You know how sometimes people tell you how great a place is, and then you go, and it doesn’t quite measure up to your expectations? Paris is not one of those places. Paris met all of my expectations and more.
With my job, I can normally choose if I’d like to go with my Italian family on vacation or do as I please. When they told me this year’s Easter destination, I could not say no. I was a bit disappointed that I had lived in Europe for over a year and had not yet visited Paris, so this was the perfect excuse.
We arrived in Paris Saturday, late afternoon and took a taxi to our hotel. The boys (and me) were very excited to see the tower, so after dropping off our luggage, that became our first destination. The metro system in Paris is fantastic (I’d recommend day passes-especially if you’re under 25). We waited in line to enter the area below the tower, but opted out of climbing it for the moment due to the long ticket lines (in part II, I’ll talk more about the do’s and don’ts of the tower).
During this trip I also became very educated in the parks/playgrounds of Paris. So to anyone traveling with kids- there’s a small, but nice playground in the park to the South/East of the tower. After some necessary playground time, we found a restaurant for dinner and then headed back to the hotel for the night with some very tired kids.
Easter Sunday I was free up until early evening. This was the second Easter that I’ve been away from home. Last year, I went to the Vatican and this year I chose Notre-Dame. I always miss home a bit more on the holidays, but come on, there are worse places I could be.
I missed my metro stop and asked a metro worker for directions. She didn’t speak English, but she did speak Italian. I proceeded to get lost again after my bus stopped with no excuse, and when I asked a couple on the street they were Italian. So my Italian was actually more useful to me in Paris than my English.
I arrived during mass, and though I didn’t understand most of it (due to my poor Italian and lack of Catholic knowledge), I still enjoyed simply taking it all in while in a building that’s been around since the late 1100s.
After circling through the cathedral a few times, I continued on my way. I had booked a free walking tour through Sandeman’s City Tours and I would absolutely recommend it! First, if I haven’t mentioned it before, most European cities offer some type of free walking tour where an organization, typically run by local college students looking to make some cash, take tourists on a 2-3 hour walking tour while covering historical monuments and the history behind it all. It’s a fun way to see the city and learn about it. At the end, they accept tips if you feel it was worth it. It’s a name your price tour, in a way. Please please please do this when traveling Europe on a budget! You won’t regret it! My tour that day was at 1pm, so I had just enough time to grab a bite to eat between Easter Mass and the tour.
My tour hit most of the main sights and some not so common ones. For example, in the Latin Quarter, you can find the smallest street in Paris, Rue du Chat Qui Peche (street of the fishing cat). While walking through this street, you can easily touch both sides with your hands. It’s all that is left of what most of Paris used to look like. We walked past Notre-Dame and learned the history of the Hunchback of Notre-Dame (and the possible truth that may have come with it). Next was the Palace of Justice. Along our tour we stopped under Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris. Continuing, down and across the Seine, we arrived at the Louvre. Fun fact, the Louvre is so massive, that if you spent just three seconds on every single painting, sculpture, and artwork inside it, it would take you nine months to see it all. Nine months. Unfortunately I did not have the time to begin to tackle this museum, but it’s on my list for next time.
The tour ended in the Tuileries garden, after which I continued walking through to end at Piazza della Concordia. I was greeted with a mini festival and food trucks everywhere. I figured it was past time I had my first real French crepe, and I was definitely not disappointed. I hopped on the metro then to meet up with my Italian family. On the way, I also stopped for my first macarons at a small French bakery… I am choosing to believe that calories don’t count in Paris.