We revisited the Sainte-Chappelle Gothic Church and arrived first thing when they opened up. While it is not an excessively large church, it is exceptionally beautiful. The stained glass work is absolutely phenomenal and each pane tells a different story. It gives you a glimpse into the distant past and an appreciation for the painstakingly well done artwork. Rick Steves offers a great audio guide tour, so make sure you download that ahead of time!
From there we went next door to the Palais de Justice where Marie Antoinette and many others throughout history were held captive. This is where Marie Antoinette was held before her beheading execution for high treason in 1793. The exhibit is well done and quite sobering.
We then found our way to Musée Rodin. It took a combination of public transportation and walking, but we eventually made it to the gates. It was so worth it! The gardens are filled with statues by Auguste Rodin as well as some that he collected during his lifetime. Once we combed through the gardens, we went inside his former house, which is now museum, filled with so much of his artwork in addition to his collections. I made use of the elevators which were hidden in the walls which added a mystic to the whole experience.
We then made our way over the Musée de l’Orangerie to enjoy gigantic impressionist paintings by Claude Monet. I would highly recommend this museum. It felt like a breath of fresh air and his painting are so cleansing and calming. There are benches there where you can sit and just soak in his artwork. There’s also a downstairs with works by Picasso, Van Gogh and various other artists.
What’s also great about the Musée de l’Orangerie is how close it is the Tuileries Garden and the oh-my-god-the-most-amazing-museum-ever, THE LOUVE!!! Don’t listen to all the people that tell you it’s overrated. They are LIARS!!! It’s impossible to overstate how amazing this museum is and what it holds within its walls… the Mona Lisa is just the start! Download the Audio Guide from Rick Steves and go ENJOY yourself! If you have an entire day to spend there, then by all means… DO SO!!! Granted, it is really crowded, so the one thing I would recommend is that you go during off hours and the shoulder seasons.
We caught the sunset as we left the museum and were once again struck by the beauty of Paris. We took our time and walked along the Parc Rives de Seine and enjoyed the city sites. The way the light danced across the river made my head spin and my heart dance.
Eventually, we found a nice little bistro, enjoyed dinner and a bottle of wine. It was the perfect way to decompress after a long day that contained over 26K steps and more sites than our brains could process.
My sister and I were both particularly excited about seeing the Musée d’Orsay. We had heard from so many sources what a fantastic museum it is and I was particularly looking forward to seeing all the works by various impressionist artists. Once again, it was a struggle for me to physically get there with fighting the stairs at public transportation and trying to not get knocked down by the storms of tourists trying to be the first in line.
We were already feeling slightly pressed for time, since we had scheduled a food class for later that afternoon, so I was trying my best the hustle along. We took note that there was a long line of taxis waiting out front if the Musée d’Orsay, so that would be a good option for us if time became a more pressing problem.
As I was getting mowed down by tourists, the museum staff came running to my rescue and took my sister and me to the front of the handicapped line and escorted me inside. I breathed a sigh of relief and wanted to turn around flipping all the mongers behind me while stammering, “I may be slow but I’m ahead of you!” However, I did not. I caught my breath and held my composure.
We turned on the Rick Steves Audio Tour and began to follow along. However, we quickly realized that they had closed the entire second floor and re-arranged the exhibits, effectively making it impossible to maneuver around using the Audio Guide. We turned that off and then was shuffled into a special exhibit of only works by Picasso. Once, again the staff sought me out and brought me to the front of that line as well.
Between all the construction and lines for elevators, we were quickly running out of time. The museum was impossibly crowded and felt chaotic and disorganized. We had to get out of there and knew we were going to hail the first taxi we could find. When we finally exited the museum, we realized that not only had the line of taxis disappeared but there was now a long line of people waiting for taxis. Panic!!!
Out of the blue, a bicycle taxi found us and insisted that he could get us to our next destination in “ten minutes.” We were hesitant to believe him but we also still had 30 minutes at that time, so we decided it was worth the gamble. He spun around in circles a couple of times and we decided we better get off. He insisted that, “No” we needed to stay on and he would get us there. It was mayhem trying to watch him navigate through Paris traffic and I decided it was better to just not look. I was oscillating between laughing and crying.
We finally made it to the Food Tour while the guide and our fellow “students” were waiting for us. The cyclist charged us $100 Euro and we did not have time to argue. Moral of this story? Don’t take a bicycle taxi in Paris. He may have a cute smile, but that includes a hand in your pocket.
The gastronomic food tour was comprised of mostly Americans and one Canadian. The guide was a very charming Frenchman. The tour was in the Latin Quarter of Paris which is an area that should never be missed when visiting Paris. https://parisbymouth.com/ This was likely the highlight of our stay in Paris. Granted, one woman from Boston kept one upping everyone and over talking the guide, but once I was able to pull my eyes back from the back of my head, I was able to enjoy the rest of the tour.
One fascinating tidbit that we learned from a world renowned pastry chef is that it is considered to be in vogue to bake with very little sugar. Sugars should be used as a “seasoning” only to accent the pastries. The focus should be on the very basic ingredients of eggs, flours and whatever flavors the pastry chef is trying to introduce. The pastries were absolutely amazing!!!
We also enjoyed several cheeses, meats, foie gras, French breads and, of course, WINE!!! You can never have too much wine in France! We enjoyed our time with our guide and the fellow tourists. After talking about our adventures for a bid adieu and went on our way.
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…