Sunday, May 8, 2011

Paris, je t'adore

I cannot tell you how many times I have been to Paris. Between Paris & Brussels, I averaged flying there five times per month while I worked for Delta. I'm sure it's a minimum of 50 times, possibly even 100! But the last time I was in Paris was 2005, the year I took a voluntary furlough from Delta. There's no particular reason why I haven't gone back since then; there are just so many other wonderful places in the world to see!
me in a Paris Metro station in 2000
Even Greg has been to Paris before, once, on a family vacation in 2007. Initially, when he told me he wanted to go back as part of our RTW trip, I balked because I had been there so many times and seen & done pretty much everything there is to see & do. But then I realized it would, of course, be different to visit Paris with him and we could make new memories together.
Greg on the Ellipsos train-hotel
We arrived by overnight train from Madrid on 17APR and luckily were able to check in early at our hotel in Vitry-sur-Seine. We chose this location, which is technically not even in Paris, primarily because of cost. And since, as usual, we booked everything just a few days before arriving, I didn't have time to negotiate back & forth with apartment owners on VRBO who offered city-center locations. While the nearest Metro stop was a 15 minute uphill walk away, there were multiple bus stops within 5-10 minutes away with easy connections to the historic center of Paris. Still, the total travel time from the hotel to, for example, Ile de la Cite, was always at least one hour.
one of the original Paris Metro signs
One of the greatest benefits of staying in an aparthotel was having a kitchen, albeit a very small one. There was a huge Carrefour Market (one entire aisle dedicated to cheese!) in the same building so it was easy to shop for groceries as needed. We saved a ton of money by cooking & eating the majority of our meals at the hotel. In fact, we did not eat a single meal in a restaurant in Paris unless you count lunch at the Rodin Museum Cafe & dinner at McDonald's at the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center (nothing else was open and we were starving!).
gourmet dining
The total cost of our groceries for six days was only $73 (covering 5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners). Comparatively, we spent $58 eating "out" for 3 lunches and 1 dinner. To keep our expenses as low as possible, we picnicked: doner kebab sandwiches on a park bench across from Sainte-Chapelle; "homemade" forest pate & pate de campagne baguettes on a park bench overlooking the Grand Canal at Versailles; pre-made sandwiches on the cobblestones at Place Georges Pompidou; and more pate baguettes at a rest area near Verdun (on the way to Colmar the day we left Paris).
picnic lunch at the Centre Pompidou
Why were we seemingly obsessed with saving money??? Because, in order to see all the sights in & around Paris, you have to spend a lot of money! We opted to purchase the 4-day Paris Museum Pass for 50EUR/$71.35 which allowed multiple entries into over 60 sights. However, in four nonstop days of sightseeing, we still only managed to see the following: Musee du Louvre (10), Arc de Triomphe (9), Musee de l'Armee/Tombeau de Napoleon 1er (9), Centre Pompidou (12), Musee d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaisme (6.80), Musee d'Orsay (8), Sainte-Chapelle (8), Musee Rodin (6), and Musee National des Chateaux de Versailles et de Trianon (15 + 10). The numbers in parentheses are the individual admission costs of each site. Thus we would have spent at least 93.80EUR/$133.85 each to visit these sights if we did not have the pass.
the view from the Arc de Triomphe - something we probably would not have paid to do without our Museum Pass
Note that it was extremely taxing to try to see all of these things in four days, as you have to factor in transportation time from sight to sight and we often confronted 1-2 hour waits in line (even the special Museum Pass lines that allow you to skip the ticket-buying line). Thus, for example, we did not get to climb the Notre Dame tower, and did not have enough time to visit some of my other favorite sights like the Orangerie & Marmottan Museums.
the one+ hour line to get into Versailles
While we didn't have to wait in line at the Louvre, it was packed on Monday afternoon two hours before closing. We used our free Rick Steves audio guide to hit the highlights in spite of the crowds and then returned on Wednesday evening when the museum is open until 10pm and practically had the 2nd floor Richelieu wing (15-17th century Flemish/Dutch/German art) to ourselves.
an empty gallery around 9PM at the Louvre
We could have easily spent a full week in Paris and would have still felt "rushed." But, I am grateful for the time we had and the beautiful weather!
the Eiffel Tower at dusk
Here is my daily log for Paris:

4/17 Staying in an aparthotel just outside Paris. LOVE that there's a Carrefour Market in the same building - maybe the biggest one I've ever been in! I've already bought baguettes, mousse de canard & roquefort cheese. It will be hard not to load up on all my favorite things. Gotta love French grocery stores!

4/18 A full day of Paris sightseeing: Notre Dame, Rick Steves' self-guided "Historic Core of Paris" walk, Sainte-Chapelle, Louvre "Part Un"

4/19  Les Invalides, Musee Rodin, took pics of the Eiffel Tower but didn't go up since we've both "been there done that" and it's not included in the Museum Pass, walked the Champs Elysees and climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe

4/20 We didn't get to see the Impressionists at the Orsay yesterday because the lines were CRAZY LONG, even for people with Museum Passes (we'll try again Thursday evening). Left the hotel at 9:30 this morning and just got back at 11pm. What a day! But we did "all" of Versailles, walked up to Sacre-Coeur & Montmartre and then returned to the Louvre (Part Deux) for some of the Dutch/Flemish/German/French art we didn't get to see on Monday. Phew - I'm beat!

4/21 Today we managed to visit the Jewish History Museum, Centre Pompidou and the Orsay, although renovations at the Orsay meant not being able to see all the Impressionists in their collection.


1 comment:

  1. I had a different view of the Eiffel Tower from my hotel room. But it did look very similar at sunset. I must have traveled so much during my week in Paris. Good thing I had a Paris Viste Pass. It was one of the best things to have on the trip.