notre-Dame |
| Notre-Dame Cathedral |
| Sainte-Chapelle |
| the magnificent Sainte-Chapelle |
| The Conciergerie, Hôtel de Ville – the city hall, and a medieval building|
| Photos weren’t allowed at the Shoah Memorial but we found this plaque outside a nursery school in memory of the small children deported from 1942 to 1944 because they were born Jews; innocent victims of Nazi barbarism and the Vichy Government. They were exterminated in the death camps. |
| The Tuileries Garden, Louvre, and Arc de Triomphe |
| the Eiffel Tower |
| Paris at night |
| views from our evening boat cruise |
| the shining city |
| the glowing Eiffel Tower |
Day 4: We woke up extremely early, caught the metro, and head to the Catacombs of Paris. We had read that the wait to get in can sometimes be 2-3 hours long so we wanted to avoid that. And boy, did we – we were the first in line! A little history about the Catacombs, they were developed in the late 1700s because Paris’ cemeteries were becoming overcrowded and causing serious health issues (disease ran rampant and water was contaminated). To solve this issue, the city closed several cemeteries and transferred the human remains to the old stone quarries. The bones were stacked neatly and plaques were installed stating which cemeteries the bones were moved from and the date. The Catacombs house over 6 million bones. To reach the Catacombs you travel down a narrow spiral stairwell and through a few stone hallways before reaching the ossuary, the final resting place for many of Paris’ dead.
After touring the Catacombs, we ascended into the light and made our way to Luxembourg Garden to enjoy a picnic lunch. Next, we stopped at the Panthéon (not to be confused with the Pantheon in Rome or the Parthenon in Greece) and took a quick peek inside the church of Mount St Stephen (which contains Paris’ only surviving rood screen – dated 1535 – which crosses over like a bridge with spiral staircases on either side).
After lots more walking we ended up at the quirky museum of Carnavalet which holds a collection of historic Parisian and French art, furniture, street and business signs, and more. My favorite room at Carnavalet was the one devoted to Art Deco and my favorite painting was one by Rene Lelong (Carrousel au Grand Palais, en 1910). I think I was captivated by its monochromatic beauty. We left the Carnavalet museum and stopped by the Place de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris.
Then we set off to find the Wall of Philip Augustus. It was built between 1180 and 1225 and a large portion of it still remains which you can find in the Marais (4th arrondissement). It’s across from the Village St-Paul and right next to a basketball court. This was our last discovery in Paris. After viewing the old wall, we grabbed dinner and went back to the our room to pack and prep for our trip the next day.