Updated: Jan 13
It's taken me 52 years to get to Paris.
Here's a tip:
Don't be me. Don't wait that long! - It's an amazing city. Yes, they certainly have been hit hard with a lot of trouble in recent years, but the week we had there was completely hassle free, full of fun with a great rapport with the French, and definitely... NOT NEARLY long enough! Oh, then there's Spain and Portugal,
but I've decided to give Paris her own blog. She deserves it. Have a look for the remainder of the holiday, Spain and Portugal, in the following stories.
Let me just take you back to how this came about.
Our dear English friends, Pete and Shaz, whom we met on our NZ cruise, and then caught up with in England last year just before our Baltics trip,
had told us that unfortunately they couldn't get to visit us in Australia the following year, so, we decided to come and visit them instead! Got that? ;) They had a long weekend in May, so the plan was to meet them under the Eiffel Tower, Friday, May 24, 2019. Done.
Just plant the seed, we say.
Almost a year to the day, we met them in the 'City of Lights',
but before their arrival we decided to spend a few days in Paris first, doing all the wide eyed touristy stuff they had done before, and didn't we have a blast?!
We booked in for 3 nights in a quaint little boutique hotel, the Hotel Perreyve, in the St Germain district, which was just a pleasant 30 minute walk to Notre Dame, via the glorious 'Jardin du Luxembourg' or in English: Luxembourg Gardens. This I found out when I got home, is a place the locals love, and the tourists haven't really found. Our lucky day!
Looks like I just copy and paste this smile, hehe.
To have to walk through this park each day on our way downtown,
was not hard to take. Parisians out there, sitting and enjoying a book in the sun, having a hit of tennis, and of course... walking their dogs. These guys have got it right. Not buried on their cell phones. They live in the moment, enjoying where they are, with the people they are with.
So now, it's time to do what we always do in a new town -
Jump on the On/Off Bus. We bought a two day 24 hour pass, (which is only 2 euro more than a one day pass), and that includes a one hour boat cruise up and down the river Seine. That's a bingo.
Paris, along with London and Rome, must be right up there as one of the top cities for a sightseeing tour. So many iconic treasures to see, so allow yourself time to see as much as you can. Let me add...Paris is huge, and the traffic is nuts. So don't taxi around the sights - save that for when you're too stuffed to walk to your hotel after dinner. The bus is such a great way to go. We had six days there, and we still have a list of things we missed,
so a revisit is definitely on the cards.
And gladly so.
I've never been much of a city girl, but this place, has me sold. I love it.
Where does one start?
Right here I reckon.
I find the Eiffel Tower utterly mesmerising.
I couldn't take my eyes off her. So truly unique, and photographing her was an absolute delight. And this was just the day time. At night, she is outstanding! We decided to leave going up to the top until our friends arrived,
so we could do that together.
We stayed here for ages, and noticed the line up just to get in through the security, was enormous. Then you had to line up again to buy tickets. Tip: Do this at the end of the day - much less of a queue.
So we were content just to mill around the base, taking it all in.
The Seine is right next to the Eiffel Tower, and a perfect place to take a load off, and grab some lunch.
With the Tower looming over the top of you, it was wonderful. The pizza and calzones here were FAB, as was the wine that came served in an adorable little ice bag.
The drizzle started to set in a little, so we chose to save the Seine river cruise till the next day, hoping for sunnier weather.
Instead, we headed back down towards Notre Dame, to see how she had fared up after the devastating fire of five weeks ago, which destroyed so much.
What a loss to the world, and sad for us too, never having seen inside this wonderful Cathedral. At least a lot of the main structure is still standing, and the restoration and rebuilding process is in full swing.
We were starting to fade a little, after all, we had flown via Singapore to get here, and after a full day's sightseeing, following a rather sleepless 28 hours, we needed some rest,
and possibly, even a little more wonderful French food.
So, when in Rome...I mean Paris...I ordered what a girl needed to have - Escargot! YUM! So buttery and deliciously herb filled, I love these slippery little suckers!
I'll have to pop up the video on the wall of me trying to use that snail holder contraption for the first time - I thought I was fully going to do a 'Pretty Woman' and fly them into some poor unspecting tourist as they walked past. However, I managed to not embarrass Trev. This time...
Do you know what they call French Onion soup in France? Onion soup.
Haha! Sorry, I laugh at my own jokes. Someone needs to! :)
Day two of our On/Off Bus, and we headed straight for the Louvre, thinking an early start might beat the crowds. Ha! Wrong.
The lines were enormous. First to buy your ticket, then you have an even longer line to get in.
It was such a glorious sunny day, we thought it better spent outdoors,
and we could do this later.
It was open till 9.30 this evening, so we'll take our chances and come back. But not before getting some external shots incase the weather turned bad tomorrow.
Back up to the Eiffel Tower to pick up our river cruise, and away we went. This is one of our favourite things to do as part of our on/off bus tour.
It's so relaxing, and such a great way to see the sights. Oh, with a champagne no less! What time is it? Who cares, we're on vacation! :)
Back onto the top deck of the bus to continue around, next stop:
The Arc De Triomph, then lunch and a walk down the iconic Champs- Elyseés.
We are totally getting a kick out of these famous attractions.
We saved the best till last. The Louvre.
It was 5.15 pm, and we walked straight up and inside to get our tickets, and made a beeline towards the Mona Lisa.
We were in front of her in under 10 minutes.
We then had until 9.30pm to see as much as we liked.
IT IS HUGE!
We used up every last minute, and ounce of energy, and it was so worth it.
The Napoleonic quarters were simply astonishing.
So extravagant, yet warm and inviting at the same time.
The artwork is, just wow, as you can imagine.
These ones were my favourites, and they filled the wall they were that large. Welcome to the talented works of Giovanni Panini. The detail was extraordinary, every person and their clothing was perfect.
I thought they'd make fabulous jigsaws!
We've now seen 7 of the 24 known Da Vinci's that are left in the world.
Such a privilege.
The Louvre is the former Royal Palace, however, King Louis XIV thought it was too cramped, so he built the Palace of Versailles.
When Napoleon resided there as Emperor, it's said he hung the Mona Lisa over his bed. As you would...
The Egyptian section is probably the most extensive collection outside of Egypt itself.
This is most definitely a bucket list visit.
Everyone should try to get here at least once in their lifetime, if possible.
What a day!
Day 3 we pulled the reins in a little, as we are renowned for packing a LOT in, so we decided to take more time, and just go with the flow. We still had the morning to use up our bus pass (as it is a 24 hour purchase - valid from the time of day you bought it, which is awesome.
Some bus companies just do it day by day, so check the fine print if you do it.) So we cracked on for for one last lap around this amazing city and her historic buildings.
This is Le Madeleine... to me, what the Parthenon atop the Acropolis in Athens would have looked like completed.
Where The Phantom lives. :)
There are 7 floors underground, and back in the days, they had treadmills where horses galloped in front of the audience.
Once that was done and dusted, there was one thing I thought would be nice to do, and that was to buy filled baguettes, and just park our butts on the side of the river, like a local. Even the tourists on the canal boats waved to us, so we called out 'bonjour!'. Wearing a 'Paris' hat, and calling out 'bonjour' though, was a deadset giveaway we are tourists as well!
Finishing this with a coffee at another cafe, we were wondering where this famed
'Sainte Chapelle' Church was - as we had been advised NOT to miss it, as it's stained glass is one of a kind. As I was looking across the road, I spotted this sign... Somethings are fate.
The glass from the outside, belies the beauty of the interior of what is -
Sainte Chapelle. It is not far from Notre Dame, so if you visit, it's definitely worth a look.
This is only a third of the stained glass windows.
It's not a large church, but completely shrouded in these glorious windows, and a fabulous rose window at the front to top it off. Finally, it was time for a bevvie.
Check out this fun dude...He was THE most awesome of waiters, always ready and willing for a joke and a grin for the camera.
And don't forget that most famous of French tunes on a piano accordion... Excuse my slurp through the straw, we were just wanting to record the busker,
not so much us. ;)
And, when we returned two weeks later, during happy hour, he was so pleased we had revisited his bar/restaurant.
At this place, Happy Hour goes from 3pm to 10.30pm!
All this, in only 3 days! Can you believe that? There's so much to do here, and we have only scratched the surface.
Tomorrow our friends are to fly in from the UK, and the fun starts all again!
This was a first for us. Actually, two firsts.
Travelling with friends (outside cruising), and using Air BNB.
I'd like to say, that both were a huge success!!!
Also, having awesome peeps like Pete and Shaz made it an absolute pleasure, and then the fact we had a 17th century apartment, that screamed 'French' was the icing on the cake.
A great location, and a place that easily fit the 4 of us.
An old dining table, a garden courtyard view, lovely wine, French brie, fresh seasonal fruit, and GREAT friends...we had to make ourselves leave!
OK, let's take this catch up elsewhere - Paris is just outside!
You don't have to walk far in downtown Paris, or surrounds, to come across alfresco dining.
So that's what we did. Walked out our door, and boom, all you have to do is decide which one. Well...the one we chose will have us,
and other restaurants talking for a long time.
Trev and Pete, two peas in a pod, and apparently both major sardines fans, decided to order a lunch of cat food, oops sorry, I mean sardines. :) Check out how it was served... To the restaurant's credit, (tongue firmly planted in cheek, lol), it was served on a slate, with a sprig of parsley and half a cherry tomato...but still cold, and in it's can!
The following evening at a restaurant, we mentioned this experience to our waiter and he laughed his head off.
When we showed him the photos on our phone for proof,
he promptly took it into his kitchen to show the chefs,
then the Maître D ran with it, laughing, to show every other
restaurant on the street. They kept asking: "Really? This was served here in Paris?"
"12 Euros for a cold sardines, still in the can?" When I said to our young waiter, "You'll be talking about this for a while..."
he replied with his shoulders shaking in fits of laughter:
"Madam, THIS, I'll be telling my children!" So hilarious.
Just sardines, but boy, what a funny memory!
And this was just our first meal out.
It truly set the tone for the next few days. Such fun.
Later, we wandered down to the Seine, something that seems to have become our favourite thing to do, and here, we joined countless others, mainly Parisians rather than tourists, which is always nice.
Let me say, in Australia, it's 'technically' illegal to drink in public areas,
but oh boy, not here. You don't even need a glass for your bottle of wine,
just a friend to share it with. So we did what the locals did; grabbed a bottle or two, (some glasses though),
and watched the sunset on the Seine on a Friday evening. Heaven.
And barely a cell phone in sight.
Just the odd photo taken to capture the moment. No Instagram modelling madness. Just living, laughing and loving life.
We only had three days together, so the next day we spent cruising around town, doing the usual sightseeing and leaving energy for the evening... Shaz and I had tickets for Moulin Rouge!
The boys originally were going to hang out nearby whilst we were at the show - plenty of 'red light' action in that district, but as it happened,
the boys had nanna naps whilst we dolled up and hit the show. Bless, we were all pushing the envelopes, but hey, sleep is for the dead!
Moulin Rouge -Woohoo, here we come!
Expensive, yes, particularly for our crappy Aussie dollar, but still, an amazing show and well worth seeing! Fabulous costumes, or lack there of , lol, stunning women,
and incredible acts in between,
namely the half naked lady who dived in a pool that elevated from the stage - and it was FULL of giant anacondas!
Now, being an Aussie girl, who lives on acreage with horses - you can rightly assume I'm used to snakes, but I must say, even I shrieked audibly when this happened, it was quite a display!!!
After the show we high tailed it back to the apartment,
where the boys were recharged and ready to continue the night out. We found another local restaurant, full of revellers, and we joined the ranks. Proud as punch to be the last dudes standing, sort of, and we probably hit the sack between 3 and 4am. Go us oldies!
Following day we had planned to make a day of it out at the Palace of Versailles, and the Catacombs, however, we had kind of enjoyed a much needed sleep in, and were a tad 'slow', so we had a change of plans instead.
Nothing like being all on the same page and happy to just go with the flow.
Shaz and Pete suggested we head up to Montemarte,
site of the iconic 'Sacré Coeur', or in English:
It was a Sunday, and the queue to enter the church was enormous, no surprise there, so we took some exterior pics, and even put our first ever love locks on a railing.
We intertwined them with Pete and Shaz's. Awww.
The Painter's Square was an absolute highlight for me. So much history.
Picasso and Renoir lived and painted there, and now, so many talented artists are lucky to have a one metre square to work in, a site they share with another artist for a half a week each. There is a ten year wait for a spot, for those talented enough. But with the millions of people that visit every year,
it's still quite a lucrative and exclusive business.
Many artists would ask if they could paint or sketch you, quite the honour really, and if you had time, I would highly suggest you sit for someone. I have no idea how much they'd charge you for their work, (definitely ask first) but hey, what a unique piece for your wall at home.
I used this time wisely as we were waiting for our food, and enjoyed another lap around this amazing collective of artists. A 'must visit', if you're in Paris.
Also, I like to try foods abroad that I wouldn't normally eat at home,
so I chose a Roquefort tart for lunch. I've never been a fan of blue vein cheese, but I must say,
it was the tastiest food we've had yet in Paris. Trev and I lucky to order the same thing, phew - we didn't have to share! :) It was amazing, and I need to make it at home!
Okay, time to walk off the calories!
That hasn't been a problem so far, as we have walked miles,
and loved every part of it.
At least it was all downhill from the heights of Montemarte. :)
The streets below the church were lined with restaurants, cheese shops, fish mongers, patisseries, you name it.
Sheer foodie heaven!