I know it’s late in the fall now, but here is another Europe post for our second stop this summer… Paris, France!
My mom, sister, and I spent five full days in Paris and four of those were with my dad too! To get to Paris, the three of us took an EasyJet from Barcelona to Paris and it was a quick and inexpensive flight over.
We stayed in an AirBnb off Champs-Élysées and were able to see the Arc de Triomphe everytime we had to walk to the metro. We didn’t do a tour of the Arc de Triomphe, but the views from it are amazing and you can see over many of the buildings and get a clear shot of the Eiffel Tower. The Arc de Triomphe is also nice to just walk around the bottom if you don’t want to buy a ticket. You can enter through underground on two sides of the roundabout and see the carvings that honor those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
On our first full day in Paris without my dad, the three of us went up to Montmartre to see the street art, views of the city, and meet up with friends later on. For lunch, we ate at a little cafe called Le Vrai Paris then continued to walk around to Montmartre Village where we stopped at souvenir shops (I got a Paris kitchen apron) and got bamboozled into getting our portraits done. We know they’re pricey and kept telling all of the artists no but then my sister decided that she did want one for herself. While talking to someone, he pulled me in as well to make a sister portrait which came out amazing and he gave us the “student” price of 60€ for it. Turns out that was 60€ each face and I had to walk with him to an ATM to pull out more money. While my sister was getting her face drawn on our “sister portrait”, another artist walked up to us and casually started drawing my mom. He revealed his finished product and while it looked good, it was in a more caricature style with a brown oil pastel and her glasses on. He handed it over and charged us a nice 80€. My dad still doesn’t know this story and thankfully wont read this and never will because he would be livid. Instead, when he eventually saw our portraits rolled up in our luggage (P.S. the tubes to transport them were another 10€ each), we told him that we only paid 20€ for them. Again, he will never know.
We walked past Sacré-Cœur Basilica but didn’t go into the dome to see Paris but we did walk over to the front side and got a beautiful panorama of the city. It is located at the peak of Butte Montmartre and you can see it as you drive in from the airport and from the top, you don’t realize how high you’ve gotten until you look beyond the stairs. If you want to go into the basilica, entrance is free and you can buy an audio guide or guide book to help you do a self-tour! We got to Sacré-Cœur Basilica by walking through the streets behind it but if you’re up for a challenge, you can take the hundreds of steps just to get to the entrance. We decided to walk down the steps and meet up with my sister’s friend and her mom and then got dinner at Le Saint Jean and walked around some more. All of us passed by Moulin Rouge after dinner then took the metro back to our AirBnb!
My dad was supposed to arrive the night we were in Montmartre but his flight was pushed back 12 hours and then was delayed again so he didn’t make it to our AirBnb until almost 12! We originally bought tickets to enter Château de Versailles at 9am but thankfully called Viator (who I used to book a lot of our tickets) and we were able to move our entrance time. Around 12 my dad was still on his way over from the airport so my sister and I called an Uber to just go without our parents. As soon as we got in the car, my dad arrived, dropped off his bags, and our driver turned around to get them and speed on over to Versailles. We got to the meeting point right at 1 and were able to enter Château de Versailles and spend the rest of our day exploring there. We all got audio guides and were able to take our time inside and really take it all in. It was super packed with tons of tour groups so earlier in the day would have probably been better but we still enjoyed it a lot. After inside, we turned in our audio guides and walked around the massive gardens and toured Marie Antoinette’s estate then took a little train back up to the main entrance. We grabbed dinner near the Versailles train station and then took the train back into Paris and a metro from there to our AirBnb. Versailles was so amazing and clearly a great French achievement. The Palace contains 2,300 rooms and each one is filled with every little detail of history and art.
The next day was spent in the city. We all ate breakfast with my sister’s friend and mom at Laduree on Champs-Élysées and each took a sip of their extremely chocolatey hot chocolate and then went our separate ways. Before the trip, I booked us Eiffel Tower summit tickets from Viator but we didn’t get to find out our entrance time until that morning. Once I got that our time was in the evening, I got us tickets for the Louvre and we headed off of the museum and underground shopping center. (Skip the line by entering under one of the pyramids instead of the front entrance). We wandered around the museum for a few hours but it is definitely somewhere that you could spend days at! In those few hours, we saw the Sphinx, how the Louvre was built, hundreds of paintings, and the Mona Lisa (Tip we accidentally discovered: the Mona Lisa is on a wall in the center of a room and if you come around the wall from the backside, it is much easier to sneak into the front than if you tried to come forward through the crowd of people!). After going through the museum and some shopping underneath, we headed to our AirBnb to grab our sweaters and eat before heading over to the Eiffel Tower.
Once with our Viator group to enter the Eiffel Tower, we headed through security and up the escalators and were allowed to stay as long as we wanted. We got summit tickets so we headed to the very top first and all got a glass of champagne together to celebrate our trip and my sister’s graduation! After wandering around up there, we headed down a level and stayed until the sunset. Seeing the sun go down over the city in every direction was magical and at 8pm, we saw the Eiffel Tower light up as we stood on it! We made more stops on our way down then stood right under it at the bottom to really take in how massive this landmark is. On our way back to the AirBnb, we got street crepes since I didn’t get a crepe at all when I was in Paris last summer. It was delicious and we stood across the Eiffel Tower along the river and ate our crepes like true Parisians!
The last tour that was booked was a small group tour of the Notre Dame Cathedral. We didn’t go on a day where they offered free tours so I booked an inexpensive one through Viator that allowed us to skip the insanely long line. Our guide was good but my mom decided to step away to take it in for herself and we re-entered after the tour since the Notre Dame Cathedral is free to enter but donations are accepted. Notre Dame is French for “Our Lady of Paris” and is built with so many details and acknowledgements to the Bible. It is also one of the largest and best known Catholic churches in the world! After we walked around the cathedral even more and watched all of the pigeons outside of it, we walked to the Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore on our way to lunch. It’s a super cute bookstore with pricey first editions on one side and more common books on the other. We got lunch at a noodle place that my cousin’s husband told us about and my mom and I grabbed some Greek lunch pastries from across the street as we waited in the extremely long line. We finally got seated at a buffet table with two other groups and ordered our lunch. It was good but for being in Paris with so many options available and passed by on our way over, it wasn’t anything spectacular.
On our way closer to our AirBnb, we walked through a park near the Louvre so I could get the exact Paris shot glass I got last year since my mom broke mine when I was moving. During the trip, no shot glass I came across looked like the one I had and while I couldn’t describe it exactly, I knew it when I saw it! We did stop in the park and people watch along the way and my exact shot glass was repurchased. We also took time to look at the Place de la Concorde and the fountains. That evening we stopped back at Laduree on Champs-Élysées for macarons and other pastries and went back to our AirBnb to eat a few and watch some French TV!
Our last full day before leaving Paris was also Father’s Day! I woke up early and made my dad a makeshift breakfast with whatever food we had leftover from our grocery store run on our first night in. It included some Fruit Loops, two eggs, a yogurt cup, and leftover fruit. Once my dad was up and ready, he and I walked to Paul’s down the street and each got a coffee, three long baguette sandwiches, strawberries, and a couple pastries to enjoy for lunch. We got back to our AirBnb and all relaxed while my sister got ready for the day. We gathered all of the food we bought in a grocery bag with some utensils and the towels we bought in Barcelona and took the metro down to Champ de Mars. We sat on the grass looking at the Eiffel Tower and enjoyed a little picnic (and naps) in the most enjoyable and relaxing way. After a few hours there, we were hungry again and stopped at a French restaurant before getting on the metro. Since I like to enjoy the cuisine of where I’m visiting at least once, I got escargot and onion soup! My sister was convinced that she wouldn’t like the snails and made a face when she ate one but said that they aren’t so bad afterall. After my first one last year, I completely agree and i think everybody should try escargot at least once… it will turn into many!
Something we didn’t get to see but my dad threw on our list of things to do were the Paris Catacombs. The Catacombs of Paris are underground ossuaries in Paris, France, which hold the remains of more than six million people in a small part of a tunnel network built to consolidate Paris’ ancient stone mines. Extending south from the Barrière d’Enfer (“Gate of Hell”) former city gate, this ossuary was created as part of the effort to eliminate the city’s overflowing cemeteries.
I hope you enjoyed my Paris overview! We did a lot and relaxed much more and I was happy to finally see so much of Paris since I didn’t get to too much last year.
If you plan on going to Paris, I hope this helps you plan fun things to do and see while you’re there! My next summer travel post will be all about London, England. We took the 2-hour EuroStar train from Gare du Nord to St. Pancras International!
P.S. Pics to come soon, I want to improve my Lightroom skills on all of my Europe photos before posting them here 🙂