Paris, quick and dirty

We only spent two nights in Paris, but because of the train times that we took, we had almost 3 full days. We got into town a little around lunchtime on Tuesday, and went to see when our hotel room would be ready since the hotel was right down the street from the station. Luckily, we only had to wait a couple minutes and we could get into our room and drop our bags.

We quickly headed back out and got tickets for the subway sorted out (we got a “book” of 10 tickets each for about $15 each, which turned out to be just 10 loose, small tickets. If you’re ever in Paris, this is a pretty good deal, just have somewhere ready to store a bunch of small pieces of paper. In retrospect we should have just gotten on “book” and then another once that ran out, but in the end it worked out perfect, we used the last tickets to get back to the station to catch the train for England. Once we had the tickets sorted out, we got ourselves on a train headed for Notre Dame.

There was a really long line to get inside Notre Dame, but it’s just a security/bag check line and it moves really quickly. Once inside you realize how huge the place is, and it’s a bit dark and ominous but really gorgeous. We snapped some photos and walked around, keeping one hand on our valuables as pick pockets are so bad they actually make almost continuous announcements to watch out for them. They had a pretty cool display chronicling the building of the church, and it took nearly 200 years to be finished. Can you imagine spending your entire life working construction on one site, and not have it be nearly completed when you die?

After walking through Notre Dame, we did a walking tour around that area of Paris and past some other sites. Cara had downloaded a tour put together by Rick Steves, and it was pretty good other than it including walking through a couple places that you had to pay entrance fees for, and we weren’t ready for that. Even though we decided not to pay the entrance fees, the tour was still pretty interesting, and FREE. We walked around the Louvre for a bit after that, but since neither Cara nor I appreciate art, we decided against going in. Note: The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.

We headed back to the hotel to clean up and then we walked about 25 minutes to a creperie that had gotten really good reviews. Cara is writing a post all about the food, so I won’t wreck that surprise. We also walked up the hill after we ate to have a look at Sacre Coeur, a beautiful church sitting right at the top of Montmartre, a hill overlooking Paris. On the downside, it was a bit rainy and misty so the views weren’t that great, but on the plus side the rain had driven nearly all the other tourists away so we had the place almost to ourselves. We enjoyed the view and walked back down to the hotel to call it a night.

We got up fairly early the next morning and hopped back on the subway to get to the Catacombs. If you only had time for one thing in Paris, this would be my recommended stop. Underneath the city there are tons of old limestone quarries where the excavated much of the stone used to build the city. During the 1700s some of these were starting to collapse and cause sink holes around the city, so they started going down and reinforcing them. Around the same time, cemeteries were filling up, especially one that had some many people buried in it that it burst the basement wall of a neighboring building. Can you imagine going down into your cellar and finding the wall blown out and a bunch of corpses laying around? Eventually this led to the idea of moving all the remains down into the now being reinforced mines, so an ossuary was formed and for nearly two years there were processions every night of peoples remains being moved into the catacombs. Be aware that if you want to visit, the line can be extremely long. They open at 10 am, and we were there about 9:05 am and still didn’t get in until about 10:40. They only allow 200 people down at a time, and it took us about an hour and a half to get through it all, but we were moving pretty slow. By the time they opened, the line was most of the way around the plaza that the entrance is in, but there are some nice little bakeries around, so one of us ran and grabbed some food while we waited. The audio tour was totally worth the extra money, we got 1 audio tour and 1 regular ticket and just shared the audio. There aren’t a lot of signs explaining what you’re looking at, so the extra information was great.

After the catacombs we went to the Arc de Triomphe and did a little walking around the city before heading back towards the hotel for a quick nap. That evening we got some take away Greek food and a bottle of wine and sat in the park near the Eiffel Tower for dinner, before going up the tower after dark. We did it the cheap way and took the stairs, which really weren’t bad, especially after half a bottle of wine each.

The next morning we grabbed some sandwiches and dined overlooking the city at Montmartre again, before checking out an urban cemetery, the mini Statue of Liberty overlooking the River Seine, revisited the Eiffel Tower one more time, and picked up some food (I promise, Cara will talk about all the French food later) to have on the train ride back. We made it back through customs with no issues and hopped on the train back to London.

-Jeff

Note: We felt that we do not have an accurate cost per day or total cost for us to travel to France, as our train tickets and hotel were both covered through the reward travel of our gracious hosts in England. We are so grateful to them for everything they have done for us!