Our hour and a half ride through French countryside got us into Paris around lunch time. We quickly figured out the metro system and made our way to the hotel - Hotel Roma Sacre Couer - in the middle of the Montmartre district of Paris. We were in the hotel for all of 5 minutes before heading out to meet up with a 2pm tour of the Montmartre district. The tour was with the same company we’ve done all our free walking tours with, but we got to Paris too late for that one. This tour was great because the Montmartre district is very unique to Paris. Before starting the tour we ran to a creperie to grab lunch on the go. Brian got a baguette sandwich and I got a ham and cheese crepe. The lady probably dumped 2 cups of cheese on the freshly made crepe. Just what I needed. So warm and delicious. Anyway, the tour. Montmartre is home to artists and Paris’s red light district. The famous Moulin Rouge and other cabaret bars are here. This area is the only one in Paris that is remotely hilly. With the massive hills, winding, narrow streets, and beautiful buildings, this is a cool place to explore. We saw where Van Gogh lived, Picasso’s studio, Cafe des Deux Moulins where Amelie was filmed, the oldest windmill in Paris (moulin=windmill), and the Artists Square, where artists have galleries and sketch portraits of you. There was also the cabaret bar, Lapin Agile, where Picasso frequented, and the last vineyard in Paris, which sells coveted wine that ironically tastes pretty bad. Finally, we saw the Basilica Sacre Couer. This church is probably the most beautiful one I have seen. It’s also at the highest point in Paris, offering a nice view of the city.
train to Paris —^
ham and cheese crepe :)
Basilica Sacre Coeur —-^
at the top of Sacre Coeur
That night, Brian and I went to see the Arc de Triomphe all lit up. We were going to climb up inside but it was closed for something that. Looked like a military ceremony. We decided to walk partway down the famous Champs-Elysses. The trees down it were all lit up for Christmas. We branched off a side street to get dinner, but first saw our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower peeking out behind a building. There happened to be a French flag flying in the foreground so it was a cute picture. Anyway. Dinners. Amazing. My friend told us to go to Relais de L’Entrecote. It opens at 7pm and you get there then to line up or you won’t be seated promptly. They only serve one dish - steak and frites (fries). The first question they ask is how do you like your steak cooked? Then, what do you want to drink? Before you know it you have a walnut salad, baguette with mustard, and a bottle of Bordeaux in front of you. After clearing through this the waitress then brings the steak and massive plate of frites to the table and plates everything in front of you. The steak, finished with pesto sauce, was so tender and flavorful. And here’s the best part: round two. Without even asking the waitress comes out with a second plate for you. In reality, the total amount of food probably equaled what you would get at an American steakhouse, it was just split onto two smaller plates. But regardless, delicious. We finished the night with another Nutella crepe from yet another Christmas market on the Champs-Elysses.
Arc de Triomphe
first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower :)
steak and frites :-D
Slow to rise this morning, but after an almond crepe (me) and baguette sandwich (Brian) we arrived in the Place St Michel for our nearly 4 hour free walking tour of Paris. It was brutally freezing but tea halfway through did the trick. The tour brought us everywhere a typical Paris tourist should go: Notre Dame, Latin quarter (universities) Pont Neuf (new bridge), the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Gardens, Les Invalides (old hospital for vets and they could live there - 60 still do), opera house, Musee d’Orsay, among other places. After the tour we went with the group to a French cafe for a late lunch. My mulled wine warmed my shivering body quite nicely. Brian enjoyed his first French onion soup and I my croque monsieur, aka hot ham and cheese sandwich with extra cheese melted on top.
Tuileries Gardens —^
Then we walked to the Champs de Mars to take our official Eiffel Tower pictures. We made it to the Musee d’Orsay for the last hour. This place houses the Impressionist/Post Impressionist works of Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne, etc. Though I have not one artistic bone in my body, I enjoyed these paintings. The hour we had though was good enough..I’m sure art fanatics would have been shocked at us. The best part though is that we got in for free, saving 8 euros each. EU citizens between 18-26 get into many places for free in France. Our UK visas made us EU-citizenish enough to not have to pay :).
That night for dinner we went to the Artists Square in Montmartre for dinner at this great restaurant called Au Clairon des Chasseurs. It had everything left that we wanted to try in France. Splitting our two set menus got us French onion soup, escargot (so good! tastes like mussels), beef bourguignon, roasted duck, camabert cheese and profiteroles. Our waiter was a charismatic French man who conveniently spoke English. Always helps :)
French onion soup :)
Today we decided to take a morning trip out to the Palace of Versailles, summer home to King Louis XIV, XV, and XVI. This place is the most ornate, intricate, massive, gorgeous estate you will ever see. The state rooms in the palace took around 2 hours to see. There was also a temporary exhibit (sadly all in French but still cool) of the sciences experimented with at the palace: zoology, physics, aeronautics, veterinary, etc. Then, since our free student pass (18 euro value) got us access to the entire estate, we walked 1 mile out to the Grand and Petit Trianons, other residences occupied by royalties including King Lous XVI’s wife, Marie Antoinette. This one mile distance between the palace and smaller residences was filled with gardens, fountains, and a Grand Canal which they used to boat down. It was pretty in the winter, so I can imagine what it’s like in full bloom in the summer. The estate expands even beyond the 1 mile walk though, which is crazy.
Hall of Mirrors
After getting back to Paris from Versailles, we decided to actually go inside Notre Dame, since we didn’t with the tour yesteryday. The Cathedral was obviously pretty inside. But then we discovered we could climb to the top of the bell tower (free for students, :) 5 euro saved). 400 windy steps later, we had what was I think the best view of Paris we’ve seen. Of course we saw the classic gargoyles and massive bell.
After Notre Dame we walked to the Louvre to try and be cultured. We saw everything we needed to see in just over 2 hours. The museum is so massive that it would take weeks to see and actually appreciate everything inside. All the descriptions were in French though, so that made it a tad more acceptable for us to walk more quickly by most things haha. We saw the Code of Hammurabi, the sphinx, statue of Ramses II, Aphrodite, a Michelangelo sculpture, and, of course, Da Vinci’s infamous Mona Lisa. This was essentially the only place in the museum where you noticed crowds. Definitely worth seeing this much-studied work of art.
there she is!
the Louvre at night
After leaving the Louvre we said goodbye to central Paris and went back up to Montmarte for our final dinner. We chose another restaurant in the Artist’s Square and again got the set menu. We each got French Onion soup this time - too delicious to share. I got beef bourguignon again and Brian opted for the turkey cordon bleu (sounds French, right?). Dessert = choc mousse and coconut pie with custard sauce :). We finished the night with a half bottle of Bordeaux that we bought to drink while packing up for home. A good end to a good trip in France and a semester abroad :).
only fitting to end the post with a picture of beef bourguignon :)