Three Days in Paris – The Trip

Three Days in Paris – The Trip

Having potentially set ourselves up for a disastrous first trip to Paris with a jam-packed itinerary, it’s time to assess and evaluate.

How did we do?

It’s definitely not an experience everyone (actually, most) would enjoy, but we wouldn’t change a minute of it. I’m happy to report that the trip was simultaneously exhausting and delightful, not to mention a good workout to offset those rich French meals (10+ miles of walking a day x 3). For me this trip was truly unforgettable – most likely because when you’re the architect of the crazy, you don’t forget it!

Without further ado, here are the highlights from our 3-day whirlwind tour of Paris.

Day 1 – Sunday – Arrival Day – Historic Paris Walk

  • Notre Dame Cathedral – a winding (seemingly neverending) climb up 400 steps to the top of one of the cathedral towers; with a line of tourists right behind you as you ascend a narrow staircase just wide enough for one, it’s a good test of your cardiovascular strength
  • Cluny Museum of Medieval Art – highlights include the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry and ancient roman bath ruins; no steps to climb, thank goodness
  • Pantheon – former church honoring St. Genevieve, Paris’ patron saint; currently a secular mausoleum housing the remains of some of France’s most illustrious citizens, including Rousseau, Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie
  • Sainte Chappelle – glorious stained glass windows best viewed on a moderately sunny day; a short staircase climb is required to view the upper level of the chapel
  • Conciergerie – a former royal palace turned prison during the French Revolution most notable as the final resting place for prisoners of the revolution prior to their trip to the guillotine; prison accomodations were segregated based on status and wealth – most famous being Marie Antoinette’s cell, a sobering point of contrast to the opulence of Versailles we would encounter on the third day of our trip
  • Orsay Museum – a beautiful restored railway station that now houses a treasure trove of the world’s most famous impressionist art; we arrived just an hour and a half before closing time and spent every minute wandering through the spacious halls taking in the masterpieces of Van Gogh, Gaugin, Monet, Renoir, et al, before being ushered out by attendants at the closing bell
  • Pompidou Museum – a brief visit with the sole purpose of taking the outside escalators up to the viewing platform for a fabulous nighttime view of Paris

Day 2 – Monday – Museum Day

  • L’Orangerie – a small, delightful museum at the edge of the Tuileries Garden which houses Monet’s spectacular eight-mural set of Water Lilies; wonderful, intimate setting to view the masterpieces bathed under a natural skylight
  • Louvre Museum – teeming with tourists, the world’s most famous museum was nonetheless a joy to explore, aided by Rick Steve’s self-guided tour of some of its most famous exhibits, including the Mona Lisa; a personal highlight for me was spending the last hour wandering through the museum’s spectacular Egyptian collection (not to be missed!)
  • Guimet Museum – my favorite museum space in all of Paris and a striking contrast to the crowded Louvre; here, we spent two full hours in virtual isolation wandering through pantheons of Buddhas and sacred relics from across thousands of years of Buddhist history
  • Arc de Triomphe – another monument, another set of stairs to climb to the top for another spectacular sunset view of Paris; fortunately we knew not to wait for traffic to cross to the center island housing the famous victory arch but rather to enter through an underground tunnel adjacent to the Champs Elysees
  • Champs Elysees – nighttime stroll (and at times fast walk in order to make it back to the hotel in time) through Paris’ most famous grand boulevard housing fancy shops and a few notable American upstarts (McDonald’s, Abercrombie, Banana Republic); en route to our hotel we pass by the Place de la Concorde and the stunning original Egyptian obelisk from the Luxor Pyramid
  • Opera Garnier – we rush back to the hotel to change and scurry to make our showtime at the Paris Opera; I admit to succumbing to the exhaustion of the day by dosing off more than a few times during the two-hour performance (probably because I don’t understand Italian and the subtitles on the teleprompter were in French); nonetheless a unique experience and a fitting cap to a full day of art and culture

Day 3 – Tuesday – Versailles and the Eiffel Tower

  • Versailles – my favorite part of the trip and a delightful juxtaposition of royal opulence and countryside charm; we caught an early morning train from Paris and spent half a day exploring the palace grounds, smaller estates (Grand and Petit Trianon) and Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet, her personal homage to simple country living; we had so much fun wandering the grounds, getting lost and taking pictures that the visit deserves its very own blog post (to come)
  • Sacre Coeur Basilica – elaborate Byzantine-style church perched atop the hills of Montmartre famous for its fabulous birds-eye view of Paris; after a full day of walking we cheat and take the funicular up the hillside (accepts 1 Paris metro carnet for each way)
  • Notre Dame Cathedral Interior – we revisit the famous cathedral to actually enter the church and tour the interior (the lines were too long on the first day that we only had time to do the Tower climb); we arrive just 15 minutes before closing and join the tail-end of a line of tourists waiting to enter
  • Eiffel Tower – Paris’ most recognizable monument and a symbol of the achievements of the Industrial Revolution; we bypass the lines by taking the stairs up to the second level instead of the elevator (piece of cake compared to all the winding towers we’ve climbed the past few days); I didn’t feel woozy until Mr. Travelbypoints advised me not to look down (doesn’t that always inspire the opposite action??); nonetheless, he is persistent in persuading me to go the extra mile and take the elevator to the very top (“We’re already here!”) and the experience is like floating atop all of Paris – simply magical!

What exactly does a 3-day whirlwind visit to Paris look like? Don your travel glasses, dear readers, and join us on our unforgettable trip to the beautiful City of Light.

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