From our tour of London we boarded the Eurostar to be whisked through the Chunnel towards our next destination, Paris, The City of Lights. I don’t have any clever photos of us on or around the train, because I didn’t know I would be blogging at the time. After what seemed like a very short trip, we arrived in Gare du Nord and the adventure began. We stepped off the train and we headed for the Métro, where we would take a train to our hotel. First however we had to get passes and in Paris they use little tickets called carnets. We first tried the automated machine, but after several attempts I came to the conclusion that it was not going to take my credit card, so we had to get in a lengthy line for the attendant. After finally getting our carnets we were off! Our hotel for our first two nights was magnificent and had a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower from our balcony, which we used quite often to gaze whimsically at the beautiful iron structure.
After settling in the hotel, we set off for a closer inspection of the tower. We debated while we walked through the Champ de Mars whether we would climb the tower or ride the elevator to the top. The long queue for the elevator that awaited us, plus my wife’s discomfort with heights, guided us to the entrance for the steps where we huffed and puffed up 1,652 stairs to the second level. We were rewarded for all of our hard work by the stunning view of the city and Seine River. After soaking in the city and fully recuperating from our hike up, we headed back down. For the remainder of the evening we strolled around our neighborhood taking in the sights and sounds.
The next morning we awoke early, grabbed breakfast on the run, and took the Métro towards the Notre Dame Cathedral. Again, we were greeted with a long line for the climb up to the towers, oh the joys of traveling in high season. We decided that we would rather spend our time seeing other sights then waiting in the line, so we toured the cathedral and headed on. Walking to the top of the cathedral and viewing the gargoyles is something that I definitely want to accomplish, so hopefully we will have another chance to make that trip. From Notre Dame we walked around the Les Bouquinistes (book sellers on the banks of the Seine), and then headed to Montmartre.
We toured the Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre (Sacre-Coeur) and its amazing perch upon the top of the hill. Leaving the Basilica we meandered around the cafés, shops, and houses of Montmartre, which were for a period home to some of history’s most accomplished artists: Satie, Picasso, van Gogh, Matisse, and Renoir all spent time in this neighborhood. We enjoyed a nice lunch in a street café across the street from Moulin Rouge and then took the Métro to see the Arc de Triomphe and walk down the hectic Champs-Elysees.
Our third day was our first experience in washing laundry in a foreign country. I would like to say that it went off without a hitch, but alas it did not. The start of the difficulty was in finding laundry detergent; we stood in the local market looking at laundry products, but there was no comforting Tide bottle staring at us. In fact our first purchase actually turned out to be fabric softener instead of detergent. After finally securing the detergent we walked into the closest “laverie” which was conveniently located across the street from our hotel. We unloaded our clothes only to have the owner walk in and say she was closing. So we had to drag our luggage a few blocks to the next laundromat.
After finally successfully completing laundry we headed to our new hotel. We dropped our baggage off and got back on the Métro headed for Versailles, only to realize that we left the tickets for the train to Versailles in our luggage. This was easily one of the most frustrating days of travel I have ever experienced and it might have been a total loss, but luckily Versailles was simply astonishing. We gaped at the massive halls and took our picture in the Hall of Mirrors. We then ambled through the entire garden, well, probably not, but we covered a lot of ground. We took in the fountains, the Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon, the Queen’s Theater, the Queen’s Hamlet, and the English Garden. I’ve probably never walked that much before, but the gardens are wonderful and were worth the time and effort. Afterwards, we were too exhausted to do anything else, so we returned to the hotel to sleep.
Our last day in Paris, was the museum day; we explored the Rodin Museum, Musée d’Orsay, and the Louvre. You could spend days in each of these museums, especially the Louvre, and still not see everything, so we picked out some specific pieces for each that we wanted to see to make the best use of our time. After all the walking of the past two days we decided to take a nice relaxing Seine River cruise. Sitting on top of the open deck of the ship we were able to take in the beautiful surroundings. We ended our last night in The City of Lights by eating crepes under the Eiffel Tower as the hundreds of lights twinkled above us at midnight.