One thing we quickly noticed while living in Ghent is that we were pretty well located. So well located, that we decided to take an extra long weekend in Paris. We took Flixbus to Paris, which got us there in 4 hours! We were able to snag some tickets round trip for about 40 some euros!
Now since Cris hadn’t been to Paris before, we had a lot of ground to cover. Luckily for him he is under 26 and an EU citizen he gets in for free EVERYWHERE. Me? Nope, had to pay for everything, and reserve tickets with a specific time so we didn’t have to waste time waiting in line. So where did we stay? Since I am over hostels and sharing a room, we decided to get a hotel near the Eiffel Tower. The area really surprised us because even being so close to such a touristy site, there were plenty of bars and restaurants that weren’t ridiculously priced.
First things first we had to go to one of my favorite art museums, the Musee de Orsay. It is near the Louvre, but it is much more manageable to do if you only have so much time. We didn’t buy tickets ahead of time, so we had to wait in line for about 30 minute (not too bad).
Then we were off to Avenue des Champs-Élysées to check out the shopping. The last time I was in Paris was around Christmas and I just remember freezing my butt off while walking there. This time around we stopped to get some famous macaroons, that really weren’t our cup of tea. HA.
We of course had to make sure to see at the typical Parisian sites like theArc de Triomphe de l’Étoile and the Eiffel Tower. One suggestion we got from a tour guide is to start walking to these two sites before sundown so you can see them at sunset (AMAZING) and at night.
I honestly can’t tell you how many crepes we ate while we were there. I’m pretty sure that one day we ate 3-4 because THEY WERE THAT GOOD. Seriously. There are crepe stands everywhere so it makes it just that much easier to get one on the go!
Our first full day we went all out and made our way to Versailles. I believe a trip to Paris is not complete without a trip out to one of the grandest palaces ever built. Make sure to buy the correct ticket to get there. We just bought a regular ticket because the machine only had the menu in French…so when we arrived to the train station outside the palace we had to jump the gate like rebellious teens. Now the only way to get in to the Palace is to book your tickets a head of time, or pay a guide to take you in. We decided to do the self-guided tour with an audio guide. This is JUST for the palace-they now have specific days where they close the gardens and have music playing (just as King Louie the 16th had it back in the day), and you need a separate ticket for that too.
Even though I had been to Versailles before, I’m still struck at how beautiful the Hall of Mirrors is. I literally could spend all of my time there. Although it was usually used as a passage way for the royalty, it would be where the court could get invitations to the royal balls, and such. You can click here for more specific explanations of the hall.
As if conquering Versailles isn’t enough for one day. Once we got back the center of Paris we stopped at the Notre Dame. Now quick little fact: there is more than 1 Norte Dame in Paris… More specifically the most famous one is actually named Notre-Dame de Paris, which means Our Lady of Paris. Now, in the 50 million times I had been to Paris, I’ve only seen it from the outside. This time WE GOT IN. And MAN was even as beautiful as it was on the outside (A girl loves her flying buttresses).
After a quick crepe (seriously, we ate so many), we headed towards the Pantheon. I had seen the Pantheon from the outside, but had also never gone in. It was originally built to be a church, but now it is used as a mausoleum for many famous French citizens. I should say lucky French citizens…I will explain later when we get to the Catacombs. So we did spend some time down in the crypt, which turned out to be a very pleasant surprise! We saw the grave (is that the correct term?) of Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Rousseau. Even more surprisingly we found Marie Curie and her husband Pierre Curie. Not only did we find their tombs, but there were plenty of cards thanking Marie for her work in Science.
To keep the creepiness going (hey it was the weekend of Halloween), we made our way to the Paris Catacombs. Now, usually there is like a 2-3 hour wait to get in, so being the planner I was not about to waste precious time that could be used for eating crepes. So I did some research and found the website to book the tickets online to skip-the-line. It was great, we just waltzed up to the entrance and got in! Now, it is only an audio-guide tour (which I was like uggghhhh), but it turned out to be soooo informative! Now, a little side history: the beautiful and well planned out city you see today is actually quite “new.” The old Paris was cramped, dirty, and very unhealthy. It wasn’t until Napoleon the Third came in and tore it all down and re-built the city we see today. However, before that happened, there was a little problem with the city cemeteries being crowded, and that was leading to sickness, spoiled food, and just a gross environment. So the city got the idea to use the old limestone mines underneath the city to house the dead. During the night, workers would move the bones from various cemeteries and place them into the mines. Now they didn’t just give them the ol’ heave hoe, they meticulously placed them to create designs (however, it is known that many famous people could have been placed in there). It it guessed that inside the catacombs are the bones of about 6 million people.
Our next big day of tourism began with me struggling to get a coffee that wasn’t espresso (I didn’t want to be lit up all day) and had little to no milk in it. Thank god for the random metro coffee shop that said “American coffee?” Once I was properly caffeinated we set off for the free walking tour giving by my favorite tour company, Sandemans. If you are a first-time reader, then you will quickly realize that I love this company because of the great tours the offer all over Europe. The tour guides are great and have so much knowledge about their cities. It’s “free” because if you feel the tour guide didn’t do their job, you don’t have to pay them. It’s based on tips. I believe these tours are the best way to see a majority of the famous sites, but also to see some hidden gems.
We also had time to hit up some other smaller touristy sites like the Sainte-Chapelle, which is literally covered in stained-glass windows. Although it was damaged during the Revolution, it was restored in the 19th century. The stained-glass windows tell the stories of the Bible from left to right. We also did another walking tour with Sandemans (I might be a little obsessed) around the Montmartre area. I was super excited about seeing Vincent Van Gogh’s apartment. The area is known for where the artistic population were located. It is also home to the Sacre Coeur (which also has one of the best views of Paris).
It was a very fast 3 day trip, but we really got a taste for Paris! Plus I ate my weight in crepes…seriously. What is next? In August I will be heading to Italy for a wedding, with a stop in Florence and Tuscany!!!!!