View from atop the Arc de Triomphe
Although all of the cities that we visited on our trip were amazing, I’m glad that we spent the most time in Paris because of everything there was to see and do there. The city was vibrant, and yet, more relaxed than London. There were people walking around everywhere, but they didn’t seem to have the same sense of urgency. The Seine river was always littered with folks walking, picnicking, and just paying attention to life. Beyond all of the major tourist attractions, I really enjoyed walking through the streets and watching everything that was going on around us.
The biggest surprise for us about the city was the daylight hours. The sun was out every day until around 11 PM, if not later. If you want to see the city at night, you have to stay up pretty late, but it is worth it, if anything, to see the Eiffel Tower’s dazzling nighttime light show.
On top of the long daylight hours, there were a lot of restaurants open for dinner until at least 11 P, so we ended up eating a lot of very late meals. Ultimately, our internal clocks were all sorts of confused during our time in Paris.
Once again, we got really lucky that our hotel was conveniently located right next to a major public transit station (Châtelet - Les Halles, which is also a mall) in the heart of Paris. There were a lot of things to see within walking distance, such as the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, and Notre Dame, and the couple of times we couldn’t walk somewhere, we hopped on the RER or Metro. The only time public transportation failed us was when we were leaving for Copenhagen early in the morning. The first RER trip to the airport was too late, so we had to take a cab instead.
The food did not disappoint. The standard fare from street vendors, which are plentiful, is crepes and sandwiches. The food quality was consistently average across the vendors (at least for the vegetarian options), but the vendors were the cheapest and fastest meal option when on the go.
The restaurants and boulangeries (bakeries) were much better (unless you are a vegetarian/vegan).
One of the boulangeries we stopped at
I’m a big bread fan, and the bread everywhere was amazing. Fortunately, all of our meals were served with baguettes. The vegetarian meal options weren’t all that impressive, though I did run into one of the best margarita pizzas I’ve ever had (thanks to the crust). Everything that my GF got on the other hand looked and tasted amazing. My favorite meal ended up being at Aki, an authentic Japanese restaurant near the Louvre. I tried okonomiyaki (a pancake-type meal) for the first time, and it was absolutely delicious.
Our sightseeing was limited to the standard tourist attractions, and that was more than enough to fill up our 6 days. At most of the major sites you can climb to the top to see amazing panoramas of the city. We opted to do so whenever possible, and while breathtaking, it does get a bit stale after seeing it for the 3rd or 4th time. I think that the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe provided the best views.
The sites were all extremely crowded, but that rarely prevented us from seeing or doing whatever we wanted, except at Versailles, where we had to skip the palace because it would have been closing by the time we got through the lines. It was a blessing in disguise though, because we instead ended up taking a very relaxing stroll through the gardens behind the palace, where we came across some very cool fountains, like this one and this one, and the fountain show below.
More than anything, our time in Paris was marked by walking. We walked all over the place, occasionally spicing things up with a long climb up stairs. It was exhausting. I wish we had spent more time just lounging and taking it all in, but it is hard to not want to see as much of the city as possible because of how interesting it is.
Fortunately, we did spend a good portion of one night sitting on a pedestrian bridge in front of the Bibliothèque Mazarine watching the sun slowly set. All around us there were people talking, laughing, and enjoying the moment. We even had some live music from a few Chinese se performers to help set the mood. It was one of those moments in life that I won’t soon forget.