Paris 2017 – Day 5

We saved most of today for catching up on anything we missed earlier.

This is the second activity where long lines are difficult to avoid. They actually do have a skip the line option now, but it’s more than 2x the normal entrance fee. You could also try Fat Tire Tours again if you want the VIP tour. (For me, this one is worth the line.)

The Catacombs are fascinating. My non-historian understanding is that graves were full and unsanitary in the 1700s and they dug up all the bones and dumped them underground. Monks and others organized them into neat piles with some designs. There are miles and miles of tunnels — the tour only covers one mile. There are groups and individuals that sneak down there to read poetry, watch movies, and do who knows what else.

That took until about noon. Then we ran from one thing to another to make sure we saw all the main sights: Bastille, Rodin Museum, Garnier’s Opera, Victor Hugo’s home, Picasso Museum, Museum of Music, etc. We went to the Pompidou Center, a fun area for people watching, but it was calmer than usual because the museum is closed on Tuesdays. We finished out the evening with some more souvenir shops, one last crepe and réligieuse pastry, and a stash of so much Chocolate Cruesli my luggage was declared overweight the next day at the airport.


Paris 2017 – Day 4

Notre Dame towers
This is one of two events where the lines are unavoidable and fairly painful. We arrived at 9:30 – it opens at 10 – and waited more than an hour. But it’s one of my favorite things to do, so it’s worth it for me. I love gargoyles and this is the best view you can get of them. The line to enter the cathedral is also long, but moves quickly.

While you’re in line it’s a good time to catch up on the Rick Steves book and/or audio guides.

Paris Sewers Tour
It’s gross and fascinating. You get an overview of the history of Paris and how much effort has gone in to dealing with the waste of an ever-growing population. I’ve done it twice and will go again. It’s covered by the Paris Museum Pass and there are no lines! 🙂

Napoleon’s Tomb
Interesting but not a must-see for me. This includes the Museum of the Army, which is huge – you could spend all day here if you’re into that.

I enjoyed this more than I expected. I like tombs and graves, especially of famous people. And this has several: Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille, Pierre Curie, Marie Curie, Alexandre Dumas, and others.

The Sorbonne is nearby – we accidentally walked onto a scene that was being filmed there and forced a take two.

The Museum Pass gets you in quickly (after security check). This place is beautiful. Each frame of the stained glass is a different event from the Bible, and there are over 1,100 of them.

Luxembourg Gardens
This wasn’t in our original itinerary, but it was a nice place to visit and take a break. Kids can rent little sailboats, pick a flag (including pirate), and chase it around the pond.

That was a full day! One day left.

Paris 2017 – Day 3

This was a Sunday and ended up being the nicest day of Spring 2017 so far. Everyone was outside. I have never seen so many people in the Tuileries gardens and Sacré Coeur. It was perfect for our itinerary, though, because there were virtually no lines for the Louvre or Orsay Museum, which are usually packed.

We first attended church in my old LDS (Mormon) ward of Paris-Lilas. I met up with a family I taught 24 years ago as a missionary, which was a highlight of the whole trip.

Père Lachaise Cemetery
I love it here. Coolest cemetery I’ve ever seen. I lost my 3-day metro pass as I pulled my camera in and out of my pocket, so we walked almost the whole thing twice trying to find it. (I found everyone else’s expired passes, but not mine.)

Louvre and Orsay Museums
Since my travel partner was 18, we just did a speedy “highlights” tour (with some delays from getting lost).

Sacré Coeur and Montmartre
I always enjoy it here: street performers, impressive church, great views of Paris, artists, and lots of people watching.


Paris 2017 – Day 2

Versailles Bike Tour
Highly recommended! We met at the tour office in Paris and took the train together to Versailles. We picked up bikes and spent an hour at a market to eat crepes and buy picnic supplies for later. Our guide was fun and informative and it was a nice, relaxing day, despite getting left behind at one point. Book at Fat Tire Tours.

Paris Temple
If you’re Mormon, or interested in Mormons, there’s a new temple near Versailles. It’s about a 20-minute walk from the Versailles palace (5 minutes by car) in Le Chesnay. The public open house is from April 22 – May 13, 2017, which was after our trip. But we went ahead and joined the line for VIP tours, despite being of only average importance. It’s a beautiful place, inside and out.

Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées
This is another good evening area after everything else is closed. We climbed the Arc de Triomphe and then walked down the Champs-Élysées boulevard to Place de la Concorde, where the guillotines used to do their thing.


Paris 2017 – Day 1

We landed at Charles de Gaulle airport at 11am. It took about 30 minutes to get through passport control and to the RER train station connected to the airport. €10 to take the B line into Paris, which includes any connections you need to make via métro.

Eiffel Tower
I waited too long to buy advance tickets to ascend the Eiffel Tower — you need to get them 2+ months ahead of time. But you can generally still get late tickets through tour operators, so we used Fat Tire Tours. Other than having some obnoxious parents with impressionable kids on the tour, it was great. Even with the “skip the line” tour, you spend some time at security checks and waiting for elevators. But the views are worth it.

This was my first time trying Airbnb. I used to think you had to hang out with another family and actually interact with other human beings, but there are plenty of listings where you rent the whole house or apartment and have it to yourself. My first attempt didn’t work out — the punk canceled on me a few days before our trip. But I quickly booked another and it was great. We had a two-room apartment near Père Lachaise and loved it. We had more space and privacy, and we saved at least $50 a night over a hotel.

Wander around
A lot of the touristy places close around 6pm, but there are several outdoor spots that are accessible at all hours. We picked a park near the apartment, the Notre Dame cathedral area, and the Pompidou Center, which usually has a good variety of street performers.