Paris Day 1-The Lay of the Land
Talk about exhausting! I don’t know if it was the fact that we had technically been traveling for 12 days prior or if it was just because Paris is so large and overwhelming…maybe it’s a little of both…but Mike and I were both totally spent after our first day in Paris. We arrived later than expected on Monday night, attempted to get a decent night’s sleep, then headed out on Tuesday morning for Day 1 in Paris with no specific plans…just a goal to see as much as we possibly could!
We started with breakfast of fresh fruit and croissants at our lovely little B&B, Courcelles-Parc. It is such a cute little place with a fantastic owner, Philippe, and is just a few steps away from the Villiers metro stop which made getting around much easier.
We started our day at La Basilique Sacre Coeur de Montmartre (Sacred Heart Basilica in Montmartre). Basilique du Sacre-Coeur is a beautiful church on its own, but it’s also situated on the highest point in Paris, which makes for great views of the city. We arrived just around 9am when they open the entrance for the dome. It was great to arrive this early because the crowd was still very light…although we still had to navigate through a crowd of pickpockets. Apparently pickpocketing is a major problem here in Paris. They will try and make you a bracelet or get you to sign a petition, anything to distract you while their partners brush closely against you in an attempt to pluck anything they can. Philippe had warned us about their various tactics and it was quite obvious that this group was going to make an attempt, but we quickly brushed through and made our way up the hill to the basilica.
We walked through the inside of the church and then headed around the side to climb up to the dome. A trip up to the dome will set you back 6€/person and you have to climb a small, windy staircase of 300 steps to the top…but if you can make it up the views are fantastic. We had a bit of an overcast day but were still able to see the Eiffel Tower and take in a some great views of Paris.
From Sacre Coeur we decided to jump on a double decker tour bus. HUGE mistake! Mike and I are usually big fans of the double decker tour but at the end of the day we agreed this was a huge waste. Traffic is terrible so the bus moves incredibly slow and the pre-recorded commentary is just not very interesting at all. We rode this for a few stops and then got off to just walk and grab some lunch. We headed to Galette Café on the recommendation of a friend and had our first crêpes (galettes) in Paris! I had a buckwheat galette with salmon, potatoes, chive sour cream, lemon and onion…it was delicious!
After lunch we stopped by the Louvre for a quick photo op since the sun was shining, then continued on across the Pont des Arts, better known as the love locks bridge. Since we’re on our honeymoon we shelled out 4€ to a guy selling locks on the bridge and squeezed our lock in amongst the hundreds (probably thousands) of others.
After taking our fair share of pictures on the Pont des Arts, we stopped off at the Vedettes du Pont-Neuf office to buy tickets for a Seine river cruise later in the night. Then we headed a little further down the Île de la Cité for a quick tour of Notre-Dame de Paris. This was a little after 12pm and the line to get into the cathedral and the line to go up to the top were both very long, but the one going into the cathedral seemed to be moving along quickly so we hopped in that line and took a quick look around the inside. The cathedral is a huge, beautiful, gothic style cathedral and its stained glass windows are the largest in the world. I would’ve liked to go up to the top to see the view and the gargoyles but that line didn’t seem to be moving much at all. We only had 3 days in Paris so we opted to skip that, but if you have time and would like to go, get there right when they open in the morning and the line should be much more manageable. The cathedral is free to enter but going up will set you back a few euros.
After Notre Dame we were getting a little exhausted so we hopped back on our double decker bus and drove down Champs-Élysées where we saw the Arc de Triomphe. We stayed on for a bit longer to circle the Eiffel Tower a couple times then we hopped off and headed home.
After a quick recharge we headed out again to Pont-Neuf for a boat tour down the Seine at 8pm. I highly recommend the Vedettes du Pont-Neuf tour to anyone visiting Paris. The information given by the tour guide was very interesting and the views from the river are great. I liked the timing of our cruise because the sun was still out but on its way down, so we were able to see everything in the daylight and it looked beautiful. I think a night time cruise would also be fantastic (and very romantic) as you can see everything all lit up. The sun doesn’t set here until after 10pm so if you want a cruise in the dark, its going to be a late night!
After an hour long cruise we headed to our 9:30pm dinner reservation at Les Papilles. Les Papilles is hearty French restaurant I found on TripAdvisor; very small, great wine selection, and very intimate. The food was OUTSTANDING! Seriously delicious. They have only 1 set prix fixe menu of 4 courses for 35€ that changes nearly everyday, based on what they find that is fresh. They don’t have a wine list, just a large variety of bottles lining the walls of the restaurant so you can pick your own or the owner, Bertrand, can recommend one for you.
Our first course was a giant bowl of cauliflower soup. They bring the soup out to you in a giant bowl with the dry ingredients in a small, individual bowl. You ladle the hot soup over the other ingredients (pancetta, croutons, and more delicious things!) and then enjoy!
Next up was the main course, the lamb. It was slow roasted along with a wide variety of vegetables for several hours…well worth it! So tender and delicious, I was so stuffed but I just wanted more!
Like I said, at this point we were already stuffed but we continued on. Next was a cheese course of bleu cheese and a prune. I’m not a huge bleu cheese fan but I tried it and was actually pleasantly surprised. They followed up the cheese with the most amazing Panacotta I’ve ever had, topped with a fresh strawberry sauce. We polished off every last bite and headed home to get some sleep for our big day ahead-Versailles.