Picking up from where we left off in our London recap, by day three, Morgan and I were so ready to start our Paris getaway. We loved our time in London, but Paris has been the city Morgan’s been obsessed with since she was une petite fille, so it was time to hop a train to the land of macarons and Mona Lisa.
We spent a leisurely morning wandering around Chelsea looking for a record store (which we never found), before having breakfast in a cute little outdoor café. When you’re on a short trip, it’s tempting cram every second full of activity, but never discount the value of quiet moments to people watch, journal and plan your day. Breakfast is the perfect time for that.
After yogurt parfaits, we headed back to our flat to pack up and Uber to the train station. I hadn’t booked our tickets ahead of time because the website kept freezing, a happy accident since traffic was terrible and we ended up taking a later train than intended. We grabbed a little picnic lunch to eat en route and Morgan napped.
By mid afternoon we made it to our Airbnb flat in Le Marais, a historic neighborhood filled with sidewalk cafes, winding cobblestone streets and hidden courtyards. There aren’t many hotels in Le Marais, but Airbnb allows you to live like a local. The woman who let us into the flat didn’t speak English but we were able to mime well enough to get the WiFi code and figure out the fold-out bed. We freshened up a bit and headed out to explore Le Marais, browse in shops that sold bijoux fantaisie (costume jewelry) and get dinner. Our Paris getaway had begun!
Pro-tip: don’t try to convince Morgan that Camembert cheese is delicious despite its damp gym socks smell. Nope. Not having it.
How much Paris can you pack into a single day? We were determined to find out. Fortified with croissants plus chocolate chaud (hot chocolate) for Morgan and a cappuccino for me, we attempted our first Metro ride to the Louvre. Yes, we struggled a bit with how to put the ticket into the turn styles, but after that we were delighted to discover that the Metro is well marked and pretty straightforward. Turns out Morgan has a gift for navigation, so I left most of that to her. Just look at the Arts et Métiers Station, our cool Steampunk-style Metro stop in Le Marais. (Arts et Métiers = Arts & Crafts.)
By now we were in a groove with our vacation, and Morgan was more comfortable with the fact that everything wasn’t going to be perfectly choreographed – we had to figure things out, backtrack occasionally and even wander around aimlessly at times. But that’s ok. In fact, it can be wonderful, like when we weren’t sure we were at the Louvre. I mean the building said Louvre, but where were the people? Where was the crystal pyramid? We walked across a bridge to get our bearings and caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. The freaking Eiffel Tower! Overcome with emotion, we started jumping and hugging each other and tearing up a little.
About 100 selfies later, we found the right entrance to the Louvre, bypassed the long line thanks to our Paris Pass (more about those in our travel tips post, coming soon) and spent the next several hours wandering through room after room of antiquities, sculptures, and paintings. The crowds in front of the Venus de Milo were nothing compared to the crush of people in front of the Mona Lisa but by then we were comfortable throwing elbows and wriggling our way to the front for the mandatory selfie shot.
When we’d had a fill our art (museum fatigue is real, y’all), we headed to the nearest Starbucks for caffeine and WiFi so we could track down the nearest Hop On Hop Off bus. These are those big red double decker tourist busses that stop at regular intervals at all the major attractions. I know it sounds cheesy but they’re amazing. You can listen to an audio tour, get pictures from a great vantage point or just relax in the open air while someone else does the navigating. If you get the Travel Card with your Paris Pass, the Hop On Hop Off bus is included. We found the bus and took it down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. More selfies, then we went through the tunnel under the street to get to the monument. No line, no waiting with the Paris Pass, (seriously, believe the hype.) We still had 284 steps up to the top around a steep and spiraling staircase, though. Guess who got to carry the back pack? The views made it all worthwhile.
The 284 steps are no easier on the way down but once we hit the street we were pumped for our next stop: The Eiffel Tower. The Hop on, Hop off Bus had us there within 10 minutes and let me just say, the first sight of it up close is mesmerizing, even slightly blurred though tears. I felt so blessed to share this experience with Morgan, who was just as awestruck and emotional as I was. We took pictures and wandered around eating ice cream cones for almost two hours, not quite believing we were really there.
After such a long day, we’d earned a nice dinner (steak frites!) and an early bedtime. Friday was going to be just as jam-packed.
Another early morning, another croissant. At this point in our Paris Getaway, we were much more comfortable on the Metro and found our way easily to Notre Dame Cathedral. We lit candles and said prayers for our loved ones (especially my Mom and Morgan’s grandmom) and for Morgan’s first year at college. We left the Cathedral and wandered around in search of a bakery that sold macarons and Shakespeare & Company bookstore, founded by American George Whitman at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, Kilometer Zero, the point at which all French roads begin. A nice writerly thing to do, right? We found a closed bakery, a bakery that sold cream puffs and two bakeries that were out of macarons before stumbling upon the bookstore.
I checked … no Chloe Carstairs mysteries. Guess they must’ve all sold out. No macarons either so we ventured on and had just given up when we realized we were standing right in front of a bakery that sold nothing but. Paris getaway success!
We sent the rest of the day at Musée D’orsay, a former railway station now filled with Monets, Manets, Van Goghs, and Reniors. The views from the terrace are just as stunning as the works of arts inside, but we needed to make some more pictures of our own. Apparently licking the Eiffel Tower is a thing.
Day two meant more selfies and more ice cream. “Is this real life?” Morgan asked. I couldn’t believe it either. We drug ourselves back to the flat for disco naps before heading back out to see the Louvre at night.
Saturday, we headed out to Versaille, which is a master class in Metro riding. It was so cool to be on a train riding through French suburbs. The lines at the palace were almost two hours long, but luckily there was only full sun for the last 30 minutes. That’s all the luck we had because get this … we were starving when we got in and headed right to the cafe, which happened to outside near the gardens. But after we ate, they wouldn’t let us back in the palace unless we got back in the two-hour line. Say what? We weren’t the only one who made that mistake and weren’t the only ones pretty angry about it. But the gardens were totally worth the trip.
When we got back to town, we took another nap and then went back to the Arc de Triumphe to see the Eiffel Tower at night.
On Sunday, our Paris getaway was almost over. We packed up our little flat and got an Uber to the train station for our trip back to London. We were booked in a hotel near Hyde Park and thought we’d do some more sightseeing in London, but alas, we were so tired and ready to head home by then. We ended up lounging on crisp hotel sheets, and watching Keeping Up with The Kardashians. (Don’t judge.) We walked to a nearby pizza place for dinner, then back to the hotel to get ourselves organized for our flight on Monday. We agreed that we must have good lives back home if we missed them even on such a wonderful trip.
Ready to plan your own Paris getaway? What are you most excited to see? Check back for our next post about budget-friendly travel tips so your Euros can go further and so can you.