What takes approximately 106500 steps and four days (it was all the time I had) to explore?
I’m sure there are many answers to that question but on this occasion the correct answer is Paris.
I could wax lyrical here about every last second of the trip, but I’ll spare you that level of detail and share the edited highlights with you and a few of the several hundred photos I took as the Big Green Gummi Bear, and I meandered the rues and boulevards of Paris.
This short break was planned and booked as a “once in a lifetime” experience so we didn’t scrimp on anything. Life is for living and after the delights of the past two years, we decided that we deserved the five-star experience.
We arrived in the city mid-afternoon on Monday and checked into our hotel on Rue Scribe. It was ideally situated for exploring the city so once we’d freshened up, we headed out to explore and set off in search of the Seine. Seemed like a good place to start.
It only took us a few minutes, after an initial wrong turn, to reach Place de la Concorde, which was to be one of our main landmarks for the duration of our stay. There’s a huge gold topped Egyptian obelisk in the centre of Place de la Concorde that sits on the former site of the guillotine!
We crossed Pont de la Concorde and wandered along the left bank of the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower. So many bridges! We didn’t want to walk too far and crossed back via Pont de l’Alma (I think) then meandered back through Place de la Concorde, up Rue Royale and along the boulevard back to the hotel.
To keep things simple for our first night, I’d pre-booked a table at the Hard Rock Café for dinner. The meal and cocktails were great but to be honest, our table wasn’t ideally situated for seeing the HRC’s memorabilia. We were seated in a crowded corner, and I had a view of a naked Frank Zappa sitting on the loo for the evening. I’ll confess I may have splurged a little in the rock shop on the way out.
Tuesday was our first full day of sight-seeing. We’d decided to visit one or two things/places a day to allow sufficient time to fully appreciate them. At least that was the plan. The Palais Garnier, the opera house across the street from the hotel, was our first stop. I’d booked a guided tour for us, and it was well-worth it to learn the history of this stunning theatre. (I’ll most likely write more about this in a future blog – you have been warned.) The Palais Garnier is stunning inside and steeped in history. It was also the opera house that inspired the story/musical/film Phantom of the Opera. We never saw the Phantom; his seat was empty.
After a long walk through the twisting streets, we found ourselves in the Montmartre district of the city. Our destination was the most visited monument in Paris – Sacre-Coeur. If only I’d realised that reaching it meant climbing as many stairs! I was in need of oxygen before I reached the wide staircase leading up to the church itself. The views of the city made it all worthwhile; the stained glass of Scare-Coeur also made it worthwhile. We realised as we entered the building that you could also climb up to the dome for a mere 7 Euros each. That’s a climb that’s not for the fainthearted or the claustrophobic! 292 narrow, steep, spiral stone stairs take you up to the dome. I don’t often experience feelings of claustrophobia but by the last fifty steps I thought I was going to die! The walls were closing in on me (no idea if it does actually get narrower but it felt tighter), my heart was pounding out of my chest, I felt clammy, and my legs were like jelly. Thank God there was a stone bench to sit on at the top.
The views out over the entire city from such a high vantage point were breathtaking. You could see for miles!
Fortunately, the climb back down was considerably easier!
Wednesday saw us up and out early for a 10:15am rendezvous with our tour guide. Again, we headed to Place de la Concorde then through the Jardin des Tuileries to meet our tour guide at the Arc de Triumph Carousel. If you ever intend to visit the Louvre museum, our destination for the day, can I strongly recommend booking a guided tour. When we arrived, less than an hour after the museum opened for the day, the queues outside the pyramid entrance stretched for miles. Our lovely guide, Alexandra, by-passed those, allowing us to enter via one of the other underground entrances then escorted us through the crowds pointing out the key exhibits of the museum, as well as giving us a history lesson of the building itself. The Louvre is vast! We only saw a tiny portion of it. I’d have loved to stay and explore some more but the Big Green Gummi Bear was bored so we left about an hour after our tour ended.
We crossed the river to the left bank again then meandered out towards Notre Dame. Its currently impossible to get near it due to the ongoing restoration work. We meandered around Ile de la Cite before crossing Pont Neuf and heading back to the hotel to get ready for our “big night out”.
Showered and changed, we grabbed a taxi to take us back towards Montmartre and our destination for the evening – Moulin Rouge. We had an amazing evening being wined and dined in VIP style before enjoying the ninety-minute show “Feenie”. Yes, its all as glitzy as you’d imagine, complete with can-can girls. Incredible food, spectacular show, charming waiter (could have happily brought him home) and an altogether unforgettable evening. Worth every Euro.
Thursday was our last full day in the city (“whew”, my wee feet cried!) We had one final tour left – a trip to the summit of the Eiffel Tower. Again, we meandered through Place de la Concorde to the left bank, through the Invalides area of the city to Parc du Champs-Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower. We met up with our guide and again our pre-booked tickets allowed us to skip the lengthy queue. Security checks are really tight here! We took the lift to the second level where our guide escorted us to each of the four sides of the tower, telling is about its history and what you could see from the view. The guided tour ended there, and we then joined the queue for another lift to take us to the summit. (Tickets to the summit are restricted in number.) Thank God it didn’t involve climbing any stairs as my calves and thighs hadn’t quite recovered from visiting Sacre-Coeur. Apart from incredible views, we found a champagne bar at the summit. Well, it would have been rude not to…when in Paris and all that…
Once we descended the tower (we walked down the stairs from level two) we meandered past the Trocadero and up towards the Arc de Triumph. The rush hour traffic around it was insane! The queues to visit the arc were a mile long so we appreciated it from a distance before walking the length of the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. Well, all tours of France end on the Champs-Elysees.
There’s so much of the city I’ve still to explore but our time had run out and all good things have to come to an end.
A bientot, Paris.