Hardly has a city ever been more romanticize, written about, painted about and sung about than Paris.
I tried to go into my time in Paris with no expectations, and I was absolutely blown away. I was surprised by how navigable the city is: The metro is easy to use, and many of Paris’ top tourist attractions are located centrally to others.
We saw as many of the highlights as we possibly could have seen in three and a half days.
Our first night we went to Caveau de la Huchette, a famous jazz club near Notre Dame. American artists sang and played piano and bass drums, while the audience, comprised of all walks of life, danced. The people watching was fantastic!
The next morning — our first full day — we began with the Eiffel Tower. Before we’d even left for our trip, tickets online were sold out, but a friend told us if we went as soon as they opened in the morning, we could still get tickets. We arrived around 7:30 a.m., waited for a bit, went through security, waited in a ticket line, purchased tickets to the top and hopped right onto an elevator. We took it to the second floor and then all the way up.
The view was unreal — the most amazing thing I’ve seen in my entire life. The pictures do not do it justice: early morning clouds with a 360 degree view of endless streets, courtyards and skyscrapers, the river, gardens, bicyclists, bridges and teeny tiny tourists, nearly indistinguishable from the trees. It was chilly 900 feet up, but we stayed a long time, soaking in the view of a lifetime.
After the Eiffel Tower, we hopped on a tourist bus, which was included in the Paris Pass we bought for easy entry into many attractions. We rode around the city, along the
Champs-Élysées, past the Arc de Triomphe.
That afternoon we explored the Galeries Lafayette, a swanky shopping area near our hotel and nearby the Palais Garnier, Paris’ famous opera house.
That evening we took a river cruise on the Seine, which allowed for a leisurely look at the beautiful, old buildings along the riverbank. Afterwards, we traveled over to Montparnasse and saw Paris illuminated at night from the observation deck of the Montparnasse Tower.
The next day we covered even more ground. We visited Monet’s water lilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie. Then we took the metro from Place de la Concorde to the Luxembourg Gardens. Manicured to perfection, the gardens are lovely, and it was a gorgeous sunny day to wander around. From there we walked to the Pantheon in Paris’ Latin Quarter.
We also walked to the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop, which has been home to traveling writers for more than 70 years. Notre Dame — just across the river — was beautiful on the outside, but damage to the top and backside was evident. Unfortunately we were unable to go inside, but we did visit Sainte-Chapelle, another church nearby. Its stained glass was beautiful and impressively detailed.
Late that afternoon, we spent an hour and a half at the Louvre. Tickets were also sold out, so we were lucky to even be able to get in. My mom and I waited in line that spanned several floors to see Mona Lisa, who had an entire room to herself for the tourist season.
We visited Sacré-Cœur in Montmartre, which is hugely impressive and beautiful, and we were able to stay for part of Mass. Exploring the steep but quaint little hilltop town, we enjoyed savory crepes and ice cream.
Our last day in Paris, we left the city to spend half the day in Versailles, where the lines were never-ending and the crowds suffocating. But my dad discovered you could skip the wait by taking a group tour, which cost only 10€ extra per person and was worth every bit. Versailles was just as opulent as you’d expect, and our tour guide was fantastic.
After we got back to Paris, we spent a few hours at the Musée d’Orsay, seeing famous works by Picasso, Renoir, Degas, van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne and dozens more.
While we were able to see so much of Paris in less than four full days, I cannot wait to back to the city of lights.