Paris Day 4

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View from Pont de la Concorde

 

Our final day in Paris was a short one so just a few photos of our last hours.

We opted to stay close to the apartment as we needed to check out at noon.  As mentioned before, the apartment is close to many sights so we still got to see many magnificent buildings on our stroll.

The Grand Palais  – home to a number of exhibitions and home to a science museum and the Petit Palais to start.  We wished we had more time to enter but we didn’t so just admired from the outside.

 

We also walked along towards Les Invalides.  We had seen this from the Eiffel tower and its just as impressive from ground level. Another place we would like to visit on a return trip.  It sounds fascinating as an exhibition venue, military hospital and home for retired veterans.  Such an impressive set of buildings and grounds We wandered across the bridge (impressive Pont de la Concorde) and back again.

 

One thing we have noticed in Paris are pockets of little gardens (public) across the city.  We stumbled across one on our stroll and enjoyed the tranquility for a moment or 2,  Streams and waterfalls, bridges and foliage.  I am sure in the summer months, these spaces are lovely.

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Hidden Gardens

We headed back and checked out of the apartment. and made our way to Gare du Nord.  Took around 40 minutes form where we were based but we had plenty of time.  The Paris Metro system is easy to navigate and we got around the city fairly easily through our trip.  In fact, quite impressed with the service it offered.  I don’t think we waited any longer than 2 minutes for a train at any point.  Unlike the London Underground which can frequently see long delays.

As I said in my first post, the Eurostar service is great.  The return journey proved to be the same swift and efficient service.  I would highly recommend for anyone not yet experienced it.

So we made it back to London safe and sound.  Including all our bags.  There was one that loved the Eurostar so much, it decided to stay on board 😦  A disappointment for everyone but thankful it didn’t hold anything more than a few souvenirs and the macaroons!

Paris – Day 3 – Eiffel Tower,Montmartre, Sacre Couer

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Eiffel Tower

 

Today was our best weather day so we had intentionally planned to do more outdoors sights today.

Of course, we still hadn’t hit on the Eiffel Tower so this was to be our first stop.  You can essentially see the Eiffel Tower from most places in Paris.  I don’t think its a sight you can ever get tired of looking at.  Any time of day or night, any angle/ vista, its still striking.

After fresh croissants from the local patisserie, we headed out towards the Seine.  A lovely spring time walk and window shopped all the way down Avenue Montaigne where all the best shops sit.  Much better than the Champs Elysee!   Towards the end of the road we happen upon the River Seine.   Its not as beautiful as we had hoped.  A Brown river, running quickly through the city, however, there she stands, the Eiffel Tower!  Our first ‘full’ glimpse of the structure!  One little girl was very excited!   We opted to head towards a bridge further along and we are glad that we did.   We happened to come across an informal memorial to Princess Diana marking the tunnel as to where she met her fate all those years ago.   For the Brits, i think its akin to the Americans remembering where they were when JFK was shot.   We remembered Diana in that moment and explained a little of the story to the kids who had little awareness of her and no awareness of her untimely death.  Surprisingly, the tunnel is very short…making the accident even more tragic as she should have only been in there for a moment before emerging form the other end.

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Informal Princess Diana memorial at tunnel entrance where she had her fatal crash

After this surprise memorial, we headed onto the bridge to cross the Seine.  Not without many photo opportunities!

At the Tower, we queued for probably 60-90 minutes.  gain, not a bad length of time considering its probably one of the most popular tourist attractions in Paris.   I am sure February is classed as an ‘off’ season though and wouldn’t want to battle the crowds mid summer!  I suggest you book ahead at peak times.

So tickets in hand (reasonably priced too), we headed straight to the top and worked our way down. The tower affords you 3 levels of views of the city.  All breathtaking.  Personally, I preferred the 2nd level but all were great.

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View of the Seine on the Eiffel Tower

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Spectacular views on a sunny day

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View to Montparnasse Tower – where we took night views the night before

The ‘piéce de resistance’ for the kids though was the FREE ice skating on level 1.   They had such a blast!  A small rink but they had so much fun and can now say they skated on the Eiffel Tower 🙂  Other activities on the tower include the glass floor, gift shops and cafe…but also not forgetting the Champagne Bar at the top…should you happen to want a glass!   All in all, we mush have spent 2+ hours on the tower so it was great value for money and we all thoroughly enjoyed it!

So coming off the Tower we wanted to grab some lunch so a quick Croque Monsieur at a small Bistro around the back of the tower (affording another great view of the structure!) and off to the Metro to head to Montmartre region and the Sacre Coeur.

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Behind the Tower – through the streets view

I specifically wanted to go back to this area as i had remembered it as a teen when visiting with school. I had remembered its charm and beauty and wanted to experience it with the kids.

So the beauty is definitely still there but you need to fight through traders and the like to get to the charm.  We did though and worth it.  After walking through streets lined with traders and touristy junk shops, Sacre Couer sits at the top of the Butte…the highest natural point in Paris.   The sight of the Sacre Coeur is breathtaking as you approach.  Again, I am sure in the peak season, this place is even more crowded so glad we were experiencing it at a ‘quieter’ time. We walked the steps up the approach, stopping for photos along the way.

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Steps up to the Scare Coeur

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Almost at the top

Towards the top seems to be a bunch of folks that have set up busness there…selling beers and singing/ karaoke.  Not impressed with this at all.  They block the view and honestly felt so wrong in front of such a beautiful, religious and serene building.   Even less impressed the the folks outside as we experienced the contrast of what was happening inside the Sacre Coeur . Inside, we found the most amazing service taking place by a group of nuns.  The singing was divine and we quietly slid into a pew to absorb and appreciate.   Sadly then needed to leave into a bunch of crazies drinking and singing old pop songs …. ugh!

We explored all around the back the Sacre Coeur and into the famous Montparnasse square filled with artists selling their art and encouraging you to have your portrait done.  We had fun wandering through the square and we landed on a characture artist. I thought it would be fun to get the girls drawn – something to hang on the family room wall when we get back to America…..what do you think??

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Charactures in Paris

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Charming streets of Montparnasse

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So Parisien!

 

We stopped of for Crepes – many creperies to choose from so take your pick!  Everyone was happy!  We also picked out some fancy Macaroons for us to enjoy later.  Little did we know we would end up leaving these on the Eurostar on our way home 😦                                           We also came to realise also that this area is one of the few that serves frogs legs.  Frogs legs are not as popular anymore in France so more difficult to find.  Many of the eateries here advertise they serve them.  Unfortunately, we just couldn’t face them after our crepes..!

So the sun was beginning to set on our day and we were fortunate to be able to watch the sun set over Paris from this vantage point.  Such a lovely way to close out our day.

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The sun setting over Paris

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As the sun sets

After a long day, we headed back towards the 8th arrondisement for food.  After some quick research we headed to well reviewed restaurant Le Relais Entrecote.  Supposedly one of the best Steak Frite restaurants in Paris.  You can’t book a table and queuing in inevitable bit we did it anyway!  We probably waited 45 mins for a table?  Maybe a bit longer?   They have an interesting business model – no menu, only one choice of food (steak frites with side salad 26€) and efficient but abrupt service.  The food was good including their secret sauce.  Portions when they came out were fairly small.  OK we thought, and as we finished realised it was a perfect portion.  Until the server came pack with exactly the same amount and loaded up our plates for a second serving!  We were a little surprised but they food was so good, we polished the 2nd serving off too!  Now over-full, we declined dessert and rolled back to the apartment just a few blocks away!  I would recommend trying the restaurant if you like steak and frites and try somewhere popular in Paris.  Just be prepared to wait.  We left the restaurant at 9:30pm and the line was still just as long!   Tripadvisor review here.   Bon Appetite!

 

 

Paris Day 2

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Eiffel Tower at night

After a restful first night in our fab apartment (see link in Day 1 post), we were up early and ready to go for the day.

The forecast for the day wasn’t great so we opted for a day mostly indoors.

We started with a walk down to the Louvre.  Straight out of the apartment we are surrounded by grandeur.  We had just realised we were next door to the Presidential palace – so we waved a said Bonjour to Francois Hollande as we walked by.  We were also next to the Ministry of the Interior.  This now made total sense as to level of security in the area.  Literally tripping over police going to and from the apartment.  I was OK with this.  I am not sure if there was always this level of police presence in this district but in this day and age, with all the uncertainty we are in and recent attacks, I welcomed the presence.  With that said, we noticed heavy security all over Paris.  Should anyone feel nervous about visiting, the French police/ army have done a magnificent job of being present and allaying any concerns we had.

So beyond the palace, we headed down the Champs Elysee and onto the Place de la Concorde.  Another beautiful sight in Paris.  The approach, even on a grey winters day was spectacular and the stroll through the gardens towards the Louvre was wonderful.  Despite the weather and the fact that even the fountains aren’t running we loved it.

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View of Eiffel Tower from Place de la Concord

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Looking back down La Place de la Concorde

Next onto the Louvre.  Such a grand and imposing building!  I was nervous to take the kids in knowing it was ‘art’ for what I was anticipating was for quite a stretch of time that day but they enjoyed the 5 hours we spent in there!  yes – 5 hours!                                                     At this time of year, the lines outside were bearable.  About 30 minutes we waited.  We headed inside, picked up maps and grabbed a coffee/ seat to get acquainted and make a plan.  We picked up audio guides for the kids.  Nintendo DS devices loaded with maps and commentary.  Honestly, this is probably what kept them entertained for 5 hours….I’m Ok with that as they did see a lot of the art/ exhibits and learn a little along the way!                So we saw some of the big beats here…the usual suspects Mona Lisa etc but we went a little off track too.  We enjoyed Napoleons apartments and some of the African art too.   We stayed here for lunch also.  There are number of places to dine but we kept it light and headed to Pauls patisserie which was classically French.

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Outside the Louvre

Heading out of the Louvre, the rain was lightly falling so we opted for another indoor activity and one with a different feel to the Louvre – The Catacombs!

I had read a lot about this over the years and it had fascinated me so wanted to visit.  I thought it would be different for the kids too.  We navigated the Metro over to the district they were in and took our place in line.  I hear the wait time can vary – 2 mins to 2 hours.  We waited about 30 minutes.  Again, not bad.   Now I was a little nervous of the exhibit as it stated its not for those that are claustrophobic.  I am not claustrophobic and never had any type of panic attack but I am aware I don’t like small tight spaces, especially deep underground….but I braved it anyway.  And I’m glad I did.  It really isn’t that claustrophobic.  Yes, you take 130 steps down.  Yes, the tunnels are narrow, low (6ft) and long but head down and march forward it was fine.  The Audio tour is also a good distraction if you needed one.  The area with bones we viewed is just one smaller part of the maze of tunnels so that part doesn’t take long.  Although, I think there are many other tunnels housing bones…where there are approximately 6 million skeletons down there!  I didn’t take any photos.  They request not to and honestly, it didn’t feel right.  Respectfully, I put my camera away – except for the beginning of our ascent back up the stairs – 83 of them.

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Leaving the Catacombs

Coming out of the catacombs, night was beginning to fall.  As we were close to the Montparnasse district we quickly took the Metro over to the Tour de Montparnasse.  I had heard the trip to the top of the tower was worth it as it afforded great views of Paris INCLUDING the Eiffel Tower (most people only view Paris from the Eiffel Tower losing the most spectacular sight Paris has to offer).  It was dark and drizzly but the manager assured us good views so we headed on up.  We did hesitate as the cost of this wasn’t as reasonable as we had hoped.  In fact, not much cheaper than the Eiffel tower, but we did it anyway.   The views were great!   Obviously, the Eiffel Tower was the most impressive sight, especially at night.  As the Tour de Montparnasse is a little further out, other main attractions are a little lost so this trip is really best suited to get a different view of the Tour Eiffel.

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So a full day.  10 miles of walking and lots of spectacular, memorable sights.  We headed back towards the Champs Elysee to grab a bite.  Knowing we wanted to be close to ‘home’ once we had finished.  We found a quaint bistro, ate and planned Day 3….

Paris – Day one

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Arc de Triomphe

 

Each one of the kids has a wish for this year off.  One of them is to go to Paris and up the Eiffel Tower.  Sounded reasonable to here we are for half term holidays.

We took the Eurostar from St Pancras.  Wow.  What an easy way to travel and get to the heart of Paris.  Quick, clean, comfortable.  It was so quick, we did the ‘tunnel’ and hadn’t even realised it  I think we were on French soil within 20 minutes of leaving London!    Its worth watching the website for fare deals.  I managed to get the out bound tickets for just £20 per person…making this an affordable trip.

For accommodation, we opted for Air BnB.  Our first time and so far so good.  We have a fantastic apartment in the 8th Arrondissement so close to many things (we walked to Champs Elysee and Arc de Triomphe tonight!).  The apartment sleeps 6 and perfect for us.  As a family of 5 we tend to find hotel stays cumbersome and not always comfortable.  We knew we wanted some flexibility here.  We have room for all, a nice little kitchen and sitting room where the kids are currently watching a little TV before bed.  All very comfortable and I highly recommend.  Link to our rental is here.

So we navigated the Metro to the apartment, stocked up on a few supplies at the local supermarket and headed out.  As we arrived late afternoon, we haven’t covered a lot of ground but about a 5 minute walk and we hit the Champs Elysee.  We were surrounded by famous monuments and buildings and immediately, the kids eyes lit up in wonder.

We walked the length of the CE and down to the Arc de Triomphe.  Beautiful when all lit up at night.   We got a sneak peak of the Eiffel Tower too which was exciting for one little girl in particular!

We opted to go off the CE for dinner.   We struggled to find a restaurant behind the main road but in the end we did.  Le Marceau it was.  A nice little Brasserie/ Bar and not a bad meal but probably the most expensive omelet they may ever eat 🙂   We tend to stay true to the region/ country and always try something new.  Escargot it was then!  2/3 of the kids tried them and LOVED them!  There was even a lot of a debate as to who was to get the last one!!   This year is about experience and culture…mission accomplished in Paris.  Frogs legs tomorrow!