This past Monday was the last official “Bank Holiday” of the year in Britain. I still have yet to do my research on what these generically termed days off are actually in celebration of, but regardless of the meaning, I am just so thankful for the extra day spent as a troop of three!
The holiday weekend provided us with a wonderful opportunity to relax and roam the gorgeous streets of Paris. It really is a perfect, quick trip from London, and it didn’t take us long to decide we’ll be taking advantage of this great weekend getaway more often during our stint in the UK! The train left at 8:25am Saturday morning, and by noon we had made it to the hotel, checked in and were headed out to find lunch.
Not surprising, I’m sure, but once we were refueled and re-energized, we began our walk through town. As the name suggests, our hotel – Hotel d’Orsay – was situated just across the street from the Musee d’Orsay and provided impressive access to most of the city’s highlights. From the Musee d’Orsay to the Louvre, through the Jardin des Tuileries, along the Champs Elysees and past the Arc de Triomphe, down to the Tour Eiffel and back across town, we took in magnificent views of the Tower from every angle and got our bearings. (Unfortunately, issues arose leading up to the weekend away that had us convinced we would be unable to make this trip, so planning and forethought were non-existent for this adventure!)
The street cafés and lounge chairs lined up around fountains and flower beds create such a sophisticated and peaceful atmosphere in a town known for crowds of tourists and busy shopping streets. They also provide a perfect place from which to watch those crowds of devoted tourists and heavily-bagged shoppers, so we stopped often to enjoy the sunshine and sights.
Sunday morning, we headed the opposite direction along the river, and after indulging in the tradition of tying a lovers’ lock to the bridge railings, enjoyed a stroll along the tree and vendor lined street down to Notre Dame.
Troy and I were rather tired heading in to the weekend and not in the “touristy” mood to queue and wait hours to make our way through too many historical sites, but we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly the long line moved at the Cathedral. The architecture and stain glass windows were simply breathtaking. I’m sure we could have spent quite a bit more time inside, however, we were up against the clock and wanted to see the Jardin du Luxembourg before summiting the Eiffel Tower later in the day. The Jardin du Luxembourg – dubbed the “garden of children” by Napoleon – offered beautiful, peaceful gardens, fountains (the Medici Fountain is ranked among the top 10 in Paris), playgrounds, the Palais du Luxembourg and the original Statue of Liberty. A little breath of nature in the midst of the city!
Sunday afternoon brought another highlight of our weekend – a trip up the Eiffel Tower. A few years ago, I developed a crazy fear of heights…I don’t know where it came from as I used to LOVE heights and thrills, but it’s here and doesn’t seem to want to leave, and it almost got the better of me on our trip to the summit (the tower has two levels of viewing decks). Thankfully, my dear husband would not put up with my protests of heading all the way to the very top, and we managed to observe fantastic, sunny views of Paris and the surrounding countryside.
Monday was wet. Very wet. As a result, we re-evaluated our museum-free weekend standpoint and headed across the river to visit the Mona Lisa. We wandered the great halls of the Louvre for about an hour, taking in as many of the incredible pieces of art as we could. Once carrying the buggy up and down the grand stairs got tiring (they do have elevators, but Troy and I may have been a bit impatient…) and the baby started wiggling, we moved on to do a little shopping.
The last afternoon coffee in Paris was shared with the likes of Picasso and Hemingway at Les Deux Magots. Though we didn’t see any famous faces of today, it was fun to imagine the days when the great writers and creators would gather here to drink and dream.
A few hours later, we were happily settled back in London, reminiscing on one of the more casual and relaxed vacations our family has taken in a while. Paris, merci et a bientot!
-Want VIP access to the ticket hall at the Louvre? Take a stroller (baby included…) and skip the whole line! Then, use the automated ticket counter downstairs and leave the buggy at coat check while you roam the museum. The time saved is almost unbelievable ;-)
-If you are unable to purchase sightseeing tickets online prior to your trip, it is possible to still pass on the line and buy tickets from local tour groups instead. Great use of time as a separate entrance is used at the Eiffel Tower (and you don’t actually have to stick with the group!), but do your research on the tour group you’re buying from…GetYourGuide didn’t quite do it for us!
-Hotel d’Orsay provides the option of taking breakfast in the parlor or your hotel room. At no extra cost. With E in tow, we are typically up and about during serving hours, but cannot seem to make it downstairs in time, therefore, often starting our days slow and hungry. This option was AMAZING. A perk we will definitely take into consideration for future hotels!