I originally had three full days to explore Paris, however, my original return date was cancelled, taking away one of those precious days, leaving me the option to come home a day earlier or stay 2 days more. We opted to come home a day early which still permitted me time explore Paris a little and get a taste for it. However, 2 days in Paris is not enough. I wished I could have had that extra day. I would actually recommend at least 5 days here if you really want to feel like you have visited Paris and the surrounding area.
Travel never seems to happen without a little drama. The day before our flight from Athens to Paris, there was an air traffic controllers strike, and we weren’t sure if we would be affected by it. Fortunately, we were not! We did have a delay of over 1.5 hours, so we arrived in Paris quite late, missing out on a evening in Paris. We pretty much went straight to bed.
My mini vacation here was arranged by my favourite European independent tour operator, Boutique Escapes and they did not disappoint changing my 4-night stay to a 3 night stay, rearranging my itinerary to keep what was important for me to see and experience and taking out some tours for our next visit to Paris.
I was little nervous about the strike action possibly affecting our flight and the 1.5 hour delay departing from Athens. I wanted to ensure that our private driver would be aware of our delay and wouldn’t leave us stranded at the airport, so I contacted Susan at Boutique Escapes and to my joyful surprise discovered that they too were in Paris. I was supposed to meet with them that first night for a walking tour, but our late arrival didn’t allow for that. Our driver did indeed wait for us, and when we arrived at our hotel (Hotel Madison), I got a text from Susan to go up one floor and look out the peep hole window. Taking her advice, we witnessed the Eiffel Tower in all her glory shimmering in the lights. Beautiful.
Our hotel was centrally located, allowing us to walk to most of the tourist sites – although the Eiffel Tower was a bit of a stretch – we actually took a taxi there. Everything else was within walking distance. I find Paris very tourist friendly, easily to get around, absolutely charming with narrow walkthroughs to explore, shops to spend time wandering through and the most amazing food to satisfy those Paris cravings. I’ll never be able to eat another croissant without comparing it to those I enjoyed for breakfast in Paris. They simply melted in my mouth. It does seem that food just tastes better in Paris! Oh – and the champagne – when in Paris – just have champagne!
Our first day there was a very busy day. Everything was within walking distance, so I left the heels, dress shoes and sandals behind and wore runners! We had arranged for a guided tour through the Louvre. I love museums and can spend hours in them. I strongly recommend a guided tour so as to skip the very long entrance lines at the ticket counter. We scooted past all that and walked right in. Once in the museum, with tour complete, you can just stay on your own and explore for as long as you wish. Tours will take you to the must sees in the museum and leave the rest for you to discover. Our guide had a master’s degree in art history, so he was fantastic. Yes, I saw the Mona Lisa up close and no, it’s not AS small as people say it is – it’s just that it stands alone on a very large wall! The Louvre is incredible.
After our walk through the Louvre, we did take time to meet up with Susan and Sandy from Boutique Escapes for lunch. I’m sure my husband was a little bit bored as we discussed all things travel!!! After our delicious lunch and further discussion about the secrets of Paris to be still discovered, we were headed to Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie. With the closure of Notre Dame, Sainte-Chapelle has dominated in exposing amazing stained-glass windows. It’s a royal chapel within the Palais de la Cite completed in 1248 after 7 years of construction and welcomes thousands of visitors. Again, we had pre-purchased our skip-the-line ticket and thank goodness for that! The absolutely stunning 15 stained glass windows are each 15 meters high and depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments. I kind of did a WOW! Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, so the windows remained a little dark when I was there – but WOW!
Attached to the chapel is the Conciergerie, a tribunal hall and prison where Marie-Antoinette was held. This is a sobering encounter with history. Be prepared to encounter armed guards here.
Our day was still not complete as we had confirmed a dinner cruise on the Seine on board the refurbished Le Calife. Originally built in 1939 to transport cargo, it now serves as a luxury restaurant sailing up and down the Seine. The 3-course meal is delicious, and the two-hour cruise is well orchestrated for you to enjoy your meal while cruising by Paris landmarks at night. Unfortunately, we did not have the best seats and service was a little lacking, but apparently that’s not the norm. Not sure I can go as far as recommending this one since I personally didn’t have a great experience, but the food really was delicious. After the cruise we were back at our hotel around 11:00 pm and sought out those very comfy pillows!
Day 2. A visit to Versailles and its gardens was on my personal hit list, and I did manage to keep it in our abbreviated itinerary. It was an early morning departure and a bit of a walk, so we opted for a taxi right to the pickup location. Fortunately, we discovered a café right on the corner open for breakfast and again, when in Paris, I had crepes! Fantastic! Depending on traffic, it’s about a 1-hour drive to Versailles, and we certainly found traffic! Again, our tour guide had a degree in history, sharing little secrets with us along way throughout the tour of the Palace. We were on our own to explore the gardens, and I wish I had just a little more time there. The palace is extravagant, and the life of Louis XIV just can’t be explained – it has to be experienced with a tour through this magnificent palace.
For our return to Paris, Boutique Escapes had recommended a lunch spot just 10 minutes from the Eiffel Tower, so of course, I’m going to give it a try! Café Centrale – so easy to find that we almost walked right by it – window seat and charming waitress and excellent food! What more can you ask for?
Re-energized by the delicious food, we were off to the Eiffel Tower, because of course, every good tourist has to go to the Eiffel Tower! So, we had seen it from our peep-hole window at the hotel all shimmery and sparkly, we saw it during in the distance during the day from the Louvre, we saw it from the boat during our dinner cruise on the Seine and here we are looking up at it – way up! It’s not that pretty to look at during the day. But it is impressive. Again, we were holding a timed entry ticket and they stick to it – you can’t get in early, so don’t worry about arriving an hour or so before your timed entry. The lines were insane, and the elevators jammed packed. I actually wore my mask for the first time in Paris. Is it worth it? Well, the view is amazing. It’s best from the summit, but pictures aren’t as clear as it’s closed in. From the second floor, you’ll get stunning views without the glass enclosure, albeit not as awe inspiring. There’s a café and gift shop on the second floor and champagne flows at the summit. You’ve gotta go up but be prepared for the crowds!
Another long day and absolutely exhausted! I missed seeing a lot of the tourist attractions, just because we ran out of time.
Remember in Paris, a little French goes a long way! Always say “bonjour” and “au revoir”. “Merci” is always appreciated! Take your time in restaurants to savour your meal. Chat it up if you can and enjoy the experience.
Viva la Paris! I’ll return again!!! Afterall the champaign, croissants and charm of this city are calling to me.
Other Posts in this Series
My trip to Greece and Paris is broken down into 4 Chronicles posts (including this one). I hope you enjoy them:
- My First Significant Vacation Since COVID: Greece & Paris
- Relaxing on the Island of Samos
- Cruising the Greek Islands with Norwegian Cruise Lines
- Paris – Why Did it Take Me So Long? (this post)
You can also check all my photos from the trip in my Gallery.