Last August, Bryan and I spontaneously decided to make the trek over to visit Paris, France. We had a long weekend to spend together, and honestly we were just looking to check off this box on our must-see-while-in-Europe bucket list. I mean to say that only because this was not originally a location we were thrilled about going to. From what we’d heard from others, I expected huge crowds, expensive everything, miles of walking, and the rude locals notorious for refusing to speak anyone in English or to serve you for whatever reason they choose. What we found instead was much much better! Maybe it was all chance, but we were quite surprised multiple times during our trip turning this into one of our very favorite European cities in no time.
Our first score was parking. While we were told our parking would cost around €30/day, Bryan found a parking lot to securely house our car for only €33 for the entire 4 nights within walking distance to our hotel. This was awesome and saved us a bundle!
The second amazing surprise was our hotel. I don’t have to tell you that decent hotel rooms near some main sites can be pretty costly (If you want a view of the Eiffel Tower you are looking upwards of at least a couple hundred €/night. Fortunately, however, my brother and sister-in-law recommended checking availability at the French Military Hotel that also welcomes foreign officers. For a price less than a room at a Holiday Inn in our hometowns, we were able to stay in a very nice hotel (like the no sneakers or shorts inside type) for our entire stay! And to top it off, we made it up to our room and discovered a nice little surprise out our window. I could not get over it!
We walked around that first evening and settled in early because we knew we had much ground to cover in the little time we had in Paris.
On our first full day in Paris, we strolled through the city to purchase bus tour tickets. We figured it would be a good way to get to some major sites quickly since we had not yet learned the local routes and times of public transportation. Our first stop of choice to hop off and tour was the Notre Dame and it’s Catacombs.
After our stop at the Notre Dame, we hopped back onto a bus to see more of the city layout and develop a game plan.
Bryan and I were so so shocked that Paris, home of 40+ million tourists every year, was eerily quiet for such a usually tourist packed destination during our days there (we would soon enough find out where everybody was…more on that to come 😉 ). The most crowded areas we’d seen so far were the predicted sites – the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre Dame…but oddly enough it was pretty tame for what I thought was going to be utter chaos.
I know it sounds horribly touristy but, with it being kind of rainy our first day, it was nice to do the bus tour to see more in the time we had and to also get a logistical game plan for our days afterward. The buildings and monuments scattered throughout the city were crazy impressive! And just the bit of walking we did do there – I had 4 huge blisters on my feet and we had to stop in and pick up some sandals since Bryan was baffled when I told him that I’d only brought “cute” shoes. 😉
We ate lunch with a view of the tower and toured the Musée national de la Marine afterwards which was really cool!
After visiting the Musée national de la Marine, we finished our bus tour through each part of the city districts and concluded at the Eiffel Tower where we had arranged to take a river cruise (which was also surprisingly inexpensive!). We just happened to hit it at the right time and got to see the city as the sun set – it was a real treat! It was a great way to end our first FULL day in Paris.
Our second full day was dedicated to Museums. We began at the big one – the Louvre. Most people take days to see it, but it was only stop one for us that day. We chose one wing (the Denon Wing) and Bryan tried to usher me in towards the Mona Lisa but I got a little…side tracked. I was completely unprepared for how marvelous a museum could be. We found the Rick Steeve’s Audio Tour Guide really helpful.
The Mona Lisa attraction was, in fact, hilarious. It was just as it has been described – a huge crown around a tiny painting…quite unimpressive actually compared to some of the marvels sharing the halls and walls in this museum.
Then you have this amazing painting just across from it which is enormous!
I think some of the most impressive sights to me were the extravagance and variety in each room. From the walls and ceilings to the items on display, I was blown away.
With no time to spare, we headed to the Museo de Orsay. I loved this smaller but still unique museum!
One of my favorite things about this visit to a museum was the big anticipation I’d built in conversations with Bryan about viewing some of Picasso’s work. We finally get to his work and Bryan walks up and whispers into my ear “Who painted these (pictured below)? I could paint better than that.” :’D And I had to tell him, through my silent laughter, that this was Picasso’s work! I love love love him so!!!
It was about this time that we started getting a little tired, which is why this huge comfy chair was just too convenient for my partner in crime. 😉
After the second major museum, we found a Brasserie and had lunch, hoping it would be a good time to refuel. It was cute walking by little convenient groceries and gift shops. It was also time to try the mandatory macaroon – which was actually a quite expensive but tasty little treat. 🙂
Sometime during our trip we discovered authentic beignets and upon arriving to the hotel I discovered they are the most amazing delicious thing you’ve ever tried in your life! AND some are chocolate stuffed! It’s over for me people. These little devilish treats were so delicious that, despite all the blisters and bruised feet we’d have later that weekend, we’d walk 3 miles out of the way (my choice haha) to attempt grabbing one last bag of these mini pieces of manna from heaven – only to discover they’d sold out! :(((((( At least we tried them once! 🙂
With lunch out of the way, we walked over to Napoleon’s Tomb (Les Invalides) and the Army Museum. The Tomb is just as extravagant as anything we’d seen so far and the museum also made for a valuable visit.
I liked these little shrubs (below). 😉
After this 3rd Museum, we were trying to walk to the final museum for the day – The Musee de l’Orangerie. Our walk took us through this beautiful, beautiful park…where people just passed the hours enjoying the gorgeous day. We agreed to stop for 5 minutes, and laughed each time we would stand up, walk a few steps and sit in the next two chairs we passed. Let’s just say 4 museums in 1 day is a lofty goal for Paris itineraries. 😉
This museum hosted Bryan’s second hilarious comment. He asked why we were going there, and I would tell him that Monet’s Waterlilies was there. He only learned upon our arrival that Monet had cataracts. He looked at me and was like “So who determines good noteworthy art? Picasso and now an almost blind guy with blurry vague paintings?” ;-D But we loved learning to appreciate art on this day…almost as much as we enjoyed laughing together as we realized we definitely didn’t realize just how much the beauty of art and the significance of its interpretation lies in the eye of the beholder. Notice my ugly Dr. Scholl’s sandals here. Serves me right for refusing to pack sensible shoes and later having to resort to finding a Pharmacy to save the day!
That night we were purely exhilarated when we could get off of our feet and relax in the room. To make up for the fact that we were staying in out of pure exhaustion and bruised feet, the sky was just amazing.
And the Eiffel Tower was still so pretty from our window! A perfect ending to another full day of wonderful sights!
Our last day would have been well executed, except the metro stop we were planning to leave from for our adventure to Versaille was shut down… and led us walking to another metro, which was also shut down, which led us walking to a bus, which took us to the metro we needed to get to. We would have been so early, so on time….but instead we were 2.5 hours later than planned and thus behind all these people! The wait was horrendous. Remember how I said crowds were actually not so bad? They were all at Versaille it turns out. Seriously. Versaille itself was lovely…but be sure to look for the photos where you can see just how many tourists are crammed in the rooms touring with us! 😉
All in all, the sites were epic. The food was fabulous. There were many many affordable ways to enjoy Paris, and the people we met were all sincere and friendly! It definitely was a weekend to remember!