And walk we did! On Sunday in Paris we walked about 10 miles. But it was so worth it! When Joshua suggested the idea of going to Paris for my birthday I was so overwhelmed and excited by the possibility. That fact that we could just go to Paris for the weekend, what an idea! I’m so thankful for his willingness to go on this adventure with me and it was a dream to see the places that I had studied and seen in my French textbooks.
For anyone that knows me well they know that the first task of vacation planning for the Bockus clan usually involves spreadsheets and budget organizing. I usually spend a lot of time doing this. For this trip, it took one day because I was so excited. So let us walk you through our adventure!
We woke up at 5 AM and walked to the St Albans train station to hop on our first train. We then switched to the Eurostar train at the station in London. Neither of us having traveled by train in Europe, it was interesting to see the process. The security was much more relaxed than at an airport, but we felt no less secure. It was nice to be able to bring drinks and snacks on the train ahead instead of having to worry about not being able to go through security with it.
Also, being that we were entering the international terminal, on both ends of our trips we first went through the current country’s security and then right away went through the second country’s security, and did not have to go through any security when we got off the train, which was very convenient.
We traveled light with just a backpack for each of us, which ended up working out well because we didn’t have to worry about lugging around large suitcases. Of course I had read blogs and such before going and they had warned us of many scams and pickpockets, but I can say that we never were approached by anyone or to our knowledge, pick pocketed.
We took the metro from the station to our first stop at Notre Dame and also our first onslaught of tourists. They were everywhere! At first, we tried to not get in other peoples’ photos, but there were so many being taken it was impossible. We took the touristy photos out front and then walked around the whole building to see the beautiful architecture and renowned flying buttresses. We had decided ahead of time to not go inside Notre Dame, instead opting to go into another Gothic chapel on the island, Sainte-Chapelle. Here’s a little bit about it:
It was breathtaking. The light streaming in through the beautiful stained glass windows was such a picture. We tried to capture it on camera and you can see them on the photos page.
Afterwards we found some lunch in Le Marais district. This is where we spent our afternoon walking around the shops. But our first stop was Yummy & Guiltfree and it was delicious! All their waffles are gluten free and sweet or savory. I got chocolate and Joshua got a savory vegetable one. All of the shops were decorated for Christmas and fun to wander through. After an hour or two of walking around we eventually made our way to Place de la Bastille and sat down for a rest for a bit.
Side Note: Some people asked us when we got back if we saw anything about all the fuel strikes that were going on. This is the only place we saw a few people in yellow vests, but there were no large gatherings and we were fortunate to not encounter any dangerous situations while in Paris.
Afterwards we walked to the hotel, the Crowne Plaza, where we were staying for the first night. It was wonderful to feel a soft cozy bed after walking so much. Also, the hotel was very kind and delivered to our room some macarons for my birthday which we enjoyed. We rested for a bit and then went out in search of an iconic french snack, a baguette and cheese! We found a bakery open later and then went to a fromagerie which was such a fun experience. Needless to say I was a happy camper with my cheese and bread. We also enjoyed a nice meal at the club lounge at the hotel that night, including mini cheeseburgers and delicious french desserts!
The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast at restaurant in the hotel and then we took the metro to the Louvre. Luckily we had bought tickets online which guarantee a 30 minute entry and we actually got in within 5 minutes of arriving. It was so nice that they had free lockers for our bags and coats so we didn’t have to carry those around, a nice rest for our backs, especially on the hard marble floors. I had been so organized and made a list of the artworks we wanted to see, as advised by many people as the museum is so large. But what we were unprepared for was the confusing layout. We had a map in hand and still managed to get lost 3-4 times. But eventually we did find all the pieces we wanted to see and even some we didn’t plan on taking time to admire. It was a lot of walking and a little overwhelming to navigate, but definitely worth it!
Afterwards we walked along and found the Happy Caffe. It had been recommended on multiple travel sites and was delicious. Josh got a savory chicken croquette as well as some delicious donuts with various fillings and I got a crepe with Nutella and strawberries. We sat in the park to eat and watched them setup for the Christmas festival that was taking place the next weekend.
Then we got lost a couple times trying to find the metro station for the Arc de Triomphe, which was lucky because we came upon the Obelisk which hadn’t been on my list but was delighted to see as I remembered it from French class.
Once we arrived at the Arc, it was fun to see the chaos around it. So many streets and cars whizzing by, with no lane markers. And the streets around have so many wonderful shops/stores. Most were closed as it was Sunday, but just seeing the window displays was fun. We walked those streets on our way to our final destination for the night, the Eiffel Tower.
And oh what a dream. We arrived at the base early evening and then by the time we left, across the river, the lights had come on and it was even more magical. We had seen it at various points throughout the day from various sites, but until we were under it I didn’t quite understand how large it was. It is quite the feat of engineering. We enjoyed quite a bit of time there just taking it in and enjoying the hustle and bustle of the other tourists around us.
Afterwards, we rode the metro to our hotel for the evening, the Intercontinental. We were able to stay here due to Josh’s travelling for work so much in previous years, and so glad that there was one perk to all the travelling. It was beautiful! There were a few formal events going on at the hotel when we arrived so needless to say we felt we stuck out like sore thumbs amongst the men in tuxes and ladies in formal floor length evening gowns. Luckily they didn’t turn us away 😉 And we were delighted by our hotel room and even a surprise in the room for my birthday. a beautiful pastry, drinks and some oranges!
After dropping off our bags we went to one last iconic point from my french textbook, Les Galeries Lafayette. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas as well and it was fun to go to the top and look down on all the levels. It was fun to walk amongst the various shops and Josh was even sweet enough to purchase a sweater (jumper) for me. Afterwards, we caught a late dinner and then meandered back to the hotel.
The next morning we caught the metro to the train station, got some delicious pastries, made it through security, and floated home on a cloud (or train). Needless to say, I’m so grateful for the opportunity and it was beyond my wildest expectations. Our next great adventure will be coming home to the States in 27 days and we can’t wait to celebrate the holidays with family.
- Metro Tickets: The benefit of planning your trip ahead of times allows you to estimate how often you might need the metro versus walking. We knew we were taking about 8 trips (4 each) on the metro, so looked ahead of time and found that you can buy 10 tickets to use at anytime so this is what we bought once we arrived. They were selling the 10 pack on the train, but they were more expensive than buying them at the station.
- Tickets ahead of time: For both the Louvre and Saint Chapelle, the only two places we paid to get into, we bought tickets ahead of time and it was SO worth it. We bought skip the line tickets from tiquets.com for Saint Chapelle, and they were actually cheaper than the tickets for regular entry on regular website. Also if you buy your tickets online for the Louvre, you’re guaranteed entry within 30 minutes, we got in within 5 minutes.
- Backpacks: We were hesitant about carrying backpacks due to pickpockets and also multiple sites said we would look like “such tourists”, but EVERYONE has backpacks, you can’t even tell who is local or a tourist, and like I said earlier, we didn’t have to worry about pickpockets at all.