The first time I went to Paris, I was 22 and studying abroad in Rome. I went with several friends. We booked a hostel and had an amazing, unplanned trip. Because Paris is like that: All you have to do is walk around and you will find everything you want to see. I told Neal that some day we would have to go, but maybe I would plan a little. Welp, ten full years later, Neal and I finally made it (back). In Paris itself, we walked everywhere. City trails! I’ll go through what we saw in Paris and then the three day trips we took.
The first thing you have to do is decide what neighborhood you’re going to stay in. There are so many great neighborhoods in Paris that it is hard to go wrong, so why not go weird? We decided to stay in Pigalle at Le Pigalle. Pigalle is down the street from Moulin Rouge and is known for its sex shops and theaters. We thought this was funny and interesting. Across the street was a bar called the Dirty Dick (it is a hipster bar). Alright, well, like I said, we thought it was funny. The hotel itself was very cool with interesting art and music in the rooms. There’s a restaurant in the bottom floor that is also pretty good.
Sacré-Cœur is not far from Pigalle. We walked there a few times. You can go inside and check it out or you can sit on the stairs and get drunk (I didn’t know this was a thing!). Be careful here, as there are lots of grifters.
I went to Notre Dome on my first trip to Paris, but it’s totally worth a second look. It’s huge inside, and there’s beautiful stained glass. While we were there, the bells chimed high noon and it was absolutely gorgeous.
There’s a nice park behind Notre Dame. We walked from here to an ice cream shop Berthillon Glacier. It’s pret-ty good. We then walked to Bastille Square. This was a nice place to rest and get a crepe. We checked out Victor Hugo Park next. Then we stopped in the neighborhood Le Marais, which was a hip area for shopping and middle eastern food. We stopped at L’As Du Fallafel for a late lunch. It was delicious! We then walked all the way back to our hotel. We walked a good 10 miles through Paris.
The next day, of course we went to the Louvre! We got there early to cut down on the line. It also helped that it was raining.
We looked up some of the things we wanted to see before we went in. The place is huge! We didn’t want to spend our whole day there, even though it’s lovely. This is my favorite piece there:
I love the Musee D’Orsay almost as much as the Louvre. It’s smaller, but a higher concentration of stuff I’m interested in. I’m a big fan of Degas, and this museum has the ballet class. Plus Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Rodin, etc., etc. Love this place. We then walked down Jardins Des Champs-Elysees and Champs-Elysees.
Arc de Triomphe
We walked all the way down Champs Elysees to Arc de Triomphe so we could see Paris at night from on high (we did not want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower). It was a pretty walk down the street at sunset. Unfortunately, there were a scary number of pick pocketers along this street. Mostly children 🙁 Be careful! Anyway, we struggled slightly figuring out how to get tothe Arc itself (the traffic is crazy!).
But when we finally got up there, we had a great view.
We also went to the Eiffel Tower up close, because you have to do the Eiffel Tower. The first time I went to Paris, there were no barriers around the tower. Now, you have to have your bags checked if you walk under it. Still worth walking under it, especially because the view from the other side of the tower is magnificent (see featured shot). There’s also a lovely tribute to Princess Diana down the street from the Eiffel Tower.
After the Eiffel Tower, we checked out the Rodin Museum. I HIGHLY recommend it. This wasn’t on our radar, but we kept seeing Rodin everywhere, and when we saw a sign for it, we just had to find it. It was worth it. It’s mostly an outdoor museum and they have so many beautiful pieces. The famous Thinker is here as well. Highlight of our trip!
Palais Garnier – Opera House
The Opera House in Paris is really beautiful.
As I recall, it was kind of expensive to visit the Opera House. Still worth it if you like operas. They have a mini museum with outfits worn during shows. We wanted to see an actual show here, but it was so expensive!
Père Lachaise Cemetery
There are some really interesting and famous people buried in Paris. We wanted to see Jim Morrison’s grave, as well as Oscar Wilde’s and Chopin’s. The cemetery itself is really cool! Huge grave stones and winding roads.
Great way to round out a trip in Paris.
Day Trip 1: Fountainebleu
Fountainebleu is a short train ride from Paris. It’s a palace with beautiful grounds. When we got there, we thought it was overpriced to go inside, so we just walked around and enjoyed the grounds. You can buy lunch here, but if we went again, we’d bring something with us. This place was very peaceful. There are woods, swans, ponds, everything.
When we chose Fountainebleu, we were in search of some excellent rock climbing. We never did find it, but we had a great time anyway.
Day Trip 2: Palace of Versailles
We heard a lot about the Palace of Versailles, so we felt like we had to go. Don’t fall for the hype! It’s nice, but I don’t know. Maybe Fountainebleu ruined us. It was probably the fact that there are a ton of other people here and people are the worst.
We found a way to have fun anyway, don’t worry.
And the grounds are nice. There are gardens and fountains, and even some kitties hiding all around.
We wouldn’t go here again, though.
Day Trip 3: Giverny, Monet’s home
We saw plenty of Monets in Paris, so we had to check out where he got most of his inspiration: Giverny. We got to this town and had no idea how to get to Monet’s place. We walked and had faith. I think we did something wrong or missed some crucial part on how to get there, but what is the fun of traveling if you don’t get lost once or twice? On our way, we ran into this cute little house over the water.
When we finally got to where Monet lived, Giverny and Monet’s gardens did not disappoint. It’s absolutely worth going to.
Seems obvious where he got his inspiration! His house was also pretty cool.
If you want a good day trip from Paris, I just can’t say enough about Monet’s grounds and the adorable and super rich Giverny.
One last note – the food in Paris is amazing, as everyone knows. I ate crepe after crepe after crepe (I clearly love crepes). These are good whether you get them from a stand for $1 or a fancy restaurant. I’ll plug one patisserie as well: Popelini. The chou pastry here is SO GOOD.
That’s our whole trip in Paris + 3 day trips! I think we did this trip perfectly. Every other day we did a day trip. We walked ALL over Paris as well. We saw so much in a week-long vacation. Long story short, even if you’re outdoors people like us, you will enjoy Paris and France. Promise!
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