Another great way to explore Paris is by taking the Hop on, Hop Off bus tours which we took advantage of our second day in Paris. We took the metro to see the Eiffel Tower and then caught the Hop On, Hop Off bus from there. At first it was really frustrating since the earbuds they gave us kept going in and out, and it was hard to follow along with the pre-recorded tour guide. However, we switched seats and then were incredibly lucky to get a LIVE guide who was charming, sweet and very entertaining. The bus took us around the city as we oohed and aahed at the various sites throughout the city. We were able to get off and back on at any given point, but we opted to stay on for the entire tour since the weather was beautiful, we had a fabulous guide and it was a welcomed rest for my poor leg. Once, again this kind of tour allowed us to have a better understanding of how Paris was laid out.
Finally, my sister pried me off my warmed seat and convinced me to do some more walking. We went up and down steps and turns and finally made it to see the Sainte-Chapelle Gothic style church. The hours we checked both in our guide book and online both said that they would be open until either 5:00 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. We arrived breathless at 4:00 p.m. with the stores firmly locked and a stoic guard just stating they were closed. The moral of this story? Always assume that everything will open later and close earlier than what they have listed.
Moving along… we took my friend’s solid advice in taking the elevator to the top of the Montparnasse Tower at Sunset. What an incredible 360 degree view of the entire city! It was so beautiful and I was truly awe struck. They also had ice cold draught beer which alleviated some of the pain.
We arrived in Paris in the morning with not sleeping on the plane on our way there. However, we were ready to wander this beautiful city and see the sights. Our first order of business was to find our hotel. In hindsight, we wish we would have taken a cab or Uber to our hotel only because we ended up walking way more on my broken leg than was worth it. Public transportation is AMAZING in Paris, unless, you are hobbling around in pain with a backpack on your back. Then it becomes daunting, frustrating and painful. The very few metro stations that had escalators were mostly shut down due to maintenance. I wanted to cry every time, yet another, staircase presented itself.
However, we did manage to find our hotel and we stayed the next four nights at Hotel de Neuve in le Marais http://www.hoteldeneuveparis.com/. It was a very quaint hotel with extremely helpful and kind staff. I also mean ‘quaint’ to equate with ‘tiny’. Our room was very small and so is the reception area, staircases and elevator. However, it was comfortable enough (especially if you are not a tall woman with a broken leg) and I would still highly recommend this accommodation.
We then walked around and visited the Square Jean XXII and the most famous Gothic cathedral - Notre-Dame. It’s as beautiful as you ever imagined. We were lucky enough not to have to wait in exuberantly long lines, but I did pass on taking the steps/tour to the top. I would likely recommend that to someone else though.
Then we headed off to take a Champagne Cruise down the Seine River. I cannot recommend enough to take this tour! This was absolutely worth it and such a great way to spend the first evening when we arrived. It gave us an overview of the whole city and an exceptional opportunity to take photos of the most iconic monuments throughout the City of Lights! http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/champagne-cruise-paris/
Part of the fun of taking any kind of vacation in the process of planning it ahead of time. While you want to make sure and plan all the details, it’s always best to keep an open mind and allow for all different kinds of scenarios to be thrown your way! When one door closes, it only opens up a new one!
Now granted, one of my closest and dearest friends happens to work for Rick Steves (https://www.ricksteves.com/) and is a Travel Guru Extraordinaire, and most people do not have that resource at their disposal. However, what people do have is the Internet, library and book stores. If you plan to travel, make sure and do your research and make your reservations. Also, while Rick Steves books and maps are a valuable resource (you can careful cut them up to make them weigh less) you can also download Audio Europe playlists and customize them to your specific trip. You can listen to them before you go and while you are there. There are even specific tours that you can listen to while perusing your favorite museums, exhibits and monuments. Take advantage of these audio guides!!! https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/audio/audio-europe
My sister and I also read different websites and recommendations for the specific towns that we planned to visit, so that we always had an idea of what we wanted to see while we were there. We had exactly two weeks to travel France. While we had the had the trip of a lifetime, I would recommend someone else do the same trip in three weeks, with adding a spot or two to stop at, while spending an extra day in the places that we did visit.
What I did NOT plan for was fracturing my tibia five days before our trip. That put a spin on things, but I was bound and determined to go anyway and make the best of my situation. The orthopedic surgeon put my ankle in a brace and my dad loaned me his walking stick. I was good to go…