Paris: A City packed with fine art, architecture, shopping & sightseeing
Two days in Paris, the city of lights, is not enough time!
But… it was all the time we had. Our journey to Paris was the first leg of the AMA Waterway wine cruise package. After the two day journey in Paris, we headed to Bordeaux for a seven day riverboat cruise through the wine region. The trip ended with three glorious days in the Loire Valley. Even though two days in Paris isn’t enough time to see everything that was on our list, we did manage to pack in much as we could!
To describe Paris, to a Paris “virgin,” one has to define the layout of the city. The city of Paris is divided into arrondissements (administrative districts, or neighborhoods) which are situated on either the Right Bank (northern side) or the Left Bank (southern side) of the Seine. There are 20 arrondissements with the 1st located at the center of the city, on the Right Bank. The following arrondissements spiral outwards in a clock-wise direction. Most of the famous tourist attractions can be found in one of the central eight arrondissements.
Location, location, location!
Our hotel, the Crowne Plaza was located in the Republique Neighborhood, on the right bank, between the 3rd, 10th & 11th arrondissements. It is a lovely neighborhood that surrounds a central plaza, the Place de République. The plaza is lined with restaurants, pubs and pâtisseries, (bakeries) all within walking distance of our hotel.
A 31′ bronze statue of Marianne, the Goddess of Liberty sits in the center of the plaza. Marianne is surrounded by three statues representing Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (liberty, equality fraternity), the values of the French Republic.
Getting around Paris was easy. There were buses and cabs that stopped right outside the front door of our hotel, and a Metro station less than a half a block away. We either walked or took the Metro, which was an absolutely stellar transportation system. I found that people in France, don’t tell you how many miles or kilometers you are from your destination; they tell you how long it takes to walk there.
Day One in Paris
Dealing with jet lag is tough, but we still had a great first day in Paris. We opted to take a 30 minute walk to the Seine so we could purchase day passes for the Batobus; a hop-on-hop-off tour boat that cruises the river. The day passes allowed us to get on and off at as many stops as we wanted.
We hopped on at the Hôtel de Ville, did a half circle cruise around the city and then and hopped off at he Museum de Orsay. This converted train station/museum is smaller than the Louvre, but loaded with fabulous works of art. After returning to our stop at the Hôtel de Ville, we decided the Metro was a better choice for our return trip back to the Republique neighborhood, where we found a charming and affordable restaurant just off the main drag, full of local diners. After dinner we limped back to the hotel for a great night’s sleep!
Day Two – Our Final Day in Paris
We kicked the second day in Paris off at a lovely pâtisserie, where we dined on croissants, fresh squeezed orange juice and cappuccinos. On to the Metro station for day passes which cost only €14 each (around $15). The journey then led us to the fabulous Notre Dame Cathedral, on the Île de la Cité, an island in the Seine. From Notre Dame, we headed to Sainte Chapelle, a royal chapel, known for it’s incredible stained glass windows, also located on the Île de la Cité. What amazed us is both — these Gothic structures were built without the equipment or technology that we have today, and they’re still standing!
What is a trip to Paris without a visit to Ladurée, the grande dame of Paris pâtisseries, where the Macaron Mania began? Of course we weren’t going to let this opportunity pass… Hunger set in after the cathedral visits, so we headed to the Champs Elysée, where we found our pâtisserie and cafe. We enjoyed lunch and a well deserved rest. The meal was topped off with cups of decadent hot chocolate, the best in the world!
After lunch we headed to the Arc de Triomphe, the iconic monument built as a tribute to French soldiers lost in all wars. We took an elevator to the observation deck to be able to experience some of the best views in Paris. The Arc de Triomphe was a sobering and beautiful memorial to fallen soldiers.
As if the Arc de Triomphe wasn’t high enough, we forged on to the Eiffel Tower and proceeded to travel to the top, via elevator (of course). The views from the top were nothing short of magnificent, even for someone terribly afraid of heights. Luckily, there was a sturdy fence enclosing the observation deck! The day turned into evening as we descended. We were delighted by the light show the Eiffel Tower provided us with. This was the perfect ending to a beautiful two day excursion to Paris.
A final note on Paris
I can’t write about Paris without mentioning how impressed I was with the incredible architecture, the sculptures, gargoyles and the fine craftsmanship of the ironwork. If you are interested in fine art, architecture, shopping or sightseeing, Paris is the city to visit!