While in Paris, we had a pretty big list of places we wanted to see. Sarah and Scott had done some excellent research on what to see, so we just tagged along :) Thankfully, Justine and Andrew knew exactly how to get from sight to sight, so we didn't get lost. Not sure if you know this or not, but Paris is HUGE. Like, absolutely massive. Mind-boggling giant. And there are people everywhere. So many people. I guess that's to be expected for a city founded in the 3rd century B.C. that is over 40 square miles and has a population of 2.2 million (not counting the thousands of tourists).
On our list of places to see where many iconic Parisian sights: the Eiffel tower, Arc de Triomphe, Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame, the Lourve, and Napoleon's grave. We even managed to see them all (and some more!) over the course of two days! And we got TONS of pictures to share with you!
We stayed in the Opera district of Paris in the 9th arrondissement. We weren't far from the Gare St. Lazare train station, if you know where that is. One of the bonuses of staying in this area is the amazing amount of shopping and restaurants nearby. Each night, we would grab dinner at one place, and then go to another for coffee or dessert or another beer (sometimes all 3!). It also gave us easy access to public transit, which we used a ton of. It really is the only way to travel in Paris - the streets looked far to treacherous to drive. One warning though, the metro smells. Mostly of urine, but of other, non-pleasant, things as well. Anywho, on to pictures!
These gardens are HUGE! We were there on a Sunday and discovered that Parisians like to do the same things as the Germans on Sundays: relax outside. There were hundreds of people picnicking, playing with their kids, sunning, reading a book, or having a bottle of wine in the gardens. The main thuroughfare has three sets of lawns. The ones on the sides have signs posted that sitting on the grass is not allowed, but the middle one, sitting on the grass was allowed. And people were taking full advantage of it!
At one end is a pond and you can rent little sailboats to play with. They aren't motorized, so they are completely dependent on the wind - just make sure you watch where yours goes!
Napoleon's tomb is housed within the large Hotel des Invalides. The large complex contains a church, the museum, Napoleon's tomb, and a hospital for soldiers. Even today, many soldiers that are wounded in battle are sent here to receive their medical care.
Behind the church is where Napoleon's tomb lies. His lies at the center, one level below the main level, and is flanked by 4 tombs on each corner: the tombs of Marechal Foch, Joseph Bonapart, Jerome Bonapart, and Marachal Lyautey. All around, the mausoleum is very ornately decorated.
Also in the same complex, but in another building, is a military museum. With your ticket to see the tomb, you also gain access to the museum. We didn't have time to do it justice, but if you like French military history, or just military history in general, it looked like a pretty interesting museum.
Another iconic sight in Paris is the Cathedral of Notre Dame. During a bout of insomnia leading up to our trip to Paris, I had watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame (research, I told myself). It is nothing like in the movie, but I did have the opening song stuck in my head for just about the entire trip. The eyes of Notre Dame? Not quite a piercing as in the movie either.
The cathedral was actually quite a bit smaller than I imagined it would be. But it was still beautiful and the history associated with the cathedral is amazing. Surprisingly, the inside was lit, one of the few times I have ever seen a large cathedral illuminated during non-mass times.
We only got to see the inside (we didn't climb the tower), but there were some stunning icons and artwork.
Bank of the Seine
In an effort to try to find the right metro station, we inadvertently visited one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in Paris: the bank of the Seine. It's a nice little walkway set below the main street level. We didn't follow it for long, but it was a nice way to escape some of the busyness of the main streets for a little while.
Arc de Triomphe
Another iconic sight in Paris: the Arc de Triomphe. Located in the middle of a roundabout, Place Charles de Gualle at the end of Champs d'Elysees. It honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. It also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I. It's huge! Way bigger than I expected it to be. You can climb to the top, but the line was too long to wait (we had more to see and do!). But we still made sure to capture some shots in front of it.
The Eiffel Tower
No trip to Paris is complete without a trip to see the Eiffel Tower, perhaps the most iconic sight in all of Paris. Built in 1889 for the World's Fair, it was supposed to be a temporary structure. Over 100 years later, it's still standing. Of course once you go and see the Eiffel Tower, you have to go to the top. I do have one tip for this if you're planning on going yourself: buy your tickets in advance. It took us an hour in line to buy tickets, 45 minutes to get to the first level, and then another 45 minutes to get all the way to the top. Had we planned ahead, a lot of waiting could have been eliminated.
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We managed to see and do a lot in Paris in just two days. Honestly, to really enjoy the stuff you're doing and the history you're seeing, make sure to leave yourself more time than you think you will need. It's nice to be able to go from sight to sight, but it's also nice to have the time to stop at a cafe, have a cup of coffee in the afternoons, and people watch (and rest your feet!). Is there anything we missed in Paris? And here are some more pictures from our trip!