One Action-Packed Week in Paris
Sergio and his partner Nicolas spent an action-packed week in Paris, September 19th-26th, 2015. They planned this whole trip by themselves, starting with a well-situated hotel at a good price: Hôtel Cluny Square. They also got a Paris Pass which means they prepaid for many of the best museums in Paris and avoided many lines–not all as we will see below!
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Hotel Recommendation: Hôtel Cluny Square.[/pullquote]
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An Action-Packed Week in Paris
Day 1 in Paris
Sergio and Nicolas dropped off their luggage at the hotel and set out to use their Big Bus Tour which was included in their Paris Pass. On their way to the bus pickup area near the Louvre, they got distracted by a crêpes place, and then settled in the bus and looked at Paris from the bus, which gave them a good idea of the lay of the land. They got off the bus a couple of times to look around, but mostly took it easy on that first day.
They do not speak any French, but they used the language and cultural tips shared on this podcast (for example in Episode 31) and they report that Parisians were nice to them.
That evening they went to the Sacré Coeur at Montmartre, looked around the area a little bit, then went back to the Latin Quarter for a fondue dinner.
Day 2 in Paris
Day in the Louvre. The security line slowed things down a lot at the Louvre, but eventually they got in. They found the Mona Lisa. They knew it is a small painting so that part didn’t disappoint. They spent a fair amount of time in the shopping area (the Carrousel du Louvre) right underneath the museum.
They walked around the Jardin des Tuileries right outside of the Louvre, sat on the benches and took some photos, enjoyed some macaroons (or macarons as we call them in French) and made their way to the Orangerie Museum towards the other end of the park and to the left. This is where they saw Monet’s Water Lilies.
At that point they were at the Place de la Concorde, at the bottom of the Champs Elysées, so they kept walking and stopped for lunch at Ladurée on the Champs Elysées. They enjoyed looking at French car manufacturer displays on the Champs Elysées. Then proceeded to take the underground passage to the Arc de Triomphe, and walked all the way up the Arc de Triomphe. They say it’s quite a climb but worth it! From the top you have a wonderful view of major avenues in Paris.
Then they took the metro to the Pompidou Museum (too far to hoof!) They enjoyed the museum, but what they liked most was riding the escalators outside of the building and catching the view of the Eiffel Tower twinkling.
Day 3 Disneyland Paris
They took the RER to get to Disneyland Paris which was easy and took about one hour. They spent the whole day there, the went to the Studios in the morning and then Disneyland Paris for the reminder of the day. They stayed to see the Castle Show in the evening. They went on a Tuesday and found Disneyland Paris to be uncrowded and the atmosphere similar to what they are used to in the USA.
Day 4 in Paris
They went to the Sainte-Chapelle in the morning. Sergio explains how wonderful it was to see the tapestries and the stained glass up close and how gorgeous it was on a sunny day. There was a line to get in, even first thing in the morning.
But where they experienced a seriously long line was to get up the Notre Dame Tower later that morning. The wait was well-worth it, but they stood in line for two hours even though they already had their tickets! It takes forever because of crowd control measures. People are allowed up in small groups and they won’t let more in until a group has left. Sergio thinks maybe it would have been better to go climb Notre Dame first thing, then go to the Sainte-Chapelle. There are 387 steps to get to the top of the tower (he was guessing 100).
Opéra Garnier: Sergio was under the impression that there are visits two days a week. That doesn’t seem to be the case looking at this page, please check before you go. The guided tour in English was very good. You get to see the Chagal painting and hear about the Phantom of the Opera.
The Galleries Lafayettes are nearby, the looked around this beautiful old building.
Next they went to tour Montparnasse. They found the neighborhood to be plain and not as interesting than the rest of Paris. Everything seems distant from the top of the Montparnasse tower, but it’s a good place to take pictures from, nothing to block your view.
They went to the Canal Saint Martin and didn’t like it very much. They could tell that it’s a trendy area, but at night it’s the only place that didn’t feel very safe to them. But the rest of Paris, even the metro felt safe to them.
Day 5 in Paris
For breakfast they went to the restaurant Les Deux Magots in Saint Germain. They loved the whole area and would like to spend more time there. This is a pricy restaurant, but everything was beautiful and delicious.
They went to the Orsay Museum which Sergio preferred to the Louvre. To get the most out of your visit to the Louvre it is important to decide ahead of time know what want to see. If you do not, you may get to a point where it feels like you are wandering around and not getting much out of the art. The Orsay Museum does not give that impression because it is much smaller, most people never have time to get to that point.
Next, they went to the Rodin museum which was open but under heavy construction, but the gardens were wonderful. At one point I asked which Rodin Museum this was because I thought the Rodin Museum was talked about in Episode 102 was completely closed during renovations, but apparently it was not.
Then they went across town again to the Picasso Museum. Sergio loved it because the art was so accessible, you could be right up close and see this beautiful work. Most items are not behind glass. The entire Marais area is gorgeous.
So that’s three major museums in ONE DAY! But still, they visited some chocolate shops along the way and went to see the Île de la Cité at night to find the Berthilon ice cream that they had heard so much about. They found the original Berthilon show and the ice cream was the best! Now it’s bed-time!
Day 6 in Versailles
This was their last full day in Paris and they spend it in Versailles. The train (RER) drops you off a few blocks from the Château. The day turned out to be wonderful for Sergio and Nicolas. They liked the audio guide, the gardens, the large mirrored sculptures that were in the garden at the time as they went down the hill behind the Château. Sergio recommends against taking the little train because there is a long line and it’s not cheap, and an easy walk to boot! They saw the Petit Trianon, the Grand Trianon, they had lunch along one of the basins. Sergio recommends taking a day trip to Versailles, and also saving some time for the gift shop if you can, nice stuff in there. Sergio also liked the hall of mirrors even tough it’s not as big as people imagine.
After their day at Versailles, they took a cruise on the Bâteaux Mouches (also included in the pass). It was sunset by that time and everything looked wonderful. What made it even better is that the Eiffel Tower started her nightly sparkle on the hour, which made it magical.
They had a reservation for a 9 PM dinner at the Eiffel Tower, at a restaurant called the 58 Tour Eiffel on the first floor. They enjoyed the dinner very much. The restaurant menu was limited but everything was delicious and the meal included champagne. Definitely go to the Eiffel Tower at night, it’s beautiful.
Day 7 in Paris and Flight Home
For their last morning in Paris they went back to Saint-Germain to have breakfast and stopped at the Luxembourg Gardens which they enjoyed very much. It was a Saturday morning so there were sports activities happening on one side of the park and you could stroll around as well. Very beautiful and relaxing.
So You Want an Action-Packed Week in Paris Too!
Here’s what you need to know:
- If he had a do-over, Sergio would skip La Conciergerie. They went because it was part of the Museum Pass, but didn’t enjoy it as much as other things they did. They liked the interactive area where they talk about how Paris was build. But if you’re going because that’s where Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned, you’ll be disappointed, there isn’t much about her there.
- Sergio would probably also skip the Tour Montparnasse because it lacked ambiance.
- Sergio wishes they had not skipped the Catacombs and I agree, if you only have time for one, skip La Conciergerie and go to the Catacombs!
- Next time they’d like to go see Monet’s Garden at Giverny (which we will discuss in an upcoming episode).
- They found using the Paris Pass easy even though each venue does things a little bit different. Give yourself some time to figure things out when you arrive. The pass comes with a really good booklet of coupons and a map that shows all the major highlights. That map turned out to be the most useful for them because it showed everything they needed to see and folded up nicely.
- Sergio and Nicolas bought everything they could in advance. They bought their Paris Pass one month early, same with their Disneyland ticket, their restaurant at the Eiffel Tower, and anything else they could. They liked being able to print everything they needed to at home just in case their phones didn’t work and they had no access to email reservations.
- Be aware of your surroundings, zip up your bags, be cautious of your belongings. You don’t need to be paranoid, but keep in mind that wherever there are crowds of tourists there will be pickpockets too. The authorities are working hard at getting rid of them in France, but it’s a constant battle.
- For this same-sex couple, Paris felt no different from any other city they had visited. They felt safe and didn’t experience looks or anything of the sort.
- In conclusion, Sergio says “Definitely go to Paris!” and I have to agree with him 100%.
Thank you for coming on the show and for sharing your experiences!