Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Day in Paris

Two years ago this October, the husband and I went to France for my best friend's wedding (all about the wedding coming up soon!). The last day of our whirlwind trip, we were in Paris and had the entire day to ourselves.

Knowing we had such a short time to explore (cut even shorter, because our train didn't arrive in Paris until around noon), we wanted to pack as much into the one day as possible. Using handy dandy Google, I searched for a list of as many of the must-do and must-see things you can do in one day in Paris.

What I found was a list from Frommer's. I couldn't find the exact link today, because the original one was from 2010 and Frommer's updates their website yearly (they've already released 2013 for goodness sakes!) However, I still have a print out of the list, so I'll walk you through our tour of Paris-in-one-day. 

Note: this is the order listed in the print out, but we skipped around a bit and skipped a few of the sites. I'll list them all out for you just the same :)
Note #2: This is quite long, but it's mostly pictures and the pictures are of Paris, so go on, read through!

1. Musée du Louvre
We entered at the Porte des Lions.


Where you are greeted by these two:


And you see this:



We didn't go inside because our time was so short, but we did spend quite a bit of time on the grounds outside. One of my favorite parts was how people just lounged on the lawn.


I also love the architecture.





And of course the pyramid.



2. The Quays of the Seine
We saw quite a bit of the River Seine in our adventure. It was lovely. People were lounging about here too, enjoying amazing cheeses and bottles of wine.


3. Pont Neuf
This is the oldest bridge in Paris, and has one of the best views.


This guy is the base of one of the lampposts on the bridge.

The view
4. Square du Vert Galant
This is said to be one of the best viewing points for the Louvre and Pont Neuf. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures

5. Place Dauphine
A square which is a "perfect place for a picnic" is something Frommer's recommends walking through, but not dedicating a ton of time to. Again, no pictures...

6. Quai des Orfévres
A quay that heads toward Notre-Dame and leads you to:

7. Sainte-Chapelle
A Gothic chapel with incredible stained glass windows--some of the oldest in Paris. We didn't stop here either, but did get some pictures of its gates. If the windows are anything like the gates, I'm sure they're incredible.


8. Place St. Michel
A square named for a chapel that used to stand at the location. We didn't stop to take any pictures here.

9. Cathédrale de Notre-Dame
Easily one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. It really doesn't need much introduction.
The outside is AH-MAZE-ING and includes some of the most historically significant architectural features.



I really think I could stand outside and walk around and around for most of a day taking in the different facets of the architecture and still miss something.

This sign made me giggle a little bit...


 If you can't read it, it says "ATTENTION PICKPOCKET" I laughed, because it was almost as if the sign is trying to distract pickpockets or something. Maybe it was just the jet lag...

The day we were in Paris happened to be a Sunday, so they were actually holding mass in the cathedral while we were visiting. It was one of the most awe-inspiring things I've ever seen. Getting to witness something that has transcended time and still continues to happen (albeit slightly differently) as it did hundreds and thousands of years ago is indescribable. 

The inside is just as stunning as the outside:

Sorry for the picture quality, there were no flashes allowed and it was dusk and quite overcast outside.
10. Place de la Concorde
A traffic hub, bustling with life. Two of the most famous attributes here are the Egyptian obelisk and the fountain. 


There were no fewer than 20 brides milling about and we also came across Mr. Tut (as you can see in the pictures). It was easily one of the most entertaining areas and a great place to sit for a few minutes and rest our tired feet.

11. Champs-Elyées
An extremely famous Parisian street. It is now home to cafes and shops and is yet another great place to sit and rest a few. 


12. Arc de Triomphe
This arch is a monument to all of the victories won in various wars throughout the history of France. It also includes a tomb of an unknown solider at the center (lower right picture).



13. Tour Eiffel
Probably one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. Again, needs no introduction.


We did not go up to the top because of our time restraints, and I deeply regret it. If you get the opportunity to go, I wish you would and take lots of pictures for me!

Well kids, that wraps up our tour of Paris! But here are some of my favorite pictures I snapped throughout the day that I adore and must share with you:


Note #3: a few tips if you've never traveled to France (I never had before this trip) that may help your experience go a little more smoothly:

1. Have some Euro handy when you land, especially if you plan on using the restroom in the airport. You do have to pay to use the "public" facilities. Unfortunately, I was not aware of this, and narrowly escaped an international incident with the bathroom attendant at Charles de Gaulle. 
2. Pack light, and utilize a backpack or a similarly mobile bag if possible. We had a garment bag, 2 suitcases and a backpack between the two of us (again, we were there for a wedding and had to have several wardrobe changes). I lost count of the dirty looks we got by the time we got off of our first train. I've since gone and purchased one (and plan to go get a second) of these backpacks to use the next time we make a trip like that.
3. We used ATM's to withdraw cash while we were there. From what we found out, there were no conversion fees and we weren't charged any type of ATM fees. If we pulled out 100 Euro, we only had 120 USD (or whatever the exchange rate was at that point) withdrawn from our bank account.
4. Buy Metro tickets in bulk. You can get them in sets of 10 or so and they are good for most trains and you receive a discounted price. Be careful though, because there are a few "speed trains" that require special tickets. The bulk tickets are not good for those trains.
5. Get to know the Metro system before you go and print a map of the routes in English and take it with you. This will save you a lot of heartache while you're there. 

If you've been to Paris, what would you add or take away from this tour?  Any other tips for folks travelling in or around Paris (or Europe in general)?
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