If you missed it yesterday, I recapped our time in London, our first stop on our Europe vacation. And now on to our second and final stop, Paris! I was so excited for Paris. I’ve wanted to go for years and years and now it finally happened. We took the Eurostar train from London to Paris which was super easy. A little pricier than I thought it would be, but probably still cheaper than any other option. It’s about a 2 hour train ride and then voila! You’re in Paris.
Once we arrived we took the metro to our hotel to drop our bags off. They were super awesome and let us check into our room early! Score one for the hotel! We stayed at Hotel Icone which was about 15 minutes from the Louvre. It was an amazing location for the price we paid and the place was great. Perfect for what we needed. After that we set off to do some shopping!
I was going to go shopping on some of the famous streets like the Rue Saint Honore or Rue de Rivoli. Of course there’s also the Champs-Elysse. But the thing is, all the streets have stores that either a). we have in the States or b). are way out of my league. So I did some research before we went and found a street called Rue du Commerce which is just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. This is truly where the locals shop and I’m so happy we decided to go here. It felt so cool to be walking amongst the local Parisians, shopping in their stores and the best part is that I could actually afford the clothes. I bought some stuff for myself, for my mom and my sisters and Phil even found some stuff for himself. This is a big deal people. Phil doesn’t buy clothes.
After we were all shopped out, we went over to the Eiffel Tower and hung out on the lawn for a bit.
The plan was to go to the top now, but the summit was closed. So I got really sad and slightly panicky because I wanted to go to the top really bad. But I knew I wanted to see the Tower lit up at night so decided to go eat dinner and then come back.
We walked to a super adorable little street that had lots of restaurants and ate at a place called Le Petit Cler. The food was delicious and the atmosphere was perfect. One of my favorite things about Paris were all the little side streets and alleys where you could find these adorable boutiques, bakeries, cheese shops and restaurants. We ate outside at a little table right on the street and it was like I had died and gone to heaven. After having our fill of French food, we headed back to the Eiffel Tower to await sunset.
It truly is gorgeous all lit up at night. Spectacular. As we were standing there, we saw the lifts going up to the top so we walked back over to the ticket booths and sure enough, the summit was open again! So we made it to the top.
It was super windy and freezing cold up there, but it was so worth it. I got to kiss the love of my life at the top of the Eiffel Tower and it was probably one of the most romantic moments of my life.
We started off our morning by hiking up a huge hill to see Sacre-Coeur, the cathedral on the hill. Even just from the steps of the cathedral the view is beautiful, but was that good enough for Phil and I? No. So obviously we climbed the 300 steps to get to the top of the dome. This was probably my second favorite cathedral right after St. Paul’s in London. There was something about the stark white color against that blue sky that just took my breath away.
And the view from the dome wasn’t too shabby either…
After we were done at Sacre-Coeur, we headed to the Palais Opera Garnier to tour the opera house. What a spectacular building this was. It made me want to go see an opera really bad. Phil probably would have murdered me though if I had booked that. He did say that if Phantom of the Opera had been playing, he would have gone to see it with me. <3 But it was not. Boo.
There was an awesome library in the opera house that I got really excited about too. Obviously.
The rest of the day we just spent wandering around and kind of getting lost in Paris. *sigh*
On our third day in Paris we took the train out to Versailles. I highly recommend the train versus paying a crap ton of money for a bus tour out there. The train system in Paris is really easy to use, though not quite as simple as London. There are two lines in Paris, the metro and the RER lines. The RER lines are the commuter lines. To get to Versailles you just have to take the RER C line to the very last stop. The metro crosses over the RER lines so just consult your map, get to your nearest RER C station and away you go.
The palace was spectacular. So beautiful. And huge. I can’t believe that people actually lived here at one point. During our explorations we learned that around 10,000 people would be bustling around the palace at a time. Yeah, that’s how big this place is.
We strolled through the famous hall of mirrors and I was just blown away by the beauty. The art work on the walls and the ceilings was gorgeous. The chandeliers. The gold gilt everywhere.
And the gardens were incredible. You could spend a whole day just wandering the gardens. They are that big. In fact, they rent out golf carts if you want one to go explore them because of their massive size. We didn’t explore too much of them because we had to get back to the city, but what we did see was stunning.
When we got back to the city we went to see Notre Dame. Another beautiful cathedral though definitely not my favorite. We were going to climb up the towers, but the wait was like over an hour so we decided not to.
After we finished at Notre Dame, we wandered over to Shakespeare & Company bookstore, a favorite hangout of Hemingway and other famous authors back in the day. Obviously this was one of my favorite places. It’s two levels and there are books everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE. Stacked on the floors, double-stacked on the shelves. There’s a reading room on the second floor where you can sit and read a book from their library. In the children’s/YA section there’s a little window bench with a cushion that you can sit on and just read and relax. Loved this bookstore!
After we finished there we got some lunch and then headed to Luxembourg Gardens where I found this awesome tree. I will admit that I didn’t enjoy the gardens in Paris as much as I did in London. In London you really felt like you stepped out of the city. It was quiet. The noises of traffic died away. But that wasn’t the case in Paris. Still it was a nice place to stop and rest for a little bit.
We woke up early and metroed to the Catacombs. Here’s a tip. Get there early. We got there about 40 minutes before they opened and we still had to wait until about 40 minutes AFTER they opened before we got in. They only let in so many people at a time to spread the crowds apart a bit. Which is wonderful, but just know that if you get there late you’re looking at a couple hours wait.
The Catacombs were so creepy and yet so cool. Over 6 million people are buried here and you are literally walking amongst human bones. It’s dark and damp down there and there are lots of passageway branching off the route you’re on that are just pitch black. Definitely spooky. But super cool to think that there are miles of passageways running beneath the city. In fact, when we got the exit it probably took us a good 15 minutes of walking before we figured out where the heck we were because you came out so far from the entrance.
After the Catacombs we walked through some pouring rain (the first time it rained our entire trip) to the Pantheon. By the time we got there we were soaked. Super fun. But we went in and toured the Christian church. It was beautiful inside and the crypt was really cool. This picture is looking up at the dome. The crypt had lots of famous peoples’ tombs including Marie Curie and Victor Hugo.
After the Pantheon we got some lunch and waited out the rain. Once it had stopped we stopped for macaroons at Pierre Herme and Laduree, the two big names in macaroons. We ate the cookies later that night when we got back to our hotel and holy gods. I can never eat another cookie again. They were so freaking amazing. I personally liked Pierre Herme better. Their cookie was softer than Laduree’s and I just liked it better. The jasmine and rose petal flavors were my favorite.
Then we walked over to the Champs-Elysse and strolled up the street to the Arc de Triomphe. Um, the Arc is huge. Like way bigger than I pictured it in my head. It started to rain again the second we got there. Of course. But we braved the weather and climbed the stairs to the top.
And because I’m a reader, I thought this picture looked really creepy and made up an elaborate story about a dead city in the distance overrun by some apocalyptic event that hadn’t yet reached the part of Paris where we were. Phil just rolled his eyes at me.
And on our last and final day in Paris, we went to the Louvre. We saw the famous glass pyramid and hung out in the courtyard for a bit before going in. No one really tells you just how huge this place is, but it’s HUGE. Like easily spend a whole day here if you’re interested in art. Mostly I wanted to see the Mona Lisa.
Which we did get to see. I recommend going to see it first because the crowds were already getting crazy and we got there first thing in the morning.
Phil had to high five this statue. Isn’t he adorable?
If you’re not aware, the Louvre used to be a palace and they kept Napoleon III’s apartments intact as part of the museum. I have never seen so much luxury or wealth in one place. Not even at Versailles. This was nicer. The crystal chandeliers. All the gold gilt. The thick red carpets and plush red chairs. The artwork. This place was the epitome of luxury. It was stunning and beautiful and my jaw was on the floor the whole time we were looking at them. The pictures do not do it justice.
After we finished at the Louvre we took the train to the airport and got on our flight to go home.
We had such an amazing time on our trip and I am so thankful that we were able to go. Now that I have my first Europe trip under my belt, I’m a bit more confident. I’m hoping our next big trip will be to Italy and Greece.
Once again if you guys are interested in seeing my spreadsheet itinerary just let me know and I’ll send you a link to the google doc!
Have you been to Paris? What’s your favorite thing to do in the city?