When we booked a pre-Danube River cruise extension through Viking River Cruises in Prague along with our cruise, we then thought, “Hey, since we’re going to Europe anyway, why not add a stop in Paris on the way?” That thought won out and we booked a pre-pre-cruise stay for three nights in Paris. With so many choices to make about our time in Paris, for our hotel we defaulted to the same location we stayed at before a Seine river cruise in 2015 – the Hotel de Collectioneur in the 8th near Parc Monceau. It’s a relatively quiet area, though close to the Arc d’Triomphe and Champs Elysses.
After arrival at Charles de Gaulle (CDG) airport, we took the #2 route of the very convenient LeBusDirect to their stop near the Arc and rolled our luggage to hotel. After an overnight flight we were there well before the standard 3:00 PM check in time, but after a short delay we got into our (upgraded – yeah!) room on the executive-level 7th floor overlooking Rue de Courcelles with a walk-out balcony. We were just a few doors down from the Presidential Suite (rack rate: 8000 Euros/night!) where an African Union delegation to the Paris climate conference was staying. While we were waiting we had a smoked salmon appetizer at a nearby bistro for lunch, window shopping/gaping at the Christmas pastry delicacies on display. We also spotted something that we hadn’t seen before back home – Christmas trees with RED flocking. The trees were also all drilled into half sections of logs. We wonder how long these trees will stay moist. Do the French pour water on the logs?
I had spent months adding more and more potential destinations to visit during our time in Paris. My personal Google map of locations in Paris was way too long. Just for the half day after our arrival I had several stops planned. Reality struck.
Afte a quick stop in our room, we edited down our list to just one: a river cruise on the Seine on the Bateaux Mouches. We departed from nearby the Grand Palais and sailed upstream past the Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame, circling back until just past the Eiffel Tower before returning to their dock. I took a gazillion pictures, but I wanted to share at least these two.
The first is on the side of (I think) the Alexander bridge, and this over-the-top decor is really only clearly visible from the river. The second shows a retro French vehicle sitting on the tail of a river barge. Many of the barges in Paris are residences, while other are working ships. Telling the difference between the two types can be hard sometimes. Just because a barge has a lighted-up Christmas tree doesn’t mean it’s a not a working barge, for example.
The next morning, after sneaking pastries from a patisserie into a Starbucks to accompany our accustomed American hot drinks (don’t hate on us for this, please!), we struck out for the Pantheon. To get there, we took the sage advice of our friend Julie who had lived around the corner from our hotel while doing her study abroad in Paris. We took the #84 bus down Rue Lisbonne and beyond as it snaked its way on a beautiful route to the Pantheon, including going through the Place de la Concorde and past multiple high-end shopping districts.
The Pantheon is the place of honor for and often the resting place for the heroes and giants of France, including writers like Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas, luminaries like Louise Braille (inventor of the alphabet for the blind), and the famous scientist Marie and Pierre Curie. A former church, the Pantheon is stunning. Here is just one example of the incredible statuary and art work there:
After the Pantheon, we continued on to the nearby Cluny Museum. This museum is perhaps best know for its Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. Unfortunately, I didn’t capture any pictures of these beauties, but you should at least check them out on-line.
What we did find fascinating were these severed stone heads of the Kings of Judah that previously resided on figures on the facade of Notre Dame. They were pulled down at the time of the French Revolution where the revolutionaries did not differentiate between likenesses of French and Biblical kings. It was, “Off with their heads!” for all of them. The amazing part of their history is that they were sold off at the time, used as building/foundation material, and were only rediscovered during excavation for another building project in 1977.
After cruising through a modest French Christmas Market on Boulevard Saint-Germain where we really only paused long enough to buy macaron cookies to have for lunch, we high-tailed it to the Orangerie museum to see the fantastic Monet water lily murals just before the museum closed. We have been to Monet’s garden in Giverny twice (where there is only one original mural in the gift shop) and in 2015 we went to Musee Marmottan Monet in the 16th arrondisement that has the paintings inherited by Monet’s son. Going to the Orangerie furthered our appreciation of Monet’s work. Here is just one of the eight murals from the two, long, oval-shaped rooms at the Orangerie:
After a relaxing dinner at a brasserie between the hotel and the Arc (highlighted by our langoustine appetizer), we decided to work off (part of) our dinner by climbing the 284 steps of a spiral staircase to the observation deck of the Arc. Looking down on the swirl of traffic weaving in and around made us cringe over and over as we fully expected to see crash after crash.
The lights of the Champs Elysses and the Eiffel Tower were glorious:
And here is the Arc itself after dark:
The next day started with a visit to Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre, visible from afar across much of Paris. Here is the view looking down from the front of Sacre Coeur:
Some images of the inside and outside of Sacre Coeur:
Before leaving the neighborhood of Montmartre, we walked down one of the more picturesque streets in Paris, Rue de l’Abreuvoir:
We made our way to the Abbesses Metro stop where a small Christmas market was being held. We almost had to stop cold and have some potatoes that were being cooked in a giant pan of cream – the smell was so tempting. Here’s a pro tip for the Abbesses Metro stop. I think that there’s an elevator there. If you’re there, you’ll do well to use it. Otherwise, you’ll be surprised like us to find just how far down a winding spiral staircase can be at a Metro stop.
We took the Metro to Bastille (mastering a line change in the process), so that we could go on the Promenade Plantee, a garden walkway built on an old, abandoned elevated railroad line. (It was the inspiration for the High Line in New York City.) Before walking on the Promenade, we window shopped several blocks worth of artist shops and studios that are built in the arches underneath. We stopped for a wonderful lunch at the Viaduc Cafe where we were surrounded by office workers out for lunch in large groups, including one huge party that was feting a retiring co-worker.
Even in December the Promenade was surprisingly green. We probably should have walked down more of it, but we averaged over 10 miles walking a day while in Paris, so we definitely were not shirking our duties. If you go, be on the lookout for the workers in their (deadly silent) electric work carts. One was practically on my heels before I heard a very Parisian toot-toot of their horn.
Here is a shot of a small portion of the walkway:
We continued our trek down another fantastically picturesque street near the Gare du Nord called Rue Cremieux, where each home is painted in a pastel color, often with whimsical embellishments:
Crossing over the Seine, we then strolled through the Jardins des Plantes, a botanical garden. The allées of French-style, brutally pruned trees creates a striking perspective:
Just as a fashion show traditionally ends with a wedding dress, we thought that we’d end this blog posting on a similar note. While visiting Paris we’ve spotted many couples undergoing elaborate photo shoots for their wedding albums. We captured this charming scene at Sacre Coeur: