We left Geneva in the early morning for another train ride, this time, through the lovely French countryside. We arrived at Gare de Lyon station at around 1pm and took a cab to our apartment in Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arrondissement. It's an amazing neighbourhood filled with art galleries, restaurants and street life. It was home to the existentialist movement after World War 2 and it sits across the River Seine from the Louvre.Read More
This morning, it was off for a massive circuit of Parisian landmarks. We started the day with a short metro ride down to the Champ de Mars to begin our journey. Starting from just in front of the École Militaire, the Eiffel Tower looks small, but us we wandered closer and closer, the sheer enormity of it quickly came upon us. It is a beautiful structure, conveying both strength and grace, as was the intention of it's designer, Gustave Eiffel. The lines to head up the tower were enormous, and we knew we could pre-book tickets and avoid the queue, so we stood in awe of her for a while before crossing the Seine and heading up to the Trocadéro for the postcard view of the tower, before jumping the Metro to our second destination.
Arc de Triomphe
Another of Paris' iconic landmarks, the Arc de Triomphe sits at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. Again, it doesn't seem that big until you get close. We were there only 2 days after the attack on Parliament Hill in Ottawa and there was a noticeable military presence around the arch. We had seen a similar presence in Milan around the Duomo square and it's pretty confronting, for us little Aussies, to see soldiers with automatic rifles patrolling around city streets.
The lift to the top was not working, so we grit our teeth and climbed the 290 odd stairs to the roof. It was well worth the effort and we were rewarded with some spectacular views of Paris.
Next we tackled the Champs-Élysées; the famous Paris avenue that is home to world class fashion and restaurants. Kind of wasted on us, but an interesting stroll anyway. At the end of the avenue we stopped in the park for crepes before jumping on the Metro for a short ride down to the Louvre.
The Louvre is another place I have waited all my life to visit. It's such a massive museum and we arrived at 5pm at the end of a very long day, so needless to say, it was the condensed visit.
We went into the basement to see the original foundations of the old castle that stood where the palace now stands. Then we headed into the sculpture halls to see wonderful works by Bernini, Michelangelo, as well as the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.
We then made a bee-line to the Grand Gallery and it's renaissance masterpieces. Raphael, Filippo Lippi and of course, Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Alas, with quickly waining children and creeping exhaustion, we cut our visit a lot shorter than we would have liked, and made our way across the Seine to our flat and a well deserved dinner.
This morning was the day I had been looking forward to the least, out of our whole trip, but it turned out to be one of the best - Disneyland.
We were up and out of the apartment at 8.30 - a record for Zoe and Che, and off to the train station for the 45 minute ride out to Chessy, where Disneyland Paris is located. The weather wasn't the best, but it was dry, at least. We started the day with a great street parade that had Zoe shedding tears of happiness and then, that started Michelle crying....Che just looked bemused, but the whole day was brilliant. We had our little children back for a day, as we romped around Disneyland for most of the day and then went over to Walt Disney studios about mid afternoon.
After a couple of hours there, it was back to Disneyland for dinner and about 2 hours of riding the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. We clocked up our 8th trip and then settled down for the big fireworks finale at 10pm. The kids loved every minute and it was wonderful to see that despite their attempts to grow up too fast, they are still very much, children at heart. Needless to say, our little people slept during the train ride, back to the apartment, but allowed me to stop for a couple of night time photos of the Institut de France.
Another day, another adventure on the Paris Metro, as we set of for the 40 minute ride out to Versailles. As soon as you leave the train station, you start to see the amazing 17th century buildings that made up Louis XIV's new capital of France. The nobility had grown tired of Paris and wanted a new centre of government, away from the the troubles and the rabble. They quickly established the city of Versailles. It was the seat of power in France from 1682 until the Revolution of 1789. The buildings are amazing, as is the surrounds of the Palace, but we began our visit with the world famous Gardens of Versailles.
The Gardens take up 800 hectares to the west of the Palace and are incredibly spectacular. A combination of perfectly manicured gardens and wonderful sculpture and water features. Once again, we had not planned nearly enough time to see all the Gardens has to offer, but what we did see made an indelible impression and we will certainly revisit here on our next trip.
After the beauty of the Gardens, we made our way inside to the overwhelming ostentatiousness of the Palace of Versailles. I was instantly reminded of our visit to the Vatican Museum, with pushy rude tourists taking selfies of themselves in tightly packed spaces. The Palace is far more gaudy than the Vatican, and stands more as a testimony to the extravagance of the French aristocracy, than anything else. While a great majority of the French people struggled, the nobility lived in absolute opulence, but we all know how that ended, don't we!
It was our last day in Paris and we had a lot of stuff we wanted to do, so it was another early start as we made our way over to Saint Michel Metro station past Fontaine Saint-Michel, stopping only to pick up some crepes for breakfast.
We took the Metro up to Sacré-Cœur. It sits atop Montmartre and is the highest point in the city. The views of the city were obscured by haze and low cloud, but it was clear and beautiful on top of Montmartre. We briefly thought about a climb to the top of the dome, but with the crappy haze over the city, we sided with conserving our energy for the big day ahead.
From Montmartre we wandered down the hill into the heart of the 18th arrondissement, in search of the Moulin Rouge. Little did we know that we would be walking through the Quartier Pigalle, on our way to the Moulin Rouge. Needless to say, the awkward questions were flying thick and fast from the kids. /facepalm
After our tour of one of Paris' more racey streets, we jumped the Metro and made our way, back across the Seine, to the Les Invalides. This place is part military hospital, part museum and most famously known as housing the tomb of Napoleon I. The chapel that houses Napoleon's tomb is known as Église Saint-Louis des Invalides. It's dome is stunning and can be viewed from many points around the city.
Les Invalides is only a short walk across to the Eiffel Tower and the day had turned into a beautiful one, so we decided to revisit it and catch the Metro from Champ de Mars back to St Michel.
With an hour or so of sunlight to go, we decided a boat tour on the Seine would be a brilliant way to end the day. It really is a fantastic way to see a lot of Parisian landmarks from a very comfortable vantage point. The sun was slowly disappearing as we approached the end of the tour and the light was superb.
A few days earlier, we were able to snag some tickets to head up inside the Eiffel Tower. 10pm tickets! So we enjoyed a wonderful Italian dinner before once more, jumping on the Metro and heading down to the tower. It is quite amazing, all lit up at night, and the views from the level 2 viewing floor was fantastic and plenty high enough! We couldn't get tickets to the summit, but the view we had was outstanding.
Tomorrow we leave Paris and head to London. I was quite overwhelmed with how much I loved Paris. At the beginning of our trip, it was probably part of the journey I was least looking forward to, but after 6 days in the City of Light, she had worked her magic on me.
Paris a volé mon coeur