I’m back today to complete my three part Europe series summary – visiting Paris. As with my posts on Amsterdam and Belgium, I’ve structured this post to include the highlights and lowlights of my trip.
France was the third of the three countries I visited on my almost two-week trip across Europe. Whereas in Belgium, I went to three different cities (one each day), in France I spent four full days in Paris. You could spent months in Paris and not see everything. It is just that massive.
#1 – EIFFEL TOWER
When you think Paris, you think of the famous Eiffel Tower. Even though this famous landmark has a ton of hype, I found that it truly did live up to its reputation. I would echo the voices of many who have visited the Eiffel Tower – it is something not to miss when visiting Paris.
The walk towards the Eiffel Tower provided many glimpses of the tower, which only added to the anticipation. The more I walked, the closer I got and the more vivid the Paris tower became. It was fun to be able to have so many different views.
One of the biggest surprises for me with the Eiffel Tower was just how amazing the views from the tower were. I think I looked forward to getting to see the Eiffel Tower itself so much, that I forgot how spectacular the view of Paris was going to look from the tower. If you pick one thing to climb to the top of on your trip to Paris (and there are many!), pick the Eiffel Tower.
When you visit, you can choose which level you want to go up to when you get to the Eiffel Tower. I’d strongly recommend you pick the one that takes you up to the very top. Although it was very cold and windy as a storm was blowing in, I spent so much time walking the observation deck and taking in the city from all different angles.
My other suggestion would be to ensure to visit at a time (or stop by twice) when you can enjoy the view of the Eiffel Tower both during the day and at night after the sun goes down. I booked an afternoon touring time, ate dinner at a nearby restaurant, and then went to see the Eiffel Tower once it was dark. Both times provide such a unique experience, that I’d hate to see it just one way.
It sparkles for the first five minutes of every hour. This isn’t to be missed! You’ll notice people rushing and some even running to get to views of the tower while it is extra flashy for those five minutes.
#2 – MUSEE de I’ORANGERIE
As it originally housed an orange grove at its opening in 1852, this Paris museum now holds the famous Water Lilies of Monet. For years and years, this famous French impressionist painter dedicated his time to these paintings, working to mirror the water lilies of his own pond in Giverny. Of all the well-known artwork in Paris, I was by far the most excited to see these paintings.
Two rooms hold these famous eight paintings; one room holding the four that portrayed water lilies at sunrise, and the other room holding the four with water lilies at sunset. Both rooms are breathtaking. These paintings are curved and surround each room, filling the walls as they are each over six feet tall and over thirteen feet wide.
What draws me to these paintings and Monet paintings overall, are the magnificent colors he used.
Each and every painting was beautiful, calming and extremely tranquil. I could have stayed and started at them for hours.
Pictures simply do not do these famous Monet works justice. If I ever go back to Paris someday, I’d love to visit Musee Marmottan Monet; here you’ll find the largest collection of his works. Over 300 paintings are found here!
#3 – Montmartre
After almost two weeks of being in some of the most popular and busiest cities in Europe, I was in need of some personal space. So the morning after breakfast and before setting out to visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica Church in northern Paris, I made a decision to do some impromptu research.
My research yielded me a wonderful find – a blog post from Wanderlustingk called Secret Montmartre Walking Tour. She had me at the word secret. My original plan was to visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica Church, one of the most famous churches of Paris. And I held to this plan. Due to its placement on a hill, this church was known for offering some of the best landscape views of Paris. I took the dome tour, which enabled you to go up into the highest parts of the church (hundreds of steps to the top). From here, you can see distant Eiffel Tower views that were spectacular.
After the church, I was ready to put into plan some of the nearby “off the beaten path” places to visit I’d found on the blog. I’d read if you head down the back side of the church on Rue de la Bonne, you’d find no people, no crowds. Seeing as though there were swarms of people and just as many vendors trying to sell you trinkets at the front of the church, I was a bit skeptical. But sure enough, back behind the church it was another world all together.
I will tell you that all the streets in the area are quiet, peaceful and beautiful. Many of the side streets I went down were not on the tour. So don’t worry if you miss some places; you’ll stumble upon neat finds regardless. Below are a few of my favorite finds.
#4 – Sainte-Chapelle and Shakespeare and Company
Just because I can’t narrow it down, two other places I loved are Sainte-Chapelle and its stained glass and the famous bookstore of Shakespeare and Company. If you want to see the most impressive stained glass in all of Paris, head to Sainte-Chapelle. It will mesmerize you. And if you love books and the history of books like I do, visit one of the most famous bookstores in the world – Shakespeare and Company. It is only a short walk away from Notre Dame.
#1 – TONS OF PEOPLE
One of the hardest things about Paris for me was the swarms of people. There were areas such as the Champs-Elysees where it was hard to walk, hard to find footing. It was just too packed for me. I’m a person that likes personal space and here there was none of it. It is nothing that would deter me from visiting but just be warned. Pictures don’t capture how crazy it feels. I’d recommend if you prefer quiet times and a more relaxed pace to do some research before your trip, as far as specific areas to go where you can find this more relaxed pace. It does exist; you just need to know where to look. My trip to the Montmartre area is proof.
#2 – LINES EVERYWHERE
Along with lots of people, comes lots of lines. Even having pre-purchased our tickets for a specific timeslot, the Eiffel Tower took hours by the time we got in and out. You’ll stand in lines outside to get to the elevators, you’ll stand in a security line, you’ll stand in elevator lines for various levels and you’ll stand in the same lines when you come down from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
I am not a patient person. I hate lines and I hate waiting. I strongly believe it is a waste of time. My caution for you when visiting Paris is to be prepared as much as possible. I had pre-purchased tickets and admission to everything I was going to visit. It saved hours. Do not waste your vacation time standing in line to purchase tickets. And be prepared that you’ll wait some places, even if you do pre-purchase. Make sure you allow enough time to visit each place and account for waiting time. Below is the crowd around the famous Mona Lisa.
Tip for you if you are wanting to try the famous Angelina hot chocolate – you don’t have to wait in the regular line to do so. This line is for the tea room. Simply walk into the door on the right side and go right in, if you are looking for a hot chocolate to go! And don’t forget to grab to-go pastries while you are there.
#3 – DEHYDRATION
Some of you may have no trouble with this, but if your body is very high maintenance in the hydration department such as mine, you are going to struggle in Paris. I had dehydration almost every single day. Restaurants are varied. Some will give you tap water, others require you to purchase still water. All restaurants will only give you a very small portion of water, whether you buy it or not. I would buy the largest size water they had, and it wasn’t near enough. It was almost laughable how small the bottles and glasses were. And when I tried to buy more, many times they wouldn’t come back to the table. Water bottles are not as common as they are in the States so finding water while out and about was also a struggle. I would always keep a bottle in my purse, yet it wasn’t enough when you are out and about exploring all day, walking as much as 10-15 miles. It was very frustrating.