Europe, Day Three: Four Corners, Four Views of Paris
Posted Apr 19 2013 2:21pm
Recaps so far:
Looking back on our third day in Paris, I’ve learned two things. First, that we have a tendency to pack our days to the brim (thank you, decent walking shoes). Second, that we managed to explore four corners of the city with four breathtaking views – and it was worth it!
Our morning began with a stop at Ladurée , the well-known 19th-century Parisian tea salon.
We visited the Champs-Élysées location near our hotel. I loved the light green facade and gold logo.
But the real reason to visit Ladurée is le macaron . They come in every color and flavor you could possibly dream up. Bobby and I had a hard time narrowing it down to eight!
Ultimately, we went with (from left to right): rose, pistachio, Marie Antoinette (surprise, surprise), caramel with salted butter, chocolate, raspberry, vanilla and the seasonal red fruits.
It’s hard to choose a favorite, but the rose macaron was the most interesting with its floral aroma and – no other way to describe it – rosy sweet taste. And the Marie Antoinette won points for its vibrant blue color and namesake. I wish I could pinpoint exactly what ingredients were in it, but I can’t seem to find the recipe online. All I know is that each of these macarons was bursting with the flavor of their key ingredient. I wish I could have taken some home with me!
We enjoyed the macarons throughout our day of exploration. First stop: Notre Dame .
The iconic cathedral is currently celebrating 850 years, and as a result is undergoing various restorations that include new bells, lighting improvements, renovating the Great Organ and more. A large ramp and bleachers are set up right in front, which turned out to be a nice resting point later in the day despite taking away that perfect photo opp.
Our tour began inside the church, with its arched brick ceilings…
…and stunning stained glass windows.
We then headed back outside to explore the facade. It was very cold and overcast this particular morning, but that didn’t stop us from getting in line to climb the tower! While we waited, I grabbed us a pair of crêpes au sucre (sugar crepes), which briefly warmed and sweetened our taste buds.
We also took turns exploring the side and back of the cathedral. Here’s that stained glass window.
Finally, our turn arrived and we made our way up the 402 steps (at least according to this source ).
The exercise warmed us up even more, and was worth it for the gorgeous – albeit foggy – view of Paris. We could just barely make out the Eiffel Tower and gold dome of the Invalides in the distance.
From our perch, we were inspired to ponder life with one of the many Notre Dame gargoyles – oh what they must have seen over the generations. If only they could talk.
The view looking east was pretty fantastic, too.
We also peeked into the doors of the bell tower.
We ended up climbing even more steps after the first stop to get a view from the very top of the tower. It was equally gorgeous and immensely high, which prepared us well for the next sight of the day. A quick trip on the metro bridged the gap between Notre Dame and Champ de Mars. It was finally time to scale La Tour Eiffel.
Even the fog couldn’t hide its overwhelming presence.
We scheduled our elevator ride in advance on this site , which I would highly recommend doing. With hundreds of people waiting in lines for tickets and one elevator out of service, the ability to simply walk up and present our printed online ticket made a huge difference.
We made it to the second level easy enough, and waited in a small line for a lift to the summit. The wind was ferocious but the view made everything better.
We enjoyed the views from the top, as well, but it was the elevator ride that was the most thrilling!
With a prime spot on the way back down, I captured a quick video . You can check it out below:
Ultimately we decided not to wait for the lift from the second floor to ground level, choosing to descend the stairs instead. You can bet by this point we were feeling the effects of the Notre Dame climb, but it was fun and exhilarating to feel the wind between the latticed metalwork. I lost count of how many stairs it takes to reach the bottom, but it seems there are more than 600 . Whew!
At this point it was midday, but our crepes and macarons were keeping us full so we decided to head to our next major site: Basilique du Sacré Cœur . By now we had been to the southeast and southwest corners of Paris, so why not head northeast?
Another ride on the metro brought us to Montmatre , a beautiful, hilly neighborhood of Paris that boasts views on nearly every street corner, in addition to what was quickly becoming a common theme in our day: more STAIRS!
I loved walking by the various artists, who were proudly selling their paintings and photographs.
It wasn’t long before we reached the “white, wedding cake basilica,” a term from Frommer’s that is a perfect description. Sitting atop the highest hill in Paris, the ivory facade is incredibly grand.
We sat on the stairs billowing out from the base of the church in order to enjoy our third view of Paris for the day. There was also a man doing some impressive tricks with both one and two soccer balls on a stone pillar. No big deal, right? He was fun to watch and drew a big crowd.
We snapped a quick photo after finishing up our macarons – say hello to adidas above my head!
Then we hopped aboard yet another metro train to make our way toward the center of the city. There were two women we were eager to see, and their names were Mona and Venus.
Not quite as awesome is how small the Mona Lisa is in person. Having seen her once before, I knew what to expect, but Bobby was surprised. Still, we both are da Vinci fans and eagerly joined in with our fellow paparazzi to take Mona’s photo.
We meandered along the hallways of the Louvre for a while, listening to our Rick Steves podcast (again, can’t recommend those enough) and eventually paying a visit to Venus de Milo . She was gorgeous. After our trip to Europe I have even more appreciation for the amount of work that goes into paintings and sculptures. The fact that so many of these artists’ proudest achievements are still with us today is truly impressive.
Once we were back outside the Louvre we went for a stroll along the Seine, ultimately coming across Pont des Arts . Unfortunately, we didn’t know the story behind the bridge and its love locks until we had already left for Paris. If you also aren’t familiar (please tell me I’m not alone…), lovers from all over the world come to this bridge to attach padlocks engraved with initials and sweet messages, then throw the keys into the Seine.
I felt so unromantic leaving this bridge without attaching a lock, but we consoled ourselves with the fact that we still feel pretty good about our odds of eternal love. And it was very cool to see the locks left by past visitors. Perhaps someday we’ll return and leave our mark.
We kept walking east until we reached Pont Neuf , which despite its name (“new bridge”) is the oldest standing bridge in Paris. We crossed over it to reach the Île de la Cité , one of two islands in the Seine. It’s home to Notre Dame and, according to Rick Steves, is where Paris really began .
Though we had already seen Notre Dame, there was another stop on the island that we didn’t want to miss: the beautiful Sainte-Chapelle . Lucky us, the clouds had parted just in time!
With sunlight pouring in through the windows, the chapel is hands down one of the most brilliant and awe-inspiring sights in all of Paris. The level of detail in the stained glass is unrivaled.
By this time we were starting to get pretty hungry. But once again our desire to explore was winning over the urge to sit down and eat. So instead, we compromised and picked up a pair of ham and cheese crepes, our final crepe experience in Paris.
I’d argue it was also the best crepe experience! Though the sweet crepes are delicious, this savory version was on another level. Maybe it was also the view we had while eating it. I guess those bleachers were worth it, after all.
After devouring our mini-meal, we walked through the winding alleys near Saint-Germain-des-Prés and Saint-Michel, packed with tiny shops and Greek restaurants. I found myself thinking about The House I Loved and those major renovations that created modern Paris in the 1860s.
Though our legs were exhausted, they somehow carried us all the way to the Invalides and Pont Alexandre III , both of which were fun to look at and appreciate for their gilded splendor.
But the excitement from the past two days of nonstop sightseeing was finally starting to hit us. We decided to forgo our dinner out and instead picked up an assortment of goodies to bring back with us to our hotel. First, we stopped by a small grocery store to buy a bottle of champagne – Charles Vincent , to be exact – and a wedge of edam cheese , which reminded me of gouda.
Despite not having quite enough energy for a full sit-down meal, we really enjoyed our wine, bread and cheese feast! It revitalized us for our fourth corner and final view of Paris, from the top of the Arc de Triomphe . The underside of the arch was fun to see at night.
Though it was only a few blocks from our hotel room, we got in yet another workout climbing 284 more steps . That’s a grand total of more than 2,000 steps (up and down) for the day! Obviously most Parisians don’t find themselves climbing up the stairs of tourist attractions most days, but based on our full 48 hours of walking the streets, it is pretty evident that Mireille Guiliano’s book about French women is the real deal.
We timed our trip to the top so that we arrived minutes before the Eiffel Tower light show.
Of course, cameras can’t do it justice – but I tried! Check out some of the show in this video :
We couldn’t have asked for a better view to end our time in the City of Light. We made our way back to the hotel for an early bedtime followed by an even earlier wake-up call. And so began the next leg of our European adventure. More to come…