Me, with my love in tow, just returned from our first trip to Paris together. We’ve been to Europe many times, but just never seemed to make it to Paris for some reason. That was a mistake. This is now one of my favorite cities to visit. There are just so many attractions to see that we were out the door when the sun came up, and didn’t once return before midnight. Our hotel, the Marriott Opera Ambassador, had such a great location that a lot of the time we were able to explore some of the best sights in Paris either on foot, or by using the metro, which was just outside the hotel. The price for our room was around $350 a night, which was more than reasonable considering our accommodations, and location. We were booked into a “deluxe room”, which would have been considered an executive suite in any other hotel. Our room had a king sized bed, free wifi, and a view of the city that was simply amazing. As for the location, it couldn’t be beat. We were less than a mile from the Louvre, less than a half mile to some of the best shopping in Paris, a mile and a half to the Champs Élysées, and only steps to the metro. Please note there is also a villa style, top of the line luxurious 5-Star hotel aptly named Marriott Hotel Champs Elysee. I did have the opportunity to spend two nights in the villa style beautiful hotel, all during a snow storm. Without any question, and no hestiation
While we only had a week together in Paris, we definitely made the most of our time. We spent most of our days wandering about, checking out the many attractions Paris has to offer. We ate at some amazing restaurants, sipped coffee at outdoor cafes, and checked out Paris’ famous nightlife. We ended up packing about fifteen days worth of activities into our one week stay. We were exhausted by the end of our trip, but we knew we had plenty of time to sleep on our flight home. Going through my travel journal now that I’m back home, I decided to hit on some of the highlights of the trip.
This was, by far, what I was looking forward to the most about this trip. I’m a fanatic for museums, and I’ve been wanting to see the Louvre my whole adult life. Our first full day in Paris fell on the first Sunday of the month. When I asked the concierge at the hotel the directions to the Louvre, he had informed me that admission to the Louvre was free on this particular Sunday. While that was nice, he mentioned, he also noted that this happens to be the busiest day at the museum. We took his advise into consideration, but I was just to excited to wait another day. In retrospect I wish I would have. While the Louvre was everything I was hoping for, the crowds were huge. If I had it to do over again, I would have just shelled out the fifteen euros and waited a day. This was still the highlight of my trip though. The concierge told us we could either take the metro, or just walk the fifteen minutes. Since it was a beautiful day, and we haven’t yet seen much of the city, we opted to walk. We arrived about fifteen minutes before they opened, and stood in a line about fifty people deep. They were obviously prepared for this though. Once the doors were opened it only took a few minutes for us to get through admissions. I was finally in the Louvre! To write about all of the different attractions in the Louvre would take thousands upon thousands of words to describe. There are masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa (to finally be in the presence of the original produced goose bumps), the Code of Hammurabi (unbelievably well preserved), and Aphrodite (not so well preserved, but still a joy to see in person). There are also many, many lesser known pieces work that were just as beautiful. We wandered the halls of the Louvre from open to close that day. Some pieces I went to see twice, and others I’m sad to say I missed altogether. It was still an amazing day though, and if I ever find myself in Paris again I will definitely be back.
L’ Opera Restaurant
We enjoyed our first real dinner in Paris after leaving the Louvre. Although we were on our feet all day, we decided to take the long way to L’ Opera from the museum. We walked along the bank of the river until we reached the Place de la Concorde, and then turned north. While it took us an hour to get to the restaurant, it was worth it. We were in Paris, and there was no way I was going to see it whiz by from the back of a taxi. We were an hour early for our reservations, so we sipped drinks at the bar, and had a lengthy discussion on which attraction at the Louvre was our favorite. In the end, neither of us could make a decision.
Finally seated, and extremely famished, we each decided to go with a three course tasting menu. Natasha ordered the soft boiled egg, mushroom risotto, and the pears for dessert. I had the tomato salad, rib eye steak, and finished with the cheese plate. Everything was prepared perfectly, and the service was top notch. Our pockets took a bit of a hit though. Not to worry, we knew it before we went in, and were prepared. We’d just spend then next few evenings eating less haute cuisine.
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We could have walked to the tower from our hotel in about an hour, but we most certainly overdid it with the walking on the previous day. No problem though, luckily the metro is close, and it goes directly to the tower. Once there we made our way first to the first floor. I wasn’t actually prepared for a completely see-through floor. You’re one hundred and seventy feet in the air, standing on a glass floor that looks straight down to the ground. It was a little unnerving at first, but you eventually get used to it. From there we made our way to the second floor on foot and were rewarded with a 360 degree view of the city. It was a clear day, and we felt like we could see forever. It was quite a treat. From there we took the glass elevator to the top which offered great views. At the top though was the real treat. You could see all of Paris from here. We strolled around a bit, trying to make out all of the landmarks. We stayed up there for more than an hour sipping, pricy, champagne and checking out the sights. A great way to spend the morning, and from what I hear it’s even better at night.
Apparently we didn’t learn our lesson from the night before. We decided to walk the twenty minutes or so from the tower to the Champs Élysées. This famous street in Paris is lined with every kind of shopping you could imagine. There are high end boutiques sitting next to The Gap. There are more restaurants and cafes than on any street in New York. We strolled up the street just taking it all in, and popping in to store after store. About half way up we stopped at a nice little cafe for a couple of Americanos and a pastry. Sitting out on the street, and sipping our coffees was very relaxing after an already full day. We ended our walk at the Arc de Triomphe, which was built in honor of Napoleon Bonaparte. From there were hopped on the metro and made our way back to the hotel for a little freshening up before we departed for dinner.
Looking for a few hours down time we made it over to the Luxembourg Gardens. On the way there we picked up all of the supplies for a nice picnic; a loaf of bread, some assorted meats and cheeses, and some fruit. If you have some time to kill in Paris, I suggest checking this place out. The gardens are immense, and beautiful. There are people everywhere just lounging, playing with boats in the water, and getting in a little exercise. We snacked, people watched, read a little, and just generally relaxed, which after a few days of running around we really needed. Later in the afternoon we decided to check out the marionette show. I assumed this would be something that catered only to children, but Natasha was adamant about seeing her first marionette show. If you’re at the park at the right time you must check this out. The show is most definitely not only for children, as there are many sly little innuendos thrown in here and there, and enough jokes and action to keep everyone entertained. A nice day seemed to be had by all in the park that day.
Palace of Versailles
Even from the outside this attraction is overwhelming. The shear size and opulence of this palace is breathtaking. The gardens, with their amazing statues, is like nothing I’ve seen before, and rivals almost any museum collection. Once inside though you will marvel at how amazing this palace really is. Every single room and hallway is a feast for the eyes. The chandeliers, artwork, and tapestries are all of the finest quality. It’s very hard to believe that so much money was put into this property by the French monarchs. It’s no wonder that this building is one of the focal points of the French Revolution. If you plan on going to the Palace, I suggest giving this property a whole day to view properly, it’s simply just too large, with too many rooms, to see in even a few hours.
We were in Paris only a short time, and we had a lot of things we wanted to do, but didn’t get around to. If we go back though the one thing I didn’t get enough of was the Parisian markets. Sure we did a lot of touristy stuff, and we also did a lot of shopping, but not so much like the locals do. There are so many little hidden markets selling flowers, produce, meats and cheeses that it would be a shame not to visit a few while you’re there. On my first trip to one of the small markets I was a little intimidated since my French isn’t that great. I shouldn’t have worried, everyone was very friendly, and more than helpful. One of these small markets is where we bought all of our picnic supplies mentioned above, and it’s one of my fondest memories. Everything you could need on your trip can be found here, and the merchants are very grateful for your support. If nothing else, stop in for a few supplies for your picnic. You won’t be sorry.