We absolutely loved Paris. We packed just the right amount into three days, basing our itinerary on advice from Rick Steves and a pursuit of places to rest over glasses of French wine. We were exhausted by the end of the weekend, but we’ve decided Paris is one of favorite places on Earth.
Our hotel, the Hotel du Cadran, was perfectly located near all the things we wanted to see over the weekend – right around the corner from the Rue Cler, where we ate breakfast ever morning; and a short walk from the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Rue de St. Germain, and Musee de Orsay. After finally checking in on Friday afternoon, we took a walk to The Hôtel des Invalides, built by Louis XIV as a home for disabled war veterans. The architecture, which includes the domed building below, is unbelievable.
After dinner Friday night, the Fry family trio took a ride up the Eiffel Tower to get some perspective on the city and see if had that certain Space Needle je ne sais quoi. Well, a little. We went to the second of three levels. Night time probably is the best time to go up; the tower has strobe lights strung all over it, and the entire thing sparkles every hour on the hour. Luckily, Kristine talked me out of buying a miniature Eiffel Tower for Henry on his 11-month birthday.
We started our Saturday with a great breakfast at Cafe du Marche on the Rue Cler just around the corner from our hotel. It was fun to people watch as we drank our coffee and read the paper. The Rue Cler has kind of an outdoor market feel – with about 3 blocks of fruit, cheese and wine shops, and cafes interspersed all along the way. After breakfast, we packed up the stroller and headed toward the Louvre, which included a nice walk along the Seine. By the time we got to the museum it was noon, so we had a little picnic by a fountain with a bunch of other Parisians. We had a little American moment when we realized we’d forgotten glasses for our wine, so we used Coca Cola cups from the drink stand nearby.
The Louvre was more amazing than either of us had imagined. Being able to see all those famous works of art is great in and of itself, but the building in which they are housed is just as impressive. We spent all afternoon checking out just part of the museum. Henry got a little cranky in the Great Hall, so we let him crawl around on the floor. I think some people were more interested taking pictures of the baby crawling all over the Louvre than the Mona Lisa or Raft of the Medusa. The wear-him-out strategy worked, and he slept through the rest of the museum.
After a long day appreciating art and architecture, we checked out one of Brian’s recommendations – Au Pied de Cochon (the Pig’s Foot Cafe) – so we could appreciate some good food and fine wine. It was the best meal we had in Paris, and Henry made some friends, as usual. The restaurant was full of people in town for the England-France rugby match later that night. A guy from Manchester at the table next to us gave Henry a little rugby ball, which made his night. After a full day of walking, a lot of raw meat (steak tartar) and delicious wine, the 9pm start time for the rugby match gave us an excellent excuse to head directly back to the hotel and watch TV (England beat France 24-13).
Sunday morning brought another breakfast on the Rue Cler, followed by more walking. We couldn’t have asked for better weather – perfect for a picnic lunch in the Luxembourg Palace Gardens. We sat in front of a little boat pond, where boys – big and little – were launching toy sail boats. Paris has so many excellent places for picnics and just chilling out. We could have stayed in those gardens all day, but we needed to make one last museum visit – the Musee d’Orsay, which houses all the impressionists’ art – from Monet to Van Gogh. We only had about an hour there, which was fine since all three of us were pooped (some of us literally) after a long day. We had a bite to eat in the museum cafe, and made our way back to the hotel, where we caught a taxi back to the train station.
Reviewing all we did makes me tired again. I’m so glad we made the trip to Paris. And I’m glad we did it near the end of our two-month stay. It’s probably not polite to say while we’re still living in the UK, but I think we like Paris better than London.