Our trip to Paris started in typical fashion: waking up early, getting dressed, and being rushed out the door by Matt. We take a 3 hour Thalys train from Amsterdam Central to Paris-Nord; costing about €250, round trip. The earlier you buy your train tickets, the cheaper.
Day 1 Of My May Trip to Paris
ARRIVING TO PARIS
Arriving into Paris-Nord, taxis can be found on the northwest side of the station. Beware: unofficial taxi people soliciting services; they are not metered, and charge you more money than an official taxi. A taxi from Paris-Nord to the St.Germain district of Paris should cost about €20.
When we stepped out of the train in Paris, the morning was peaceful and warm. Much warmer than it had been recently; It felt great. Deciding to walk from Paris-Nord to our hotel in the St. Germain district, it took us about 40 min. Paris was beautiful, the sun was shining, the architecture was gorgeous…It is Love at first sight.
Hot and exhausted, we made it to our hotel, Hotel De Buci. The hotel is charming, quirky and in a great location; situated in the St. Germain district near the Seine River and next to the Latin Quarter. The area is littered with amazing restaurants, cafés, markets and shops. Read more about our stay at Hotel De Buci.
Quickly checking in, we walked around the corner and grabbed some outdoor seats at a local café, Café de Buci. The best part of France is, wine is cheaper than the water. Food is more expensive than the Netherlands and Spain, but the service was better than we are used to in Amsterdam. With it being beautiful out, and Bastille day weekend in France, everyone was out and about. Our spot was perfect; great for throwing on your darkest shades, and endlessly staring at the stereotypical Parisians walking down the streets in their striped shirts, baguettes in hand, smoking cigarettes.
From Café de Buci we walked up the Dauphine, crossing the River Seine, to the Royal Palace, and over to the Notre-Dame de Paris. Notre-Dame is pretty, and famous for its French Gothic Architecture. However, after seeing the Vatican and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, I felt a complete lack of excitement. I know I sound like a brat. I think it is definitely worth checking out if you have the time, and I suggest going inside.
Walking past the Royal Palace, crossing the bridge, along the River Seine, we came up to the Louvre. The Louvre is beautiful; a gorgeous French renaissance building, the glass pyramid, and surrounding gardens for people to lay out, drink some wine, and people watch. We didn’t go inside the Louvre, as the line was way too long; even with purchasing tickets ahead of time, the security line was ridiculously long.
Moving from the lawn of the Louvre, we walk northeast to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, in the Montmartre district of Paris. Even when you think you’re getting close to the Basilica, you have to walk up extremely steep streets, then stairs, and then you can finally catch your breath. Come to find out later that there is a lift to the right of the stairs. For more of what to expect, read Paris top travel tips.
Once you get to the top, the area opens up. The views overlooking Paris are spectacular, and there’s cold beer being sold by local street “vendors”. Grab some beer, sit on the steps, relax, and people watch. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, or Sacré-Cœur Basilica, is beautiful; famous for it’s Romano-Byzantine architecture. We found this Basilica to be more impressive than Notre-Dame.
While up there, we explored the top of the Montmartre district. There is a little square around the corner of the Basilica, surrounded by small cafés, outdoor tables, and artists sketching and painting portraits. Walk around, watch the artist’s work before you commit; it’s about 45 minutes per person to sketch, and costs around €100-€200. Naturally, I got Matt to give in and do a couples sketching. Walking around and analyzing, Matt was growing impatient, so we settled on the next available artist. 2 hours later we received our sketching…we looked like aliens. Nailed it. Before we knew it, it was time for dinner.
Deciding to walk around the St. Germain district that evening. We figured we would pop into a random restaurant as there are so many choices. Venturing off the main strip, onto a side street, we stumbled upon this quaint little restaurant, La Grande Cremerie. It was full, with only seating at the bar. Debating to go else where, this awesome customer leaned over, and told us it was worth eating at the bar, so we did. Fantastic advice. Eating dinner at the bar, the bartender was inviting, taught us about the wines of the regions, and food pairings. Read more about La Grande Cremerie; definitely coming back.
Day 2 of My Trip to Paris
The next day was filled with…You can guess it…more walking. Making our way to the Musée Rodin, it was about a 15 minute walk from our hotel. I wanted to see the famous Rodin statues, especially The Thinker. There was a bit of a line, but nothing too long. However, Matt with no patience for lines, convinces me that you could see the statue from where we standing. Moving on.
Making our way to the Eiffel Tower, we stumbled upon a large structure with guards. Curious, we come to find out it the Musée de l’Armée, the national military museum of France, and the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. Um, Yes. Seeing that I am often compared to Napoleon (small and feisty), it was a must. We quickly enter, pay an entrance fee, and get an audio guide for about €25.
The French have such a storied history with their military; there is so much to see in this place. I find it fascinating to see the many types of military uniforms from various personnel, troops, colonies, allies and more; enjoying the designs of the many war propaganda and weapons. You could spend days in this place; it’s huge. Moving on to Napoleon Bonaparte’s burial. Holy shit. This building is up there for the most magnificent places I’ve ever seen. Large, symbolic, drenched in artwork and sculptures, it was beautiful. Starting to get hangry, seems to be a constant on our trips, we continued our journey towards the Eiffel Tower.
Picking up some wine and sandwiches, we ended up sitting down on the front lawn of the Eiffel Tower, or Parc du Champ de Mars. It was perfect. The sun was shining, the weather was warm, and the food was fresh. It was so relaxing; I could spend hours, if not longer here, but we had to keep this journey moving on.
Crossing the Seine River, under the Eiffel Tower, we were making our way to the Arc de Triomphe. You can go inside the Arc de Triomphe, but being that it was the Bastille Day weekend, there were loads of people. We snapped some photos before crossing over to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées; famous for high-end shopping and dining. Popping in and out of shops, we finally found a restaurant with outdoor seating, so we grabbed some wine. People watching is perfect on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, there is so much going on. A few drinks later, time to get this journey going.
It was late, and time for dinner. Walking up St. Germain, we found a restaurant with a great outdoor seating. Great outdoor seating except for us. They sat us inside with the rest of the Americans. Typical. Finishing dinner, we walked to the Eiffel Tower, to see it all lit up. There is wine being sold by the local “vendors”. Enjoying the lights, we got a $5 bottle of wine for $45. The price for convenience.
Day 3 of my Trip to Paris
TRAVELING FROM PARIS TO VERSAILLES
Our next day adventure was a visit to the Palace of Versailles. Deciding to take the train, we walk from our hotel to the train stop, or so we thought. Construction was going on on the train system so having to walk another mile to the next up good news is it was open. Now we had to figure out how to buy tickets from the machine, as the 1 service attendant was busy helping another customer. Ugh.
It took us about 15 minutes to figure out how to use the ticket machine; about 14 minutes too long. Another 10 minutes to try and figure out how to get through the gate; if you could’ve seen us. Jabronies. We looked like the typical confused tourists who we love to make fun of in Amsterdam. Finally on the right train, it felt like I was on a submarine or a school bus, it was so awkward. Versailles is about a 40 min train ride from Paris.
ARRIVING TO THE PALACE VERSAILLES
Arriving to Versailles, we followed the crowds off the train and to the palace. The Palace of Versailles is about a half-mile walk away, past a large courtyard (doubles as a parking lot) surrounded by curved buildings. Crossing the large courtyard/ parking lot, we get to the gate but it’s only a security check; the line is spanning the length of the lot. FML. With a tourist bus unloading, I book it to make it in line before them. Well that didn’t happen. Knowing it was going to be busy, I knew we should’ve left earlier. I chose to go on a Saturday specifically to see the fountain show in the Gardens. I guess so did everyone else.
After waiting in a 30 minute bag check line, we get to the entrance gates. Oh but wait, it’s another line. The entrance line wrapped spiraled around the interior courtyard, minimum 1.5 hour wait. Noooooooooo. It was noon by this time, 84 degrees, no shade, no breeze, no water, no food; nothing. It was brutal. You can purchase tickets inside the building to the left, or if you have tickets you can enter in the building in front of you. Entry is about €25; for more information on the Palace of Versailles.
We are were being herded in like cattle. What if it’s like this the whole way, I lightly joke to Matt. Well it wasn’t a joking matter because it happened. F. Part of this giant hoard of people, you are pushed from room to room with barely any time to enjoy where you are. After seeing the magnificent Hall of Mirrors, we had enough of the crowds. Grabbing a quick lunch inside, we head out to the gardens.
LE JARDIN & THE FOUNTAIN SHOW
Oh wait, what do we have here…another line. Comical at this point. We have spent more time waiting in lines than actually seeing and experiencing things. The gardens have a different entrance, just past the Palace’s entrance, and a separate fee of €9, but only during the days of the musical fountain show.
Sprawling on nearly 2,000 acres, Le Jardins are just as massive and opulent as the inside the Palace of Versailles. You can spend an entire day plus just discovering every nook and cranny of the gardens. Do you want to go for a canoe ride, while feeding fish? Do you want to drink wine from a can? You want it, you got it. They serve drinks, water, beer, wine, and food through out the garden.
Making our way back towards the Palace, we wanted to watch the musical fountains show at 3:30 PM. The show is spectacular, with all 50 fountains going off at the same time. Synchronized, they all have a place with the beats of the music. For times and more information about the garden. This show only happens on weekends and Tuesdays, April throughout October, twice a day.
If I had to redo my visit to the Palace of Versailles, given the same weather, I would go straight to the gardens before the Palace. I would walk around the gardens, grab lunch outside, enjoy the fountain show at 2pm, and then by 3 or 4 pm I would had to the Palace. By the time, the entry line to the Palace is a 5 minute wait. Which also mean less people inside. #lessonlearned
Getting on the train back to Paris, we got some awesome views of the countryside and the river theme.
LAST SUPPER IN PARIS
For our last night out in Paris, our hotel made us a reservation at a nearby restaurant, L’Epigramme. Highly rated, the restaurant is small with only about 8 tables with a set menu; as most of the good places do. It is owned and operated by the cutest old lady and her daughter. It was the perfect setting and meal for our last night. I tried foie gras for the first time; not for me. What was for me was the beef that was cooked to perfection, and the dessert that I still dream about. Feeling a bit tipsy, we decided walk off some of the bottles of wine.
TOP OF THE EIFFEL TOWER
Saturday night, walking to the Eiffel Tower, we knew it was going to be packed. We decided if we could, we would go to the top of the tower.
Making our way to the line, we got into the tower within an hour of closing time. The line was fairly quick, but what wasn’t quick was having to climbing 10 stories to get to the 2nd level. There are elevators at all 4 entry points except the south corner of the tower…the one we went through.
Barely making it to the 2nd level, it is nice, but it ain’t the top. With only 5 minutes left to find the ticket desk and with no signage, we are barreling through hoards of people. I must go to the top.
Found it! Maybe…the guy was closing in the window, and my face just went from joy to pure devastation. The ticket man felt bad, and let us right through. Matt is not happy about this, he hates heights.
Finally we got to the elevator which takes you to a midpoint, and then you take a smaller glass elevator to the very top. Matt looked like he was going to puke, refusing to look out. To me, It felt like I was in Willy Wonka’s glass elevator. Reaching the top, the views were incredible. You could see the city lit up for miles and miles. This is a must. I definitely need to come back to the top of the Eiffel Tower during the day.
Day 4 of My Trip To Paris
We started that day like every other morning by walking. Walking to the catacombs, it takes us about 40 minutes. We are both super pumped until we see the long line wrapping around the building. Figuring it may move fast, we got in line. Well, we were robbed: about 30 minutes later we moved only six people forward. This is not happening. Buy tickets beforehand, or book a private tour to miss the lines I get there first thing in the morning.
Turning back around, we made our way towards the hotel. Walking about 20 to 25 minutes, we stumble upon the Jardin du Luxembourg. Not expecting much, Matt and I were both amazed by the beauty of the garden: open, green, well manicured. Walking up, the garden is lined with squared hedges, with green grass in the middle, opening up to a grand fountain surrounded by trees and large flowerpots. The garden can host the laziest to the most active person, with basketball courts, baci areas, ping pong tables. View our review of the Luxembourg Garden. Read my travel article: Experience Paris Top Things to see and do for more ideas on what to do on your trip to Paris.
Before grabbing our bags at the hotel, we had some oysters, wine, and people watch for the last hour and a half. I love Paris. Now for our 3 hour journey back to Amsterdam.