Happy New Year, friends! I hope that you had a holiday filled with laughter and love. My cousin and his wonderfully awesome family came and stayed with us for Christmas and New Years. Two day trips, 4 cases of Happy Hippos and a gazillion games of Rummy later, we had to say goodbye and return to the monotony of life. Husband had to go back to work and kiddos were grudgingly back to school. In order to try and break through the slog, we decided to look into doing another day trip. We weren’t quite sure where to go. Paris has been looming in the back of my mind pretty much since we arrived on this continent. Husband didn’t want to do a weekend (party pooper), and I didn’t want to give up. I looked on the Deutsche Bahn website and found a good deal on last minute tickets for the weekend for a day trip. Done, son!
Trip Fail #1: Deutsche Bahn. Yep, starting this one right out the gates, friends. German trains are notoriously punctual. When we got to the train station, I checked my phone and learned that the train was an hour behind. Say what?! No way. We looked at the departure board and sure enough, it was delayed. It was ridiculously cold, so we hopped back in Husband’s car and drove to his office to pick something up. In reality, we just didn’t want to be standing around in the freezing cold. When we got BACK to the station, we still had another 30 minutes to wait. A grand total of 90 minutes late.
Trip Win #1: Deutsche Bahn. Because the train system is generally so reliable, when there’s some sort of delay, they want to make sure you’re happy. At the end of the line, they passed out envelopes and forms in order to get a partial refund. 25% refund for being so late. Okay. We’ll take it.
Minus the delays, it took us about 2.5 hours to get to Paris. If we had driven, it would have been between 4-5 hours depending on traffic. Our train got into the city just a little bit before 1:00pm. Our return train was scheduled (key word right there) to leave at 7:00pm, so it gave us around 6 hours to just go. And that is EXACTLY what we did. We headed to the closest metro station, grabbed our 1-day passes and off we went.
Trip Win #2: Notre Dame. Husband had decided the route we would take, so this was our first stop. Notre Dame is a beautiful, gothic-style cathedral. It’s famous for its stained glass, its history and of course, its hunchback (thanks, Victor Hugo).
We had anticipated seeing lines, but much to our surprise, there was no line. I mean, seriously…no one in line to go in. We walked right up and right in. Another perk about Notre Dame is that there is no entrance fee to go in. I’ll be honest here. The amount of history, art and detail in this cathedral is nothing short of stunning. However, I wish that I would have seen it before seeing a couple of other cathedrals. In my humble opinion, I think the one in Metz gives it a run for its money. Also, the interior (okay…and the oddness of the exterior) of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is one of a kind. I don’t think anything will come remotely close to it.
After we wound our way through the cathedral (I didn’t light a candle this time…3€ was a little pricey), we decided it was time to see the piéce de résistance–La Tour Eiffel, or Eiffel Tower. We walked down to the bank of the Seine and decided to take the BatoBus along the river to get to our destination. The BatoBus is a hop-on, hop-off type of tour. You can do a full loop and your ticket is good pretty much for the entire day. The sun was shining and it was a clear day. I walked to the back end of the boat and just took in the sights.
There it was. The Eiffel Tower. History time: The Eiffel Tower was built for the World’s Fair in 1889. It was named after the dude (and his company) that designed and built it–Gustav Eiffel. Up until 1930, it was the tallest structure in the world. At approximately 81 stories high, it is still the tallest building in Paris (2nd tallest in France). The tower is impressive and imposing; especially the closer you get to it. As we walked closer, we noticed that there were a lot of peddlers trying to sell you either selfie sticks or plastic Eiffel Towers. We successfully avoided the majority of them. Surprisingly, the lines to get into the Tower was either very short or again, non-existent. We had done our homework and read that going up the Tower is fun and all, but really…you can’t get *that* Paris skyline with the Eiffel Tower from the Eiffel Tower. What to do?
Trip Win #3: Tour Montparnasse (Montparnasse Tower). We took the metro to the Montparnasse-Bienvenue station. The skyscraper is 59-stories tall and looking up from the ground can give you vertigo. We went to the ticket booth and again, NO line. No one. We bought our tickets and the only wait we had was for the elevator to come back down. The elevator whisks you up 56 floors in less than 40 seconds. On the 56th floor, the doors open up and you’re on the main observation floor. They try to suck you in with the green screen photo, but Husband and I managed to successfully avoid that. There is a stairway that you take to get up to the 59th floor, which is the rooftop observation deck. Worth. Every. Flipping. Euro.
By the time we finished at Montparnasse, we were all getting hungry. From the tower, we spotted a bunch of restaurants. We made our way onto the street and made sure that we shielded Girl Child’s eyes from the soft-glow of the golden arches. I’m sorry Girl Child…Mickey D’s is NOT happening on this trip. We found a great little cafe, Thevenin. They had fresh breads, sandwiches and pastries. We grabbed a couple of sandwiches, a loaf of bread and a couple of pastries. Let me just say this: fresh French baguette, with thick-sliced ham and soft brie cheese. Absolute heaven. So simple, yet so ridiculously delicious.
After we finished
shoveling fabulous French food down our gullets eating, Husband decided that we should start walking back toward the river. The sunlight was fading and dusk was settling in. We walked past the house of Yves St. Laurent and made it to Les Invalides. Les Invalides is the home to Napolean’s (yes, Boy Child, *the* same Napolean from ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’) tomb. We didn’t have enough time to take a peek inside, as there actually was a small line outside to get in. The outside of the building was ostentatious and ornate; I can only imagine how much more so the inside is.
We walked to Pont Alexandre and just gazed out at the city. By this time, the Eiffel Tower was lit up and the city lights were twinkling. There were a couple of wedding parties having their pictures done on the bridge. We checked our watches and realized that it was time to head back to the train station.
When we got to the train station (Gare de l’Est), we found our train and hopped on. We waited. And waited. And waited. The departure time came and then went.
Trip Fail #2: Deutsche Bahn. Again. About 10 minutes after our departure time, an announcement was made that our train had been cancelled and that we were to go to a different platform and jump on a different train. It was like a herd of stampeding cattle to get to the other platform. We had reserved seats, but since the train was a little different, we weren’t quite sure how it was going to work. We ended up on a double-decker TGV train. Husband didn’t feel like being cramped, so we went to the top deck and found some seats. 30 minutes after our initial departure, we were finally on the track back home.
With only 6 hours at our disposal, we had to really pick and choose the sights we wanted to see. We saw the outside of the Louvre and the Musee d’Orsay while on the BatoBus, but we didn’t have the chance to explore in or around them. I think we chose well for the time that we did have. It gave us a great introduction to the city and how to really get around.