Paris, France, the city of love. And, incidentally, a city WE LOVE! We have been to dozen or so European cities in our three months so far, and until now it was hard to chose a definitive favorite among the large cities we have visited, but no more. Paris is everything a European capital should be. Large, busy, cultural, historical. And beautiful, so, so beautiful.
We flew from Marrakesh to Paris early in the morning (5 am taxi for a 7:30 am flight!), arriving at Orly at around noon, ready to take on the Paris! Well, we were actually ready to take a nap, which we did at our Airbnb in the Montmartre area of the city. After a refreshing siesta we headed out to the Latin Quarter for dinner and a beer, ready to watch the team USA play in the World Cup. We lost the game, and 18 euro in the process (for just two beers!).
On our first full day in Paris we slept in (we were still on Spanish time), but we did manage to get up and into the city center for a 1 pm free city tour with Sandeman’s tour company. Our guide was an Australian woman (we have had practically NO tour guides that were actually from the country we visiting) who had SO much energy and was an amazing guide. We walked around the old part of the city, stopping by the major tourist sites (Notre Dame, The Louvre, Tuileries Gardens, the Siene river) and learning about the history of Paris. We love doing these free tours as an introduction to big cities, and then going back and visiting the places we want to see more of. These tours usually last about three hours and involve quite a bit of walking, so we usually need a break afterwards (lunch, reading in a park, or, most often, a siesta).
Siesta time behind us, we headed back out into the city in search of a picnic to enjoy in front of the Eiffel Tower. We ate our meal in the park with thousands of other picnickers, sipping on champagne, enjoying the view and the warm July weather.
We headed up the tower after our meal, opting to take the stairs to the second floor (which is cheaper than the elevator, and only takes about 15 or 20 minutes to climb). We wanted to go to the very top, which is only accessible to visitors via an elevator, so we spent the extra 6 euros each and arrived at the top right in time to watch the sunset. In the elevator I had seen a man show his friend an engagement ring, so naturally I creepily stalked him until I saw him propose (so cute!).
The view from the top of the tower was amazing and the sunset was the cherry on top. We took the elevator all the way down (they don’t check tickets) and made it down to watch the lights sparkle at 10 pm. We loved it so much that we decided to buy another bottle of champagne from one of the dubious looking guys walking around the park and wait for the next sparkle (at 11 pm). Watching the tower sparkle is magic and was the perfect way to top off our first day in Paris.
Day two started late (two bottles of cheap champagne makes it hard to get an early start), but we made it to Saint Chappelle just in time to get in an hour-long line. Saint Chappelle is known for its stained glass windows, and while some of the windows are currently undergoing restoration, the effect of those that are already restored is amazing. The whole room shimmers a little, and it is so colorful and beautiful. We headed out to Notre Dame after admiring the windows, but the line looked so long, and after the Saint Chappelle line, all we wanted to do was eat some sorbet (passion fruit!) and get away from the crowds.
Our siesta was short, as we were meeting another Sandeman’s guide, this time for a walk around the Montmartre neighborhood. We met in front of the Moulin Rouge and spent two-ish hours walking around the neighborhood, learning about the artistic history of the area and the artists who made it famous. We saw windmills and cabarets and an old vineyard and the Sacre Coeur (church).
Our tour ended on a street of cafes and restaurants and we sat down for our first French meal (we had been living on hummus and crackers from the market in order to save money). We had French onion soup, salmon, and crème brulee. How very stereotypically French (and tasty!). And so ended our second day in Paris. What’s next? Museums! Art museums! Yes, you heard right, in the next post the Howe’s visit art museums! Stay tuned.