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Bienvenue  Welcome to Paris!  (all in flowers and greenery)

A ‘Welcome’ sign at the airport made with flowers and greenery

Our children are 16, 15 and 11 years old.  When we sat down with them to plan our family vacation we weren’t sure what to expect.  We happily discovered that they weren’t too old to go on holiday with us, that they were interested to explore a city,  and that in fact they were quite happy to do so!

We walked through Place de la Concord early to explore the Louvre.

An early walk through Place de la Concorde

My husband and I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to Paris a few times.  This visit would be to show the kids how amazing, beautiful, and full of history Paris is.

fabulous evening sunlight

fabulous evening sunlight

I have to say that planning ahead is helpful. Start by making sure you are fit! There are so many stairs to climb all over the city!

We were walkable to this park outside the Louvre.  The 'arch' in the background is a smaller version of the Arc de Triomphe.

We were within walking distance to ‘Place de la Concorde’ which is the largest public square in Paris. The Arc de Triomphe can be seen in the background. Behind the fountain is an Egyptian obelisk.

We stayed in what we found to be a central location: Madeleine.  We booked an apartment through airBnB which worked out wonderfully.  It was a 10 minute walk to the metro station.

La Madeleine church

La Madeleine church

These details amaze me!

These details amaze me!

The best and easiest advice is to start your day early.  The mornings we were at attractions by 9:30 A.M. or 10:00 A.M. we were first in line or nearly so.  The mornings the teens needed to sleep late, well let’s just say we spent too much time in queues. 😉

A view of just part of the Eiffel Tower to show the first and second levels

A view of just part of the Eiffel Tower to show the first and second levels

It goes without saying that everything in Paris is spectacular!  Take the Eiffel Tower for example; what a sight!  We arrived at 9:30 A.M. and walked right up (no line) to pay to climb the stairs.  I would highly recommend taking the stairs, all 670 of them to reach the second level! There are signs with interesting facts to read along the way. I think they have it set up that way so as to give everyone time to breathe while they read!  My children preferred to go non-stop, I think to show us up!  It is possible to walk around the first level and take pictures.  We did this, caught our breath and then began our climb to the second level.

A picture of us looking down through glass while on the first level of the Eiffel Tower.  The little 'dots' are people down below!

A picture of us looking down through glass while on the first level of the Eiffel Tower. The little ‘dots’ are people down below!

From the second level there is an elevator available to take you to the top.  The elevator happened to be closed for an “hour” while we were there so we opted not to wait.  We found the views at the first level to be the best, anyway.

a 'perspective' shot

a ‘perspective’ shot

Sights of Paris from the first level of the Eiffel Tower

Sights of Paris from the first level of the Eiffel Tower

view from first level of Eiffel Tower

view from first level of Eiffel Tower

We had pre-booked a boat tour of the Seine to follow our Eiffel Tower visit.  This was a short distance from the Eiffel tower and since it was still early in the morning there was minimal wait. The weather was lovely to sit and enjoy the sights from the top deck. I’d highly recommend this.

boat tour on the Seine

boat tour on the Seine

A full view of the Eiffel tower during our boat tour on the Seine

A view of the Eiffel tower during our boat tour on the Seine

fun fish art along the Seine on our boat tour

fun fish art along the Seine on our boat tour

I was always on the look out for flowers and gardens!

houseboat along the Seine

houseboat along the Seine

a close up of the houseboat garden

a close up of the houseboat garden

boats along the Seine

boats along the Seine

I loved the buildings along the Seine...

I loved the buildings along the Seine…

Boat tour buildings... top photo is part of the Louvre

Boat tour buildings… top photo is part of the Louvre which extends for blocks

Next best piece of advice: use the side entrance of the Louvre (Porte de Lions), and be there for opening time.  There was no one at the side entrance when we arrived while we could see the line outside the glass pyramid of the main entrance! That is just crazy.

Building(s) and Statues around the Louvre

Building(s) and Statues around the Louvre (to the right of here is the way to the side entrance)

evening sunlight on these majestic buildings

evening sunlight on the same majestic building as photo above

The Louvre glass pyramid entrance in evening light

The Louvre glass pyramid entrance in evening light

If you prefer to miss the mob, then head straight for the Mona Lisa.  Even when we went there first thing, the painting was surrounded by people.  Later on the mob is many more people deep!

and here she is...

and here she is…

It is best to do a little bit of research before heading to the Louvre as it is huge!  Don’t go and just wander (experience talking here…).

a few of my favourite things in the Louvre

a few of my favourite things in the Louvre

Here's a look inside of the musee d'orsay

Here’s a look inside of the musee d’orsay

One of our afternoons we went to Musée d’Orsay, which is on the left bank of the Seine. It was less than an hour wait outside to see the collections of major 19th & 20th century European art.  Again, it is so helpful to know which artists’ works you’d like to see because if you just wander you might not have the energy to enjoy seeing everything!  I love impressionist art, so I had my rooms marked 🙂

Different views of/from Notre Dame

Different views of/from Notre Dame

We arrived at Notre Dame late in the afternoon to a queue that completely wrapped around the courtyard out front.  But this queue went incredibly quickly and within a half hour we were inside Notre Dame.  Writing “it was beautiful” is not a strong enough statement.

incredible beauty

incredible beauty

The downside of arriving in the late afternoon is that we were not able to climb to the top (either first or second levels).  Our schedule was such that it was early the next afternoon before we were able to return, which meant an hour and a half wait to climb Notre Dame.  We took turns going into nearby shops, getting coffee, and some people watching (lots of people watching).  But the wait to climb the 270 (approximately!) steps to the top was worth it. W.O.W.!

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Another afternoon walk led us to the Arc de Triomphe (Arch de Triumph).  This is also climbable.  At this stage we’d already seen the city from up high and we opted to just enjoy the views from street level.

A look at the catacombs. The top left picture gives an indication of  how far down below the city the tunnels are.

A look at the catacombs. The top left picture gives an indication of how far down below the city the tunnels are.

The Catacombs in Paris were on my husbands “must see” list and so off we went to 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy to investigate.  This was one time we’d all wished we’d started our day a whole lot earlier.  The wait was going to be more than two hours long. We decided to join a guided tour at a much higher price (€29 instead of the standard €10 entrance fee) but which allowed us to skip the queue.  It was so worth it! Our kids were enthralled!  Do you know the history of the catacombs?

We learned that the catacombs home the remains of six million Parisians.  The tunnels from the original quarries of the city were used to house the remains of people from the late 18th and mid 19th centuries after the graveyards were closed due to public health issues.

The bones are arranged in ‘a macabre display of high Romantic taste’ ( see more at http://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/catacombs/more-2000-years-history).   This was such an interesting tour that we are glad to not have missed.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (we called this the "mini arc")

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (we called this the “mini arc”)

Phew! Those five days were so full and exhausting and wonderful!

Flowers in Paris

Flowers in Paris

My next post will be about our visit to Monet’s garden in Giverny!  So much to write, so little time! 🙂

we had a little bit of fun taking selfies :-)

we had a little bit of fun taking selfies all around Paris 🙂

In preparing for this post I have spent hours going through photos and remembering the many wonderful things we did and enjoyed on our trip.  I have only mentioned a few things here!

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful summer where ever you may be.

Happy Travels,
Dana

 

 

 

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