I remember back in 2007, I had a moment of distress. Here I was flying over Europe heading to Cairo, Egypt, realizing that I was heading somewhere else, somewhere other than Paris. As a child, my one little international dream was ALWAYS Paris. Granted, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to travel to places some people only dream of visiting. My life has been blessed and I am aware. But it took year #44 of my life to fulfill that one little place I wanted to visit more than any other.
And the more I think about it, the more I realize that it did not disappoint.
It was a true gift from God- My first trip to Paris was with the man of my dreams. My love, my husband, and not just for a trip, for THE trip – our honeymoon.
We flew out on Monday night, hopping an Air France flight non stop from Atlanta to Paris. We were armed with our 4 bags, our passports, and an amazing itinerary that my dear friend and travel agency owner, Telisa Asaro (with EurTravels) arranged. Let me preface all of this with saying: You NEED a travel agent. Yes, you can figure this out by yourself, trust me, I was almost there. But by God, it was a complete blessing to turn over my “homework” to a trusted professional. Saved me time, headaches, and absolute confusion. As I go through our little story, and it’s a long one – sorry, I am going to share what we learned, what we would have done differently, and what is 100% awesome and so worth it. For someone who has dreamed of traveling here, trust me when I say – this was WELL RESEARCHED.
Back to our essentials: Passport, itinerary, tickets (pre booked, and yes – that is KEY,) and a few travel books. We ended up booking our hotel & flight through Expedia. We got a package deal for two people, non stop flights. We booked the Melia Colbert in the Latin Quarter.
Le Colbert is a stunning boutique hotel in the heart of the Latin Quarter. It was built in the 19th century.
Other items we pre booked:
We arrived in Paris around 7am. Now you think that might be too early, but trust me, it’s not. Remember, you have to make your way through border patrol & customs which is never a quick trip. Unfortunately, neither of us were able to fall asleep on the plane. We were cramped in economy with a 3rd person sitting on the outside seat. By the time we were in line to go through customs, I was just about to fall asleep standing up. That whole process took about an hour. Finally, we were free to pick up our bags, and luckily everything made it! We followed the directions to contact our shuttle (which was included in our booking price ($75 and TOTALLY worth it.) We used Super Shuttle. Our driver was from Madagascar and super kind and helpful. I even got to practice my French with him a little. However, he spoke English very well.
We got to our hotel by 10:30am. Yes, it took that long with rush hour traffic. It began to rain, and out came Antonio, the hands down best front desk person at any hotel I have ever met. He handled us so delicately, used English, and gave us the run down on how things work in Paris. The hotel was beautiful! He was super kind, and knew we were exhausted, and went ahead and checked us into our room (which he kindly upgraded since it was our honeymoon.) We were in room 245!
Now it is important to know that the hotel rooms in Europe, for the most part, are very small. However, we were pleasantly surprised. As we went to head up to the 4th floor of the hotel, Antonio warned us that the lift (elevator) was very Parisian. We sort of looked at each other, entered it.. and realized.. oh.. we need to take this one at a time. Our room over looked the front courtyard and an old building that was one the anatomy school.
I loved that there were crank windows and I could see the flowers and smell the air!
After we got settled in, we decided that as tired as we were, we needed to keep moving! Time to find lunch! We walked out of the hotel and looked and each other and said, “Which way should we go.” I was standing to the right of Tim, so I looked right and took in a breath. My God…
We were across the street from the Notre Dame. That sort of answered our question. We crossed the little bridge and just stood there. I was in awe. THIS was everything. Even Tim got a huge smile and said, “Wow. This is amazing.” These photos do NOT do it justice. At this point, it is almost noon, so we decided not to get in the long line to enter. We started across the square, and no sooner than we did, the Gypsies approach and we had to shoo them off. Basically, they were running their survey scam. That’s just one of the million scams they are running. To learn more about that (and I HIGHLY recommend you read this.) Trust me – we were completely prepared when we got there.
After we kicked the Gypsy to the curb, we headed over to a fantastic cafe right across from the Bell Tower. We settled into our first cafe experience with very little problem. It’s customary to greet the shop owner as soon as you enter with a simple, “Bonjour!” And from there, things will go swimmingly.
Our first meal was fairly standard – French Onion Soup, cappuccino, espresso, baguette, steak frites, salad, and a piece of bread with ham & cheese melted on top. It was delicious!
And thus began our culinary journey:
After our delicious lunch, we wandered the streets and headed for Sainte-Chapelle. This church is probably one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen pictures of. We make our way over there, and boom – the guys says they open at 2pm. Boo – we had to leave and head down to the Eiffel Tower to make our reserved time.
We found the big red Hop On/Hop Off bus and pulled out our voucher for the driver. It was so incredibly simple. They handed us two receipts to hold onto and show every time we used the bus. We had to use the 2 day pass on the two consecutive days, but were told we could use the cruise any night! So off we went for a ride around Paris on a double-decker bus! And boy did we see everything! It was a wonderful way to orient ourselves with the layout of the city.. and let’s be honest, to get off of our feet. We made our way to Trocadéro, an area of Paris in the 16th arrondissement, across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. We knew we had a little time to kill, and honestly, I wanted to eat some cheese! (I had been dreaming of cheese the entire time we were flying to Paris,) so we made our way over to Cafe Klebler.
The best part? We had an awesome view of the Eiffel Tower! After the delicious stop, we walked over to the Eiffel Tower.
Now.. it is almost 3:30pm at this point. I have been up since 7:30am the previous day. I am BEAT. I’m starting to get a little whiny, and the walking.. oh the walking. Needless to say, we make it over there and proceed to go through 500 different security points to even get in the final line to take the elevator up the Tower.
We finally made it to the tower… 32 hours of no sleep, and 44 years of waiting for this moment. My brain was very close to shutting down. Also, it is important to know- I AM TERRIFIED OF HEIGHTS. We get on the elevator and make it to the 3rd floor. Here is the view from there:
We are still VERY high up. The big mistake is – you HAVE to get off to get on the next elevator to go to the summit.
I chickened out. I just could not do it. I don’t know if it was the lack of sleep, the stress of travel, the exhaustion, the jet lag, the frazzled feeling I had from the whirlwind weekend – I flat out panicked. But it is what it is. I offered to let Tim go up without me, but he refused. He said we were to do it together or not at all. I felt soooo bad for him. But at this point.. I JUST WANTED TO SIT DOWN or sleep.
We grabbed the Big Red Bus back to the hotel and freshened up. It’s almost 7pm and again – we were up for almost 40 hours at this point, but we soldiered through and found a fantastic restaurant that served Basque regional food.
After dinner, we wandered back to hotel and finally fell asleep at 9pm. I crashed. HARD.
The next morning, we felt refreshed and were excited to venture out and have a little breakfast. We stopped at this lovely cafe (which we would end up eating at twice!) right across the street from the Notre Dame. Maybe I was hungry, or maybe it was just that good – but I experienced the best omelet of my entire life.
The biggest kick I got was that we ordered a ham & cheese omelet and a cappuccino, as well as a basket of croissants. It was not the fact that we ordered this that tickled me, it was the fact that they serve you bread…. with a side of bread. Every meal – you get baguette. We devoured our meal and decided to pop by the Notre Dame. Finally.\
There is no reason to even post the interior photos or video. It is something that you must see for yourself. What I can share is this photo of Tim checking out how the structure was engineered. You see, he is a structural designer, and this one place blew him away more than any other place. We wandered throughout and even spent an additional $10 to go through the antiquities museum. It was well worth the money.
After our trip through the Notre Dame (which, btw, is free,) we hopped on the Metro to head to Montmartre.
I made that sound really, really easy. It was not. I don’t even know if I have the energy to tell you what a monster cluster-eff this was, but, rest assure, the Metro was NOT easy. No, no, no , no. And this was not my first rodeo.
After struggling with the purchasing of the tickets (a carnet of ten,) and swatting gypsies like South Georgia gnats, we finally got on our train. Which was… going the wrong way. We finally got on the right train to getting off to change trains.. and realizing I had to stop by the restroom at Gare du Nord. (PS – you have to pay to use the public restrooms.) Finally got on another train (going the wrong way,) to find the right one.. to have some drunk Gypsies threatening each other down this random underground hallway…
Needless to say.. I was soooooo over it by the time we got to Montmartre. DANGEROUS route. I am not lying.
We get there, and BOOM.. the sky bursts into a torrential downpour. And we make our way to a cafe to drink MORE cappuccino and wait out the storm. Finally, we decide to use our Google Maps walking option (a life saver for certain!) and make our way to Sacre Coeur.
Now… Let me just preface this as I was SOOOOO disappointed in Montmartre. I have always been a huge lover of all things Paris and all things bohemian and the arts, and I don’t know if it was the jet lag, or the rain, or the stress from the train, or those God forsaken hills and steps… but I was soooooo ready to leave and just go back to Paris proper.
We had to climb three of these. And these were placed on a hill. These stairs mocked me.
We FINALLY get to the top:
At this point, you’ve seen one great church, you feel like you have seen them all. But we made it. We did it. In the rain. In the cold. I stood there and said, “Okay… we need to regroup.” And luckily we were able to do so and do it heading down hill.
I knew the only way to get in a better mood was to do a little shopping. THAT always helps. Then we headed to a Chocolate Museum. And chocolate always makes a girl feel better.
After that, we made it back to the metro for yet another fiasco heading back.
Don’t ask. It was terrible, and took 45 minutes. (PS – I HATE the Paris Metro.)
We made it back to St. Michel/Notre Dame Metro and decided to go take a nap. We needed to regroup and get our head straight. We were slowly turning on each other, with the ultimate feeling of frustration and confusion, and we both knew we needed a time out. We slept, took hot baths, and made our way down the river to Musee de l’Orangerie. I did not have any huge desire to head to this museum, but we picked it because Tim wanted to see Monet’s Water Lilies. This was one of the few requests he had, and I wanted to make sure we honored that. I have to admit, this was hands down the BEST surprise of the entire trip, We were excited to use our vouchers (Museum Pass,) and had hoped it would be just as simple as the Hop On Hop Off bus was. We get to the front of the building and what do we see?
You got it! Rodin! My little heart began to skip a beat. We made it inside and I presented my voucher. The woman spoke no English, I spoke so little French, but she was having a hard time getting her wand to accept the voucher. Finally she just waved us in. We made our way into the big rotunda…
Blown away. Two big rooms in all of Monet’s glory. If you went to college in the 90s like I did, you know every girl’s dorm room had this as a poster or Van Gogh’s cafe scene or starry night. I was dazzled by the colors. Tim walked out of the first room and headed to the second and he got the shivers. I asked him if he was feeling okay and he said, “Yes. This is just blowing my mind.”
That was worth everything.
We finally made it down stairs and I am pretty sure the museum guards got a kick out me saying, “Oh Wow! Can you believe? Look at this?” It was a French Impressionism Mecca. Everything from Picasso to Soutine. We both were all smiles by the time it was over. What a save!
Later, we walked back over to the Latin Quarter for dinner. Unfortunately, the Big Bus stops operating tours at 5pm, so we walked the 45 minute walk back to our hotel. THIS was a huge learning experience. The museums are open into the evenings, but your easy transport is not. The Big Bus will stop at all of the major tourist destinations, BUT, the time limit is something you need to be aware of. Chalk that up to lesson #1.
We grabbed a wonderful dinner at a restaurant in the Latin Quarter. Tim had Duck Confit and I had boeuf bourguignon.
We decided to go with the fixed menu. This is a wonderful way to save money on the trip. For 35 Euros a person, we had an entree, which is their starter (mine was French Onion Soup,) and for the main course was my beef dish above, a carafe of white wine, and for dessert, I enjoy a chocolate mousse.
We did a little shopping after that and made our way back to the hotel to rest.
The next day was a BIG day for us! It was time to tackle the Louvre! We were told that the walk would be about 15 minutes from our hotel (which was really more of 25 minute walk.) As we passed over to the other side of the river, we ended up on the bridge with the love locks. You are to inscribe your initials and lock it onto the bridge and throw the key into the Seine.
We finally made our way to the Louvre and were blown away by the sheer size of this building. We got through the various security checks and found our way to the Paris City Pass line. Get to the counter and BOOM – they tell us that we need the tickets from the Paris City pass, and that to get them you need to walk another mile or so into a neighborhood to the office to pick them up.
Uh.. no. Lesson learned. Go with the Paris Pass that would be mailed to you. It’s more expensive.. but damn it. We were beat and did not want to wait in another looooong line. Not sure what I mean?
We opted to pay. It was 30 Euros for the two of us. And we set off to find all of the very cool “must sees!”
This place is amazing… and huge… and exhausting. After walking so far to get there, and standing in line… we saw what we needed to see and decided to trek it back.
But not without catching all of the good stuff along the way!
As we were making our way back, we decided to randomly stop at a great little cafe along the Seine. We were able to regroup and consume enough carbs to put us into a lovely coma for our afternoon nap.
Along the way, we decided to stop at the infamous, Shakespeare and Co!
I bought a few books and reveled in being the very place so many famous authors hung out!
Another wonderful nap and off we went (metro and THIS time we got it right!) to where the Bateux Mouche would be!
We took a night cruise of the River Seine. We got to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle (which happens at the top of each hour for 5 minutes!) It was fantastic!
After this, we made our way back and I got my Fondu!
Tim went for the scallops! We had a great night at a wonderful little restaurant in the Latin Quarter.
That night, the hotel staff gave a wonderful gift for our honeymoon- Champagne!
On Friday morning, we got up early, had breakfast and made our way to Versailles! Again, an amazing sight! Long lines, croweded as hell, but oh so worth it!
The craziest thing – this is the off season. We kept remarking at how crowded this would have been if it were the Spring or Summer!
While in Versailles, we picked up a little something special and then headed back to Paris!
Once in Paris, we decided to have lunch, rest up, and get ready for our trip back up to Montmartre.
We both agreed, a midnight ride on the metro from there was NOT going to do it for us, so we opted for Uber. Best decision yet!
We made our way to MY absolute favorite site – Moulin Rouge!
THIS was the easiest experience of them all! Uber: Tapped the app – 2 minutes later we got a ride. $15 total and 20 minute ride. Got out – went straight to the ticket office, exchanged our voucher, made our way over and BOOM were seated.
OH… Moulin Rouge was EVERYTHING this former dancer ever dreamed of! Sparkly, red, dazzling – I can’t think of enough fantastic descriptive words! Not to mention, the incredible art work by Toulouse Lautrec on the walls!
The show was marvelous and the champagne- DIVINE!
Again – Uber tap, 1 minute 30 seconds later he was there. We made it home in 15 minutes for $15. Boom and done.
And thus ends our experience. We flew home in 11 hours and life is back to normal.
Except, this time I am his wife. And this time, I have seen those places I have always wanted to see. And this time… Paris is in my blood.
And just know:
If you have any questions or need some help planning your trip, please contact EurTravels!