Paris in 3 days, 4 nights
Trip Start Feb 25, 2010
13Trip End Mar 11, 2010
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We check into our cute boutique hotel room (Hotel du Champ de Mars) which overlooks a quite "main" street. Their elevator is useful for luggage, but not much more – especially when you are on the 2nd floor. We love the room. Decorations are great, bigger than we expected for a location and decent price so close to the Eiffel Tower.
The Rue Cler district where we are staying has many cute shops and is in a low traffic zone
We unpack and head for the Eiffel Tower. The sun will be setting soon, and I want to be on the top. Off season, only one entrance open, line longer than expected. It is really cold and windy. This will be “an adventure”. We purchase tickets to the top, change elevators on the 2nd level and then I watch waiting for Casey to turn green as we climb 899 feet to the top viewing level. She smiles, I shoot the shot. Welcome to Paris! What a wonderful view from up here. We watch the sun reach the horizon and head to the 2nd level for some night shots.
Thanks to Casey research, we know exactly where to go for dinner. A wonderful place (Restaurant Pasco) within walking distance of the hotel. The staff could not have been any nicer or more helpful. The food – delicious and then gone!
Day 1 - we begin the Rick Steves Historic Paris Walk. I have downloaded to my Ipod this narrated walk along with his Louvre and Orsay tours. Armed with two sets of earplugs and a double-jack connector, Casey and I find “Point Zero” – the beginning of the narrated tour.
Despite the printed tour map I received from the web, the Rick Steve's book I had with me and an area map, I found I missed a few things as the morning progressed. It was easy to spot Notre Dame. Dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus, “Our Lady” (Notre Dame) this cathedral broke ground in 1163 and celebrated the dedication mass in 1345
Continuing with Rick’s tour, the Deportation memorial was right where it should be, was convenient and was worthy of a quick stop. Somehow I ended up missing the Ile St. Louis and found myself wondering the streets of “Medieval Paris” where Casey promptly found a shop with some unique clothing which she immediately purchased. We wondered around the quaint area, bumped into a fashion photo shoot where we were shooed away by the Japanese crew and then found a great little café for lunch. Casey begins her French Onion Soup tour of Paris. This first one turns out to be the best one.
After lunch, we head to the Sainte-Chapelle. But first, we must go through security since this attraction is co-housed with the Palace of Justice. There are judges, lawyers and tourists everywhere. This triumph of Gothic church architecture is an amazing Cathedral of Glass.
Not to let the fading sun dissuade us, we head towards the Louvre Museum and I queue up Rick’s tour on the Ipod. I am totally blown away by how massive this museum is. The grounds and the buildings are enormous. The audio tour focuses us on the things that I think we would likely have wanted to see the most anyway. Ancient Greek (>500 B.C) statues such as the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, Medieval World frescos and paintings and of course Italian Renaissance works by Leonardo da Vinci (said “hi” to Mona) , Raphael, David, Michelangelo
Day 2 and the first goal is to climb the Arc de Triomphe. This 165 foot high arch will be no match for us! We have been up the Eiffel tower. Ooops! I forgot, the Eiffel tower had elevators. Getting very dizzy climbing the spiral staircase to the top, we soak in the views and gaze down the shopping mecca called the Champs-Elysees.
Back down on the street, I am stunned to see… yes… a Mc Café. A scar on the face of Paris. We stop at the famous Laduree and go back to their very chic café where we order an assortment of what they call macaroons. These are unlike any macaroon I have ever seen. At $10euro for 4, these better be good. I also order the hot chocolate. Memories of my visit as a child to Paris in 1966 have been encouraging me to have a hot chocolate since I arrived. No so much a fan of milk anymore, I have put it off, but my memories taunt me. I had hot chocolate 3 times a day when I was here in 1966. It was fantastic then, it must still be. The Laduree hot chocolate was served in a warmed pewter pitcher with a little oven mitt on the handle. It poured with the consistency of melted chocolate. It was melted chocolate. Ahhh! Memories light the corner of my mind. Casey is in heaven.
Our Champs-Elysee Walk destination is the Tuileries Garden. We pass amazing sites along the way. Pictures say 1,000 words. I smoke a virtual cigar in celebration at the fountain
The Musee d’Orsay is an old train station that barely escaped the wrecking ball in 1970s. That is when they realized it would be a great place to house the 19th century art scattered throughout Paris. The Orsay picks up where the Louvre’s collection leaves off. Monet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gough, Sezanne and Gauguin are just a few examples. Unfortunately, Rick’s tour is requires me to search back and forth to find the art we are viewing. Nothing is in the right place since the Orsay is under massive renovations and everything has been moved. I regret not renting the English Audio tour they provide.
We end our day with a night stroll to the Eiffel tower. Magnificent! The light show even better than Las Vegas! The hotel recommends a restaurant nearby called “Leo La Lion”. Despite the name, we give it a try. Gourmet level food. Wonderful. A bit pricy. Wonderful staff and the chef came out to meet the clients.
Day 3 will require my most challenging mastery of the Metro system yet. The Paris metro is fantastic. Our first day, I purchased a 10 ticket “carnet” for a notable discount on the per ticket price. Each ticket is good for a one way, one person trip. There are many lines with colors and numbers for each. If you can navigate the D.C. metro, you can handle this one; although the Paris metro is much closer to the NYC metro in complexity,
Fist we go to the Opera Garnier
This gleaming Opera Garnier is a grand theater which was constructed for Napoleon III. The massive foundation straddles an underground lake which was the inspiration to Phantom of the Opera. Rick Steves rates this place a single pyramid. I think when one includes the escorted tour for only $4 euor more than normal entrance fee, you have at least a two pyramid experience. This place goes beyond grand. The elite came here several days per week to socialize, be seen, conduct business in their private boxes and politic. You have to be in this space to truly appreciate it. The grand hall itself is modeled after the mirror room in the Palace at Versailles. The elitism of this place prompted President Franscois Mitternad to have a people’s opera house built in the 1980s symbolically on the place de la Bastille where the French Revolution started.
My metro challenge now confronts me. There are a minimum of 4 trains I must ride to get to our next destination – the Montmartre Walk and the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. No problem. We emerge from the metro stop and understand why we have been told that traditionally, people moved to this section of town for cheaper rent. However, there is a sense of renovation and urban gentrification. We meander up the local roads and take a turn to burry ourselves in the neighborhood. I spot a place that must truly be local and we have a fine meal at a reasonable price. We return to the park the leads up the hill to the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. This basilica looks ancient, but it was built only a century ago by Parisians humiliated by German invaders in 1870
We walk the streets past the Church of St. Pierre-de-Montmarter. This is one of the oldest in Paris (1147). We approach the Place Du Tertre and find that once again, I can not accurately follow Rick Steves book and am promptly off course from his tour. No problem. There is lots to see here and I need no guide. The arcadia trees fill the park and shades the many artists and cafes.
This is our last day in Paris for tomorrow morning we head to the airport. We look across the park courtyard. The scene - a Tunisian cuisine restaurant - two women with headscarves exit. Our French Connection is complete.