Did I think so many trees could exist in a large metropolitan city? Absolutely not. You really get the tree tour when you fly into the Beauvais airport, and that’s the positive outlook of using that airport. I 100% recommend against using that airport at all costs. However, when you exit the bus at its final stop and head towards the metro through the giant mall-like building, a magnificent gourmet grocery store awaits you where you can smell the fruit section as you walk by — a perfect place for a snack before riding into the city.
Important: The metro visitor pass will be your best friend while in Paris. Now, speaking of getting into the city, 90% of the smells are flowers and baked bread when you walk out from the metro stops. That, mixed with a visual overload of architecture, views, the river, flora, vibrant styles, and restaurants can evoke feelings that make someone giddy. A cafe, bakery, or patisserie exists on every street. Paris is another location to take advantage of finding a good Airbnb — if you’re really cutting cost corners you’ll probably get the experience of staying in a studette.
Our first stop while in the city, because it was around 4 p.m. when we finally got settled, was The Catacombs. There seems to always be a line for this, so we sucked it up and waited our turn, knowing that will make one line we wouldn’t have to wait in the following day.
The catacombs aren’t really for the weak of heart, you are down there. . . with a lot of bones that were real people. On the plus side, if you even remotely have an interest in geology the existence of the catacombs rely on geology, and the city has some great information and an almost mini-museum along your walk on what is the section approaching the actual catacombs, as well as fossils and the state of the land.
After the catacombs and before heading back to our neighborhood for dinner, we made a stop at the Opera. This colossal building with its golden statues and adornments takes up your entire field of vision as you walk up the metro stairs. It’s the star of the square — no wonder it has earned a spot on the list of monumental buildings in the city. A restaurant and bookshop exist for you to visit, however, you can’t expect to just show up and see the inside — events and operas still take place inside and you will be turned away if you don’t have a ticket for the show.
The following morning started with a visit to the Abbesses metro stop. This is the deepest metro station in Paris and 1 of 2 remaining stops with the original gothic-style glass overhead. This is also a great stop for having a picturesque walk uphill to Montmartre, a cathedral with a beautiful view of the city. No charge to visit inside, only a donation asked of you. Also on top of this hill exists a Dalí museum.
Up next? The Louvre, living up to all of its much-deserved hype. Before I even state how spectacular this museum is, you should know you could very easily spend days upon days inside this museum and STILL not see all of the rooms. This museum houses the Mona Lisa, Wings of Victory, Venus di Milo, Marie Antoinette’s furniture, a sphinx, medieval tapestries, plus a gazillion more unimaginable items and paintings. The museum houses probably one of my most favorite Greek and Roman statue arrangements, they just look like they belong. You can wait in line where the glass triangles are or you can stay in the shade and enter from the metro stop underground,. Either way, the wait is more than worth it — like I said, you could happily spend days in here.
One metro stop over or a brief walk by the river and you’ll be by Notre Dame, another place with a city view. You can wait in line and go up in the towers, however, this is a line that doesn’t move so often. As an alternative, you can wait in the continuously moving line and have a look inside the cathedral. The inside is arguably one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture. Here is also where the archbishop of Paris is seated. When you finish viewing the inside don’t forget to view the front of the cathedral from the park connected to the building.
At this point, you have a few hours until 6 o’clock when Pere Lachaise Cemetery or “that cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried” closes. You’ll want to give yourself at least an hour to view all the graves you’ll want to view because trust me there are some other gems in there beyond Morrison — Choplin? Wilde? And it is a surprisingly beautiful and serene walk to enjoy. Because it was a weekend, heading into the cemetery were a few vendors offering unique and old postcards and records for a few bucks and, in my opinion, a special find for old postcard collectors. If you don’t have a map on your phone you’ll probably want to purchase a cemetery map from a stand outside the cemetery to find who you need to find, it’s much bigger than you think, and as I said you’ll be surprised what other notable people are buried there.
The final two things on your list for the day will be Shakespeare & Company bookstore at point zero and the Eiffel Tower — the bookstore being open until 10 p.m. and the Eiffel Tower until midnight, however, it is important to note you can only visit the second floor of the tower once the clock strikes 11 p.m. So if your dream is to go all the way to the top you might want to get there with enough time. Shakespeare & Company is hands down, the coolest bookshop in all of Paris. From the smell of books and wood to the selections, sorted and stacked all the way to the ceiling, to choose from in an abundant of genres, to the small winding stairs that take you to multiple reading nooks surrounded by more books and old and new newspapers to browse at your leisure. There’s even a section dedicated to Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Zelda, and Joyce. If I had more room in my backpack to pick up more books I would have left with a handful.
If you’re doing a lot of walking around the city, especially near Napoleon’s Tomb, you can see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. It wasn’t until I was right up beside it that I really acknowledged it’s architecture, which was a very cool moment. Here you’ll find more people than maybe some of your other ventures of the day, but what can you expect, just be alert to your surroundings. Going up the Eiffel Tower is certainly something to do once in your life, but viewing it from the beautifully shaded walkways around the city and by the river might be a little more romantic than waiting in line and maneuvering around crowds. Either way, you’re right near one of the wonders of the world.
Monday morning: the last day to browse the famous Parisian flea markets. If you happen to be in the city over the weekend or a Monday and don’t find a way to make it to one of the flea markets then you’ve made a terrible mistake. They’re beautiful, each item or collection in everyone’s store thoughtfully selected. Here you’ll see some of the most beautiful pieces of vintage furniture, posters and old magazine advertisements, records, books, jewelry, coffee grinders, dish and glass sets, and the other odds and ends. Some of the markets take a little searching to find but you will know when you’ve made it into the right section and past the touristy, cheap vendors — do not be confused. A good market off the beaten path is the Paris Saint Ouen flea market–You can find more information on locating this magical market here.
The flea markets close early so that leaves the rest of this day for a train ride and to visit Versailles, a new number one on my favorite palaces list. I’d hope they wouldn’t notice if I moved in. Louis made a good choice, despite its distance away from the main part of the city and its costs…the old palace, where the Louvre currently resides, was a bit drab in comparison to the Sun King’s new abode. The rooms were as tastefully decorated as one would have thought. A room that stood out to me was Marie Antoinette’s. And the gardens, every bit as famous as the palace itself. The gardens are separate from the palace tour, so give yourself, again, plenty of time before both places close.
Spend the evening in the Montmartre neighborhood, behind the cathedral. A classic artists market exist. You can wander by Van Gogh’s home with a small hanging sunflower on the shutter to mark it, you can see where Picasso and Hemingway hung out, and even have a drink or dinner where Van Gogh slept with his redheaded lover he managed to cut his ear off for. This is a nice little place to find more prints and posters and an even better place for a local feeling dinner, as well as a wonderful place to just walk around. This is the neighborhood you imagine when you idealize Paris.
You have a ten o’clock flight out of Paris so your last day can be fully spent. A morning stroll through Luxembourg gardens? Check. Sit by the perfectly manicured lawns and watch the kids push boats back and forth through the fountain in the middle. Followed by a quick look into the Musee D’Orsay, holding beautiful works of Van Gogh. Then to the Louvre, but not for a visit, just a walk through the trees to get to the Musee de l’Orangerie, which holds some of the most beautiful Monet’s in rooms all to themselves. You could sit and pretend you’re under the willow trees watching the lily pads slightly move. Choosing to stop by the Orange Museum was really a pleasant surprise, and the walk there was just as pleasant. After that museum, a walk towards Napoleon’s Tomb with a view of the Eiffel Tower.
At the end of your trip, headed towards the airport, you can view the magnificent Arc de Triomphe. You can even go up into it, no backpacks allowed though, so plan accordingly if you’d like to do so.
The best part about all that you’ve done is you can still come back and find plenty more new things, and the museums could be joyfully endlessly visited. I’m not sure there’s ever enough time for this city, so don’t feel pressured when planning your visit, you’ll always want to come back and see more.
Favorite Sights/Activities: Wandering around the Montmartre neighborhood, The Louvre, Musée de l’Orangerie, Versailles
Favorite Food/Drinks: As we were trying to save some $$, I’ll say some of the BEST food I had was simply fruit from local vendors and bread from the smaller neighborhood boulangeries.
Transportation: Metro, Train, Walking
Lodging: Small Airbnb Studette
Secret Suggestions: Wandering around the Montmartre neighborhood you’ll find Le Maison Rouge, which is the place Van Gogh’s lover stayed, they offer some lovely drinks. You don’t have to go right up to the Eiffel Tower to “see” it, there are lovely views walking along the Seine.
Travel Tips: The metro pass for visitors (bought at any metro station) will be your best friend — purchase the pass as soon as you have to take the metro for the first time. If you have time, take a day trip to Versailles, the palace will leave you breathless, and it’s really not that far out of the way (definitely worth it). If you’re in town on a Saturday through Monday make sure you find your way to one of the famous flea markets, you’ll discover things you had no idea you needed, and the pieces are rich with a history.