I’ve invited my friend Michelle to guest post today. Michelle and her hubby have 4 kids ranging from 9-15. Last summer, they bravely took the entire brood to Paris. Here’s her account of the trip- she can plan my trips anyday! Moral of the story- only travel to Europe AFTER Michelle has been there and done this for me…
Thinking Springtime in Paris?
Anytime works for me! My husband and I took our four kids to Paris last summer. We rented an apartment ½ block from the Eiffel Tower. I found it through a rental agency called “Paris Perfect”. They were amazing! Before we arrived they mailed us a packet of information about good restaurants, shopping, and travel tips, etc. When we arrived in Paris, an employee met us at the apartment to show us how to work the appliances. Great customer service, beautiful properties, and competitive prices-I would definitely use them again! Check out their website www.parisperfect.com!
A great website is “Do it in Paris” they have lots of fashion, food and travel advice. http://www.doitinparis.com I would also recommend a trip to “Shakespeare and Co” a VERY FAMOUS bookstore in the Latin Quarter for any bookie types. The catacombs are very popular and always has a 1 -1 ½ line (so worth it though! Real bones!) Plan ½ day to see Eiffel Tower. Go to the top-they sell champagne there! Buy Versailles tickets BEFORE you get there. Lines are crazy long! Louvre lines were short when we went. Also, the drugstores in Paris (they have a lit red plus sign out front) are great spots to buy little gifts like soaps. They also have make-up and toiletries you can’t find in the states.
Andrea here again– now you can see why Michelle and I are friends. A bit type A (ok, we’re alot type A), a great reader and above all, a top notch traveler.
Where are you going and what are you reading?
Here were Michelle’s itineraries- bye bye Baedeker, here comes Michelle:
The Latin Quarter- It is called the Latin Quarter because until the early 19th century the university authorities insisted that everyone who lived there spoke only in Latin.
Musee National d’Historie Naturelle- 57 Rue Cuvier 5e. Open Monday, Wednesday-Sunday 10-6.
Galerie de Mineralogie (rocks and minerals)
Galerie d’Anatomie Comparee et Paleontologie (oddities)
Jardin du Luxembourg –A lovely Parisian park.
Boulevard St Michel –Main drag.
La Sorbonne- University. Lots of fun cafes and bars.
Rue de Buci- Classy street market
St Germain des Pres- Oldest church in the city.
The Catacombs- 1 Place Denfert Rochereau, 14e. Tuesday-Friday 2-4, Sat & Sun 9-11 & 2-4.
Originally Roman stone quarries, these dark, damp passageways are filled with former residents of Paris’ cemeteries moved here because of overcrowding in the 1780s. Filled with 6 million skeletons. Headquarters of the French Resistance during WWII.
Tour Eiffel- Built in 1889 by Gustave-Alexandre Eiffel. He also designed the framework for the Statue of Liberty. There are 1,710 stairs to the top of the tower. Le Jules Verne is the second-platform restaurant (get reservations) with great views. Altitude 95 is a family friendly 1st platform restaurant (get a window table). Post office on that level will mail postcards with Eiffel stamp.
Champ d Mars- Park at base of Eiffel tower. In 1783 the first hydrogen-filled balloon was launched here.
Hotel des Invalides- Built in the 17 century of the wounded and retired soldiers of Louis XVI’s numerous campaigns, its wards were filled with 6,000 plus battle-scarred victims. Part of it is still used as a hospital today. The Invalides’ greatest attraction is Napoleon’s tomb. Musee de l’Armee located here, with one of the largest collections of military arms, armor and history in the world.
Les Egouts- The Paris sewer tour. The entrance is opposite 93 Quai d’Orsay by Pont de l’Alma. The sewers date from 1851-1870. It is a 1,300 mile network.
Rue Cler- Famous food and wine street market
Chateau de Versailles- 13 miles SW of Paris. Open 9:00-6:30 Tuesday-Sunday. The trip takes 30-40 minutes. Do not get off at Versailles Chantier (town). Get off at the Chateau (castle).
Louis XIV turned his father’s hunting lodge into the largest palace in Europe and moved his court here in 1678. It was the royal residence for more than a century until Louis XVI and his queen Marie Antoinette fled during the revolution.
Top Ten at Versailles- 1. Hall of Mirrors, 2. Chapelle Royal, 3.Salon de Venus , 4. Queen’s bedroom, 5. Marble courtyard, 6. L’opera, 7. Grand Trianon, 8. Palace gardens, 9. Fountain of Neptune, 10. Salon D’Apollo (throne room)
At the back, restaurants, rowboats for rental on the lake, bikes for rental around the gardens.
Ile de la Cite and Ile St-Louis
Ile de la Cite- Known as the “cradle of Paris.” All distances from the capital of France are measured from “Kilometre Zero” a bronze plaque in front of Notre Dame.
Cathedrale de Notre-Dame- Enter through west front. Open at 8am every day. Founded in the 12 century. Napoleon crowned himself emperor here.
Top ten things to see at Notre Dame- 1. West front, 2. Portal of the virgin, 3. Flying buttresses, 4. The Towers, 5. Galerie des Chimieres (gargoyles), 6. The spire, 7. Rose windows, 8. Statue of the Virgin and Child, 9. Carved choir stalls, 10. Treasury (religious relics. The crown of thorns and piece of the True Cross are on public display every Good Friday.
Also stored at Notre Dame are nails from the cross, drops of Jesus’ blood, Moses’ staff and the front ½ of the head of John the Baptist.)
Crypte Archeologique –Open 10am. Remnants of early Paris dating back to Gallo-Roman times discovered in 1965 during an excavation of the square in front of Notre-Dame. The archaeological crypt displays parts of 3rd century Roman walls, streets and foundations.
Marche aux Fleurs- One of the last remaining flower markets in the city center, also the oldest dating from the early 19 century.
Sainte-Chapelle- Open at 9:30 every day. Gothic masterpiece built by Louis IX in 1246 to house his holy relics (relics now at Notre-Dame) Chapel with amazing stained glass windows and star covered vaulted roof. Bring binoculars. Go when sun is shining.
Conciergerie- Open at 9:30 every day. Built in 14 century as an extension of the Capetian royal Palais de la Cite, and turned into a jail at the end of the 14 century. During the French Revolution the Conciergerie became a symbol of terror to the nobility and enemies of the state (4,000 citizens were held prisoner here, half of whom were led to the guillotine.) After being seized at Versailles Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were brought here to await trial.
Pont Neuf- Oldest and most evocative of all the bridges in Paris. Pont Neuf dates from 1578. Walk down to Square du Vert Galant. On western tip of Ile de la Cite.
Sergeant Recruiters- Family-style restaurant that came highly recommended.
An area associated with art and artists and the Bohemian lifestyles of the late 19th and early 20th century. Picasso, Dali, Van Gogh, Renoir, Manet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, and Degas all lived here. Parisians call the “Butte” (knoll) the highest place in the city (location of the Sacre-Coeur). Below the hill the Pigalle neighborhood was once home to dance halls and cabarets (Moulin Rouge) has been taken over by XXX shops.
Sacre-Coeur- Open 9-5:45. The basilica was built as a memorial to the 58,000 French soldiers killed in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871) and took 46 years to build, finally completed in 1923 at a cost of 40 million francs (6 million euros). Priests pray here for the souls of the dead 24 hours a day since 1885.
What to see- 1. Great Mosaic of Christ, 2.Crypt vaults, 3. Bronze doors, 4. Dome (view is the 2nd highest viewpoint in Paris after the Eiffel Tower, 270 steps up), 5. Statue of Christ, 6. Bell Tower, 7. Equestrian Statues, 8. Stained glass gallery, 9. Façade, 10. The Funicular (the cable car the takes you up the hill -no thanks we’ll walk)
Place du Tetre- Montmarte’s old village square whose name means “hillcock” is the highest point in the city. Very touristy (love it or hate it). Get your portrait made. Bring cash $.
Rue des Abbesses and Rue Lepic have the most to offer window shoppers.