Sunday, November 25, 2018

My Paris Recap

This is really late in coming but I'm finally getting it written. I went to Paris October 11-16 with my best friend and traveling buddy Vicki. She and I took our first cross country trip when we were 16 years old to California, Las Vegas, the Hoover dam and the Grand Canyon. We took a break in traveling together for a few years when we were married and our kids were little, but here lately we've been to New York, Chicago and now Paris!

Arc de Triomphe

We were busy every single day. Starting with a walk, dinner and then a visit to the Eiffel Tower. We saw the light show at 9 p.m. and then headed to the hotel. We were up bright and early for our trip to Versailles.

Here are some tips for Versailles:

Get there super early, like 8:30 at the latest. They open at 9 a.m. but even at 8 a line is forming. Even if you buy a timed entry ticket, get there early.

Buy a ticket that will get you into everything. You'll just show that same ticket when you go into the gardens and to the Petit Trianon with now worries. You can purchase the ticket online.

Plan on spending the whole day there if you can. Rent a bike or a golf cart because it is huge. Like bigger than you probably imagine it to be. Marie Antoinette's home is a very far walk from the main palace.

If you rent a bike or golf cart be sure to budget the cost for keeping it for at least 3 hours. There's also a hop off and on tram that goes around the grounds.

When you go to Marie Antoinette's house, the Petit Trianon, you'll have to park and walk into the house first. Do not think you can take a shortcut around. You must enter through the house, through a metal detector and you have to show your ticket.

You still have to walk through the house to go see her hamlet town so you might as well see the house. The hamlet is a made up little town of some real houses and some facades. She built a little hamlet because she wanted to pretend to be a poor peasant. You can see why the poor people of France hated her, but she was just a spoiled kid.

Pack lunch, water and snacks if you are going to make it a day trip or plan on eating in the restaurant there in the palace.

If you take an Uber to Versailles when it comes time to leave, walk away from it before you order a car back. Always walk away from any major monuments and the price goes town substantially. We just walked down the main street that runs into the front entrance as far as the tourism office.

After Versailles we walked by Notre Dame but the line was too long so we just took pictures on the outside. Sunday we went to the Musee D'Orsay, Sainte Chapelle, the Pere Lachaise Cemetery and walked along the Champs Elysees until we go to the Arc de Triomphe.

Some people have told me that they'd rather see Sainte Chapelle instead of Notre Dame but since I've never been inside of Notre Dame I don't feel like I'm qualified to give that same advice. I can tell you that whether you go to Notre Dame or you don't, you MUST go Sainte Chapelle. It wasn't on our itinerary originally but when I was in Philadelphia connecting flights I went to the Rodin Museum there. The woman who worked there told me that I had to go to see Sainte Chapelle. Her art teacher had described it as a "jewel box turned inside out" and when I saw it it did live up to that description.

Stained glass of Sainte Chapelle
On our last day we did less but we did two big things We went to the Louvre in the morning and we went to Moulin Rouge in the evening.

When I went to Paris in 1987 my sister got pick-pocketed and ruined our chances of going to the Louvre because we spent the whole day looking for the police station to report her stolen birth certificate and driver's license. So for 31 years I have been looking forward to going back and seeing the Louvre. I wish I had planned better so I wouldn't have felt so disappointed.

Here is my Louvre advice. Get ready to walk a lot, almost as much as Versailles. Print out a floor plan BEFORE you go and plot the things you want to see. For example, you will pass Michaelangelo's Slave statue on your way to see the Mona Lisa. Stop and visit it then. So have a route you are going to take or you will find yourself walking in circles and disgusted.

And yes the Mona Lisa is tiny and they do not have an organized way for you to look at her. I would recommend to them that they rope it off and make everyone pass it in a single line, like they do the Virgin of Guadalupe in Mexico. It's a chaotic big crowd in front of the tiny photo and you may have a couple taking 20 selfies in front of you like I did. I finally told them to stop and move on.

Moulin Rouge is amazing. It's a cross between Cirque du Soleil and a burlesque show. Somehow I never realized that the dancers are topless the entire time. It's definitely something you have to see at least once in your life.

Over-all Paris is magical. I would like to go back but I would spread things out more and I wouldn't pack so many things into one day. We had to do that because we were only really there for four days. If I go again I will do less, and see some things I haven't seen, like other churches. The point is I will go again. It's definitely a place I want to take the kids. Until we meet again Paris!